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Vikings-Packers: 5 Storylines To Watch

Posted Oct 23, 2013

A rivalry is renewed this week on NBC’s Sunday Night Football as the Vikings prepare to host the Green Bay Packers in what will be the final border battle between these two franchises at Mall of America Field. This week’s contest also marks the 106th meeting between the teams in their series history. The Packers enter the matchup with a 4-2 record and off a home win over the Cleveland Browns last week, while the Vikings return home after a Monday Night Football loss to the NY Giants that dropped them to 1-5.

Let’s take a look at five storylines to watch this week as the Vikings and Packers prepare for Border Battle 106…

Vikings

1. Adrian Peterson needs to get looose!
It’s been a while since voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen has been able to provide one of his patented “He’s looose!” calls to accentuate a long Adrian Peterson touchdown run. If the Vikings are going to find a way to hold serve at home and upset the Packers, though, they’re going to need a few of these moments. Everything the Vikings do on offense, even in the passing game, is predicated on running the ball in a productive and explosive manner. When that’s not happening, not much else on offense is, either. The good news is the Vikings are playing a team this week that has struggled against Peterson consistently. Playing Green Bay was very good for Peterson’s MVP campaign last season, as Peterson ran for 508 yards and two touchdowns in three games against the Packers. For his career against Green Bay (13 games), Peterson has 1,541 rushing yards, a per-carry average of 5.5 yards, 44 runs of 10 yards and nine touchdowns.

2. Ponder likely to play for injured Freeman
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier made a surprise announcement on Wednesday morning, disclosing that Josh Freeman arrived at Winter Park on Tuesday with concussion-like symptoms. He will now go through the NFL's mandated concussion protocol, which ultimately means Christian Ponder could very well be the starter for the Vikings on Sunday night and Matt Cassel will be the backup, presuming Freeman isn't active. It's an opportunity for Ponder to redeem himself, especially if he can recapture some of the magic he and the offense had going the last time the Vikings played the Packers in the regular season - a Week 17 win to get into the playoffs last year. Should Ponder play well and the Vikings, it puts the Vikings in a situation where they could continue to go with Ponder as the starter, or they could decide to go back to Freeman once he's healthy enough to play. 

Vikings

3. Green Bay battling injuries
All NFL teams are dealing with injuries at this point of the season, and the Packers are most certainly no exception. It’s expected the Packers offense will be missing three of its top four pass catchers on Sunday night – tight end Jermichael Finley and receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones. As mentioned above, Matthews will miss the game on the defensive side and so will pass-rushing linebacker Nick Perry. Another linebacker, Brad Jones, has missed the last two games and could be out this week, as well.

The area to focus on in this regard is receiver, though. Jordy Nelson is healthy and will play, and now there’s another emerging threat – Jarrett Boykin. He filled in last week for Cobb and Jones, catching eight passes for 103 yards and a score. At tight end, it’s expected Andrew Quarless will see more reps for as long as Finley is out of the mix.

Vikings

4. The Packers may have found a running game
This offseason Green Bay insisted they would improve their running game and become a more physical offense when they needed to be. Judging on the last three games, it looks as if the Packers may be coming through on their intentions. Rookie Eddie Lacy has come on strong of late, rushing 22 times for 82 yards and a score last week against a stout Cleveland Browns defense, which brings his previous three-game rushing total to 68 carries for 301 yards and a score. That’s pretty good for an offense that features such a talented quarterback and traditionally pass-heavy mentality. With the receiving core hurting right now, don’t be surprised to see Green Bay continue to try to lean on their suddenly resurgent running game.

5. Oh, yea, Greg Jennings plays his former team for the first time
As a member of the Packers from 2006-12, Greg Jennings was a thorn in the Vikings side. In 15 games against the Purple, Jennings hauled in 68 receptions for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns. During Jennings’ tenure in Green Bay, the Packers had an 11-4 record against the Vikings. But now Jennings will go from a thorn in the Vikings side to an ace in their deck as he faces his former team for the first time this week.