Vikings-Packers Key Matchups

Posted Oct 30, 2009

Every Friday during the regular season, will look at 3 matchups that will help determine the outcome of the Vikings upcoming game.

Vikings Secondary vs. WRs Donald Driver and Greg Jennings

Whether CB Antoine Winfield plays or not, the Vikings #1 concern on defense will be containing the Packers explosive passing game. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers already has 24 passes of 20-plus yards, which ranks him tied for the 5th in the NFL. The Vikings, meanwhile, have given up an NFL high 27 receptions of 20 yards, a potentially lethal statistical contradiction in this matchup that favors Green Bay.

Rodgers’ top targets are his starting WRs – Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. While it was Jennings who emerged last year with 1,292 receiving yards and 9 TDs, it’s Driver who has led the way this season. Driver currently ranks tied for 3rd among all NFL offensive players with 9 receptions of 20 yards. On top of that, Jennings averages 44.8 yards per 20 -yard reception.

Matching up against these explosive wideouts will be CBs Asher Allen, Cedric Griffin and Benny Sapp, along with S Madieu Williams and S Tyrell Johnson (plus Winfield, if he suits up). Against the Ravens in Week 6, QB Joe Flacco exposed this unit once Winfield was forced out of the game with a foot injury. But last week against the Steelers, the Vikings secondary looked much better and held QB Ben Roethlisberger to just 175 yards passing.

Expect the Vikings to match the Packers passing game in terms of scheme. Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is a proven defensive mind in the NFL and his ability to game plan even without his best CB was proven last week against the Steelers. Where the Vikings players must take things into their own hands is with tackling. Missed tackles have been an issue for the Vikings defense at times this season, and if the Vikings can shore up this area of their game they will be able to decrease the amount of big passing plays they allow.

QB Brett Favre vs. QB Aaron Rodgers

It’s been discussed all week, but this feature wouldn’t be giving the readers justice if this matchup wasn’t addressed in this space. Both Favre and Rodgers put up good numbers in terms of yards and TDs in these teams’ Week 4 matchup – Favre threw for 271 yards and 3 TDs and Rodgers threw for 384 yards and 2 TDs. Where Favre outplayed Rodgers last time was in game management and decision making.

Favre was able to guide the Vikings offense to 30 points while also taking 0 sacks and throwing 0 INTs. In a game as closely contested as Vikings-Packers contests typically are, minimizing mistakes is crucial. Rodgers wasn’t able to do that – he threw 1 INT and also took 8 sacks, including 4.5 at the hands of DE Jared Allen. Certainly Rodgers can’t be entirely blamed for the pass rush issues, but at some point he must either make a play with his legs or simply throw the ball away to avoid sacks.

RB Adrian Peterson vs. Packers Front 7

Favre is the Vikings offensive player who has received the most attention leading up to this game, but RB Adrian Peterson might be the key to success on Sunday. If the Vikings can get him going and he has 20 carries, then the Packers are in trouble. In the last matchup, however, Green Bay held Peterson to 55 yards rushing on 25 carries.

Green Bay’s 3-4 defense adds some complexity to the Vikings blocking assignments, but having played 5 games against 3-4 defense so far this year, the Vikings should be well aware of their rules and strategies. Key to the Packers ability to slow down Peterson and the Vikings ground game will be a defensive line rotation that includes Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett and rookie B.J. Raji, among others. Also important, of course, is the LB corps, a unit that includes Nick Barnett, Aaron Kampman and another rookie, Clay Matthews. It was Matthews who stripped Peterson of the ball and returned it for a TD the last time these teams met.

Even with his 55-yard output against Green Bay earlier this year, Peterson has been productive against the Packers over his career. The 2-time MVP has gained 452 yards and 2 TDs on 72 carries (6.3 avg.) in 4 career games against the Packers. His best game against Green Bay came in November of 2008, when he tallied 192 yards and a TD on 30 carries.