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Vikings-Packers Key Matchups

Posted Oct 2, 2009

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

Because of the intense, long-standing rivalry and the fact that Minnesota and Wisconsin are neighboring states, Vikings-Packers games typically have more build-up than your standard regular season game. But add Brett Favre as the Vikings QB and then put the game on Monday Night Football, and you really have a game deserving of extra hype.

Favre’s performance on Monday night will certainly go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. For our weekly “Key Matchups” segment, however, we’ll look at 3 other matchups that will also play a large role in Monday night’s game.

C John Sullivan vs. DTs Ryan Pickett

For the 5th time this preseason and regular season, Vikings C John Sullivan will deal with the 3-4 defense. Of course the entire offense needs to adjust to this scheme, but it’s of particular importance for Sullivan to adjust because, unlike when he goes against a 4-3 alignment, Sullivan will have a DT playing over him.

The DT playing over Sullivan on Monday night will be Ryan Pickett, a 9-year veteran who is in his 4th season with Green Bay and stands at 6-2, 330 pounds. Pickett is a strong player who fits well as the nose tackle in Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. Pickett is similar to Pat Williams in that a lot of their contributions don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but their contributions are still valuable.

Sullivan has a solid base and is a good athlete, so this matchup will be interesting to watch from a physical standpoint. But Sullivan also must handle this matchup from a mental standpoint. The crowd will be in this game, and Sullivan must make the calls along the line, handle center-to-QB exchanges and then actually block Pickett.

DE Ray Edwards vs. RT Allen Barbre

If a Vikings DE is going to be mentioned as part of a “Key Matchups” feature, you’d assume it would be Jared Allen. But not this week. Ray Edwards shows up in the feature this week because he has a good matchup with Green Bay RT Allen Barbre.

Barbre stands at 6-4, 305 pounds, and clearly possesses adequate strength matched with the quicks to block out on the edge. Barbre is also versatile, which is why Green Bay can play him at G as well. Edwards plays the “base end” position in the Vikings defense, which means he is focusing on being stout against the run as much as he’s focusing on rushing the passer. But Barbre must also be concerned with Edwards’ pass rush, because the last place QB Aaron Rodgers wants to be forced to scramble is toward the other side, where Allen will be waiting. The Packers won’t have enough players to help Barbre with chip or rub blocks because those extra players will be devoted to Allen and potential blitzing safeties and LBs.

Edwards faces a similar dilemma as his opponent, Barbre. Putting pressure on Rodgers this game will be key for the Vikings defense; the Vikings can’t afford to let Rodgers be comfortable in the pocket and connect with his receivers. But Ryan Grant can be a dangerous runner, and in fact he was the last RB to rush for 100 yards against this Vikings defense. So Edwards must also be aware of the run. Ultimately, Edwards’ goal is to play the run well and string plays out, and then also put pressure on Rodgers and team with Allen to collapse the pocket.

Bernard Berrian vs. Packers CBs

It’s tough to know if Green Bay will shadow Bernard Berrian with either Al Harris or Charles Woodson or if they’ll let the Vikings dictate the matchup by leaving the corners on one side of the field the whole game. Regardless, the matchup between Berrian and Harris/Woodson is a good one.

It’s accurate to characterize both Harris and Woodson as playmakers. Woodson is 6-1, 202 pounds and has intercepted 22 passes since joining Green Bay in 2006, including 3 already this season; he’s taken 5 of those picks to the house, including 1 this year. A 12-year veteran, Woodson has earned 5 Pro Bowl berths. Harris is also a 12-year veteran, and he’s coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. He’s a physical CB, and if Green Bay did choose to shadow Berrian, I think Harris would be the man to do it.

We know what Berrian brings – speed. He’s a dangerous vertical threat, but he is also dangerous when he catches short passes and has room to run. He almost always makes the 1st man miss. Berrian is in his 2nd season with the Vikings and is starting to get a feel for the Vikings-Packers rivalry, but he spent the first 4 seasons of his career in Chicago, perhaps the Packers biggest rival of all. So he’s got just as much reason to love beating the Packers as anyone, and the Vikings ability to get him the ball will be a factor in whether the Vikings come out on top or not.