Time of year and place in standings aside, the Vikings-Packers rivalry is always relevant and intense. The twice-annual meeting takes form once again this Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium and marks the second meeting of the season between these two clubs.
Let's take a look at five storylines to watch this week as the Vikings and Packers prepare to battle.
1. Vikings Look to Bring Down High-Flying Packers OffenseThe Vikings have had to content with Aaron Rodgers every season since 2008, but he may be in greater form this time around than any other. He has a season-long touchdown-interception ratio of 28-3 and he's completing 66.8% of his passes. Add up those numbers and a few more, and you find that Rodgers' passer rating this season is a preposterous 120.1. With the trigger man playing that well, it's no surprise the entire Packers offense is playing so well. The Packers rank No. 2 in the NFL with 296 offensive points and the team has put up 50 points in each of the past two games. The Vikings defense, which ranks 14th in points allowed and is drastically improved from last season, will look to improve upon its first performance against these Packers and bring down this high-flying offense.
2. Vikings Pass Rush Looks to ResurgeThe Vikings entered their Week 10 bye with a NFL-leading 30 teams sacks, but they came out of the bye in Week 11 and were unable to corral Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler one time. Cutler delivered the ball quickly or was able to escape the pocket to buy time during the Bears 21-13 victory, and you can be sure the Vikings defense spent much of the week rectifying the issues that led to Cutler's comfort. Getting to the quarterback is an even taller task this week, though, because Rodgers has taken just 21 sacks on 334 dropbacks.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Packers.
3. Where Will Clay (Matthews) Play?For six seasons, Packers perennial Pro Bowler Clay Matthews has been lining up on the edge of the defense at outside linebacker in an attempt to pressure the quarterback; he has 7.0 career sacks against the Vikings. Recently, though, Matthews has started games at middle linebacker in the Packers 3-4 defense. While he still reverts to his edge-rushing position from time-to-time during the game, Matthews' move to the middle has given the Green Bay defense a face lift as well as a lift in performance. In the two games Matthews has started at middle linebacker, the Packers have allowed just 27 offensive points and 164 rushing yards on 55 carries for a per-carry average of 3.0 with no touchdowns. Also, Matthews has recorded 16 tackles and 2.0 sacks in those two games.
4. Vikings Look to Lasso LacySlowing down Rodgers and the high-flying Packers passing attack is one goal for the Vikings on Sunday, but that objective is more easily obtained if the defense first thwarts Packers RB Eddie Lacy and makes Green Bay more one-dimensional. In the first meeting between these two teams, Lacy was hard to lasso. He ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and also added three receptions for 27 yards for good measure. Lacy has scored at least one touchdown in five of the last seven games and he's gone over 100 yards from scrimmage four times this season (including in each of the last three games).
5. Bridgewater's Debut Bout with Green BayQB Teddy Bridgewater is going through a lot of firsts in his rookie season, and this week he'll get his first taste of this long-standing rivalry as a starter. Bridgewater did not play in the Week 5 contest because of an injury he suffered the week prior against Atlanta. Christian Ponder got the start that night and was 22 of 44 for 222 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions; he was also sacked six times.