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Lunchbreak: Harrison Smith's Versatility Key in Vikings Defense

Sunday's division-rival matchup between the Vikings and Packers will mark the eighth time Harrison Smith has played against the Green and Gold.

Smith will look to help Minnesota notch a win over Green Bay and move to 4-2 on the season.

Tim Yotter of *Viking Update *called Smith's role in the defense "eclectic." Yotter wrote:

*When the Vikings need to stop the run, Smith has the ability to play near the line of scrimmage and be quick to support it. He has proven he can roam the passing lanes and make plays on the ball, as he did on Monday with an interception to set up the winning field goal with 12 seconds left. And he is also used off the edge to rush the passer or catch a running back from behind. *

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That's the beauty that Vikings [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer has found in Smith's game. The Pro Bowl safety's versatility allows Zimmer to disguise the true intentions of a defense from one play to the next. Smith is hardly the only multi-skilled defender with that ability – defensive ends drop into coverage, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks can both blitz, and Andrew Sendejo has seen duty far and near to the line of scrimmage – but Smith might be the best.

The Pro Bowl safety thrives on contributing in different ways.

"The thing I love most is the variety, being able to be in different spots," Smith told Yotter. "That, to me, is the most fun. If I was down at the line of scrimmage all day as opposed to mixing it up, I would obviously still do it, but it's really whatever gives us the best chance to win, and that's whatever Zim calls."

Xavier Rhodes No. 4 in Ike Taylor's weekly CB rankings

Even after a quiet night at Chicago for *Monday Night Football, *Xavier Rhodes continues to rise on Ike Taylor's radar.

The former NFL defensive back and current analyst for NFL.com listed Rhodes at No. 4 in his weekly cornerback rankings. Rhodes was at No. 5 last week. Taylor wrote:

Rhodes had a 'day off' against the Bears, as rookie Mitchell Trubisky didn't target him once. If it was my NFL debut, I'd avoid Rhodes, too. A huge divisional matchup against the Packers awaits the Vikings. Rhodes has faced Jordy Nelson just three times since 2014. Nelson missed the entire 2015 with a knee injury, while Rhodes was sidelined with a knee injury in their Week 2 matchup last year. In the three meetings, Rhodes has allowed five catches on 10 targets for 41 yards and recorded three passes defensed. Rhodes will see his fair share of Nelson, but I wouldn't be surprised if he spends most of his time across from Davante Adams, who is playing with a ton of confidence.

Rhodes remains the only NFC North corner on Taylor's list. Above him at Nos. 1-3, respectively were Denver's Aqib Talib, Seattle's Richard Sherman and Arizona's Patrick Peterson.

Minnesota's defense could propel Vikings over Packers

Zimmer now has three-plus seasons working with the Vikings defense, and the unit has stayed largely consistent through that time.

According to Jon Krawczynski for the *Associated Press, *the "fast, clever and tough defense … has given the Vikings as good a chance to beat rival Green Bay as they've had since Aaron Rodgers became the Packers starting quarterback in 2008."

Krawczynski pointed out that Rodgers is still a thorn in the side of coaches creating a game plan. He quoted Zimmer, who quipped during a press conference with Twin Cities media that the Packers "should trade" the elusive quarterback.

That probably will never happen, though the Packers did wind up dealing Brett Favre to pave the way for Rodgers to take over. He's 12-6 with 40 touchdown passes and six interceptions against Minnesota since then. But the Vikings have won two of the last three meetings, including a five-sack, one-interception performance at the home opener in 2016 during which Rodgers passed for a modest 213 yards in a 17-14 defeat.

Zimmer's creative and aggressive approach to pass rushing and preference for tight man-to-man pass coverage has provided the Vikings a formula for slowing the Packers that they haven't had in decades.

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