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Opposing Viewpoint: 5 Questions (and Answers) About Packers

Border Battle No. 121 between the Vikings (1-5) and Packers (5-1) is Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Minnesota is looking for growth from a handful of young defensive players, while the Vikings offense is focused on sustaining drives and limiting harmful mistakes.

But what are some key storylines from the other side?

To find that out, Vikings.com chatted with Packers reporter Wes Hodkiewicz for a glance at what Green Bay is thinking before Sunday's game.

Here is the Week 8 edition of Opposing Viewpoint:

After much hype in Week 1, the Vikings and Packers have gone in opposite directions the past seven weeks. But there is no love lost in the Border Battle, so what is Green Bay's focus this week as Minnesota comes to town?

WH: The way the Packers are looking at it, the Vikings might as well be 5-1. That's their mentality. And we've all covered enough of these division games to appreciate how the records go out the window in these NFC North battles. Green Bay is preparing for the Minnesota team that came within an eyelash of knocking Seattle from the ranks of the unbeaten earlier this month. As banged up as the Vikings are in their secondary, the Packers have plenty of injuries they're working through, as well. So Green Bay is taking nothing for granted this week.

Justin Jefferson wasn't a starter back in early September, as he played just 36 offensive snaps. Since then, he has vaulted himself into the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation. How much is Jefferson on the Packers radar entering Week 8?

WH: He's in the center of Green Bay's radar. Based on how Jefferson has played these first two months, I don't think it's unreasonable to say Jefferson could be the best of one of the deepest receiver classes in recent memory. He has everything you look for in a No. 1 receiver – speed, intelligence, route-running precision and that innate ability to rip the top off a defense at a moment's notice. Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine has a decision to make with how the Packers will defend both Jefferson and Adam Thielen, who has given Green Bay problems in his own right. Jaire Alexander is having an All-Pro season, but Kevin King has missed two games now with a quad injury and didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. Former second-round pick Josh Jackson played better in King's stead against the Texans but King still leaves big shoes to fill as a 6-3, 200-pound press-man corner if he can't go Sunday.

And speaking of dynamic wide receivers, Davante Adams looks as good as ever if you ask me. How much does he dictate defensive coverage, but opportunities for other players?

WH: Adams can do it all, and in my humble opinion, he's the best receiver the Packers have had since Sterling Sharpe. If teams want to double-team him, Adams still finds a way to gain separation. If they try him 1-on-1, Adams picks them apart like he did last week in Houston. He's a serious matchup problem for any secondary. After his big game against Minnesota in Week 1, Detroit placed a heavy emphasis on containing Adams. The result? Aaron Jones recorded a career-high 168 rushing yards. So Adams is a major chess piece for the Packers offense and Head Coach Matt LaFleur has proven to be a good counter-puncher depending on how teams want to defend his three-time Pro Bowl receiver.

Give me an unsung hero of Green Bay's defense so far this season. How has that player made a sneaky impact?

WH: I'll give you two – Krys Barnes and Minnesota native Kamal Martin. Barnes, a former UCLA inside linebacker who went undrafted last spring, didn't even make the initial 53-man roster but was promoted from the practice squad for the opener. He became the first undrafted linebacker to start Week 1 for the Packers since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Barnes isn't the most explosive athlete on the field but he has all the primary traits you want in a rough-and-ready middle linebacker. He currently leads Green Bay with 42 tackles despite playing roughly 50% of the defensive snaps due to injury/opportunity. When Barnes went down with a shoulder injury last week, Martin stepped up and had six second-half tackles in his first football game in 11 months. Barnes was back at practice this week, so we'll see how things shuffle out against the Vikings. But Martin and Barnes give Green Bay its brightest forecast at inside linebacker since arguably its Super Bowl XLV run in 2010.

And finally, even though we're only at Week 8, has there been any talk of the playoffs yet in Green Bay? Or is there chatter about the importance of the top seed — which the Packers currently have — given the expanded playoff format in 2020?

WH: The Packers haven't talked whatsoever about the playoffs but everyone in that locker room understands what's at stake with there being only one first-round bye now in each conference. For that reason, every regular-season game bears significant meaning. For as much success as Green Bay has had over the last decade, it's been nine years since Green Bay had the top seed in the NFC. To get that bye, the Packers need to keep LaFleur's undefeated streak going in the NFC North (8-0).

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