Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings: Once More Into the Purple Noise

 

The Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb connection may be interrupted this weekend.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph

 

The 11*-4 Green Bay Packers travel to Minneapolis to take on the 9-6 Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in the final game of the 2012 regular season for both teams. The game was moved from a noon CST kickoff to 3:20 CST as the second game of the Fox doubleheader, so don’t miss it. It will be a good one.

The Vikings need to win the game to secure a shot at a playoff berth. If they lose they’re out … and Chicago is probably in. Bears fans will be horribly conflicted this weekend. They’ll be rooting for the Packers to beat the Vkings. Don’t go near Chicago on Sunday!

If the Packers win they secure the second seed in the playoffs, along with some extra time for players to heal due to the first-round bye that goes with it. If they lose they don’t get the bye, but will still be in the playoffs as NFC North Division Champion. I never thought I would (and after the Fail Mary always hoped I wouldn’t have to) say this, but thank you, Seattle, for beating the 49ers (quite convincingly, too) and putting the Packers in position to secure the two seed with a winny in Minny!

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has been battling an abdominal injury suffered last week at Houston. He will play, but his effectiveness could be diminished. Well, probably not, but we can hope!

Nov 18, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Packers beat the Lions 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Packers WR Randall “Cobbernicus” Cobb has been nursing an ankle injury suffered against Tennessee. If he goes at all he’ll probably be limited. Rookie WR Jeremy Ross would handle returns for Cobb if he can’t go, and perhaps even if he can. WR Jordy Nelson may be back for this game as well. The only real question mark health-wise for the Packers is DB Charles Woodson, who will definitely not play. Many are wondering just how bad his collarbone injury really is. Either way the Packers look to be healthier for this game than any over the second half of the season.

The obvious task for the Packers will be to “limit” Peterson. I didn’t think the Packers could hold Chris Johnson under 100 yards last week, but they held him to only 28 yards. However, we’re not talking about the same kind of back or the same kind of O-line blocking for him either. The Packers will definitely need everybody to bring their A games, maintain gap control, and tackle exceedingly well if they hope to keep Peterson out of the record books.

Last week the Packers showed us just what they’re capable of in all three phases of the game. This week all three phases will be tested more vigorously, but the stakes are obvious. The Packers need to go out and execute. As in years past, they should look upon this game as a tune-up for the playoffs.

There has been some discussion about the importance of momentum maintenance. Is it better to have to play in the first round of the playoffs, thereby (assuming a win) maintaining momentum built up over the second half of the season? Or is it better to grab the bye by the horns, rest up, heal up, and then come out and tear through two playoff games as opposed to three of them – but at the risk of having to kickstart momentum for the playoffs while actually in the playoffs?

What do you think Packers Nation?

Here are some things I’ll be looking for while I watch the game:

Aug 30, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and guard Josh Sitton (71) during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Packers offensive line. It looks as if the starting O-line will be Newhouse at LT, Lang at LG, Dietrich-Smith at C, Sitton at RG, and Barclay at RT. The same thing that concerned me last week concerns me again this week. If any of these guys have to leave the game who replaces them? We’ll be looking at more rookies and practice squad guys most of us haven’t heard of before. But … they’ll have to get the job done, much like Barclay has at RT. In any case the O-line will have my attention as I look at how they do against the Vikings pass rush and the kind of holes they open for the ball carriers. In all honesty they always have my attention. It all starts with the big guys up front!

Packers run game. Don’t look now, but the Packers have run for over 100 yards in their last five games. Starks is definitely out but Alex Green looks like he can soak up some carries this week. Harris and Grant both did well last week. Add Green to that mix and the Packers don’t have one guy who can do it all, but between them they’re getting it done. I’ll be looking for a fast track and a sometimes porous run defense to add up to another 100-plus yard game on the ground this week.

Packers passing game. It looks as if Nelson will be ready to go this week. Again, the Packers get one back and they lose one. This week it’s Cobbernicus who’s questionable with that ankle. The rest of the receivers will just have to carry the load if the dangerously intelligent Cobb can’t go. I almost wish MM would hold him out even if he’s cleared to play. He’s become such an important part of the Packers O that they can’t afford to lose him for the playoffs – whether they start next week or not for the Packers.

Finley had yet another big game against the Titans. It would be great to see him keep performing at that level. I didn’t hear anything this week about anybody harping about next year or how football is a business, so I’ll be watching for the receivers to run precise routes, make big catches, not give the ball to anybody except the officials, and above all to refrain from drops.

Dec 16, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Rodgers historically has good games in domed stadiums. He also historically has to run for his life when he’s going against the Vikings pass rush. I think Rodgers will be handing the ball off more than he’s throwing it in this game, but when he does throw it’ll probably be on the move more in this game than in others. There is nobody better at throwing on the move than 12. Just keep your head on a swivel, Aaron!

Packers defensive line/LBs. This game will be all about stopping Peterson. Just like Johnson last week, Peterson is a threat to score every time he breaks into the clear from anywhere on the field. And just like last week the big guys up front will have to tie up blockers and let the LBs get to Peterson early enough that he can’t get into a footrace with the DBs.

Having Matthews back for this game will be huge. He missed the previous Vikings game and I believe a decent chunk of that huge day Peterson had was because 52 wasn’t there to close and finish. I’ll be looking for the Claymaker to have a big game against Peterson and the Vikings O-line.

Everybody will be getting after Vikes QB Christian Ponder. Minnesota is dead last in the league in passing offense. I’ll be watching for the Packers’ pass rush to help the Vikings maintain that ignominious statistic.

Packers DBs. The Packers secondary mission this week is to ensure that there are no easy yards for Vikings receivers. But first and foremost they have to be sound in run support and when they have to tackle they’ll have to tackle well. If Peterson gets into the open field he’ll have to be tackled after doing as little damage as possible. If Peterson is held below 100 yards it will be in large part because the Packers DBs tackled effectively.

In the previous game against the Vikings this season the DBs also closed on INT opportunities. This week I’ll be looking for them to have chances at picks again, and I’ll be watching for them to make those plays. If they do, Peterson can run all day between the 30s but it won’t matter on the scoreboard.

Packers special teams. So which Mason Crosby will the Packers get this week? The one who made everything he tried last week, or the one who has been, shall we say, inconsistent this season? This game will be indoors and Crosby historically kicks well in domed parks, but will that be enough to push the numbers in the right direction?

I’m all for loyalty. I’m all for giving second, third, and fourth chances when warranted. Crosby has, in my opinion, used up all his chances. If he doesn’t kick well in this game things might get ugly.

I still think the Packers are due for a big play on special teams. Could be a big return, could be a blocked punt … let’s just hope it’s not another lateral pass on a punt return!

Fearsome Predictions:

Dec 23, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant (25) rushes with the football during the game against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 55-7. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

– The Packers will run for over 100 yards in this game, extending the streak to six consecutive games over the century mark on the ground. The O-line, especially Sitton and Barclay on the right side, has done a good job of opening holes for Grant, Harris, and Green. Expect that to continue this week.

– Somebody will get loose for a long (40-yard or more) run against Minnesota.

– At least two of the Packers TDs will be scored on the ground.

– Rodgers will throw for well more than 300 yards and at least three touchdowns. His QB rating will be 125 or better.

– The Packers will have a long TD reception off play-action – probably to Nelson.

– The Packers will sack Ponder four times. Matthews will have two of them. Neal will have another.

– The Packers will intercept three Ponder passes. Burnett will get one of them, Shields another, and one of the opportunistic LBs will snag the third.

– The Packers will have fewer penalties than the Vikings, but there will be a few pre-snap goofs due to the noise, both real and artificial, in the Metrodome. Let’s just hope the roof stays up!

– Try as they might, the Packers defense will not hold Peterson under 100 yards rushing, but they will not allow him to set the all-time single season rushing record.

– The Vikings crowd will be waving their “rally towels” and much will be made of the purple lighting vindictively turned against innocent and defenseless landmarks in the area, all in an effort to get Vikings fans to get behind their team. They haven’t done the towel thing since Favre was a Viking! Imagine having to be reminded to get behind your team!

Because the game was changed to a late kickoff we’ll probably be watching the game from the comfort of our own media center. Son John expressed reservations about that approach, stating tradition, strong Packer fan turnout, and the surprisingly good pub food to be enjoyed at Tailgators on FM1488 in Magnolia. He’s also hard in the middle of his Christmas break. One way or another we’ll be watching the game and looking for a Packers victory!  I’ll still be tweeting random thoughts on the game and the telecast to all those who dare to follow at @PackersTX.

Watch Lombardiave.com for the post game analysis.

Bring it, Vikings! This is it! Go Pack GO!

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Tags: Green Bay Packers Minnesota Vikings NFL Playoffs Winning Isn't Everything, It's The Only Thing

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