This Sunday an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers play host to NFC North Division rival Minnesota Vikings.
You caught the part about it being Aaron Rodgers-less, right?
I never saw this coming. Especially with all the storylines at play this week. You never want your star QB on the sidelines when an opponent rolls into town, but double that frustration when it is a division opponent. Triple it, even.
The past few years have brought all kinds of drama to the Packers v. Vikings rivalry. First Brett Favre‘s defection to the people in purple — now Greg Jennings. The drama is escalating for this Sunday’s matchup at Lambeau.
Speaking of drama, here are the storylines I’ll be following on Sunday:
1. Vikings DB Chris Cook tells the media that the Packers are an easy target right now — well, isn’t that nice. I wonder what makes the Packers so vulnerable as of late? Oh, that’s right … there are currently 12 names on the injury report for this week. That is a season high. Included in those names? Just guys like Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley, Johnny Jolly, Sam Shields, Nick Perry, etc. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought the injury report was the Packers’ Pro Bowl candidates. However injured, the Packers are trying to prove that their vulnerability does not hinge on any one position or player. I’ll be hoping they show that spirit on the field.
2. Greg Jennings’ Homecoming — yes, this is the week I’ve been waiting for all year. Didn’t see it playing out quite like this. Jennings will receive his first “welcome home” from 78,000 fans at the same time. I’m guessing it will be unmistakable. With the offseason comments that Jennings made about Rodgers and the entire Packers organization, he has drawn a respectable amount of ire from his former fan base. It will be interesting to see how he responds. It is also uncertain if he will play this week, as he is coming off of an injury suffered two weeks ago. He was a game-time scratch last week against the Seahawks. I don’t know how Jennings could miss a game in his old stomping grounds, but it would prove to be a disappointing thread in this grudge match.
3. Scott Tolzien gets his 2nd NFL start — Tolzien played well the past two week, completing more than 70 percent of his passing attempts last week against the Giants. He completed all of his big throws down the field, including a 52-yarder to Boykin who caught it in stride. He looks good in the pocket, but needs to cut out the ill-advised throws that earned him three interceptions in last week’s game. With a full week’s more practice with the first team unit, look for Tolzien to make sounder decisions in the pocket. He is already proving that he has the arm to get things done, he just needs to check completely into the mental side of things as well.
4. Increased intensity in the Packers’ secondary — all week long, the defense has lamented its struggles in the past several weeks. It’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is. If Shields is healthy, we are in a much better position to handle physical receivers like Jennings and rookie sensation Cordarelle Patterson. Tramon Williams has been stepping up as of late, intercepting Manning last week and being credited for a sack/fumble the week before. Burnett needs to return to pre-injury form and Hyde, Banjo, McMillian, House and Jennings need to start playing to their potential. If the defense starts playing like they are auditioning for continued jobs, they will get it done this week. And let’s face it: some of them are absolutely auditioning for 2014.
5. Adrian Peterson suffering through a groin injury — would it be the worst thing if AP was only 60 percent this week? Not for the Packers, who routinely give up massive yardage to last year’s MVP. He said he was in pain last week and that he would rest the injury this week to be ready for Sunday. Let’s hope if he is healthy, the defensive line can shore up its issues without Johnny Jolly in the lineup.