The 2012 version of the twice annual border battle rivalry between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers commences this week at Lambeau Field, as the 7-4 Packers will host the 6-5 Vikings. Sunday’s game will be the first of two between the teams in four weeks and it marks the latest in a season that these teams have played the first game in the season series.
The week leading up to Vikings vs. Packers is always fun because there is so much on the line on game day, regardless of records or time of year. As we anticipate Sunday’s game, here are five Vikings-Packers storylines to follow this week…
1. Vikings Look To Remain In Playoff Chase
Sunday’s game at Lambeau is not “do or die” for the Vikings with regard to their playoff outlook. But there’s no denying how important a win would be to the Vikings as they look to stay in the hunt for not just a Wild Card berth, but also a division title. Last week’s loss in Chicago dropped the Vikings two games behind the Bears, but there are still five to go (including this week in Green Bay) and the Vikings get one more shot at the Bears. On top of that, the Bears have a tough game against the Seahawks at home this weekend and they also have games remaining against the Packers and at the Detroit Lions.
Regardless of how the Bears do this week against Seattle, the Vikings can move into a tie with the Packers at 7-5 with a win.
2. Packers On The Rebound After Blowout Loss To Giants
Last week’s Sunday Night Football game featured a matchup between the last two Super Bowl champions – the Packers and the NY Giants. But just one of the teams looked super, and it wasn’t Green Bay. The Giants logged a 38-10 victory. As such, the Vikings aren’t the only team in this week’s NFC North showdown coming off a thorough loss. A quick look at the game’s stats doesn’t yield an obvious reason for Green Bay’s lackluster showing, but New York did capitalize on two specific stats that likely led to the final outcome: the Giants were +2 in turnover ratio and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked 5 times. Expect Green Bay to make those two stats points of emphasis this week as they prepare for the Vikings.
3. Both Teams Dealing With Injuries To Key Players
The Vikings have been missing WR Percy Harvin since he sprained his ankle in a Week 9 loss at Seattle on November 4, and now all eyes will be on TE Kyle Rudolph and S Harrison Smith after they left last week’s loss against Chicago to be evaluated for concussions. In addition to that, both LB Jasper Brinkley and RB Adrian Peterson have shoulder ailments and RT Phil Loadholt is dealing with knee inflammation. None of those players have been ruled out for Sunday’s game, and in fact it’s entirely possible that they’ll all be available, but their statuses do bear monitoring as the week goes.
The Packers are dealing with their own injuries, as well. WR Greg Jennings, LB Clay Matthews and DBs Sam Shields and Charles Woodson all missed last week’s game with injuries. They’ve also lost players such as RB Cedric Benson, starting RT Bryan Bulaga, and LBs Desmond Bishop and Nick Perry to injury for extended periods of time and some even for the season.
4. Can Green Bay Contain Adrian Peterson?
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is the kind of player that can win a game for his team any week, no matter the matchup. Green Bay ranks 11th against the run this season, giving up 103.8 rushings yards per game. More impressively, though, is the fact that Green Bay has allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season. On the flip side, Peterson has six 100-yard games already this year, including 5 straight. And he’s the NFL’s leading rusher by 172 yards, is on pace for a career-high 1,798 rushing yards and loves running against the Packers.
5. Vikings Pass Rush Must Reemerge vs. Rodgers, Packers Offensive Line
Only one team (Arizona – 46) has allowed more sacks this season than the Packers (37). The bread and butter of the Vikings defense in recent seasons has been their pass rush. Huge advantage for the Vikings, right? You’d think so, but lately the Vikings pass rush has been contained. The Vikings have just 5 sacks in the past four games, and they rank just tied for 13th in sacks this season with 27. If the Vikings want to go into Lambeau Field and pull off this upset, they must get more pass-rushing production from their defense. The man to lead the charge is Jared Allen, who has 13.0 sacks against Green Bay in just nine career games.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen, Jasper Brinkley, Kyle Rudolph, Phil Loadholt
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