The Packers return home on Sunday to start a three week NFC North division tour with the Minnesota Vikings. This was a game that many Packer fans counted as a win early in the season, but now is not quite as guaranteed. The Packers have been beaten up and the Vikings have been a bit better than expected. That said, the Packers should still win this game and continue their push for the playoffs.
In order to secure the victory here are the five keys to the game:
1. Stop (Contain) Adrian Peterson. The Vikings appear to be without Percy Harvin this week which means they have only one playmaker on offense. The problem is that Peterson is unlike many other backs in the NFL and can be a one man offense if you let him. To stop Peterson the Packers are going to need a big day from their run defense (especially Ryan Pickett, A.J. Hawk, and Brad Jones) as well as their offense to run up the score and neutralize the Viking running attack.
2. Complete Quick Passes. The Viking secondary has a big hole in it with Chris Cook on IR. Mix in a talented Antoine Winfield battling a knee injury and the Vikings could be struggling on the back half of their defense. Putting pressure on the Viking corners and safeties to make tackles is going to be key. This means having the receivers get open fast, break a tackle, and show why they are one of the most talent units in the league. It will also keep Aaron Rodgers’ upright.
3. Manufacture a pass rush. This was a key last week that did not happen, but it’s still there this week. Why? Because the Vikings have an offensive line and young QB that can struggle to make protection adjustments. That young QB can also get rattled big time if you hit him enough. If the Packers can make Christian Ponder uncomfortable then he will start throwing interceptions and all but give up the game. The problem is that without Clay Matthews there should be serious doubt as to whether the Packers can find that pass rush. Sending corners and extra linebackers should pay off more this week than it did last week.
4. Convert on third down. This goes for the offense and defense. The Vikings don’t run a high powered offense and will often need all three downs to get a first. Stopping their offense on third down is critical. Similarly, the offense needs to improve its third down efficiency. If the offense can string together longer drives then the defense can stay fresh….and a fresh defense will help keep the powerful Vikings run game in check.
5. Score fast. The Vikings a different team when coming from behind. They don’t have the playmakers on offense to score points in bunches and they don’t have the playmakers on defense to get turnovers in bunches. If the Packers can get up a touchdown or two in the first half then things get much easier for the rest of the game. If the Packers are playing behind most of the game then they have to deal with a plentiful helping of Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen which would not make for a fun afternoon for the Packers.