Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
If the Vikings are to have success against the Packers this Sunday they need to have some sort of passing game. Kyle Rudolph is going to be Christian Ponder's best target over the middle and in the red zone. Can safety Morgan Burnett stop him and potentially cripple the Vikings offense?
Everyone knows about the power and ability of Adrian Peterson. He is the centerpiece of the Vikings’ offense and the main reason why the Vikings have a shot at the playoffs. As important as Peterson is to the Vikings though there is one other offensive threat that the Packers face on Sunday. The other player that can make the Packers pay is tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph is not quite the impossible match up of some tight ends in the league, but he is a solid option for Christian Ponder to throw to and has displayed sure hands when needed. Perhaps most important, Rudolph is a great target in the red zone. With the Vikings lacking talent in the WR group right now it is going to be essential for them to get Rudolph involved early and often in the passing attack. If they can’t, then it will be nearly impossible for them to keep up with the Packers.
One of the problems of the Packers defense over the past few years is a difficulty covering tight ends. The inside linebackers are not quite good enough in coverage to be able to move with solid young TE and the safeties often have responsibilities elsewhere in the defense. Often this is where a healthy Charles Woodson comes in handy. He may not be able to run with wide receivers anymore, but he can handle most TE’s in the league. Alas, Woodson is out for the week though. As a result expect Morgan Burnett to be the main factor preventing Rudolph from having a big game.
Burnett has been the main force in helping the Packers get over the loss of Woodson in the secondary. He has been an effective leader, tackler, and playmaker. Currently Burnett is tied for the team lead in total tackles and leads the team in solo tackles. He also leads the team in forced fumbles. It has been this reliable play that has kept the Packers afloat on defense. The best example of this was in the previous meeting with the Vikings, there Burnett was able to get two interceptions at critical times. It is this cover ability and playmaking ability the Packers need on Sunday to help neutralize Rudolph.
If the Packers can manage Peterson and shut down Rudolph then the Vikings are finished….but doing so is easier said than done. Rudolph has very good hands is a reliable underneath target for the shaky Christian Ponder. It will take solid effort from the Packers’ inside linebackers, and especially Morgan Burnett, in order to shut Rudoloph down and put an end to the Vikings’ post-season hopes.