Packers vs. Vikings: Five Packers To Watch

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings pose an interesting challenge to the Packers this Sunday. Can the addition of Clay Matthews and Ryan Grant, along with the improving play of Don Barclay, B.J. Raji, and Dezman Moses, help the Packers to victory?

Well this is it, after Sunday the regular season comes to a close and we Packer fans buckle up for the part of the season that truly defines whether 2012 was a success or not. Before we transition into playoff mode though the Packers have an interesting challenge this week in the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings in many ways are the opposite of the Packers. They have an amazing running back and terrible quarterback. They have no depth at WR, but a generally solid offensive line. Their front four are well regarded and can get the job done but the back half of their defense struggles and is paper thin in talent. Meanwhile, the Packers have the QB and not much talent at RB. They are loaded at WR but offensive line shifts from being average to a disaster. The front seven could still use an infusion of talent but the secondary is stacked like no other team. It all comes together for an interesting arrangement.

If the Packers win they get a first round bye and wait for the highest ranked team to come out of the Wild Card round (my money is on San Francisco in this case). If the Packers lose then we host the Vikings next week. It all comes down to those two choices in the end.

Here are five Packers who will make a difference towards that outcome….

LB Clay Matthews – I’m shocked at how little credit is given to Matthews by some. If you listen to a few of the experts out there they will point to the fact that Peterson ran for 210 yards on the Packers earlier and conclude it will happen again…..simply ignoring the fact that Matthews was not on the field that day. Matthews is by far the Packers best defender and tackler. Matthews on the field is often the difference between a top end back running for little to nothing (see the results of Arian Foster and Chris Johnson) and one running wild on the defense (see Adrian Peterson in early December). Mix this with his pass rush abilities and the play of Matthews is essential to stopping the Vikings cold.

RT Don Barclay – The epic ballad of Barclay began versus the Vikings. He was raw and coming off the bench. They didn’t know what to expect…but in the end he did alright. Since then Barclay has continued to impress and grow, but he has also gathered tape since then as well. Funny thing about tape is that it allows a team to prepare for you and attack you in ways they may not of figured out the first go around. Barclay’s ability to hold up in the run and pass will go a long way towards the success of the offense.

RB Ryan Grant – The Vikings are weaker in the middle of their defense then they have been in long time. Kevin Williams is getting older and the replacements for Pat Williams can’t hold a candle to what he brought to the table. The Packers may have a three headed monster at RB right now, but the best one at running between the tackles is Grant. The Packers have to take advantage of this weakness and use Grant’s ability to get good gains to keep the offense balanced and moving.

DL B.J. Raji – Raji has shown up in a big way the last couple weeks. He has been a dominating force, especially in the run game. The Vikings aren’t a run first team….they are run first, second, and usually third team. Raji will need to show up big and early in order for the Packers to set the tone and take the crowd out of the game.

LB Dezman Moses – Moses struggled in the last game against the Vikings. Moses’ strong suit is rushing the passer, while the Vikings will mostly run and require him to keep contain. But he will have to keep contain if the Packers are going to limit Adrian Peterson. The Vikings aren’t stupid enough to just run at Matthews, and will test the side opposite him early and often. If Moses can show up and make key stops then the Vikings may be in trouble having to go right into waiting arms of Raji and Ryan Pickett. If Moses fails though, it could be another big day for AP.

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