Vikings vs. Packers: 5 Packers To Watch

USA TODAY Sports

It’s déjà-vu all over again as the Packers once again face off against the Minnesota Vikings. Last year the Packers were one and done in the playoffs, but a big game from these five players should make sure that does not happen again.

As important as the regular season is, this is the time of year that will define the 2012 Packers. The further along in the playoffs the Packers go, the more successful a season and the less handwringing there should be in the offseason. If the Packers can pull off a Super Bowl run then the party is in Green Bay and probably won’t stop until the draft. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the first step in defining this season happens on Saturday night when the Green Bay Packers host the Minnesota Vikings…..again.

There aren’t many secrets about the two teams anymore. We have seen two close games, one dominated be defenses and one dominated by offenses. Ironically, the Packers won the game dominated by defenses and the Vikings won the game dominated by offenses….go figure. For round three the cold will set in and test the resolve for the players in its own unique way. Will the Vikings raise up and handle the cold like a strong run first team, or will they fold like a dome team in harsh elements?

It’s win or go home and to win the Packers are going to need strong games from these five players….

RT Don Barclay – Barclay has been as good as can be expected in his starts for Green Bay so far. The problem is that his two worst performances have come against the Vikings and he just does not match up well with Everson Griffen. The Packers cannot give up another five sack day and that means Barclay has to step it up and improve his game this week.

OLB Erik Walden – I have to admit that I have been a harsh critic of Walden this year. I admit to saying the phrase "Erik Walden is useless" on more than one occasion…in fact I said it at least three times last week. Walden has to contain the outside run if the Packers are to have any chance. If he can’t contain then it’s going to be up to DB’s to tackle Adrian Peterson and that’s just not a good recipe for success.

CB Tramon Williams – He just has to improve from last week, which was probably his worst game of the year. If the Packers can shut down the Vikings receivers like they did in the first game then it doesn’t matter how many yards AP runs for, the Packers should win. This isn’t the toughest task Williams has faced this year, but it is the most important so far.

DT Mike Neal – It’s unreasonable to expect Clay Matthews to be a one man pass rush. He needs help, and he especially needs help with an inside pass rush. The best hope for that is going to be Neal. With Jerel Worthy out with a knee injury that need is even more pressing this week. Neal has started to win back Packer fans after some early disappointments and a big game in the playoffs would be a surefire way to cement that perception.

WR/KR Randall Cobb – How good is the ankle? I would expect that it’s doing fine judging from his practice status the last two days, but it’s still a question that needs to be asked. If the Packers have a full healthy receiving unit then it’s going to be tough for the Vikings to match up….especially if Antoine Winfield misses time (don’t get your hopes up there, but you never know). Cobb has now become an essential piece of that puzzle and a healthy Cobb may be the difference between a fast start and early struggles for the offense.

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