This Sunday night the Packers make their way to the probably-not-even-up-to-code-anymore Hubert H. Humphrey dome to take on the Minnesota Vikings. I don't want to downplay this thing because hey, it's still a divisional game and all, but based on how things have played out for the Vikings lately, Carrie Underwood's intro might be the most exciting thing we see all night. I'm not sure if Zygi Wilf thought his new stadium comes with a new team or what, but the Vikings are pretty much in shambles right now. That said, they still feature the best running back in the game and Jared Allen's beard is still pretty badass, so I guess anything's possible. What will it take for the Packers to win? Here are five things to keep an eye on.
Bakhtiari vs. Jared Allen
If this game does indeed turn into a rout like many expect, a good way to pass the time would be to create a drinking game based on how many times the announcers refer to Jared Allen's "motor." Just try not to tackle random strangers and do the lasso celebration. But while Allen's sheer talent might not be what it once was, the stuff about his motor is true. The dude is relentless. Rookie David Bakhtiari has essentially now run the gauntlet of talented pass-rushers, but Allen can still get after the quarterback with the best of them. He's a crafty veteran with both speed and power so Bakhtiari will once again have to be on his game.
Life without Finley
Times are strange in Green Bay. What was once a high-powered, greatest show on
turf grass type of offense has become a lumbering, methodical, grind-it-out machine. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The Packers are still scoring points and winning, but one has to wonder - just what will the offense look like without Jermichael Finley? This week we'll find out. It was easy to harp on Finley in the past for doing stupid crap like celebrating a 3-yard completion for a first down, but we often forget that he was one of the Packers' biggest mismatches on offense. Can Mike McCarthy adapt? Can Andrew Quarless step up? Can Aaron Rodgers just throw passes to himself? Lots of questions linger with the absence of J-Mike.
The Starks and Lacy duo
I'm kind of torn on this, actually. On one hand, the Packers have to be considering the wear they're putting on Eddie Lacy. As Rob Demovsky pointed out yesterday, Lacy's already nearly halfway to his total carries he had at Bama last year. On the other, it's clear that James Starks is basically limited to four-game stretches before something on his body inevitably goes boom. Still, though. These two really haven't played together once this year. Or at least, they haven't split carries. They've both looked impressive when healthy and this Sunday will mark the first time since really, Week 1 where that's been the case for both.
Good to see you, Greg Jenkins. Err, Jennings.
Turns out, Greg Jennings was just totally screwing around, you guys. You know, when he started coating the bridge he had to Green Bay with lighter fluid in the off-season? When he called out the quarterback responsible for a good deal of his catches? And when he generally started acting like gigantic douchenozzle? It was all just banter! I'm sure the Packers defensive backs haven't had this game circled on their calendar for the last few months or anything. Just remember, Greg: It's all fun and games until Josh Freeman is your quarterback.
Vikings' Special Teams Success
Know when a team has one pretty good quarterback, and then another good quarterback emerges on the same team, they call it a quarterback controversy? Whatever the opposite of that is, that's what the Vikings have right now. But despite a somewhat limited offense, the Vikings happen to be kicking ass in one particular area right now - returning kicks. Rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson can flat out fly and has the Vikings currently sitting at second in the league at both kickoff and punt returns. That's even more concerning when you consider the Packers rank dead last in the NFL on defending kickoff returns (allowing 29.5 per return). The Packers by pretty much any measure are the better team, but allowing special teams touchdowns and your opponent to work on a short field is a good way to narrow that gap. Here's hoping Tim Masthay sends every kickoff through the goal posts.
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