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Vikings vs. Packers: Five Things to Watch For

Round 1 went emphatically to the Packers. With the Vikings visiting Lambeau and Rodgers still sidelined, will Round 2 be any different? We examine.

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

Remember in the original Star Wars when Alderaan gets blown to smithereens and Obi-Wan senses it by saying, "It's as if a million voices cried out in terror"? This will likely be the Internet and Packers fans should the team manage to lose to the Vikings on Sunday. What's scary is that it's not out of the question. The Vikings managed 31 points against the Packers last time they played and since Rodgers went down, the Packers have managed just 15 points per game. Still, even without Rodgers, the Packers should be expected to win this one and with good reason. The Vikings come into Lambeau as one of the biggest train wrecks in the NFL - losing (like the Packers) a number of key players to injury while the rest of their roster looks more focused on making plans for Cabo in January. Will the Packers snap their three-game skid? Here are five things to watch for.

Vikings bringing the heat

Aside from Adrian Peterson, the Vikings offense is nothing to be afraid of. Greg Jenkins is hurt, Kyle Rudolph is too, and their quarterback trio features Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and the empty, soulless husk that used to be Josh Freeman. But if there's one thing the Vikings can still do, it's rush the passer. And while Scott Tolzien has shown plenty of poise and ability for a young quarterback, he's still raw and susceptible to getting rattled into bad decisions. Expect the Vikes to bring plenty of blitz pressure to try and create turnovers on Sunday. It may be their best chance to win.

Derek Sherrod playing actual snaps

Though he won't have a massive impact on this game, seeing Derek Sherrod play would be a welcome sight to those of us tired of watching Marshall Newhouse play matador with defensive ends every week. Of course, Don Barclay could be back by Sunday as well but at some point, the Packers need to work Sherrod - who has a much higher ceiling than Barclay - back into the fold. Now that his leg is healthy and not a disseminated collection of fragmented bone shards, Sherrod could be the key in making the Packers offensive line (that's played well sans Right Tackle) a more consistent unit - something both Scott Tolzien and Aaron Rodgers' left shoulder will appreciate.

Vikings trickery

A loss this game doesn't quite knock the Packers out of the playoffs, but it would come damn close, and no team would love more to play the role of spoiler - at Lambeau - than the Minnesota Vikings. These guys would just revel in being the ones to end the Packers reign on the NFC North. And because of that, I expect the Vikings to pull out all the stops in this one. They basically have nothing to play for at this point, so why the hell not? Let Peterson throw a pass or something. Regardless, if the Packers want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they'll have to stay on their toes.

McCarthy's game plan

Mike McCarthy's game plan last week was about as well-concealed as a person in a Groucho Marx mask. In all put two plays, the Packers ran the ball on first down and followed a good majority of those plays up with another rushing attempt. This left Scott Tolzien, well, screwed. A conservative game plan was to be somewhat expected given Tolzien's lack of experience but ultimately, it got the Packers no different result from the previous two weeks. Not to mention, with the Giants seemingly knowing which plays were coming, they were able to dominate the time of possession - getting off the field quickly and eventually gassing the Packers defense. That's not something McCarthy can afford to do this week. Tolzien can sling it and with the Vikings' 29th-ranked pass defense, opportunities will be there.

Receivers not named Jordy

Granted it was Aaron Rodgers throwing to him but the last time these teams met, Jordy Nelson straight up ruined the Vikings. With 7 catches for 123 yards and two scores, Nelson was the most dynamic player on the field in a game that saw Eddie Lacy relatively contained. I'm not sure I'd expect the same outing this time around, and not just because Rodgers is sidelined. The good news for the Packers is that even if the Vikings do make a concerted effort to take Nelson out of the game, James Jones will be available - something that wasn't the case last time around. Whether it's Jones, Jarrett Boykin or Brandon Bostick, the Packers will likely need someone other than Nelson to step up if they're going to exploit the Vikings D.

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