I did a preview of the Vikings-Packers matchup earlier this week, but decided to focus on a few key match-ups that could be key in the game tonight.
Keep in mind that the Vikings beat the Packers at Lambeau for the division title last year with only 99 yards passing by Teddy Bridgewater.
Adrian Peterson vs. Packers Left Interior Defense
The Packers left interior defense looks suspect. Rookie Blake Martinez at ILB did not fare well week one against the Jags. The DE spot opposite Mike Daniels looks to be done by committee at the moment for the Packers, with rookie Dean Lowry, Kenny Clark, Christian Ringo and Julius Peppers all getting some reps last week. None of them are particularly good in run defense. Nick Perry, who will get most reps outside, also did not do as well against the run.
This presents an opportunity for Brandon Fusco, Andre Smith and a TE or two or FB to open up the Vikings right side for AP to run. Will see how it works out- but this is a weak spot in the Packers run defense. Running at Clay Matthews could also be effective- he did not fare well against the run last week.
Sam Bradford vs. Dom Capers
If it is indeed Sam Bradford starting at QB tonight- as seems increasingly likely- he may see a lot of exotic blitz packages by Dom Capers. The Packers are thin at CB with Sam Shields likely out. His replacement- Quinton Rollins- was benched last week for poor performance and the next man up- LaDarius Gunter- did not play well either. Given that, Capers may try to apply pressure up front rather than hope his depleted secondary will hold up.
If Bradford can recognize/react to the Packers pressure and/or the Vikings Oline pick it up adequately, Bradford could have a lot of success throwing the ball tonight.
Bradford's last meeting against the Packers was last year in preseason. He started against the Packers starting defense in the 3rd "dress rehearsal" preseason game at Lambeau Field and went 10-10 for 121 yards and 3 TDs.
Granted it was pre-season, but this was also Bradford's first real action in a year and a half, and against the Packers first-team defense.
Alex Boone vs. Mike Daniels
Boone is a definite upgrade for the Vikings offensive line in pass protection, and his ability to keep the Packers best interior pass rusher at bay will be key.
Kyle Rudolph vs. LBs / Safeties
Rudolph had a good game last week against the Titans, and he'll likely be a big target for Sam Bradford tonight against the Packers. If he can become Bradford's new Zach Ertz, he should have a big game.
Vikings Defensive Line vs. Aaron Rodgers
Containing Aaron Rodgers and collapsing the pocket is critical to limiting Rodgers' late play heroics- upon which the Packers defense largely depends. If the Vikings defensive line can be aggressive and disciplined in the pass rush, Rodgers opportunities should be few- and his late play scrambles could even backfire on occasion and lead to turnovers.
Packers have been at a disadvantage in special teams coverage of late, and should that continue, it could help the Vikings in field position, and potentially lead to some scoring.
Rodgers vs. Vikings DBs
Rodgers may look to test new-comer Trae Waynes, who I think may match-up against Davonte Adams most often. Waynes will need to prove his press-man ability and keep Adams from making big plays late in the play.
Terence Newman may match-up most against Jordy Nelson. Nelson did not look 100% week one, and I'm guessing he's more like 80%. Newman can stick with him, and the veteran should hopefully be saavy to Nelson's moves.
Lastly, Randall Cobb should match-up most against Captain Munnerlyn- our best CB. Combined, these match-ups should allow the Vikings to limit Rodgers' success early in the play, and hopefully allow the Vikings front to disrupt any late play theatrics.
Vikings Interior Line vs. Eddie Lacy
Forcing Lacy outside is key to stopping him. When he is forced laterally, he becomes a much easier target to bring down than full steam ahead. Keeping the interior lanes clogged will go a long way toward shutting down the Packers running game.
12th Man vs. Packers
It's gonna be loud tonight. You can practice for it, but still it's hard to play in it. It's been a while since the Packers will have experienced this level of noise, and it could very well prove disruptive.
As I wrote in my game preview earlier this week, I think the game will come down to three key metrics.
2. Vikings offense TD/red-zone success
3. Packers third-down success.
If the Vikings can convert 40% or more in the red-zone or produce two TDs offensively, they win #2. If the Vikings defense can hold the Packers to under 40% on third-down, they win that metric.
Whoever wins two or more of the above will likely win the game.