One thing to watch for in each phase of the game as the Green Bay Packers prepare to take on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10...
- Offense: The short passing game––As the rest of the NFL is finding out, blitzing Aaron Rodgers is just playing with fire. The Vikings won't do it apart from rare occasions because not blitzing actually plays to their strengths as well. They actually do a pretty good job of generating a pass rush with their front four, and their leaky secondary can't handle the extra pressure of the blitz. Because of this, the Packers need to be patient and be satisfied with hitting the dump offs and short routes and the Vikings should be content to keep everything in front of them. As an added bonus, Rodgers will benefit from hitting the safety valve routes instead of taking a sack looking for the receivers downfield. And the screen passes should be effective against a guy like Jared Allen whose relentlessness can get him in trouble by trying to get upfield too quick.
- Defense: Stopping the run––Christian Ponder likely learned his lesson against the Packers the first time around, a team that can pick off more passes than any team in the NFL. He'd be well advised to allow Adrian Peterson to do the heavy lifting and just make sure he doesn't make any mistakes. So the Packers will have to concentrate on containing Peterson, and that might require Howard Green to play more snaps in the base 3-4 than usual to keep blockers off Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, freeing them up to meet Peterson in the hole. With no Frank Zombo this either, there will be a lot of responsibility falling on Erik Walden's shoulders take on blockers and play the run as best he can.
- Special teams: Limiting punt return yards––The Packers are last in the NFL in opponent's punt return average as they give up 17.5 yards per return. Now, it's not as bad as it sounds. The Packers have allowed the second-fewest punt returns in the NFL because A) the offense is so good and B) Tim Masthay frequently does a good job of not allowing returns in a variety of ways. So the stats are somewhat skewed by the long return by Darren Sproles in the season opener. Still, when opponents do get a chance to return, the Packers haven't been the greatest. Marcus Sherels of the Vikings averages over 10 yards per return, and the Packers would benefit from holding him to a single-digit average in punt returns.
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