Vikings vs Packers: How It Breaks Down

Aaron looks at how things should play out when each team has the ball and gives his prediction for the game.

When The Packers Have The Ball:

Simply by having the services of cornerback Antonie Winfield, this will be a different Vikings secondary than what the Packers faced three weeks ago in the Metrodome.

The Vikings like to use Winfield in a similar way to the way the Packers employ Charles Woodson in that they will use him to pressure the quarterback from the slot. However, against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' quick release, sending Winfield is nearly a waste of a body that could be kept in coverage.

You can expect Winfield to match up with Jennings most of the time and for the Vikings to once again depend on their front four to apply most of the pressure while they sit back in some form of Cover 2.

All eyes will be on the matchup between Packers left tackle Marshall Newhouse and Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. Allen, as most will remember, had a good game the last time the two squared off, but look for Newhouse to get the better of Allen in Lambeau on Monday night. Newhouse went into the last game after having left the team for personal reasons, missing the last practice prior to the game, and then taking the field to face Allen in a place where even the best to play left tackle for the Packers have traditionally struggled.

This time around, Newhouse will not only have the benefit of a full week or practice, he will be in Lambeau, on grass and in front of a home crowd, all factors that have contributed to a slower and more manageable Allen in the past. That's not to say the defensive end won't be a worry - he will. The guy never quits and if Newhouse lets his guard down ever for a moment, Allen will be on top of Rodgers in the blink of an eye. With that said, you can expect Newhouse to hold up surprisingly well on Monday night.

ESPN analyst and former Ravens and Buccaneers quarterback Trent Dilfer recently spoke on what defenses need to do to try and slow down the Packers offense and I thought it was the best summation I had seen. It's simple, but it's exactly how I expect Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier to play it on Monday night.

From Dilfer:

Really soft zone coverages. Make them go on 16-play drives.

I would sit back and play Cover-2, Cover-3, soft zone, and force them to march the ball and give up no big plays. Nothing big. Nothing on top. Just everything in front of me. I think they would score fewer points - they'd have the ball a long time but score fewer points. They might get impatient. You can't challenge (Green Bay's offense). People who blitz are just stupid because (Rodgers) sees it before it happens and he just lets guys come free and beats you with just his release.

This is exactly the approach you can expect to see from the Vikings on Monday night, and from most if not all Packers opponents the rest of the season.

When The Vikings Have The Ball:

The Vikings rookie starting quarterback Christian Ponder had a good observation during his conference call with the Green Bay media. Ponder, when asked about the opening play in Minnesota the last time these two teams met and receiver Michael Jenkins got behind Tramon Williams for a huge gain and a near-touchdown, noted that the Vikings had seen a tendency on tape for the Packers' defensive backs to be overly aggressive on shorter throws, especially in man coverage. "We saw some things about how aggressive the defense was in maybe jumping routes, especially in man coverage."

This has been an ongoing problem with the entire Packers secondary and it will be interesting to see how the Packers come out on Monday night against Ponder and the likes of wide receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

One big addition for the Packers from the last time the two teams faced will be the presence of cornerback Sam Shields. Charles Woodson was forced into a lot more man coverage than the Packers probably would have preferred three weeks ago and you can expect to see him up near the line of scrimmage much more on Monday night now that Shields is back in the mix.

Of course, when playing the Vikings, any defense has to begin its gameplanning by looking at how it plans to contain running back Adrian Peterson. The Packers did a good job up front last time around with the likes of Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji doing a decent job of maintaining their run fits, but too often Peterson was able to get to the second level and expose some bad angles taken by the linebackers and the secondary (and safety Charlie Peprah in particular) and turn them into big gains.

Peterson is the quintessential "phonebooth" running back, meaning he can operate and cut no matter how close the quarters are around him. On two of his longest runs the last time the two teams played, Peterson seemed to be hemmed in for a modest gain, only to explode out of the pack to rip off large gains. The Packers, to a man, need to do a much better job holding Peterson to four or five yard gains (because he's going to get his yards) rather than 15 to 25 yard gains.

Enough Already, Who Wins?

Packers fans won't like hearing it, but the Vikings are a much better team than their record indicates. And Ponder has given them new life and a spark that could be dangerous if the Packers allow the game to be close heading into the 4th quarter.

But the feeling here is that the addition of Shields to the Packers secondary will make a bigger difference than any other single adjustment made by either coaching staff. Shields is coming off a strong performance against San Diego and will free up defensive coordinator Dom Capers to open things up a bit more and give Ponder a few more looks than he saw last time.

Packers: 35

Vikings: 21

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Comments (12)

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Stefano's picture

November 11, 2011 at 05:46 pm

If this week isn't the week out secondary buckles down and limits the Vikings to 17 points or less, I don't know what is. There is no way we should be beat one-on-one by Jenkins again for a big play. Also, Harvin isn't the greatest route runner, so Tramon or Shields should do well against him. With so many guys committing to AP in the box, however, it's hard to stop a receiver in man coverage all game. I just don't want to see many big passing plays that are inexcusable and due to lack of communication. I think Burnett will need to cover Shiancoe 1-on-1 more often instesd of Bishop, who we need in the run game and occasional MLB blitzes. Time for a breakout game from Raji clogging the holes and better containment by Walden on the outside to not let AP gain the edge so easily.

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MadMan's picture

November 11, 2011 at 07:16 pm

I would hope to see So'oto in for Zombo this game to see what he can do. It won't be worse any than it has been. It would also give the Viqueens someone new to consider. I would love to see him have a game like Walden had against the Bears last year. Here's hopeing.

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Tommyboy's picture

November 11, 2011 at 08:52 pm

After reading this article, I went to NFL.com to watch Playbook. Click this link and watch it at 2:18. I remember saying to my Dad that I wished we could see this from Rodger's point of view because the throw looked ridiculous. It was even more insane than I thought....WOW. We are watching the Tiger Woods of football (early Woods, not Perkins Woods).

http://www.nfl.com/videos/green-bay-packers

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packsmack25's picture

November 12, 2011 at 10:38 am

The Packers haven't lost a game this year when I've been in attendance, so I'm calling for a win. :)

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HeyYo's picture

November 12, 2011 at 02:39 pm

The Packers haven't lost a game this year when I haven't been on Jupiter. I'm not planning on going to Jupiter until Tuesday, so I'm calling for a win.

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mikec's picture

November 12, 2011 at 06:18 pm

That's Jupiter Florida the previous poster is referring to.

Can we cut down on the immature comments?

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petr's picture

November 12, 2011 at 06:37 pm

Didn't Minnesota use the strategy of really soft coverage in the week 7 game and Rodgers have something like 96% accuracy (excluding drops, throw aways)?

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PackerAaron's picture

November 12, 2011 at 06:41 pm

Yep. And the Vikings had a chance to win late in the 4th quarter. That's pretty much all any team can ask for against the Packers in 2011.

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PackerAaron's picture

November 13, 2011 at 08:34 am

Petr - here's another example of what I'm talking about from Bob McGinn in this mornings Journal Sentinel:

<em>The only possible way to defeat them is by blending a mistake-free, ball-control offense with a conservative defense that has the manpower on the defensive line to rough up and ultimately slow down Rodgers. Using that blueprint, an opponent might be able to drag the Packers into a 60-minute game.</em>

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petr's picture

November 13, 2011 at 11:37 am

Thanks. McGinn also gave a good example of it defensively when Detroit beat us last season.

I think one way to help defeat this system is to run the ball more with keeping Quarless and Finley in tight to the line to help block. By doing it with these two players opposing co-ordinators will have to send out defenders that can also deal with 4 receivers (if Quarless and Finley both went out wide in the formation, which both can easily do). Then you would get favourable matchups running against a nickel defence. Alternatively, quick-slants to a tight-end or to Jennings (Greg has played 47.6% of snaps from the slot position per Profootballfocus) can defeat 7 man soft coverage schemes.

Another good point is that this strategy will lead to longer drives by Rodgers. Which in turn leads to our defence being off the field for longer, giving them more rest, revitalising them for when they return to the field.

So whichever scheme used gives some advantage to us :)

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petr's picture

November 15, 2011 at 10:58 am

Accounting for 1 batted pass, 2 throwaways and 3 drops, I had Rodgers at 23 out of 24 completed passes yesterday for the week 10 game.

96% effective completion rate and 4 TDs to 0 INTs.

Soft coverage? Bring it on! :)

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retiredgrampa's picture

November 12, 2011 at 08:06 pm

I would think that pride alone will make the Pack throttle the Vikes. To have an unbeaten streak broken by a 2-6 team in our home is inexcusable, IMO.

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