I know what I said about waiting a few weeks on starting QB Christian Ponder. But the Vikings have chosen to play him, and Viking fans will have essentially a 10-game dress rehearsal for Ponder to see if he can sink or swim. Considering that next year will be his first full year/offseason in the system, this is a bit of a bonus for Ponder, but a bonus that will likely have a few growing pains attached to it. However, I’m not convinced that this week’s home game vs. the Packers will be as much of a bump in the road as everyone thinks.
It is still difficult to pick against the Packers in this spot, if only for the fact that they’re a 6-0 team that seems to play better each week, and they’re up against a 1-5 team that is in the middle of a QB change. That circumstance alone makes Green Bay a wise pick. But understand that while these two teams have some of the best run defense in the league (both are holding opponents under 85 ypg), they also have some of the worst pass defense in the league. That stat is promising, at least on paper, for Christian Ponder. The problem is that for Aaron Rodgers, that stat is reason to believe that Christmas has come early in the form of the Minnesota secondary.
Minnesota’s one shot at winning this game likely comes if they can grab a huge edge in time of possession and keep Green Bay’s weapons in front of them. The Packers, like all good teams, are very efficient with the ball – they don’t need a lot of time or yardage to put up impressive scoring numbers. The way to combat that is by staying on the ground and keeping them there, too. Here are a few Vikings that need to stand tall to make that happen:
RB Adrian Peterson: Obviously a big day by AP means first downs, ball control, and better scoring chances, and those are all things that Minnesota needs this week.
RB Toby Gerhart: His role in the offense has been disappointing thus far. His performance has been okay, but this is the kind of game where 6-8 carries for 30-40 yards will be a huge unsung number at the end of the day.
LB EJ Henderson/Chad Greenway: Part of keeping Green Bay contained is keeping their QB confused – Rodgers won’t be put into a tailspin by anything the Vikings do, but these two can at least keep him honest by helping to mix up coverage and staying in spy roles themselves to limit Rodgers’ legs. If Green Bay turns to the run, these guys become even more important as run stoppers.
There are many others who will have a big hand, and you can start to get the picture quickly: Winning this game will take a total team effort from Minnesota. I don’t believe it’s impossible for them at all, but I do think it’s rather improbable that everything clicks that well for a full 60 minutes for a team that is making so many changes midstream.
Packers 38, Vikings 21
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