NFL Green Bay Packers

Packers vs. Vikings: 5 Key Matchups For Green Bay In Week 8

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Packers vs. Vikings Week 8: 5 Key Matchups

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings will face off for the first time this season in Week 8 inside the Metrodome. The Packers (4-2) will look to take control of the game and stay on top of the NFC North division, while the Vikings (1-5) will look to rebound from one of their worst performances of the season from this past Monday against the New York Giants.

The history between the Packers and Vikings has dated back to 1961. Currently, The Packers lead the series between the two teams with a record of 55-49-1. The most recent matchup took place in the 2012 wild card playoffs with the Packers winning at Lambeau Field 24-10.

Whenever these two teams meet, you can expect a hard-fought, physical game full of intensity. Take the records of the teams and throw them out the window -- they don’t matter once the ball is kicked. This game won’t be any different.

There will be a few intriguing storylines going into this game. The most intriguing to Packers fans will be when they see former Packers Greg Jennings and Desmond Bishop take the field for the first time in Vikings purple. Both Jennings and Bishop joined the Vikings during the offseason. Unfortunately for Bishop, he will be on the sidelines this week as he was placed on IR after tearing his ACL against the Carolina Panthers in Week 6. Jennings will be playing in the game, and the receiver made sure to make controversial comments about his former team and quarterback as soon as he joined the Vikings.

Jennings, who was unhappy about not being paid by the Packers, said to the media of Aaron Rodgers, “It should always be the team. Don’t get me wrong, ‘12’ is a great person. But when you hear all positives, all positives, all positives all the time, it’s hard for you to sit down when one of your teammates says ‘Man, come on, you’ve got to hold yourself accountable for this.’ It’s hard for someone to see that now because all they’ve heard is I’m doing it the right way, I’m perfect. In actuality, we all have flaws.”

The comments by Jennings went through one ear and out the other with Rodgers, and it will be interesting to see if the two will speak before the game on Sunday night. As interesting as that matchup may be, it doesn’t fit my top five matchups for this week’s game:

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5. Packers' secondary vs. Josh Freeman

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier named quarterback Josh Freeman his starter last week against the Giants, and his performance was anything but impressive to say the least.

Freeman finished the game 20/53 for 190 yards and an interception. Throughout the entire game, he was seen overthrowing receivers and made a lot of very questionably decisions. The timing was off between him and his receivers, and the result was an embarrassing performance and a 23-7 loss.

The Packers definitely watched this game, and are going to try and do the same thing as the Giants. I expect the front seven to play very tough and they will look to slow down Peterson. This means the Packers' secondary will be tested and must prove they can defend one-on-one on the outside against the Vikings' receivers.

As of yesterday, injury reports from the Vikings have shown that Freeman has a concussion and he will be checked to see if he can play. If not, Christian Ponder will get the start for Freeman.

Regardless of who is at the helm, the Packers' defense will be ready. So far this season, the secondary has been pretty solid in coverage. Cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams have played great, and rookie Micah Hyde is starting to come into his own on the field. Along with the cornerbacks, safeties Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings have been ball hawks all over the field. I expect the Packers' secondary to be ready for this game and test Freeman from the opening snap.

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4. Eddie Lacy vs. Erin Henderson

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One of the big keys for the Packers on the offensive side of the ball this season has been the emergence of rookie running back Eddie Lacy. He leads the league in rushing over the last three weeks, and has been exactly what the Packers hoped he would be. He has added a dimension to an offense that has been very one-dimensional for the past few seasons.

This week, Lacy will be going up against a Vikings front seven that is in the middle of the pack in defending the run. Historically, the Vikings have been a very good rush defense but this season, they are allowing 102.3 yards per game on the ground to their opponents. Lacy will be looking to make that number rise, but he will have to try and avoid middle linebacker Erin Henderson.

Henderson has 54 combined tackles this season and has been very tough against the run. He is a physical linebacker who seems to always play a role in any game against the Packers.

Look forward to an interesting matchup as Lacy will try to continue his rookie success against a veteran who will be looking to make a statement.

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3. Jordy Nelson vs. Vikings' Secondary

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Any Packers fan knows the scenario they are facing on offense. Hit with devastating injuries to big-named players, Mike McCarthy must continue to find ways to put this team in situations where they can succeed. Luckily for McCarthy, he still has Jordy Nelson.

Nelson has been one of the most reliable targets on this offense for the past few seasons and with Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley out; Nelson will have even more weight put on his shoulders.

This week, Nelson will go up against a Vikings' secondary with many unknown defensive backs. Nonetheless, he will have his work cut out for him.

The Vikings have allowed 288.8 yards per game through the air on defense, but did a great job last week against the Giants and receivers like Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Cruz was held to five receptions for 50 yards while Nicks was held to two catches for 28 yards. They will look to do the same this week against the Packers and especially Nelson.

Expect an interesting matchup as Nelson will try to continue to make plays for the offense while the no-name guys on the Vikings look to prove to everyone in the league that they can shut down any receiver.

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2. Don Barclay vs. Jared Allen

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

There cannot be a key matchup if you don’t have at least one key player. Well, my no. 2 matchup certainly fits that characteristic. The Vikings have one of the most key defensive players in the league in defensive end Jared Allen.

Allen has been one of the leagues best for the past six seasons and has created havoc for opposing quarterbacks. This is especially the case when he plays against the Packers.

In his last five games against the Packers, he has had seven sacks and has made Aaron Rodgers very uncomfortable in the pocket. He will certainly be looking to add to these numbers this week when he goes up against Packers right tackle Don Barclay.

Barclay is in his second season from West Virginia and has started every game this season. He has done a good job protecting Rodgers and has especially done a great job in the run game.

Look for Barclay to continue his success this week as he takes on one the league's best pass rushers in Allen.

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1. A.J. Hawk vs. Adrian Peterson

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

My no. 1 matchup is an easy one to take and is expected by many people. It includes the NFL’s best running back and a linebacker who is having one of his best seasons of his career. If you guessed A.J. Hawk and Adrian Peterson as my matchup, you got it!

Peterson has been the league's best running back since he stepped foot in the Vikings locker room in 2007. This season, Peterson has rushed for 511 yards and five touchdowns, but was pretty much non-existent last week against the Giants. He rushed for just 28 yards and saw eight or nine guys in the box on every play.

Look for the Packers to stack the box against Peterson and expect Hawk to be one of those nine guys.

Hawk has played the best football of his career this season and has really stepped up as a leader on the defense for the Packers. He has 54 total tackles to go along with three sacks. His performance has gotten everyone around him to play better and the entire defense has shined. The defense is currently one of the league’s best against the run and they will try to stop Peterson this week.