Daniel House prepares you for part one of Border Battle 2013 and provides all the keys for the Vikings to have a chance on Sunday night.
The Vikings have experienced the type of season which can only cause those close to the team to scratch their head. This group was a playoff ball club last season and with added talent this offseason, they have fell to a 1-5 start this year. Fans have lost optimism and are looking towards the draft nearly a month after the NFL season started. Tonight the team takes on the rival Green Bay Packers, which adds a whole new element to the game day experience. Fans will bring energy back to Mall of America Field, which will be completely fueled from a hatred for the bitter NFC North rivals. It's Sunday Night Football, Christian Ponder is back at the helm, and the cheese heads are in town. What isn't there to be excited for? The Vikings will need to handle an always dominate Aaron Rodgers and a new found Packers rushing attack. How do the Vikings shock the world and pick up a win versus the arch rival, Green Bay Packers?
Television: NBC (Channel 11 in Minneapolis)
Play-by-Play: Al Michaels Analyst: Cris Collinsworth
Sideline Reporter: Michelle Tafoya
KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporter: Greg Coleman
Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman -10:00 a.m. CT
The Vikings and Packers have played 105 times overall with Green Bay holding a 55-49-1 series record. The last meeting between the two teams was in the 2012 Wild Card with Green Bay winning 24-10. It was only the 2nd postseason meeting between the two teams. The Vikings and Packers have met 4 times on Sunday Night Football with the Packers leading 3-1. The last overtime meeting between the two teams took place on11/6/2000, a Packers 26-20 win on Monday Night Football. The Vikings won the last regular season meeting between the two teams 37-34 on 12/30/12. Blair Walsh connected on a 29-yard FG as time expired to give the Vikings the victory. A win would give the Vikings their 1st win on Sunday NIght Football since 11/30/08 when they defeated the Chicago Bears 34-14. Also, it would provide the Vikings back-to-back home wins against the Packers for the first time since 10/5/09.
The Primary Focus:
After a debacle on Monday Night Football, the team announced newly signed quarterback Josh Freeman suffered a concussion, which will hold him out of this game. This means Christian Ponder is back at the helm and has been awarded another chance to show he can lead this team. He was open with the media this week and frankly said he has absolutely nothing to lose this week. Will we see the relaxed and poised Christian Ponder, or the anemic and frantic Ponder of the early 2013 season? Ponder has to be playing with a bit of animosity this week and I want to see him show he has a chip on his shoulder. We must establish the pass early to open up the run game for Adrian Peterson tonight. This won't be an easy task, as Green Bay is ranked third in run defense this season. Their defensive trend seems similar to 2009, where they were ranked in the top five of this category and teams were forced to pass on their defense. The offensive line needs to protect better this week and can't allow a whopping 13 quarterback hits in this game. Josh Freeman did well eluding pressure, but his decision making was Tarvaris Jackson like. This group needs to play with passion and show they are still one of the best offensive line combinations in the league. The key is to protect well, use a gameplan which provides the right mix of pass and rush, and keep the ball out of the hands of the Packers offense.
On the Defensive:
The Vikings defense played better last week, but the miscues that occurred from other aspects of the game, set the group with a short field to work with. The coverage was better and the pressure applied to Eli Manning was adequate. The real issue was how the defense made Peyton Hillis look as good as he was before he was plastered on the cover of the Madden video game. Eddie Lacy is a very good running back and is a runner who requires gang tackling to bring him down. If the Vikings struggled with a Giants running back, how will they handle one of the better running backs in the league? This team can't allow a running attack to develop, because it will open doors for Aaron Rodgers to do what he does best. Rodgers has an amazing stat line versus the Vikings and has thrown for 24 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions in regular season matchups with Minnesota. He will be without wide receiver Randall Cobb, tight end Jermichael Finley, and pass catcher James Jones may miss tonight's game. Nonetheless, this is Aaron Rodgers and he can make the best of all the players he has on the field. The Vikings must apply adequate pressure to Rodgers and not allow him to set his feet in the pocket, which is when the gunslinger is the most deadly. If this team has a chance to win the game, the Vikings defense will need to play the game of their life in primetime.
Special Teams Primer:
Blair Walsh missed his first career 50 + yard field goal last week and has been struggling as he battles a hamstring injury. This game requires the Vikings to score as many points as possible, so Walsh making all possible opportunities is critical. Furthermore, there cannot be issues from a returning standpoint and Marcus Sherels needs to be secure with the ball this week. The special teams group has improved, but is a very important aspect in what could be a very close game.
Injury Report (via NFL.com):
|Name||Position||Injury||Practice Status||Game Status|
|Brad Jones||LB||Hamstring||Limited Participation in Practice||Questionable|
|James Jones||WR||Knee||Did Not Participate In Practice||Doubtful|
|Jermichael Finley||TE||Neck||Out (Definitely Will Not Play)||Out|
|Ryan Taylor||TE||Knee||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Jarrett Bush||CB||Hamstring||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Nick Perry||LB||Foot||Limited Participation in Practice||Questionable|
|Clay Matthews||LB||Thumb||Out (Definitely Will Not Play)||Out|
|Casey Hayward||CB||Hamstring||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|James Starks||RB||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Jerron McMillian||S||Not Injury Related||Did Not Participate In Practice||Probable|
|Matt Asiata||RB||Shoulder||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Rhett Ellison||TE||Ankle||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Sharrif Floyd||DT||Back||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Adrian Peterson||RB||Hamstring||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Fred Evans||DT||Knee||Did Not Participate In Practice||Questionable|
|Josh Freeman||QB||Concussion||Limited Participation in Practice||Out|
|Matt Kalil||T||Back||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Blair Walsh||K||left Hamstring||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Chad Greenway||LB||Wrist||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Rodney Smith||WR||Hip||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Kevin Williams||DT||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Jared Allen||DE||Ankle||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|A.J. Jefferson||CB||Ankle||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Jamarca Sanford||S||Ankle||Limited Participation in Practice||Questionable|
The Packers will be without Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews, and Jermichael Finley for Sunday night's game. James Jones is very doubtful and league insiders are saying he will not play this week.
From a Vikings standpoint, Matt Asiata, Rhett Ellison, and Josh Freeman are all going to miss the game, but all others on the injury report should be ready.
Final Keys to Victory:
As I discussed earlier, Christian Ponder needs to play like it is his last game, the offensive line needs to protect well, and the defense needs to stop the run and rush the passer adequately. The NFL is a league full of talented players and anything can happen on any given week. If the Vikings execute a better gameplan and force Green Bay to become uncomfortable, anything is possible, even if the outlook may be bleak.