Game Scout: Packers-Vikings

The SportsXchange

Green Bay Packers (4-2) at Minnesota Vikings (1-5)

Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at Mall of America Field, Minneapolis TV: NBC

*TV announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

*Keys to the game: Vikings QB Christian Ponder makes his first start since he was sacked six times Sept. 22 against the Browns. But the Packers' focus is squarely on getting Adrian Peterson to the turf. Peterson rushed for 210 and 199 yards in the regular-season meetings last season, then 99 yards in the Packers' 24-10 win over the Vikings in the wild-card round of the playoffs in January. Coach Mike McCarthy said he anticipates a renewed commitment to Peterson. Since running for a season-high 140 yards in 23 carries in the Vikings' lone win in Week 4, Peterson has only 23 total carries -- 10 (for 62 yards) and 13 (for 28 yards) the last two games. The best way to defuse Peterson is to pile up points early and hush the dome-field advantage. QB Aaron Rodgers is down a few of his best options, but his 116.4 passer rating against the Vikings is tops in NFL history against any single opponent with at least 250 pass attempts. RB Eddie Lacy has the power and patience to have a huge game with Minnesota spread out to match the base three-wide formations Green Bay employs. Getting Lacy rolling is ideal to set up Rodgers to comfortably attack from the pocket without fear of DE Jared Allen. Allen gets a favorable draw against rookie LT David Bakhtiari.

*Matchup to watch - Packers P/K Tim Masthay vs. Vikings returners Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels - The Vikings have enough firepower on special teams to tilt field position. Masthay's touchbacks keep Patterson from returning kickoffs. The rookie receiver leads the NFL with an average of 36.5 yards on kickoff runbacks, highlighted by a 105-yard touchdown. It's Masthay's expertise with directional kicking on punts that will be more crucial, limiting Sherels, who ranks third in the league with an average of 15.9 yards, including an 86-yard return TD last week.

*Player spotlight - Packers WR Jarrett Boykin: With TE Jermichael Finley and WR Randall Cobb out and WR James Jones iffy, Boykin is in line for a second start. He had a coming-of-age day in his first extensive role last week -- career-high eight catches and 103 receiving yards along with a touchdown.

*Fast facts: Allen has 16.5 sacks in 11 career games against Green Bay. ... Lacy leads the NFL in rushing (301 yards) in the past three weeks.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Aaron Rodgers enjoys another game of catch thanks to the Packers first establishing RB Eddie Lacy and pinching Christian Ponder into forcing the issue.

*Our pick: Packers 36-22
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