Game Scout: Vikings at Packers

Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Minnesota Vikings (2-8) at Green Bay Packers (5-5)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc. - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Erin Andrews
*Keys to the game: It might have seemed implausible walking out of Minneapolis with a 44-31 win a month ago, but here the Packers stand with a three-game losing streak, banking on QB Scott Tolzien -- who got a pay bump on the practice squad and wasn't even on the active roster when the first game took place Oct. 27 -- to steer them back into playoff consideration. Expect the Vikings to follow the lead of the Giants, who flooded the box and put the clamps on RB Eddie Lacy and the Packers' ground game, as Green Bay had a season-low 55 rushing yards. While that opened plenty of windows downfield for Tolzien to connect on a handful of deep shots, he threw the football into the hands of Giants three times. Head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy wants to pound away with the run game in frigid conditions Sunday, but he may be compelled to put his trust in Tolzien and his decision-making after he drops back to throw. The Packers got to Vikings QB Christian Ponder three times in the first meeting -- without LB Clay Matthews. If Ponder is rendered useless again from the outset, the Packers defense can zero in on slowing down Adrian Peterson. He ran only 13 times for 60 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting and is playing with a sore groin.
*Matchup to watch - Packers LG Josh Sitton vs. Vikings DT Kevin Williams: The 33-year-old Williams moved around the line and even played nose tackle the past two weeks, and the result -- persistent penetration against Washington's zone blocking -- derailed the Redskins running game. Williams had 2.5 sacks against Washington. Sitton is the Packers' physical tone-setter, but agility and speed can cause him problems.
*Player spotlight - Packers WR Jarrett Boykin: Averaging 15.6 yards per reception, Boykin leads the team in targets (21) in Tolzien's two starts. He caught five passes for 89 yards in the first meeting and has burgeoning confidence with big-play ability. He'll get ample opportunity working against rookie Xavier Rhodes and nickel CB Marcus Sherels with Josh Robinson (sternum) out.
*Fast facts: Ponder is 1-4 career against the Packers. ... Green Bay has won four straight games played the week before Thanksgiving.
QB Scott Tolzien gets the Packers back in the win column, showing no fear of a defense with one interception since September. The victory sets the table for Aaron Rodgers to return Thanksgiving Day with Detroit and the NFC North perch still there for the taking.
*Our pick: Packers 24-20

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