Thursday Night Football preview: Vikings at Packers
Keys to the game: Teddy Bridgewater is coming off the best rookie debut by a quarterback in franchise history, but is expected to be sidelined by an ankle injury. Former first-round pick Christian Ponder is thrust back into the spotlight, with hi...
Keys to the game: Teddy Bridgewater is coming off the best rookie debut by a quarterback in franchise history, but is expected to be sidelined by an ankle injury. Former first-round pick Christian Ponder is thrust back into the spotlight, with his primary task being to avoid backbreaking turnovers - although his mobility can be an added dimension to the play-calling. Another catalyst to the offensive outburst last week was the play of RBs Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon as Minnesota rushed for 241 yards. Building on that momentum, and protecting Bridgewater, is again a primary goal against a Packers team that enters last in the NFL allowing 176 rushing yards per game.
A strong ground game would also serve to keep Packers QB Aaron Rodgers on the bench. He has owned the Vikings, including winning seven of his past eight meetings. However, Rodgers was 0-2 against Zimmer's defenses in Cincinnati while completing just 57.3 percent of his passes. With RB Eddie Lacy struggling to get untracked this season, the Packers' game plan largely falls on Rodgers' right arm, and his ability to diagnose where the pressure is coming from and unload the ball quickly.
- Minnesota Vikings (2-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-2)
- Thursday, 7:25 p.m. CT, at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis. - TV: CBS
- TV announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Matchup to watch - Vikings CB Captain Munnerlyn vs. Packers WR Randall Cobb. Cobb leads the Packers with five touchdowns to go along with 21 catches for 239 yards. Munnerlyn, who was given a three-year deal worth up to $15 million to leave Carolina, moves inside to cover the slot in nickel packages, but has been the most inconsistent of the Vikings' top three corners this season.
Player spotlight - Vikings TE Chase Ford: Signed from the practice squad last week to provide the receiving element lost with Kyle Rudolph sidelined, Ford promptly played more than half the snaps last week and his 6-6 frame is an inviting target against the Packers, who were torched for nine catches for 134 yards by Bears TE Martellus Bennett last week.
Fast facts: Rodgers' 116.8 passer rating in 12 career regular-season meetings is the highest by any quarterback against a single team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. ... McKinnon had five career carries for seven yards before rushing for 135 yards on 18 carries in Week 4.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
The Vikings can keep Aaron Rodgers off-balance with their unpredictable, pressure-based defense, and Green Bay's own run defense has been abysmal. But this is still Rodgers, at home, against a Vikings offense starting its third-string quarterback and minus Adrian Peterson.
Pick: Packers 33-24