This is something I do on pp.o occasionally, and since we are opening against the pack, I figure I would share it over here too. I make every attempt to be objective when I do these, so I expect Vikings fans to say I am giving the Packers too much credit, and the Packer fans will accuse me of wearing purple glasses. :)
I know there is one more preseason game before the opener, but let's be real. The 4th doesn't mean much. So I figured I am ready to throw my two cents into the ring for the opener. Feel free to disagree and pick apart anything that you want. The point of this post is to start a conversation regarding how select parts of the Vikings will fare against the Packers team they will face in two weeks.
Vikings Passing Defense vs Packers Passing Offense
For the Pack, Driver and Jennings can be difference makers, and even though Rodgers is new to the starting spot, this is his fourth year in the system. HOwever, the Packers OL is in a bad spot. Not only have they not given the QB any time so far in preseason, Scott Wells was also hampered by a torso injury throughout preseason. If he can't start, expect Spitz to continue to fill in at center. With the extent of Josh Sitton's knee injury still unknown, we could be looking at Barbre and Colledge as the two startign guards this year. If the OL was in better shape, the edge would go to the Packers here. But because of the OL, it is a tie.
On the Vikings side, I am not going to cite Minnesota's last place ranking in total passing yards last year because that stat is skewed by the run defense. Sharper and Madieu Williams are still learning to work with each other, and they haven't been on the field together a lot in the preseason. Griffin is looking better, but still needs some polishing at the CB position. Jared Allen will definitely bring the pressure, and will get at least one sack. The Vikings easily have one of the best DLs in the league, and that should translate into a much better passing defense.
Vikings Rushing Defense vs Packers Rushing Offense
Don't forget that Minnesota was the runaway #1 rushing defense from last year. However, the addition of Jared Allen to the Vikings DL changed the way that they attack the run. He uses a fundamentally different style than Udeze did, and his wide outside rush makes some gaps bigger. With that being said however, the Vikings are still fielding a very stout rushing D, and should have the edge here. Against the Steelers, the Vikings defense held the running game in check all game long.
Last year for the Packers, Grant had a great game against the Vikings. In fact, he had a great second half of the season. Was he a one year wonder or something genuine? Hard to tell right now, since he held out of most of TC with a contract dispute, and has yet to touch the ball in preseason. Until he proves otherwise, I think he over performed last year, and will regress this year.
Vikings Passing Offense vs Packers Passing Defense
Tarvaris Jackson has looked good so far this year, but the limited time he has seen in preseason can't erase the fact that the Vikings passing offense was one of the worst in the NFL last year. Tjack hurt his knee in the second preseason game, which forced him to sit out the third. He will most likely be back for the season opener, but how much playing/practice time he will get in before that remains to be seen. The Vikings are counting on the continued maturation of TJack and Rice, as well as the addition of Berrian to make a difference. One substantial improvement to look for this year is the use of Adrian Peterson on passing plays. Last year his pass blocking skills left a LOT to be desired. He rarely was asked to pass block or run routes in college, and it showed at the NFL level. Every time AD was on the field, defenses knew that it was going to be a running play. That has changed this year, as AD spent much of the off season working in these areas. Look for the Vikings to be sporting a deadly play action this year.
For the Packers, Kampman can still get to a QB, AJ Hawk is awesome on the weak side, and Woodson and Harris make a pretty good CB combo. However, Hawk is currently sidelined with a chest sprain and may be out for the opener. Harris was exposed during the NFC Championship game last year, but still brings a good game. Bigby rolled his ankle in the third preseason game, but will likely be back in time for the opener. The passing D is probably the Packers' strongest point in 2008.
Vikings Rushing Offense vs Packers Rushing Defense
Adrian Peterson. Not much needs to be said. The Vikings are bringing back the most prolific running back duo in team history, with AD and Chester Taylor, and they are running behind that monster offensive line that is ideal for run blocking. Assuming the Vikings passing offense isn't horrible, they will be seeing fewer 8 and 9 man fronts, That will mean more big games for last year's offensive rookie of the year. Green Bay fans will likely fall back to last year and point out that AD was shut down even before his injury. While this is true, history shows that AD tends to be at his best in the 4th quarter. Peterson will be looking to redeem himself against the Packers this year, and barring injury (knock on wood) he stands a good chance to do so.
The Packers rushing D isn't exactly a cake walk though. Johnny Jolly does a good job of plugging up the middle, and AJ Hawk seems to be everywhere. However, with Hawk's status for the opener in question, this boads well for the Vikings.
Not a lot to talk about in regards to the special teams. This is a night, outdoor game, which negates a lot of the kicking and punting advantages. Both teams have seen some nice returns in preseason - Jordy Nelson for the Packers looks good. But I won't give an edge here simply because there is not enough info to go on yet.
Slight Edge: Vikings
It is very close. The Vikings should dominate the rushing game on both sides of the ball. Tjack will need to be more efficient in the passing attack, but he only needs to be average for the offense to be successful. So this game will be decided on how well Rodgers can run the passing attack. His first regular season start, a suspect OL, a revamped and fired up Vikings DL, and little kids in Fav-re jerseys swearing at him are all factors that will come into play. I think it will be a close game, decided by less than a TD, but in the end I think the Vikings will come away with the win. Vikings 21-17.