Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, (Ahman Green??), John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson. I particularly like reader RayMidge’s suggestion that the Pack try to work in Brandon Jackson a bit more (but still get Grant 20+ carries). I think McCarthy may go heavier with the run than he has before and it will pay off. I think McCarthy is aware of the declining reputation of Minnesota’s once vaunted run defense – they’re just not as good as they used to be. Also, I know my praise for Antoine Winfield borders on ridiculous, but his absence is huge and not just for the passing game. Winfield does more from his CB position that just about any CB in the league, including stepping up and stopping big runs. Couple Winfield’s absence with EJ Henderson either not playing or playing hurt and that makes the tackling at the second/third level suspect. Look for Ryan Grant to rack up some big yardage tomorrow.
If I were McCarthy, I’d start early on with a few run plays right at Jared Allen, with Quinn Johnson leading the way. Johnson flattening Allen would show immediately that being hyper doesn’t always win out. I’d also chuck a few screens over his head early on. Anything we can do to slow the guy down and/or limit his impact. He’s a total idiot yes, but he’s a good football player.
Work Greg Jenning early until he gets too much attention, then shift to…James Jones. (Go to Driver throughout.) Jones could be a quiet factor in this game. The Vikes are down their best corner in Winfield, so that would leave their #4 corner trying to stay with Jones. That shouldn’t be close. It might be smart for McCarthy to throw in a play or two for new #4 WR Jake Allen, by the way. Chances are MN won’t know the first thing about him and he might be able to create a match-up problem here and there (he’s 6’3″+ and has decent hands).
Two significant Packer players didn’t play much (or at all) in game 1 against Minnesota – Clay Matthews and Atari Bigby. Matthews did play and of course had that great strip/TD. But he’ll be on the field for far more time in this game than he was in game 1 and that’s good news. Atari Bigby, like friend Mike has said before, adds stability to our secondary because he can be trusted to be in the right place, if nothing else. Favre and co will be facing a less vulnerable defense tomorrow.
AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett. It’s easy to be active against crappy teams like Detroit and Cleve, but both of these guys were active and looked focused/sharp. Getting production from Hawk in particular when he’s in there could be a quiet bonus.
Cullen Jenkins. Even though his role in the 3-4 is said to be one of taking up blockers/gaps, Jenkins still manages to get stuff done. We could use a solid effort from him tomorrow. (I’ll throw in Raji too – not many really know what he’s capable of, this may be a good time to start showing it).
Assuming McCarthy starts TJ Lang at LT, it will be a huge advantage in this game (especially compared to the first game) for the Packers to have two quality veteran players backing up the young starting RT and LT in Tauscher and Clifton.
Jeremy Kapinos. He will have to punt at least a few times and field position will be important tomorrow.
I’d take my chances by letting Favre beat us again. If we can shut down Peterson, but still manage to at least get some pressure on Favre when he throws, I would be absolutely shocked if the Vikes pull out the win on the strength of Favre’s play like they did in game 1. Shocked. Our defensive line-up will be stronger than it was in game 1 and their defensive line-up will be considerably worse, it’s not at Mall of America Field (still can’t get over that), and I just don’t think Favre will be mentally dialed in tomorrow. Because he’s played well in a few big games this year, for some reason, lots of people are talking about how clutch Favre is and essentially, how mentally strong he is. As great as Favre was while a Packer, one concern we did blog about toward the end of his career in GB was this tendency to seemingly check out of games mentally. You’d see it on the sidelines when the cameras showed him standing around – he’d wear this somewhat vacant “we probably can’t win this game” look. He’d do this after he made a mistake later in a game or at least when the offense had a bad turnover later in the game. I realize that this is a totally subjective comment, but I encourage you to look for this look in the 4th quarter tomorrow because I’m pretty sure we’ll see it.
Those are a lot of things that need to go right for the Packers to win, which I guess is about right. Favre has driven the Vikings offense down the field vs. both good and bad teams all year. Packers D doesn’t pose any bigger threat than Pitt or Balt, so he and AP should do the same.