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Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Vikings


Well, the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings are getting together yet again, playing for the third time this season. One thing I like about this game is that I think this will be a statement game for the Packers, showing they have what it takes to go deep into the playoffs.

I know it's supposed to be difficult to beat a team three times in a season, but when your goal is going to the Super Bowl and a team like Minnesota is standing in your way, you have to overcome the adversity. The adversity in this one is facing a team that scored 62 points in the first two games this season.

The defensive secondary for the Packers has to play well for Green Bay to make a run deep into the playoffs. Turnovers are going to be the telling story of this game. The Packers rank low in takeaways, but it's a new season and the Packers have to get that turned around.

If the Green Bay Packers can force turnovers Sunday, they will win the game - it's as simple as that. If they don't, their path to the Divisional round of the playoffs is going to be a difficult one.

All in all, the leaders on this team have to get through to the younger guys and let them know that there is no tomorrow, there's no fixing the mistakes - everything has to done the right way on the field. The mistakes that this team has made over and over have to stop and stop now.

I think the Packers need to get a jump on the Vikings and break out to a big lead early. If not, and they let Minnesota hang around for three quarters, who knows what can happen?

Further along on the defensive side of the ball, the linemen need to keep up their act that they got into last week at Chicago when they had nine sacks. This Minnesota offensive line gave up 46 sacks this season and a countless amount of quarterback pressures. The defensive line needs to get a push and spend all game in the backfield.

If Daunte Culpepper - who had one of the greatest seasons ever by a quarterback this year - has time to stand in the pocket, he's got plenty of receivers to choose from and it's hard to cover those guys if Culpepper has all day to pick one of them out.

Randy Moss, Nate Burleson, and Marcus Robinson are all very potent receivers and can all do damage if given the opportunity. But the one guy that I really worry about is tight end Jermaine Wiggins. The last time the Packers played the Vikings in Lambeau Field, Wiggins made some key catches and scored a touchdown.

In the secondary, Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas have got to be able to make tackles when Burleson or Robinson make catches. They can't allow short passes to turn into big plays. Al Harris will be on Randy Moss all day and his job is to give another performance like he did in Minneapolis a few weeks ago when he held Moss to two catches for 30 yards.

It's time for the Packers defense to grow up and get to where it needs to be, and that's putting the offense in good position with a short field, creating as many turnovers as possible, and tackling well. I think the defensive line and linebackers will be able to shut down the running game, so it's going to be up to the pass rush and the secondary to slow down the passing attack as well.

Offensively, Ahman Green should be well-rested and ready to go after getting most of last week's game off. He's been sore all year, but he still ran for over 1,000 yards and I think he's ready for a big day. I look to him to be a dominant force in this game. I see him going over 100 yards by the second quarter if the linemen keep doing the job they've been doing.

That line is the strength of this entire Packers team. If they continue to protect Brett Favre like they've done all year, I look for Brett to pick the Minnesota defense apart. Their secondary will be without at least one, and maybe two of their starters with safety Corey Chavous out for the game with a broken elbow and cornerback Terrance Shaw on the injury report with a rib problem.

The Packers have to attack this defense. They have to go into the game with the mentality that they have to score as many points as possible, be very aggressive in the red zone, and just keep piling on the points to demoralize the Vikings.

I see the Packers having a lot of success with their play-action and downfield passing this week. I'd like to see them line up with Pro Bowl wide receiver Javon Walker on one side by himself and two or three receivers on the other side of the field, giving Walker single-coverage with any of the Minnesota defensive backs.

Donald Driver has also had a great year, and has been one of the best receivers in the NFC over the last six weeks of the season. He's a tough match-up for anybody, not to mention that last time he torched the Vikings for 11 catches and 162 yards.

On special teams, I don't think you could ask for a better kicker than Ryan Longwell - especially against the Vikings. If it comes down to a last-second field goal again, I'm sure he'll be ready to crush the Vikings' hopes for the third time this year.

All in all, this is a statement game that the Packers really want to dominate and serve notice to the rest to the NFC that they are the team to beat. Look for the Packers to jump out early and build a 17-point lead, let the doubt set in on the Minnesota sideline, and then cruise to a victory.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

LeRoy serves as the host on the new DVD, 'Brett Favre - On and Off the Field'. Click here for more information on the DVD.

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