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Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Vikings


Well, this is the game everybody has been waiting for. Although the Minnesota Vikings may be without Randy Moss on Sunday, they are still a very formidable opponent. If you look at the things that are at stake for both teams - fighting for first place, trying to fight for a playoff spot, winning the division - a lot goes into this game.

Talking to some Minnesota people, they feel like they have a good chance because they could still get into a shootout, and they feel like their team could win that kind of game.

The Vikings bring back Onterrio Smith, who returned last week after sitting out four games because of a suspension. He's just one of four running backs that Minnesota likes to rotate and find whichever one is hot that day. Michael Bennett, a former Wisconsin Badger, is back from an earlier injury, and they are joined in the rotation by rookie Mewelde Moore and Moe Williams.

Minnesota has a big offensive line that loves to lean on you and push. However, sometimes they are susceptible to giving up sacks when facing a quick rusher on the defensive line. Dwight Freeney of the Colts had a field day Monday night going around Bryant McKinnie, as well as others on that line. This is the game where Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila can really step out and show he can blow by blockers and get to Daunte Culpepper.

I think the Packers defense is right now at the true turning point of their season. If the young guys like Ahmad Carroll can step up and play well in the second half of the season, the defense can get to where they want to be.

Let's not fool ourselves into thinking the Vikings are going to be without weapons just because Moss isn't playing this week. Their wide receivers Kelly Campbell and Nate Burleson have great speed, and they are also very dangerous returning kicks and punts. The Vikings also have another receiver that Packer fans should be familiar with in Marcus Robinson, the long-time Chicago Bears wideout. He has shown flashes of brilliance this season, such as when he caught nine passes for 150 yards and a couple of touchdowns against the Houston Texans.

On offense for the Packers, I think this week is an opportunity for the offensive line to re-establish the run and let teams know that in the second half, they are going to dominate up front. Everything starts up front. You can't afford to rely on Brett Favre to throw the ball 40 times every week and hope to win all the time.

Brett has proven though, that if he needs to, he can still get it done and have a huge game.

Ahman Green is rejuvenated and will be fresh for this second half run. I look for him to stretch out and get back to his elite status as one of the top running backs in the NFL.

I think this week could be another opportunity for Bubba Franks to make some plays. The Minnesota Vikings play a lot of man-to-man coverage in the red zone, which could allow the big tight end to get free to catch a touchdown or two.

I expect to see Javon Walker moving around a lot in the formations. Minnesota also likes to play a lot of "cover 2" where they try to roll up on the big, tall, fast receivers. If that happens, Donald Driver should see a lot of one-on-one coverage.

Antoine Winfield, the Vikings best cornerback often moves around and follows the team's best receiver. I think Javon's early-season dominance has probably earned him that distinction, so Driver, Robert Ferguson and Antonio Chatman will need to step up and have big games.

Look for the Green Bay Packers to confuse the Vikings' defense by running a lot of different formations, including a lot of things that they haven't seen so far this season. With two weeks to prepare for this game, you can sit back and put in a few wrinkles that they haven't seen.

The winner of this game will have the inside track the NFC North title and a guaranteed playoff spot. This is a chance for the Green Bay Packers to step and start to re-capture home-field advantage. They have to win the games at home to let people know that when you come to Lambeau Field, it's going to be a tough game.

This game is of such magnitude, the Packers cannot afford to lose. In all honesty, this is a game that the Green Bay Packers will not lose.

*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,*

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