Adrian Peterson and the Vikings roll into town Sunday, Dec. 2, and the Green Bay Packers expect to be without defensive end C.J. Wilson, a cornerstone of their run defense. That’s on top of the absences of Charles Woodson and, most likely, Clay Matthews.
“I feel better from Sunday … but it’s a long shot,” Wilson, who injured his knee in last weekend’s blowout loss to the New York Giants, said Wednesday. “It’s a horrible feeling knowing I won’t be able to play Sunday and help the team with my defense, to stop this beast.”
Few teams have been hit harder by injuries this year than the Packers (7-4), who have lost more than a dozen starters or projected starters for at least one game.
Now comes Peterson, and Wilson will be on the sideline.
“Without C.J., it’s definitely going to be tougher,” fellow defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “C.J. is a real good player, especially against the run.”
The Packers have been tough to run on lately. After giving up a total of 407 yards rushing in the first three weeks of the season, they’ve held opponents to an average of 91.9 yards over the last eight games, fourth-best in the NFL.
They were particularly stingy with Houston’s Arian Foster. Though he scored two touchdowns, Foster was held to just 29 yards, his fewest in two seasons, and his 1.7 yards per carry was a career low.
But Peterson is a bigger challenge.
“This is a different animal,” Pickett said. “I mean, he’s a once-a-decade kind of runner.”
Peterson leads the NFL with 1,236 yards rushing. He is averaging 5.8 yards per carry, about a yard better than almost any other top running back. He has rushed for 100 yards in five straight games, matching Robert Smith’s franchise record.
And this from a guy who blew out his ACL less than a year ago.
“I think he’s better, scary to say,” Pickett said. “I already thought he was the best back, hands down, in the league, and now he’s looking better on tape. I was shocked when we started watching tape on him. He’s running the ball real hard, and he’s breaking a lot of tackles.
“You just don’t expect to see him do the things he’s doing,” Pickett added. “This is probably one of his better years he’s ever had. He’s running the ball great. We were watching the run cut-ups and it’s like a highlight reel. I’m like, ‘Wow, what is this?’ He’s averaging almost 6 yards a carry. That’s unheard of.”
If Wilson doesn’t play, the Packers will lean on rookies Mike Daniels and Jerel Worthy, who filled in after Wilson got hurt against the Giants.
“We’ll have to have the young guys step up,” Pickett said. “They’ve been stepping up all year, they’ll have to again.”
NOTES: Matthews did not practice Wednesday, and coach Mike McCarthy said he thinks it’s “a stretch” the linebacker would be ready for Sunday’s game. But “he’s getting close,” McCarthy said. … The Packers have won nine straight games against NFC North opponents. Asked to explain their divisional success, McCarthy joked, “Coaching.”