The Packers played the Vikings just a few weeks ago, but from a personnel perspective, plenty of things could be different for Sunday’s rematch.
For the Packers, tight end Jermichael Finley could be a game-time decision and wide receiver Jordy Nelson has been ruled out. Finley and Nelson, who both have knee sprains, scored long touchdowns in Round 1 against the Vikings.
For the Vikings, neither receiver Bernard Berrian nor cornerback Antoine Winfield practiced. Berrian (hamstring) scored a 31-yard touchdown and Winfield (foot) had a key interception on Oct. 5.
The interesting case is Finley. Coach Mike McCarthy said Finley would receive around-the-clock treatment and possibly be tested on Saturday or Sunday. Generally, if a player doesn’t practice, he won’t play, and that’s especially true for a young player.
“The reason why we have decided to take this approach with Jermichael is just the impact that he has more on our situation on offense,” McCarthy said. “We have a lot of things, like I’m sure a lot of offenses do, you carry over week-to-week and he is a big part of that. So, things that we’re looking to carry over from past weeks where there are a lot of reps and so forth, we’d like to have the opportunity to potentially carry that into the game, and he gives us that, so that’s why we’ve taken this path.”
Winfield left the game against Baltimore with a foot injury and sat out last week’s loss at Pittsburgh. The 32-year-old Winfield, coming off his first Pro Bowl, is strong in coverage and one of the best run defenders at his position.
“I mentioned last week that I don’t put anything past Antoine in terms of making back on the field,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said in a conference call with Packers beat reporters. “My first year I did that, he fought his way on the field when had an injury occur. He’s a good leader, he’s a good player. With that said, I thought the guys that rolled through there did a nice job with a full week of preparation, both outside and at the nickel spot. Asher Allen and Benny Sapp and Karl Paymah, I thought they all did a nice job.”
Down two of his top weapons, Aaron Rodgers probably won’t be shedding any tears if Winfield is out.
“I hate to say this because he’s on the Vikings, but I have a ton of respect for him,” Rodgers said. “He might be the toughest pound for pound guy in the league. I mean, he’s an undersized guy, but he brings it. He brings the wood, as we used to say. I mean, he’ll hit you in the mouth hard, and he’s definitely a guy, if I saw him outside the pocket, I’d be getting down quickly.”
Packers injury report
Out — FB Korey Hall (calf); WR Jordy Nelson (knee). Did not participate — TE Jermichael Finley (knee); S Derrick Martin (hamstring); G/C Jason Spitz (back); C Scott Wells (personal). Limited participation — T Chad Clifton (ankle); LB Clay Matthews (jaw); QB Aaron Rodgers (foot); T Mark Tauscher (knee); CB Charles Woodson (hip); DE Jarius Wynn (hamstring).
Wells was out with what McCarthy called a “very positive” personal reason — his wife gave birth on Tuesday night — and will be back on Thursday. McCarthy was hopeful Spitz would be back on Thursday, as well. Between the absences at center and the iffy prospects for Clifton, McCarthy said he had no idea who would start on Sunday.
Allen’s (possibly tasteless) take
While McCarthy was careful to not give away his thinking on the offensive line, Rodgers said the team has a pretty good idea which direction it will go for Sunday.
“I’m looking for continuity and cohesiveness,” McCarthy said in what could be construed as a hint that Wells will get the call ahead of Spitz again at center and possibly rookie T.J. Lang over Clifton at left tackle. “I think that’s clearly what you look for in every offensive line, the ability to play next to the same guy more than one or two weeks. We’ve had a hard time hitting that target. That’s just the way it has gone for us as far as injuries and some of the rotations we’ve had to go through. We’re striving to find that group collectively that plays with some continuity. We’re doing the best we can to get that done.”
Lang played the fourth quarter against Minnesota a few weeks ago and was partially responsible for one of Jared Allen’s 4.5 sacks.
“Ah, you know, he’s a rookie,” Allen said. “I try to keep my impressions of people to myself until I see them play a lot. That kid came out there and played hard and tried to take advantage of the time he got. I haven’t watched film on him. I know he played a lot in these last couple of weeks. I have to watch some film on him and then I can give a better judgment.”
Pressed further and asked if he’d be “licking his chops” to face a rookie, Allen used some off-color humor: “I have to be honest, if I was licking my chops over a dude, I’d be scared of myself.”
Vikings injury report
Did not participate — WR Bernard Berrian (hamstring); LB E.J. Henderson (knee); DT Jimmy Kennedy (not injury related); CB Antoine Winfield (foot). Limited participation — LB Jasper Brinkley (hamstring); QB Brett Favre (hip); LB Ben Leber (calf); CB Karl Paymah (quadriceps); WR Darius Reynaud (hamstring); FB Naufahu Tahi (knee).
— Rodgers was named the NFC’s player of the month. In three games, he threw for 988 yards and seven touchdowns. He had a passer rating topping 100 in each game.
— The Packers lead the series 49-47-1. The Vikings’ 30-23 win on Oct. 5 was just the latest tightly contested clash in the series. In all, 13 of the last 14 matchups have been decided by seven points or less, including six out of 10 decided by a late field goal from 2004 through 2008.
— Incredibly since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Packers have never lost a home game to one of their former starting quarterbacks. Don Horn (six interceptions with Denver in 1971), Don Majkowski (Detroit, 1996), Aaron Brooks (New Orleans, 2005) and Matt Hasselbeck (four times, most recently in January 2008 playoff game) are a combined 0-7 with two touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
— With the Packers’ two-game surge, they join the Vikings in ranking in the top 10 of the league in several categories. Green Bay is tied for second in turnover margin, eighth in total offense, 10th in passing offense, third in total defense, fourth in passing defense, ninth in third-down offense and eighth in third-down defense. Minnesota is tied for fifth in turnover margin, third in third-down offense, seventh in third-down defense and first in red-zone defense.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.