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Jim Souhan

Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene

Vikings-Packers from Lambeau: What 2 watch 4

Green Bay --

The Star Tribune team is gathered at Lambeau Field to cover the latest edition of the Vikings-Packers rivalry. Please follow along on social media or at StarTribune.com to read Ben Goessling, Andrew Krammer, Mark Craig, Chip Scoggins and myself and to see great photography from our staff.

Here’s what I’ll be watching for today:

  1. The Vikings dominated Atlanta in Week 1 by running the ball. The Packers excelled in Week 1 by confusing Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The Bears, though, didn’t remain committed to the running game, so we don’t know how their fast, lean defensive front will match up with the Vikings’ power running, and how well the Vikings’ interior line will perform. Watch Packers nosetackle Kenny Clark and whether he’s able to either make plays or occupy multiple Vikings blockers. Vikings rookie center Garrett Bradbury generally fared well in Week 1, but this will be the first time he’s faced an NFL team that has a full slate of NFL plays to game-plan for him.

  2. Geronimo Allison vs. Jayron Kearse. If the Vikings do indeed play Jayron Kearse in the slot (and you never know), he’ll match up with Allison, who went without a catch in Week 1. You’d think that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers would want to get Allison moving in the right direction and Allison should have a quickness advantage over Kearse, who usually plays safety.

  3. I’m interested to see how often - or if at all - fullback C.J. Ham and rookie tight end Irv Smith touch the ball. Eventually, the Vikings will want Smith to become a big part of the offense, and will want Ham to give opposing defenses another player to worry about. Here’s my piece this week on Ham: http://www.startribune.com/duluth-s-c-j-ham-and-green-bay-s-cheese-two-main-courses-in-sunday-s-feast/560157502/

  4. I came to Minnesota be the Star Tribune’s Vikings beat writer in 1990 and have covered a lot of games in Lambeau. To me, there is no other Minnesota-based rivalry anywhere near as compelling as this one. And the highlight of this rivalry is and perhaps always will be the Brett Favre years - his rise to stardom and willingness to switch teams. He is on the field at Lambeau this morning. No word on whether he’ll switch jerseys in the fourth quarter.

  5. Rodgers has another offensive-minded head coach, in Matt LaFleur. But talking with Packers writers, it’s hard to tell whether Rodgers is dictated the offense or having it dictated to him. So the drama continues - watch Rodgers’ body language and interactions with his coaches. This is Rodgers’ franchise, for better or worse.

  6. For all of his obvious challenges, Kirk Cousins generally generates yardage and he performed brilliantly last year at Lambeau. With Green Bay having  little idea what the Vikings’ offense really looks like, could this be another big game for him?

You can find my podcasts at TalkNorth.com

 

Souhan: Will the Vikings defensive backs play big?

The Star Tribune pours lots of resources into covering the Minnesota Vikings. Ben Goessling and Andrew Krammer provide excellent beat work, Mark Craig provides our NFL-at-large and offbeat storytelling, and Chip Scoggins and I, both former Vikings  beat writers, will provide preview and review columns all season. Plus, Patrick Reusse will offer his humor and historical perspective.

Unlike most newspapers, we've also retained a great photography staff. I know we all lean on online sources these days, but I encourage any Vikings fan to pick up the Monday paper because our photogs capture great images.

Chip and I will supplement our in-depth weekly coverage with pregame blogs, starting with this one.

Here’s what I’m watching for today as the Vikings play the Falcons:

  1. The Vikings cornerbacks are coming off a so-so year, and face an oversized challenge today. Xavier Rhodes is 6-1 and was disappointing last year. Trae Waynes 6-foot and is in the last year of his contract and could either pout or play for his next deal. Mackensie Alexander is 5-11 and on the rise. That trio will contend with Julio Jones (6-3), Mohamed Sanu (6-2) and Calvin Ridley (6-1). Their size disparities might not seem dramatic, but in the modern NFL quarterbacks will throw the ball even when a quality receiver seems to be covered, and Jones and Ridley, in particular, are good at winning mid-air battles for the  ball. This matchup could mean everything today, and Jones, having just signed a monster contract, may be highly motivated.

  2. The Vikings’ offensive line is supposed to be improved, but right tackle Brian O’Neill missed preseason with a right arm injury. Can he play well in his first live action of the season, in a new system and under a new coach?

  3. Three Super Bowl ago, the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to lose to the Patriots. Mark and I covered that game and Kyle Shanahan and Matt Ryan blew it. Two years ago, the Vikings needed the Minneapolis Miracle to win one playoff game, then got blown out by the Eagles. Neither franchise has won a Super Bowl, and both teams have looked affected by their big losses. Which team handles the pressure and disappointment better?

  4. Falcons  back DeVonta Freeman was a big reason the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl, but has played in just 16 of 32 games since that loss. If he’s fully healthy and explosive, he’ll be difficult to contain. If he’s not, the Falcons’ offense becomes one-dimensional.

  5. In an interview with Ben Goessling, Kirk Cousins said he’s not a savior. Now he tells us. Cousins could light it up today or in any given game, but he has yet to show the kind of leadership that you would want out of a player of his financial stature. This season, in many ways, is all about him, whether he likes it or not.

 

Here’s my Sunday column on the pressure the Vikings’ braintrust faces:

http://www.startribune.com/pressure-on-mike-zimmer-rick-spielman-to-make-playoffs-run/559706512/

 

You can find my podcasts at TalkNorth.com