By Travis Duncan
To put it bluntly, Aaron Rodgers needs to walk away from Mall of America field Sunday in one piece, ready to play in nine remaining regular season games and on into the post-season.
As is the case in any game, but especially against the Vikings, protecting Rodgers is paramount, win or lose.
At left tackle second-year pro Marshall Newhouse will have the job of trying to contain All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen, who is having another good season for the Vikings, 9.5 sacks in just six games.
On the other side of the Vikings front line is defensive end Brian Robison who has 4.5 sacks. Left tackle Bryan Bulaga will draw that assignment.
"It's going to be a big game for our tackles, both of their ends are playing well," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday.
"Jared Allen is obviously leading the league in sacks. He's a very good football player. I really like the way he plays the game. Robison is also playing at a very high-level."
McCarthy admitted, "This will be Marshall Newhouse's biggest challenge so far this year."
-Never under estimate the potential of a young talented NFL quarterback who has a lot to prove, but the Packers defense can create turnovers against rookie Christian Ponder whose NFL regular season experience is mop-up duty against Chicago last week. He went 9-for-17 and passed for 99 yards.
Ponder, a 23-yard old 12th overall pick by the Vikings in this year's draft, will start this Sunday for the Vikings, coach Leslie Frazier announced Wednesday. Donovan McNabb has been shelved after a 1-5 start.
With Ponder under center the Vikings will run the ball a ton.
The Vikings are the third best running team in the NFL, averaging 142.2 yards per game despite a 1-5 record. Adrian Peterson is averaging 89.5 yards per game with seven rushing touchdowns.
You can imagine the Vikings, who aren't great pass protecting anyhow, trying create a sluggish, slow moving game, much like the Falcons and Bears tried to do unsuccessfully in past weeks.
-Vegas thinks the Packers will win, plus 9 points.
-Rodgers was asked about the NFL's current state of Human Growth Hormone testing.
Wednesday the NFL players union rejected a proposal by the league to begin having players tested for HGH with blood tests as soon as next Monday.
Rodgers said, "I think it's interesting that nothing was finalized right away [during the NFL lockout]. And that's directly because the meaning that was held in Montreal had way insufficient information. I am all for it as long as it's a test that can be regulated and prove to be accurate. So until we get some information and data that we're very confident in, I don't think know that there's going to be anything in the immediate future."
-On the Packers 10 dropped balls in the past two weeks McCarthy said "We had a couple of [guys taking off before they catch the ball]. It's been addressed. It was something that was emphasized in practice today with an extra ball drill. We are playing in a dome this week, we have no excuse. We had a challenge last week in the wind, we can learn from that experience."
Jason Wilde of ESPN radio reports that James Jones revealed that the wideouts on the team have an internal kangaroo court for dropped passes. Tweets Wilde "Funny item from James Jones: When you drop a pass as a #Packers WR, you owe the other four WRs a $100 gift card toBestBuy."
-Cornerback Sam Shields, who suffered a concussion against St. Louis while trying to return an interception in his own end zone, is on schedule to play on Sunday. Shields will go through the normal neurological testing but word is he should suit up for Sunday's game.
-Linebacker Frank Zombo will not play in Sunday's game because of a hyper-extended knee. He is expected to return after the bye.
-Defensive end Mike Neal will hopefully return sometime after the bye as well, McCarthy said Wednesday.
-FOX will send it's No. 1 team to do Sunday's game which kicksoff at 3:15 CT. Thom Brennaman will do play-by-play while Joe Buck is doing the World Series. Troy Aikman will do color analysis, with Pam Oliver reporting on the sideline.
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