Dec 2, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson (81) rushes with the football during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Packers defeated the Vikings 23-14. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings vs. Packers Preview: Five Questions With Lombardi Ave.


For the second – and possibly not last – time this season, we hooked up with Lombardi Ave.’s editor Ray Rivard for five questions…

1. How’s the Packer offensive line coming along?

The Packers’ offensive line has been shuffled as much as a 20-year-old deck of cards, but it seems to have worked. When Don Barclay came in off the bench against the Vikes three weeks ago, the run game picked up immediately. He’s a fighter. Last week, Mike McCarthy shocked everyone by benching Center Jeff Saturday and replacing him with Evan Dietrich-Smith. That also seems to have reinvigorated the line and given more punch to the middle of the unit. So, the line seems poised at this point to continue to provide running room for the backs and enough time for Aaron Rodgers to hit those intermediate and long pass routes.

2. How would you rank this season for Aaron Rodgers against his previous years?

Rodgers hasn’t played the lights-out game that he showed during his MVP season last year, but he has been mightily consistent and has gotten better and better as the season progresses. If there’s any knock on him it’s that he holds the ball too long, but that’s a big part of his game. He likes to extend plays if he doesn’t get the look he wants right away. Most of the time, he is successful when he does that, but it’s also been a contributing factor in him being sacked close to 50 times this year. But as for a ranking, I think this season has got to rank up near the top of his career … mainly because he has been able to perform at a top level while many of his main targets have gone down, his offensive line has been in flux and his running game was nonexistent for nearly half the season.

3. The defense seems to be coming together now for the Packers. Is it good enough to take them all the way?

This defense reminds me a lot of the unit that won the Super Bowl in 2010. What’s really impressive is that they’ve done it with several rookies and second-year players on the field. The defensive line has also demonstrated a strong push and presence at the line of scrimmage and with the return of Clay Matthews the D has stepped into a new realm of aggression. Can they help take the team all the way? Well, that remains to be seen, but the potential is definitely there.

4. How concerned are you about Mason Crosby? He just can’t seem to shake his slump.

Very concerned. It doesn’t matter if he’s kicking indoors or outdoors – when he’s missed, he’s missed badly and when he makes it, he barely makes it. I don’t know how many times he’s hit the uprights this year, but it’s got to be a near record number. McCarthy has stuck by him the last half of the season when the pressure to remove him has been great. I guess we’ll see if that has been a good decision or not. I would just hate to see the team lose a playoff game because of a missed kick.

5. Outside of Rodgers, who has been the MVP for the Packers this year?

Without question, Randall Cobb. His all-purpose yards have been record-breaking and his ability to come up with the big play has been impressive. It seems Rodgers and Cobb have formed a chemistry that has only grown as the season progresses. Like Percy Harvin, when Cobb gets the ball in his hands good things happen.

Bonus: Here is my take on the game – Rodgers is phenomenal in domes, especially at this time of year. If the Packers can get a lead on the Vikes early, they will roll. If they don’t and allow the Vikes to stick around into the fourth quarter, the game will come down to the kickers. That scenario doesn’t bode well for the Packers. So, with that said, I feel that Peterson will get his yards, but the Packers defense will come up with just enough plays to keep the Vikes out of the end zone for most of the day. Rodgers throws for three touchdowns, Peterson runs for two touchdowns, but Ponder will make just enough boneheaded plays to swing the game to the Packers.

Packers 28 Vikings 20

(Note: the above pick is from Lombardi Ave. editor Ray Rivard, just so we’re clear. Head to Lombardi Ave. to see my pick.)

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