Familiarity with Packers breeds confidence

Chad Greenway (Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY)

The Vikings are preparing to play the Packers twice in six days, and three times in a little over a month. They know what to expect and, players say, stick to what they do best.

Earlier this month, the Vikings were facing a rare situation when they played division rival Chicago twice in the span of 15 days. At the time, players commented on the uniqueness of playing the same twice in such a short timeframe.

Thanks to the Vikings' win Sunday, they will play the Green Bay Packers twice in the span of seven days. As a division rival, they are already intimately familiar with the Packers personnel and their assignments from one game to the next. While both teams are going to make some tweaks to their game plans to show each other something they didn't see on Sunday, there isn't a lot that will change, especially on a short week of preparation that will deal more with healing up than switching up.

"You can't sit here and sugarcoat things like we didn't just play them," DT Fred Evans said. "It's basically trying to fine-tune things – fix the small things so they don't become big things on Saturday."

Linebacker Chad Greenway agreed.

"It's no different for either team," Greenway said. "They know what we're going to do. We know what they're going to do. Obviously, there will be little wrinkles in the game from our standpoint and their standpoint I'm sure. They aren't going to be putting in a whole new offense. We know who they are. We know who their playmakers are. They're playing at home, so they have a lot of advantages, but we're excited for where we're at and we're excited about the opportunity."

Don't expect to see either team try to re-invent the wheel. They know the strengths and weaknesses of the other team and will try to exploit the same things that worked for them the last time. That familiarity has the Vikings looking to repeat what they did on Sunday six days later.

"It's a huge game for us," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "Our main thing right now is that we've got to focus on ourselves. We've seen these guys two times in the last six weeks. Our biggest thing is to go out there, execute and finish – be the hardest hitting team, be physical and be smart."

As the Vikings gets geared up for a third game with Green Bay, their defensive focus will be squarely on QB Aaron Rodgers. He's burned them before and the defense knows that they won't completely shut him down.

"Let's be honest. Aaron Rodgers is, if not the best, one of the best quarterbacks in the game today," Evans said. "He's very poised. He's a gunslinger and he plays with the mentality that he feels every pass he throws should be a completed pass. When you have a quarterback like that with talent, you have to try to contain him as much as you can. You can't expect him to go 0-for-20 or 5-for-15. That's not going to happen. You just have to play your game and try to make plays."

With the Vikings' recent roll, they've gotten quite used to battling teams from the NFC North. Four of the six games the Vikings have played since their bye week have been against division opponents. Saturday will make it five of seven and, while the calendar tells everyone this is a playoff game, it's another division game and the Vikings have been playing elimination playoff-style games for the last month.

"It really is another division game is what it boils down to," DE Brian Robison said. "For us, it's our fifth playoff game of the year if you really think about it. I think we're very confident in what we can do. We've won four straight and that's what it's all about – getting hot going into the playoffs. We were able to sneak in there and now we're hoping we can go a little further"

In the end, it will come down to which team has learned the most from the previous two games and doesn't make mistakes. The Vikings would appear to be a team better suited for the elements than the Packers – they're a better power running team and they play a strong bend-but-don't-break style defense. The odds are clearly against them, but that's been nothing in recent weeks. The Vikings have been hardened by being discounted over the last month and are preparing to be the team that plays to their style better than the Packers.

"We're built that way," Greenway said of having a team built to play January football. "Obviously, you don't have the experience of doing it, but I think the way we're built kind of sets us up to play well out there. I think it's going to give us confidence with the style of play we do have. We know they can play well anywhere, so we have to play our best football to win."


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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