Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (+7.5, 47)
Christian Ponder is expected back at quarterback when the Minnesota Vikings try to stun the visiting Green Bay Packers in Sunday night’s nationally televised contest. Recently acquired Josh Freeman bombed in his Minnesota debut and then was diagnosed with concussion-type symptoms, which is resulting in Ponder’s first start since Sept. 22. Green Bay has no such issues with Aaron Rodgers behind center, winning three consecutive games to lead the NFC North by a half-game over Chicago and Detroit.
Vikings receiver Greg Jennings, who played seven seasons with the Packers, sharply criticized Rodgers in the offseason but is taking a different approach leading up to his first game against his former team. “I can’t live in the past of what was said – I have to move on,” Jennings said in a conference call. “I know and you guys know that he’s a great quarterback.” Green Bay will be without several key players, including linebackers Clay Matthews (broken thumb) and Nick Perry (foot), tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) and receiver Randall Cobb (leg).
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE: The Packers opened as 10-point road faves and are now -7.5. The total opened at 46.5 and is up to 47.
ABOUT THE PACKERS (4-2): Injuries to Cobb and James Jones (knee) opened the door for second-year receiver Jarrett Boykin, who had eight receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland last Sunday in his first NFL start. Rodgers has passed for 13 touchdowns against just four interceptions and the running game has been sparked by second-round pick Eddie Lacy, who has 301 rushing yards over the past three games and leads all NFL rookies with 352. Outside linebacker A.J. Hawk has been sensational with 54 tackles and three sacks but the Packers have forced just seven turnovers thus far.
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (1-5): The return of Ponder (five interceptions and only two touchdowns) makes three different starting quarterbacks in three games after Matt Cassel two weeks ago and Freeman in last Monday night’s loss to the previously winless New York Giants. Reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson, who is seventh in the NFL with 511 rushing yards despite an ailing hamstring, had a season-low 28 yards against the Giants while Jennings has struggled to make an impact with 24 receptions for 327 yards. Defensive end Jared Allen has four sacks but the defense is ranked just 27th by allowing 391.2 yards per game.
* Over is 10-2-1 in the last 13 meetings in Minnesota.
* Home team is 5-0 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Packers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Over is 4-0 in Vikings last four home games.
1. Minnesota recorded a 37-34 victory last Dec. 30 behind 199 rushing yards by Peterson to snap a five-game regular-season skid against Green Bay.
2. The Packers have allowed less than 85 rushing yards in each of their last four games and rank third in the NFL in rushing defense (79 per game).
3. Peterson rushed for 409 yards in two regular-season games against Green Bay last season but was limited to 99 in Minnesota’s playoff loss to the Packers.