What to watch for in Vikings-Packers

It wasn't so long ago that Christian Ponder helped lead the Minnesota Vikings to a huge regular season victory over the Green Bay Packers, sending Minnesota to the playoffs after the 2012 season.

That Vikings team was led by coach Leslie Frazier and running back Adrian Peterson. It feels like a lot longer than 22 months ago, and this Vikings team doesn't want to look back.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Ponder will start Thursday with rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater inactive due to an ankle injury, according to a source informed of the situation.

Here's what to watch for:

Thursday, Dec. 4, 8 p.m. ET
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1. Green Bay's defense didn't exactly solve all of its problems against the Bears. Chicago had nearly 500 yards of offense, including 235 on the ground. The Packers' defensive tackles are too easy to move, and teams are running at an over-aggressive Clay Matthews.

2. The Vikings found great success last week by giving rookie running back Jerick McKinnon the ball more. He's so fast that he can sometimes downshift during a run, survey the field and then crank the motor again. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner surprisingly gave the ball to McKinnon a lot between the tackles. We'd love to see him in space more, because his lateral movement and speed are special.

3. How good were Minnesota's rookies last week? It was the first time in NFL history that a rookie quarterback had a 300-yard game without being sacked to go with a rookie running back gaining 100 rushing yards.

4. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense did seem to solve many of their issues last week, but there still weren't a ton of pass plays made in rhythm. A lot of his best plays were improvised on the move. In short: Green Bay doesn't want to rely too much on Rodgers delivering outrageous throws. He pulled off a number of whoppers last week, and is capable of doing that every week. But coach Mike McCarthy would love to see some easier completions.

5. Rodgers' pass protection was much improved last week. This matchup will be tougher with a solid Vikings front including Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph. This unit has looked a little better on paper than on the field through four games.

6. This will be the first matchup between Rodgers and new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. Gone are the days of Frazier's predictable scheme. Zimmer will get creative to try to disrupt the timing of Rogers.

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