Undefeated high-flying Packers host Vikings

Aaron Rodgers is playing at an MVP level and the Green Bay Packers remain undefeated. However, the spotty play of a generous defense is keeping them from being completely satisfied.

The Packers hope to tighten up things on the defensive end and complete their second straight season series sweep of the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night at Lambeau Field.

Most sports books monitored by SportsOptions have installed the Packers as hefty 13-point home favorites, with the total set at 50 points.

Green Bay (8-0) is off to its best start since opening with 10 straight wins in 1962, but the reigning Super Bowl champs have not been a complete team.

Thanks to Rodgers, the Packers are averaging an NFL-high 34.4 points per game this season, and have won 14 in a row including postseason since losing 31-27 at New England last Dec. 19. Green Bay will now try for its 10th consecutive win at Lambeau Field, where it has also won four of the last five versus Minnesota (2-6).

The problem for the Packers of late has been on the defensive end. They rank 31st in pass defense (299.6 yards per game), 30th in total defense (399.6) and 17th in points per game allowed (22.4).

Despite returning a pair of interceptions for touchdowns last Sunday, Green Bay allowed its most points of the season and almost blew a 21-point lead in a 45-38 win at San Diego.

“We’re 8-0. We’ve earned it,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “But we have expectations and the level of play that not only the individual expects of himself but what we expect of each position, each unit.”

The Packers have allowed a whopping 43 plays of 20 or more yards, including two of the Chargers’ TDs last week.

“On defense, anyway, none of us are happy with the way we’re playing right now,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “Certain segments we’re happy with. So the only way you improve that is you go back to work and work that much harder to get better.

“I think we can make significant improvement, I know that.”

The Packers gave up 435 total yards at Minnesota on Oct. 23, when they held on for a 33-27 win. Adrian Peterson gained 175 of the Vikings season-high 218 rushing yards in that contest.

“We’ve shown on tape that if we execute, we can play with any team in this league,” said Minnesota receiver Percy Harvin, who expects to play Monday night despite dealing with a rib injury he suffered against the Packers.

Minnesota might be able to move the ball versus Green Bay, but stopping Rodgers is another story.

Rodgers completed 24 of 30 passes for 335 yards and three TDs last month against Minnesota, and went 21 of 26 for 247 yards last week against the Chargers, tossing four touchdowns to increase his NFL-leading total to 24.

“He is a special, special, special, special player,” said receiver Greg Jennings, who has caught six TD passes from Rodgers this season including four over the last five games.

Jennings had seven receptions for 147 yards including a 79-yard catch and run for a score at Minnesota last month. Rodgers has completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 1,602 yards with 14 TDs and three interceptions in his last five games against the Vikings.

His counterpart, Minnesota rookie Christian Ponder, made his first career start in the Oct. 23 loss, throwing for 219 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions to keep the Vikings competitive.

Ponder was 18 of 28 for 236 yards and a TD during Minnesota’s last game, a 24-21 win at Carolina on Oct. 30.

Coming off their bye week, the Vikings hope to maintain the momentum earned from that victory and parlay it into an upset Monday night.

“You always have to be excited over improvement and build on it,” tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. “The excitement is going to cause the building process, so it has to be there.”

With Peterson toting the ball, the Vikings at least have a chance to give the Packers problems. Fourth in the NFL with 795 yards on the ground, Peterson has averaged 110.3 and rushed for three TDs in his last three games at Lambeau.

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