Twice, now. Twice the Packers have played the Vikings consecutively and twice they have lost. That hasn’t happened since 2009. That hasn’t happened without Brett Favre as Minnesota’s quarterback since 2005 (!). This is a series that has gone much better in the Aaron Rodgers era (11-6) than it ever did under Brett Favre (17-16). We as Packers fans are no longer used to losing to Minnesota, we’re used to dominating them.
This particular game is very strange in that it likely doesn’t matter for either team. Minnesota has gone 2-7 after a fool’s gold 5-0 start. They can’t win the division and their road to the playoffs is very, very unlikely. They have nothing to play for. They’re also not likely to be playing the role of spoiler. If they beat Green Bay, Dallas will still likely beat Detroit and set up a one game playoff for the division anyway.
That doesn’t mean the game isn’t important. It’s important for the fans. It’s important for seeding. It’s important for momentum. It’s important to beat the freaking Vikings.
Why the Packers Will win: They’re the better team. They played about as bad as they could in week 2 against a much better Vikings squad than this one and lost by a field goal because of a late Rodgers interception. Rodgers himself is playing like a completely different player than he was early in the season. “What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers” has turned into “is Rodgers the best candidate for MVP”?.
Even if Harrison Smith plays (and I think he will), the type of ankle injury he had isn’t going to be at 100% for much longer than an hour (with a cortisone shot). Even then the Vikings are increasingly thin in the secondary. 4th CB Mackenzie Alexander has been put on IR, and Trae Waynes is just now coming back from a concussion. Wihout Shariff Floyd and Tom Johnson, the Packers should be able to double team Linval Joseph and establish a running game.
Defensively is where the Packers really become a problem for Minnesota. The Vikings can’t run the ball, and the Packers still rank 11th in rushing DVOA, which is better than average. Minnesota is dead last in rush DVOA. The offensive line is bad, but Asiata and McKinnon have not helped, either. The two players that make Green Bay a bad matchup for Minnesota’s offense are Mike Daniels and LaDarius Gunter. Gunter was not a big part of what the Packers did defensively, playing fewer snaps than any DB that wasn’t Micah Hyde. Gunter excels within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Minnesota’s entire offense exists within that specific threshold. Mike Daniels will not be someone who can be blocked by any of the three interior offensive linemen Minnesota will use in this game.
Why the Vikings will win: Mike Zimmer still runs the type of defense that can stifle Rodgers. Rodgers has had success against him in the past, even as recently as 2015. The Vikings aren’t going to get passed 17 points in this game, but if the offense plays like garbage it always gives Minnesota a chance.
Special teams is the other big reason. The Packers will not have Jayrone Elliot in this game. He is the best player Green Bay has in their special teams unit. Marcus Sherels is an excellent punt returner and appears to be ready to play in this one. Cordarelle Patterson never worked out as a wide receiver and is yet another miss by Rick Spielman, but he’s still a helluva kick returner. A Vikings return touchdown could turn a 21-17 Packers win into a 24-21 Packers loss.
Bottom Line: This game is likely meaningless in the big picture. Dallas is not going to start Tony Romo over Dak Prescott and fuel that fire just because they won the division with the Giants loss. They aren’t going to shelf Zeke Elliot (chasing an MVP either). This one is for style points and the off chance that the Packers get in with a loss at Detroit. All in all the Packers were probably going to pick this season split up either way. The Vikings weren’t very good this season, certainly not good enough to threaten the “Run the Table” dream at Lambeau Field. Packers 27 Vikings 11