I didn’t really realize how weird the schedule is this season until after the Bears game. After Thursday, the Packers will get their second 9 day rest in between games. They will also only have 3 division games left. The only road division game left on the slate isn’t really a home game for the other team. TCF Bank Stadium has treated the Vikings OK so far, beating the Falcons in a shootout and getting stomped by the Patriots, but it’s not the Metrodome and there’s a decent chance that the Vikings will already have lost 7 games by that time and know their season is over.
The Packers have opened as double digit favorites in this game and that is always concerning. You could certainly make an argument that after beating the Bears by 21 points on the road there could be a letdown. You could certainly make an argument that facing a Vikings team that has finished last in the division 3 of the last 4 seasons with a rookie QB and are without their best player could create a letdown. You could certainly make an argument that the mini-bye week they could use to rest up and get healthy for the Miami game could create a letdown.
But is it really going to matter? Yes, the Vikings won on Sunday. But they beat the Falcons at home. The Falcons are 1-9 in their last 10 road games and are 4-14 since the beginning of last season. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Jake Matthews and Roddy White are good players. The rest of the team is junk. With Adrian Peterson I felt this year’s Vikings would be 7-9. As agnostic as I am about running backs in the NFL he was still the best player on the team. The Packers probably aren’t going to lose to a 5-11 or 6-10 quality team at home, regardless of what day of the week the game is played.
After the 2009 season ended for the Vikings (as it should have) with Brett Favre costing them their season Aaron Rodgers took control of the North and really took control of the Packers-Vikings rivalry. Rodgers has lost to the Vikings once in 8 meetings since that season, and never at home. The Packers were even able to pull of a tie last season at home against Minnesota with Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn at the helm. There is always a win over the Vikings each season by at least 10 points and I would assume it’s going to be here.
Why the Packers Will Win: They are the better team this season as they have been for quite some time now. Without Peterson and Rudolph, the Packers have an advantage at every group offensively. QB, OL, WR, TE and RB. The way Chad Greenway has been playing over the course of the last two seasons, missing him might actually put the Vikings in a better spot. With that said I don’t think Green Bay will really have to do anything other than throw the ball to score, which is fine. On the other side of the ball, the Packers have been consistently winning this game even with the Vikings having Adrian Peterson. The fact that they can’t stop the run this season might not matter against Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata (side note: if I’m Minnesota I would only have Asiata play short yardage McKinnon is better than he is). If they get up big, the running game might become completely irrelevant.
The pass defense is more than good enough to handle a hobbled Teddy Bridgewater or Christian Ponder. The Packers, like every other team since Peterson has left the team, should be keying on Cordarelle Patterson. A “Superman” performance by Patterson could ignite the Vikings sideline and take the Lambeau crowd out of the game. The Thursday night games this season have been blowouts, Packers fans want that to continue. This might be the first chance that the Packers have to get ahead, take away the opponents run game and unleash Jones, Daniels, Peppers and Matthews. We saw a glimpse of that when the Bears got down big and Cutler was sacked by Jones and made other bad decisions under pressure.
Why the Vikings Will Win: The possibility of a trap game. All the things that concerned me above are the reasons Minnesota could pull off the upset. If you look at the two teams on paper as they currently sit, it doesn’t really look like the Vikings would be capable of winning a road game. But letdowns, looking ahead, overconfidence, etc. could create a problem.
With all of that said, the Packers have only lost to the Vikings at home one time since 2006, and that was the Favre revenge game in 2009. Teddy Bridgewater looks like a good player and when Rodgers retires the Vikings might really have a shot at something in this division but Brett Favre ain’t walkin’ through that door.
Fantasy Packer to Start- I don’t have one. I don’t have a feel for this team good enough to say that you need to start anyone beside Rodgers, Lacy, Cobb and Nelson and you were starting those guys any way.
Fantasy Packer to Sit- Davante Adams- I don’t believe in him quite yet as a fantasy starter. Until Nelson and Cobb stop getting 60% of the targets I’m not going to believe in him. I still think Adams is going to be a star, but it just isn’t going to happen on Thursday night.
Bottom Line: Green Bay has dominated this rivalry the same as every other NFC North rivalry since Aaron Rodgers became the starter. You want to know why the Packers have either won the Super Bowl or the division every year since Favre’s revenge tour ended? Division games. The Packers almost never lose division games. They damn sure don’t lose division games at home agianst crap teams like Minnesota when 12 is healthy. Packers 41 Vikings 17