Early Bird Breakdown Week 5: Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
Hello all! Welcome to another Early Bird Breakdown! This week is a special Thursday edition for Vikings @ Packers, but before we begin, let’s start with the recap!
The Recap: Packers @ Bears
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers were able to put together an impressive victory against Chicago, winning 38-17. Green Bay showed everything good with the team and everything wrong with the team.
On the good side, Rodgers looked in top form commanding the offense. This was due to him having the most time in the pocket he has had all season against a depleted Bears defensive front. Nelson and Cobb had monster games as Cobb has said he needed to step his game up going in and he delivered. On defense, the pass defense continues to excel, giving up only 261 to the Bears. The forced turnovers and wide receivers were blanketed.
On the downside, Green Bay still has struggled in terms of running the ball, both with the run blocking, the play calling, as well as Lacy in finding the correct holes. Defensively, this team cannot tackle anyone or stop anyone running the ball right now. Also, historically under Dom Capers this team has never been able to create a gameplan or adjust to an athletic tight end (see every game against San Francisco for a quick reference). Overall, the defense made enough stops and the secondary and pass rush have most of the defense gelled, if the run defense can pick it up this team can return to the playoff team it should be on paper.
Packers’ Offense vs. Vikings’ Defense:
Minnesota right now is the definition of middle of the road. Ranking 15th against the run (113.3 yards per game), 17th against the pass (241 ypg), and a combined 17th overall (354.3) they are bringing a reasonable challenge to Green Bay, at least more than Chicago was last week. Green Bay historically has been able to move the ball on this group, but do not expect a sudden emergence from the running game on a short week. The Packers are 28th running the ball with only 73 yards per game and the team is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry.
Green Bay will have to do what it did against Chicago, lean on matchup issues in the secondary if Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are one-on-one. Chicago left Nelson alone, something the Lions did not two weeks ago. If that is not the case and one or both are doubled, look for Adams to finally take command of the third wideout spot with Boykin out for the game. The Packers may only be 15th in passing so far this season, but Rodgers appears to finally turned the corner and hopefully the short week of practice does not throw off his momentum.
Aaron Rodgers has historically dominated the rivalry, going 8-4 with 26 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. If Rodgers gets the offense going early, this should be a breeze. Outside of the Chicago game, Green Bay has struggled early in the games to score. If they fail to score within the first two possessions, the Vikings will be able to control the clock and make this a tight one through the end. If Green Bay plays like it did in Chicago, the victory could be even more lopsided.
Packers’ Defense vs. Vikings’ Offense:
Minnesota is probably giddy after watching Packer film last week. Despite losing Adrian Peterson to legal issues, the Vikings are currently 8th in the league in rushing with 134.8 yards per game, the game plan will most likely involve a heavy dose of the running game. Green Bay on the season has given up a staggering 176 yards per game on the ground, by far the most in the league. The combination of Matt Asiata as the heavy back and the quick Jerick McKinnon so far has worked well in Peterson’s absence. McKinnon is the one to watch tonight, as the Packers gave up 235 yards against the Bears last week on the ground, with 147 of those being before the first Packer made contact. If the Packers play remotely close to that awful, Minnesota will be in this game.
One big factor going in will be who takes the reins at quarterback. As of this writing, Teddy Bridgewater is questionable with an ankle sprain. If the conditions are too slippery or his ankle simply is not up to it he will not play. That would leave former starter Christian Ponder, who Green Bay is much more familiar with. In either case, Green Bay’s secondary only needs to account for the explosive Cordarrelle Patterson. Expect Shields, the fastest defensive back on the team, to primarily be matched up with him in one-on-one situations or Tramon Williams if there is safety help. The Vikings number one wide receiver in terms of receptions, Greg Jennings, recently made headlines again with his comments about the city of Green Bay will look to stick it to Green Bay, something he has yet to do in his Viking career. He is not a matchup issue unlike Patterson, and at his age does not have the quickness to beat the more talented Packers secondary.
The Packers need to be better prepared for the run (including runs off the edge with Patterson) and the deep play action pass that had killed them in previous seasons. If Haha Clinton-Dix continues his maturation as the center fielder-esque safety for this team, look for Green Bay to shut down Minnesota on third downs. Green Bay’s only pass defense weakness is tight ends, and while Kyle Rudolph is a huge receiving target, he is not particularly explosive nor has he seen many targets from either Bridgewater or Ponder. If this Vikings trend continues, the Packers will look to have their best game on defense this season.
The Weather Factor:
For the first time this season, weather will actually be a huge factor. Kickoff temperature will be in the low 60s with a 69% chance of rain to start only increasing by the hour.
Green Bay is coming off a huge win in Chicago. Despite Matt Forte running all over Green Bay, like virtually everyone has this season, Green Bay’s pass defense has been there to make the tough stops and keep the team out of the end zone. After being so embarrassed last weekend at stopping the run, I predict they will do better. Having said that, better is still probably going to be a lot of rushing yards for the Vikings. Overall, this will allow Minnesota to keep Rodgers on the sideline and limit his possessions. When it comes to third downs however, Green Bay will have a huge edge with Bridgewater either playing with awful footing on a sore ankle preventing him from extending plays with his feet or Ponder will come in who has not been effective historically against the Packers.
In any case, last week’s passing offense for Green Bay was not a fluke but a return to form, something I expect will continue tonight albeit slowed in the rainy conditions. Rodgers may have less time but will seek to hurry up and make the most of his chances. If they score early, then look for momentum to carry them to an easy victory. If Minnesota controls the clock, this could a similar game to the Jets game and would be a hard one for Green Bay to come back with Minnesota’s run game sidelining Rodgers. Overall, I think the former of a quick start is more likely at home in prime time. Final score 31-23 Green Bay over Minnesota.
Jordy Nelson- Even if Minnesota doubles him, they do not have the talent to contain him and Rodgers throws to him more every week .
Randall Cobb- Cobb regained any and all lost favor with Rodgers and will look to have another big game this week.
Both Vikings RBs – both Asiata & McKinnon could easily lead fantasy in points this week with Green Bay even playing better run defense, that’s how bad they’ve been.
Eddie Lacy – Lacy will bounce back before the season is done, but I don’t believe it will be on a short week when so much from the running to the blocking is all wrong.
Greg Jennings – never has he had a truly great game against his old team and the whole stadium is going to want his head. Green Bay’s talented secondary will be extra motivated to shut him down.
As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University