Early Bird Breakdown Week 12: Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Hello all! Welcome to another Early Bird Breakdown! Let’s begin with the recap:
Last week the Green Bay Packers thoroughly beat the Philadelphia Eagles into submission on Sunday Night Football with a final score of 53-20. As with the Bears game, the Packers put the Eagles so far behind that Rodgers again sat in the fourth quarter. The defense has also been on a role since Clay Matthews moved to inside linebacker for help against the run. Overall, it was a complete beating. As for the Vikings, they ended Chicago’s losing skid after a shaky outing by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Chicago won at home 21-13.
Packers’ Offense vs. Vikings’ Defense:
Last week in Chicago, the Vikings’ defense gave up more yards than it has in any game all season (468 total). In fact, overall Minnesota’s defense has been pretty good on the year, but that did not stop Green Bay from running all over them when they last played on the way to a 42-10 shellacking. However the Vikings defense will play better at home than they did in the previous contest if for no other reason than the Packers offense has not traveled particularly well. Green Bay is averaging an astonishing 43.8 points per game at home and are 5-0 overall there this season. On the road, Green Bay’s average shrinks to 22.2 points per game and a 2-3 record. Having said that, Minnesota’s defense only plays well when it can generate pressure and get sacks. Three of Minnesota’s four wins have all come when the defensive line led by Everson Griffen (9 sacks on the season) get five or more sacks, while four of their six losses they have generated two or fewer. In the last four games for Green Bay, Rodgers has only been sacked a combined six times total. Minnesota’s first game plan was to not blitz Rodgers, who leads the league in passer rating against added pressure, and they were unable to generate pressure then and were shredded. In fact, the teams that have beaten Green Bay (New Orleans, Seattle, and Detroit) all totaled the fewest blitz’s on Rodgers this season yet were able to consistently get to the backfield with four man pressure.
In general, this is a very special season for Aaron Rodgers. During his 2011 MVP season, through the first ten games he had 31 touchdowns to only five interceptions. This season through ten games he has 28 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Rodgers is also leading arguably the best metric for viewing a quarterbacks on-field excellence in yards-per-pass-attempt at 8.78. What this means is on average, when Aaron Rodgers drops back, he will most likely complete a throw for nearly a first down. Note this is not just an average per completion, this is an average per throw including his incompletions and interceptions. The reason for this statistics’ significance is it gauges not only how accurate a quarterback is (as incompletions count as 0 yards per throw), it also factors in how difficult his throws are. If you completing 70% of your throws for only a few yards to easier targets, your average per attempt will be low. If you are completing downfield passes, which are far more difficult, at a very frequent rate you will have a high per-pass average. Rodgers is not only showcasing how accurate he is, he is doing so on more difficult throws.
While running back Eddie Lacy was the big knockout blow against the Vikings last time, I’m not sure he can repeat that performance again on so few carries. Only once this season has he had over 14 carries, which was week four against Chicago when he had 17. His only game with over 70 yards this season was when he ran for 105 against Minnesota on a ridiculous 8.1 rushing yards-per-attempt average. I’m sure he’ll be good, but expect most of Lacy’s damage to come in the passing game as Rodgers’ new favorite safety net, hauling in a combined 14 catches for 236 yards and two TDs in his last three games. I expect the Packers offense to play at or above it’s combined scoring average of 33 points per game, as it’s road numbers are eschewed thanks to trips to Detroit and Seattle, two of the best defenses in football.
Packers’ Defense vs. Vikings’ Offense:
Green Bay’s defense has completely changed since Matthews has moved to the middle. The Packers for too long have shown softness in the middle and needed an athletic talent to be manning the middle to stop the run. While I expect general manager Ted Thompson to place a high emphasis on this position in the draft, for the remainder of the season Clay Matthews will be that presence. Philadelphia, one of the league’s most prolific rushing attacks was held to only 109 yards and their star back LeSean McCoy was only able to generate 3.8 yards per carry. With the front seven now solidifying around Matthews, the back four has continued to be impressive with Green Bay holding passing games in check and generating turn overs. Green Bay is second in the league at takeaways with 22 turnovers generated (14 interceptions and 8 recovered fumbles).
On the Vikings, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was not available to play the first time the teams met, has been rocky to say the least so far this season. Completing only 60% of his passes and having more interceptions (6) than touchdowns (4), he has been very much a work in progress so far this season. Despite his low turnover rate, I expect him to have at least one and probably two turnovers against the defense this week that will be all too eager to jump routes. Minnesota will look to run the ball, ranking 12th in the league at 117 points per game, but the Packers have shown recently they can stop the run and with little threat from the passing game (29th in the league), the Packers defense should be able to get themselves off of the field on third down.
The Weather Factor:
Minnesota currently plays outdoors at the University of Minnesota’s football stadium while their new stadium is being built. So unlike previous trips to the dome, the Packers and Vikings will square off outdoors, and the expected forecast is 40o, cloudy, and a 25% chance for light showers.
The Green Bay Packers are firing on all cylinders at the moment. Coming off of back-to-back home blowout wins, everything is going well for Green Bay. Rodgers and the offense are on fire. The defense has put together its best games in back-to-back weeks. Meanwhile, the Vikings just lost to a reeling Chicago team and heard that their former-MVP and star player Adrian Peterson will not be coming back for the season, baring his appeal causing an overturn on his suspension on December 2nd. The Vikings could make this competitive with some early scores to get the crowd into it, but I do not think that will happen as well as I cannot see the Packers losing even if it was close the way they are playing right now. Final score Green Bay 42-17 over Minnesota.
Eddie Lacy- While Lacy is not getting any carries at all, his receiving numbers recently make him a good bet for points.
Packers D- They are hot right now and I expect a couple of turnovers for them this one.
Vikings backs- While Jerick McKinnon has been the primary back, the team has spread its carries too much this season and I honestly do not expect the touchdown to be on the ground, though a combined hundred thirty yards between all of the backs is very possible.
As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University