After a good performance in Dallas and a come from behind victory, the Packers return to the Great White North to take on the gjallarhorn in Minnesota. With both teams banged up, this game could be a war of attrition, but there are a few guys that we can predict to have a big game (and stay healthy). So let’s do exactly that in this week’s edition of 3…2…1…
In this article, and this series all season, we’ll take a look at 3 X-Factors (less obvious ones, not established superstars like Aaron Rodgers or Jordy Nelson), I’ll make 2 Bold Predictions, and then I’ll make the 1 prediction that matters: the score. So let’s dig in.
1. Josh Hawkins
Kevin King is still in concussion protocol as of the writing of this article, which leaves Davon House and Damarious Randall the starters at corner. But as we saw in Dallas, Randall is better in the slot where he can mix it up and be aggressive. That leaves a spot open on the outside where Josh Hawkins perfectly suited. After his big game against Chicago, he didn’t play a ton against Dallas due to matchups, but a receiver like Adam Thielen is perfectly suited for his coverage style. A deep threat receiver against a long and fast corner is a fun matchup. Look for Hawkins to be on the field early and often for the Packers secondary.
2. Josh Jones
Much like the offensive line, when injuries hit a position group, they hit it hard in Green Bay. With King still having a chance to play if he gets cleared from the concussion protocol, Morgan Burnett has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. And with him out, there are now more opportunities for safeties like Kentrell Brice and Josh Jones, especially Jones. The second round rookie will be the almost exclusive guy in the Nitro defense this week and he’ll be asked to do a lot of what Burnett did as far as his versaility goes. Also look for improvements from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as he takes the communication helmet.
3. Jahiri Evans
With David Bakhtiari still on the fence this week with his hamstring injury, Lane Taylor could be back at Left Tackle again. Which makes the interior of the Packer line extremely vital. They must hold up inside against a strong Vikings front to help out their tackles. If Jahiri Evans can do his part and contain Linval Joseph, that leaves the tackles to get most of the help as far as getting chips from tight ends and backs to stop Everson Griffin and company. But it starts inside this week.
2 Bold Predictions
1. Aaron Jones outrushes the entire Vikings backfield.
After the injury to Dalvin Cook, the Vikings running back situation is less than ideal. Big free agent signing Latavius Murray is off to a rough start averaging less than 3 yards per carry. And while Jerick McKinnon looked strong last week, he’s been a change of pace back almost exclusively in his career. It’s not likely for him to continue to average 5 yards a carry. So with the Vikings backfield a question mark, enter Aaron Jones in green. The rookie just about stole the show last week with a monster game, looking like a potential feature back for the future. And Ty Montgomery questionable still, look for Jones to get the bulk of the work on offense and to have another big game to control the clock.
2. Case Keenum looks more like the Rams QB that struggled in London than the efficient player of 2017.
Keenum struggled badly last year with the Rams as a QB who was keeping the seat warm for a young, hotshot QB. That was especially true in London, where he threw four interceptions to the Giants, one of which was so bad it could’ve been fair caught in the endzone. But so far in 2017 in purple, he has been quietly solid with 4 TD and no picks so far. But that trend can’t continue. Keenum is due for a regression to the mean, and that could happen this week. The Packers defense is at its best when it creates turnovers, and that is how they will win Sunday. With hopefully some confidence back, look for Damarious Randall to pick off a pass while Josh Hawkins does the same. Throw in a strip sack as well from Mike Daniels and Keenum give the ball away a trio of times that leads to a quieting of the horn.
1 Game Prediction
The Packers get to 5-1 with a 34-17 win over Minnesota——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.