Looking Ahead: Minnesota Vikings

After the mixed-bag game that resulted in Green Bay’s week one victory over the Chicago Bears, the Packers week-two matchup remains in the NFC North, as they host the Minnesota Vikings. With five of the team’s first seven matchups at home, winning on their home turf is imperative to put together a very successful 2019 season.

Looking at the Minnesota Vikings, they faced off against the Atlanta Falcons in their first game of the season in a matchup pitting two former NFC powerhouses against each other. Coming into the season, the Vikings’ offensive weapons were the talk of the town, but with their defense still being as dominant as ever, both sides of the ball are looking to help improve upon last season

Offense

With Dalvin Cook looking to be healthy and back to his dominant form, the team’s running game is in solid hands. What is not in good hands is the quarterback position, even though the club thought that signing Kirk Cousins would help alleviate all of those issues. 

One sign to show the team’s lack of confidence in Cousins: in the first half against the Falcons, Cousins only threw seven passes, a testament to the focus that they are putting on Cook and his lack of skill in the pocket. 

The $80 million dollar man is looking more like the $80 million dollar mistake for SKOL nation, as Cousins’ ineptitude to become more than a glorified game manager has hurt the Vikings on numerous occasions. 

What the Vikings do have going for them is their receiving core, as the 1-2 combination of Adam Thielen and Stefan Diggs creates all kinds of mismatches for the opposing defense, something that will create issues for the Green Bay secondary. Look for Jaire Alexander to most likely follow Thielen across the field, while Tony Brown and Kevin King will most likely combine to shadow Diggs.

The Vikings’ offensive line, seeming to always be a porous unit, can be exploited by the revamped front unit under Mike Pettine. Both of the Smith’s, Preston and ZaDarius, as well as Kenny Clark and rookie Rashan Gary, should be able to crunch the pocket on a regular basis on Sunday, making life even more difficult for Cousins in the pocket. 

Kyle Rudolph seems to always shred GB defensive units, so Pettine will need to use Darnell Savage Jr. or Raven Greene to make sure he does not split the defense like normal. Rookie Irv Smith Jr. may be a slight factor in the offensive attack for the Vikings as well.

Defense

The team was thought to be losing middle linebacker Eric Kendricks to the New York Jets in the offseason, but due to an apparent last-second change of heart, Kendricks resigned with Minnesota for less money than what the Jets were offering. Kendricks is the heart of this defense for head coach Mike Zimmer and Kendricks will remain their defensive play-caller in 2019.

Combining with Kendricks is Anthony Barr, and both players form one of the league’s best linebacker units. Their flexibility will make running the ball quite difficult unless the offensive line can get to the second level, so look for the team to try and shut down Minnesota’s linebackers before they become an issue.

For their defensive line, Danielle Hunter continues to wreak havoc in opponents’ backfields, and he is one of the game’s best defensive linemen. Both Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari will be tested early and often with Hunter moving around on the defensive front.

In the defensive backfield, Trae Wayans and Xavier Rhodes are the team’s top-two cornerbacks, with Mike Hughes and nickel specialist Mackenzie Alexander manning the cornerback ranks. Rhodes will most likely be on Davante Adams, but the other roles will most likely determine the outcome of the game.

As always, Harrison Smith leads the team from the strong safety position, and his ballhawk abilities will make Aaron Rodgers double and triple-check his reads.

Special Teams

The team signed Britton Colquitt this offseason to be the team’s punter, after they made a puzzling trade with the Baltimore Ravens, sending a fifth-round pick for Kaare Vedvik, who was a kicker and punter for the team who showed out in the preseason. Vedvik was very unimpressive after he was acquired, ultimately leading to him being cut.

The team’s kicker is Dan Bailey, who seems to have alleviated any kicking concerns that the team may have had after Daniel Carlson’s playoff woes. Bailey, the former Dallas Cowboys kicker, has been a steady kicker for the team and can be counted on in clutch situations.

Former Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah is returning punts and kicks for this team, and while he used to be dangerous, he seems to be more of an average return man. Abdullah has been with this team since 2018 when he returned kicks for the final seven games of last season.

While still a dominant team, the Vikings have certain areas of their team that can be picked apart. Their secondary is known to let up long passing drives, their offensive line has holes in it and outside of both Thielen and Diggs, their receiving core is not super depth.

The Packers will need to gameplan for yet another stout defensive front seven, but with how they managed their game on Thursday against the Bears, head coach Matt LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will need to conjure up an effective plan to focus on the shortcomings of this Vikings team.

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Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23

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