When only two weeks left in the regular season, many would have expected the Packers to fighting for the NFC’s only bye. But Packers-Vikings on Sunday will be yet another de facto elimination game for Green Bay. Fighting for their playoff lives, the Packers will return to the friendly confines of Lambeau Field to square off with the NFC North Champion Vikings. With Minnesota winning their first matchup in convincing fashion, a lot will have to change for the Packers to inch closer to the postseason.
The Vikings defense has struggled against the pass, but that shouldn’t allow Green Bay to abandon their running game. Especially with injuries at both tackle positions, they should try and slow down Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter by committing to the run. By keeping themselves out of obvious passing situations on third and longs, they can force the Vikings pass rush to be two dimensional. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion combined for only 15 carries in their Week 1 matchup, despite averaging 6.2 yards per carry. The Packers offense has been at it’s best this year when they’ve consistently ran the ball, and that should be their goal this week.
Last week’s game in Miami showed just how important it is for the Packers defense to create turnovers. For the season as a whole, the Packers are a middle of the road team with 20 total takeaways (14th in the NFL). But almost half of those have come in their current 3 game winning streak. Hopefully whatever motivation Jerry Gray gave the Packers’ DBs last week carries over against Kirk Cousins on Sunday. Cousins has taken more risks this year under Kevin O’Connell, and has offered up 11 interceptions on the season. The Packers are 4-1 this season when they have created more than one turnover.
Have a Plan for Justin Jefferson
I’m not saying Green Bay has to shut Jefferson down to win the game. But even just having a plan for him is a step up from whatever it was they did back in Week 1. Jefferson ran wild through the Packers secondary to the tune of 9 catches for 184 yards and 2 TD. But what was most frustrating was the degree at which he was open. He averaged 4.0 yards of separation on his 11 targets.
The Vikings utlized a lot of pre-snap motion to move Jefferson around, and to avoid matching him against Jaire Alexander. It’s not as simple as just allowing Jaire to follow him wherever he goes, but Joe Barry needs to try and make it tougher for Jefferson. Giving him free releases and not rerouting him as he runs across the field makes life much to easy for the Vikings offensively.——————
Jared is a rogue Packers fan from a Steelers family and an overall football junkie, including playing 4 years at Ithaca College. You can follow him on twitter at @JPrugar.