The Green Bay Packers are facing off against the division rival Minnesota Vikings this Sunday night on New Year’s Eve. Both teams are vying for playoff spots and both teams currently sit at 7-8.
The Vikings currently hold the tiebreaker over the Packers due to a 24-10 Vikings victory at Lambeau Field back in October. However this ultimately won’t matter as this upcoming contest will essentially serve as an elimination game for the team that loses, meaning there is a clean slate between these two teams as they both need to win out to be in the postseason conversation.
The Packers of course need either the Rams or the Seahawks to lose one more game as well, but their postseason hopes start with winning in Minnesota, so let’s discuss just how they can pull that off.
Love Must Stay Upright
Back in week 8 the Vikings were able to keep pressure on Jordan Love all day long, sacking him a total of four times and keeping him mostly in-check in the passing game. Love played a mostly clean game (his one INT came on a beautiful pass downfield on 3rd and 8 that was ripped from the hands of Jayden Reed) but the pressure up front was ultimately his worst enemy during this matchup.
We all know the Vikings love to blitz, and we all know that they’ll do it plenty on Sunday night, it needs to be countered. A steady dose of quick passes, slashing runs from Aaron Jones, and a few play action shots downfield is the simple game plan Head Coach Matt Lafleur needs to commit to.
The Offense Will Need Long Sustained Scoring Drives
Let’s give it up for Joe Barry’s defense. In the past few weeks this defensive unit has turned from “almost maybe promising” with the emergence of rookies Carrington Valentine and Lucas Van Ness as well as wins against the Lions and Chiefs, to “I can’t believe we gave up a combined 54 points to Tommy Devito and Bryce Young.” The truth is that this defensive unit cannot be trusted to hold any offense to 20 or fewer points right now without considerable help from the offense. The Packers will need to continuously sustain drives and score points to keep the Vikings offense on the bench as often as possible.
The Vikings offense will be missing a few notable players from their week 8 win over the Packers. QB Kirk Cousins of course went down with a season ending Achilles injury during that contest. TE T.J. Hockenson, who had six catches for 88 yards and a TD in week 8, will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL. Rookie WR Jordan Addison, who had seven catches for 82 yards and a TD in that game, is currently being reported on as “day-to-day” with what was at first considered a relatively serious ankle injury and he will be questionable to play.
All this is to say that Justin Jefferson will be on the field this time around anyway, and there’s no lack of surrounding talent that can convince me he won’t be trouble for Joe Barry’s defense all night long.
Unfortunately, I have no defensive keys to victory. Maybe get a turnover or two? I hate to say it but Jordan Love is already getting to see all the bad parts of being the QB of the Green Bay Packers. He and a banged up offense will need to score a ton against a team that previously held his unit to 10 points.
This is of course a different game than week 8, and these teams are very different at this point in the season. Luckily for the Packers Jordan Love is 2-0 in games where he’s facing an opponent for a second time (those two wins being the Lions and Chiefs).
Unfortunately, I don’t see the defense being able to contain Justin Jefferson in big moments, and I don’t see the Packers maintaining sustainable drives against pressure from the Vikings front. I have the Vikings winning this game 26-20 and the Packers falling squarely out of the playoff race.——————
Zack is a college student and cheesehead from California. When he’s not in class or writing, you can find him talking about the Packers on Twitter at @Zack_Upchurch.