The Green Bay Packers (4-1) are coming to town on Sunday to close out a three-game divisional stretch for the Vikings (3-2). The Vikings defeated the Packers last season 17-14 in the US Bank Stadium opener after Aaron Rodgers threw an interception to Trae Waynes in the closing minutes to seal the deal. Since losing to Atlanta back in week 2, the Packers are on a 3 game winning streak after sneaking by the Bengals in overtime at home, defeating the Bears on Thursday Night Football, and shocking the Cowboys in the final seconds of last weeks game. So what do the Vikings need to do this season to ensure that they secure their second divisional win this week?
Slowing Down Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers career stats against the Vikings: 39 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 267 YPG, 112 QB Rating, and a record of 11-6.
It’s remarkable to think about just how good the Packers would actually be if Aaron Rodgers weren’t at the helm. The guy literally keeps his team in games single-handedly week after week. Love him or hate him Vikings fans…we are currently witnessing, arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history (from a pure talent standpoint) in his prime. The accuracy on his throws, the strength of his arm, his talent to extend plays, and his ability to read defenses and still make great throws against some of the greatest defenders in the game are not of this world or of anything like we’ve ever seen. So how do you stop him? You can’t stop Aaron Rodgers…you can only hope to slow him down. Green Bay’s offensive line has taken a beating through the first five games of the season. Some key guys like Don Barclay, Jason Spriggs, and Kyle Murphy have all been reverted to injured reserve for the remainder of the season and starting tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga have also seen their fair share of the sideline this season. Of course, that’s changing this week. Bulaga has returned already and Bakhtiari is back at practice, which means he’ll likely suit up Sunday.
Pressure is obviously the key to almost any quarterback’s weakness and the Vikings will have to knock Rodgers around a little bit if they hope to get off the field. But the key to this game on the defensive end for the Vikings is to CONTAIN Rodgers. Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, and Brian Robison will have to keep Rodgers from escaping the pocket and allowing him to extend plays with his legs. As we ‘ve seen in the past, that’s when he’s at his deadliest. Xavier Rhodes may be one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but even he can only cover a guy for so long. The Vikings defense has had an above average increase in their run defense so far this season and if they can continue to play well and take away Green Bay’s run game, that will force the Packers offense to become one dimensional. Will that secure a win? No. Will it increase a chance of victory? Absolutely.
3 Keys to Victory
- Don’t commit stupid penalties. The Vikings have done it a numerous amount of times already this season. Committing penalties that kill offensive drives or committing penalties that sustain defensive drives and prevent us from getting off the field.There isn’t a QB in the league that’s better than Aaron Rodgers at getting defenses to jump offsides or bite on a snap count. There also isn’t a QB that’s better at taking advantage of a free play or drawing pass interference calls than Aaron Rodgers. Competing the Packers is already a tall enough challenge. The Vikings can’t afford to kick themselves in the butt with senseless penalties in this game. Mike Zimmer must demand discipline from his team. A numerous amount of boneheaded errors against the Packers will almost surely result in a loss.
- The offense must show up this week. The Vikings usually rely heavily on their defense to win football games for them. Playing productive defense against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers is obviously something that must take place but the Packers are built to score points one way or another. The Vikings offense needs to put together four full quarters this week and play a balanced game of both passing and running the football. The offense failed to produce against the Lions a few weeks ago and they can’t afford to do that again this week. If the Vikings offense is forced to play catch up the entire game then it will be over quickly.
- Win in the trenches. Green Bay is likely getting back David Bakhtiari back this week, which is a big-time bonus of the Packers. Lane Taylor who normally plays Guard was forced to move outside and protect Aaron Rodgers’ blind side last week due to the inactive depth on Green Bay’s offensive line. Bakhtiari is back but how rusty will he be? Slowing down a red-hot Everson Griffen isn’t an ideal matchup for a return to the field. I’m confident the Vikings defensive line will win the battle up front against Green Bay’s offensive line this week. It’s a huge divisional game and “the Bank” will be rocking. Vikings fans are the key holders to the Minnesota defense and I have faith they’ll be generating plenty of energy this week. On the flipside, a matchup between the Vikings offensive line and the Packers defensive line is a bit more unpredictable. Vikings left guard Nick Easton injured his calf on Monday and it looks as if he’ll be doubtful for Sunday’s game. Former Nebraska Cornhusker Jeremiah Sirles will likely replace Easton on the offensive line that’s going up against a respectable Packers D-line led by Pro Bowler Mike Daniels. The Vikings will need to run the ball well again this week if they hope to open up some passing lanes for Case Keenum. Most games are won in the trenches and I consider that particularly true for this divisional matchup.
Zachary Jacobson who covers the Packers for @CheeseheadTV was kind enough to answer a few questions for me this week, regarding Sunday’s game. You can follow Mr. Jacobson on Twitter at —> @ZachAJacobson
1. Sam Bradford is clearly not healthy. How does Green Bay view Case Keenum and with the season he’s been having do you view him as a possible threat with the injuries Green Bay sustained in the secondary last week in Dallas? It’ll be Case Keenum’s first career game starting against the Packers, so there’s not much to expect in terms of familiarity. Matt Barkley had his way with the Packers’ secondary late last season, but of course, that’s an entirely different scenario in an entirely different environment. Keenum has the home crowd on his side, and that’s huge in US Bank Stadium. With or without Kevin King (concussion), the Packers will give him some big plays, but nothing too extravagant. That’s where their safety depth on the back end comes into play. Even without Morgan Burnett (hamstring), the Packers have more depth at safety than any other position on their roster, so the lack of Burnett — if he can’t play — shouldn’t be too significant. However, he is the reason why the Packers are able to be so versatile with their nitro package.
2. Xavier Rhodes has locked down every opponent he’s faced this season, including some big name guys like Antonio Brown and Mike Evans. Do you expect Aaron Rodgers to contest him often this week? I know for certain Trae Waynes is going to see a few long passes come his way, just for the sake of drawing defensive pass interference penalties. Aaron Rodgers won’t shy away from Xavier Rhodes, but if the match-up is right, he’ll go his way early and often. Davante Adams, whose explosiveness off the line has seemingly improved year by year, could create a nice option in the short passing game if lined up on Rhodes, especially if Rhodes is playing man.
3. Aaron Jones played a great game in Dallas last weekend. Do you expect him to split touches with Ty Montgomery this Sunday? I personally don’t think Ty Montgomery plays on Sunday. With how potent the Packers’ backfield is looking right now and rib injuries being pretty significant due to the fact that internal injury chances are increased, there should be no reason to rush Montgomery back into action, even whether or not he’s wearing a protective Kevlar vest. Aaron Jones should get a good majority of the carries.
4. Give me a key matchup in this game that you’re looking forward to. A key matchup that I’m looking forward to would be the Packers’ makeshift offensive line up against the Vikings’ very, very good defensive front. I love Danielle Hunter and I love Everson Griffen. I just don’t love when they’re playing at such a high level and could take advantage of an O-line that may very well be without left tackle David Bakhtiari. If the Packers have to move Lane Taylor from left guard out to Bakhtiari’s spot at left tackle, that could be something the Vikings try to expose, especially a defensive-minded coach like Mike Zimmer. It all depends on whether or not the Packers enter the game with all five offensive line pieces. Otherwise, it could be a long day for Rodgers.
5. One Vikings prediction. One Packers prediction. Final score prediction.
Vikings prediction: Keenum has himself a day, throwing for over 300 yards.
Packers prediction: The Packers’ defense stands tall in the red zone; while those 300 yards are nice, they’ll keep Keenum and co. out of the end zone.
Final score: GB – 34 MIN – 20
Green Bay Packers Offensive & Defensive Rankings
Total Offense: 16th Total Defense: 11th
Passing: 11th Pass Defense: 6th
Rushing: 22nd Rush Defense: 22nd
Offensive Line Rank: 31st (19 Sacks Allowed) Pass Rush Rank: 19th
- Going off of some of Zach’s statements, I do believe that Case Keenum will have a fairly good game on Sunday. Probably not 300 yards passing, but he should be a serviceable piece for the Minnesota offense. Green Bay’s secondary is having some injury issues and it sounds like rookie CB Kevin King (concussion) and S Morgan Burnett (hamstring) are both unlikely to play this week. This should help Keenum and the Minnesota wideouts out a little bit.
- Whether or not Packers LT David Bakhtiari is able to go or not is going to be huge for both teams. Bakhtiari is back at practice this week and participating in drills. If he’s good to go, the Green Bay offense should see a jump in both the run and passing game this week. If not? Well…Aaron Rodgers better watch his back if Lane Taylor is tasked with the assignment of blocking Everson Griffen.
- There’s no question that this is a BIG game for the Vikings. Anytime you can win a divisional game you gain some leverage…especially when those wins come against the Packers. The Vikings host Baltimore and travel to London to take on the Browns before their bye week in week 9. If Minnesota does fall short this week they still have a good chance of heading into the bye week at 5-3 with three more divisional games coming up. In a banged up NFC, 9 wins might be good enough to secure a wild-card bid to the playoffs. I know what you’re thinking. Let’s take this one game at a time. But I can’t help think about the playoffs when the Vikings are playing a divisional foe like Green Bay. It’s an excellent test to see where the team is at amongst the NFC. But for now, let’s #BeatGreenBay. #NoPackNo
My Vikings prediction: Trae Waynes 3 pass interference penalties.
My Packers prediction: Aaron Rodgers throws for 280 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.
My score prediction: Vikings-29 Packers-24
For all the latest Vikings news, stats, and breakdowns you can follow me on Twitter at —> @Purple_Post. #SKOL