Can Pack Stay Hot? Take It to the Bank.Posted:Nov 21st, 2014 4:03 pm
It's Vikings week, where we in Minnesota always have a little extra at stake. In the 20 years I've lived here, I've taken many the hard climb up the steps from the lower section at the Metrodome, listening to the jeering of Vikings fans after another Favre-era loss.
Lately, there hasn't been much jeering. Outside of the meaningless 2012 Ponder-led finale, the Pack has been in solid control in this series and they come into this game riding a wave unlike any we've ever seen.
But one thing we know about the NFL: you can't take any game for granted--especially division games (are you listening Kansas City?). While the Vikings are going nowhere this season, they still feel the burn of last month's 42-10 prime time shellacking and will be focused and ready to show the gap between the teams isn't that wide.
But the startling lack of offensive firepower for the Purple makes it hard to believe they'll be able to keep up with the Pack, meaning they'll likely need some help from special teams or the rare Packer turnover. They have no healthy running backs, except for Ben Tate, who they claimed on waivers a couple of days ago. He may be forced to play, with Matt Asiata out and Jerick McKinnon banged up. He's shown ability when filling in for Arian Foster in Houston the last couple of years ago. But is he ready to handle pass protection duties against Dom Capers' unpredictable looks?
Teddy Bridgewater makes his first start against the Pack and to give you an idea of who he has to throw to, former Packer Charles Johnson may start. Greg Jennings has been out all week with a rib injury and Jarius Wright (hamstring) is out as well. Cordarelle Patterson has been a non-factor in the passing game, but expect Norv to try to find ways to get the ball in his hands somehow. I mean, who else is there? Tight end Kyle Rudolph returned against the Bears, but his snaps were limited and he doesn't appear anywhere near 100%.
The Packers defense appears to have the clear upper hand in this matchup. If Clay Matthews' groin tightens up and Nick Perry doesn't play, it will force others to step up, but on a cold day with an inexperienced QB, I don't see the Vikings marching up and down the field very often. The pass rush should disrupt Teddy all day and force him to check down, and with the team's inability to stretch the field, the safeties will set up camp within ten yards of the line of scrimmage and look to wreak some havoc.
Offensively, the Pack has been the London Philharmonic lately. You may remember it took a while to get going in the first matchup, with five three and outs. In that game, one big play to Jordy Nelson and then a couple of quick picks allowed the Packers to downshift and coast to an easy victory. Aaron Rodgers passed for 150ish yards in that one. I'm guessing he eclipses that total on Sunday. The Vikes will try to take Nelson away with a safety shading his way. That will open up opportunities for Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. Whoever is lucky enough to see Josh Robinson across the line will be smiling like Rodgers was last weekend.
The running game should also have its way--the Vikings are in the lower third in run defense and will be forced to try to slow the Lacy-Starks combo without the benefit of having eight guys in the box.
I'm interested to see the split of Vikings-Packer fans at the Bank. Wouldn't surprise me to see/hear a near 50-50 split. If the Pack figures out its special teams errors of a week ago and takes care of the ball, I don't see how the Vikings make it interesting. Chances are, a few bounces will go their way, which may keep Wayne Larrivee from giving the dagger until the 2:00 hour.
Packers 27 Vikings 13