The Place for Packer Fans With Dave Sinykin: Packers Vs. VikingsPosted:Oct 31st, 2020 7:52 pm
It's kind of amazing to consider the two disparate directions the Packers and Vikings have taken in the last eight weeks. Entering the season, they were both considered division favorites. Many believed the Vikings would take the division, with the Pack due for a regression after all the close wins last year and their good luck with injuries.
Well here we are. It's week 8 and I can't recall when there's been less buzz for a Border Battle in the 25+ years I've lived here. At 1-5, Minnesota's post-season dreams are toast and there's the very real chance that they will unload one or two veterans before Tuesday's trade deadline.
That said, Zimmer is a proud dude and you know he's fuming about the state of his team. I expect he reminded Gary Kubiak that the starting QB has already thrown ten picks, and while he put up good fantasy numbers in the season opener, most came in garbage time. Add in the gusting 25-30 MPH winds expected on a day in the mid-30s, and the offensive game plan will and should revolve around Dalvin Cook, who's expected back from his groin injury. Long, extended drives on a cold, windy day and keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field as much as possible is the blueprint to stay in the game.
The Pack has been better than expected against the run so far, and the emergence of Kamal Martin, along with improvement across the line, provides hope that the Pack can keep Cook in check. He's usually good for at least one explosive play per game. The Pack has to own first down, to put Cousins in spots where he takes chances and makes mistakes on passing plays.
It seems that Jaire Alexander usually shadows Adam Thielen. I wonder if the Pack switches that up and puts the shutdown corner on emerging rookie Justin Jefferson. He's the more likely target considering the weather conditions, as he runs a lot of shorter routes, while Thielen goes downfield. With Kevin King out again, Josh Jackson has a chance to take another big step to being a part of this team's future. He played his best game last week in a tough spot and will need to be just as good in this one.
Things are far less fuzzy when the Pack has the ball. With three of their top four cornerbacks out, there should be mismatches all over the field. The Vikes' top three corners have a played a total of six games. In their careers. Does first round pick Jeff Gladney get Davante Adams? Does it matter? Zimmer's defense will no doubt double team him whenever possible and try to force Rodgers to look elsewhere.
If MVS and ESB can't make big plays in this game, even with the wind, they don't have futures with this team. Robert Tonyan is healthier than he's been in the past week or two and Jamaal Williams should also be featured prominently in the passing game. The Vikes are liable to gamble with the blitz a lot, knowing that their corners are over-matched. Williams will be a valuable safety net for Rodgers.
With Aaron Jones out again, Williams will be the work horse. I do expect AJ Dillon to get more touches than last week, but Williams was a beast last week and the whole team seems to feed off his energy. There should be plenty of opportunities for production in the run game: the injury and COVID bug have hit the linebacker group. As for Jones, I have a feeling if the Pack's next game was next Sunday, he would have played in this one. With the quick turn-around of a Thursday night road game, against the 49ers, I think asking him and his calf to be ready to play back to back would be a lot to ask. Just a hunch.
As I write this on Saturday afternoon, the Packers did not add a kicker to the roster, so it looks like Mason Crosby and his calf injury will be good to go. The other two injuries to keep an eye are David Bakhtiari and Tyler Ervin. Yes, Billy Turner was more than adequate as a fill in at left tackle last week, I'll always feel a whole lot better when Bakhtiari is out there.
As for Ervin, with the windy conditions, coupled with the fact that I expect the Vikings to punt a lot, I worry about a backup punt returner dealing with the wind. Turnovers are the only way I see the Vikes having a chance to spring the upset, and I don't expect the offense to give up the ball. It would be nice to have the reliable, sure-handed Ervin back in there to handle returns, and be the gadget player on offense.
All that said, I don't see a path to victory for the Purple if Rodgers finishes the game. The Vikings are a proud team and have had two weeks to lick their wounds from the Falcons debacle and put some wrinkles into their offense that the Packers haven't seen. It may be close for a half and into the third quarter. But LaFleur's first NFC North loss will not be coming on this day. The Pack controls their own NFC playoff destiny as the current top seed with ten weeks to go. Yes, that's an eternity and a lot of things can happen between now and then. Losing to this Purple roster is not one of those things.
Packers 34 Vikings 21