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Packers vs. Vikings: Things You Could Watch and a Prediction

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Packers vs. Vikings: Things You Could Watch and a Prediction

Rarely over the last seven years have the Green Bay Packers (7-4) been punched in the mouth quite like they were Sunday night in New York.

In fact, counting Sunday's 38-10 loss to the Giants, the Packers have only lost six total games in the Mike McCarthy era by more than three touchdowns. Three came in 2006, McCarthy's first season, and the last came in New Orleans in 2008 (51-29). The 28-point deficit Sunday was McCarthy's worst loss since a 35-7 loss in Chicago in 2007.

When the Minnesota Vikings (6-5) make the short trip east Sunday, the Packers will have the much-needed opportunity to pick themselves back up off the canvas. Avoiding a 10-count won't be the only thing on the line, however.

The matchup will also mark the start of an important stretch of NFC North games that is likely decide who is the division champion, who is a likely NFC Wildcard winner and who's on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

The Packers, now second to the Chicago Bears (8-3) in the division, play three-straight games within the NFC North, including Minnesota Sunday, Detroit in Week 14 and at Chicago a week later.

How Green Bay fares in those three games will likely set the path for each of the three teams to finish the 2012 season. As it stands now, the Bears are the front runner for the division, Packers for the wildcard slot and the Vikings as the outsider. A Minnesota win Sunday shuffles that balance.

Here are some other things you could watch Sunday:

Protection Issues

As is the case in any problem that lingers in the NFL, the Packers' issue in protecting the passer is multi-faceted. If it involved just one single area that needed fixing, the problem would already be solved.

Personnel, play-calling, individual execution, quarterback decision-making and separation from receivers have all played a factor in Aaron Rodgers being sacked an NFL-high 37 times this season.

Improving in one area can help another, such as play-calling helping out personnel issues and execution helping even out play-calling. We know the personnel isn't changing, but the rest can and need to have improvement over the final five weeks.

The Vikings bring capable pass rushers to Lambeau Field Sunday, including Jared Allen (seven sacks), Brian Robison (5.5) and Kevin Williams (two). But this isn't the same kind of defensive line as those possessed by the Lions and Giants, both elite units in the top tier of the NFL. McCarthy must walk the fine line of adjusting and over-adjusting Sunday.

Kill the Head and the Body Will Die?

An encouraging start from quarterback Christian Ponder has given way to what can only be considered as a very disappointing second season for the Vikings quarterback. Since Week 6, Ponder has finished five of six games with a passer rating under 75.0, and his overall season rating of 82.0 ranks 24th in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks. In two of the aforemetioned games, Ponder finished with less than 100 yards passing—a rather shocking development in this day and age of professional football.

Ponder's struggles in the passing game make containing (note the word usage, "stopping" was not mentioned) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson the most important task for the Packers defense Sunday. But even containing Peterson has been a difficult assignment in 2012.

Peterson, despite undergoing reconstructive knee surgery in January, has rattled off five-straight games with 100 or more rushing yards, tying the Vikings' franchise record. The All-Pro is averaging 112.4 yards a game and 5.8 yards a carry, both of which would set new career highs.

Not having Clay Matthews and C.J. Wilson will compound the difficulty of the task of stopping Peterson Sunday. To adjust, the Packers have to match power with power in the box and trust that a young secondary can control a passing game that has struggled mightily over the last two months.

Welcome Back

The emergence of Randall Cobb has helped ease the loss of Greg Jennings for the better part of the last six games. But for as good as Cobb has been, the return of a Pro Bowl receiver like Jennings can still have the kind of impact that ripples throughout the rest of the offense.

Having the Vikings on the opposing sidelines should be music to Jennings' ears, too. In 12 career games against Minnesota, Jennings has tallied 798 yards and eight touchdowns—his most in either category against an opposing team.

While Jennings may not play a full game's worth of snaps, watch Sunday for one or two of his patented comeback routes. The Packers offense has been mostly void of one of Rodgers' favorite throws, really since Jennings hurt his knee late in the 2011 season. It's a bread-and-butter route for Jennings that the two players have mostly perfected.

Fair Injury Tradeoff?

While the Packers will likely be without linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) for a third-straight game, the Vikings are looking more and more like they won't have Percy Harvin (ankle) available Sunday. Impact-wise, the tradeoff might be a wash.

Matthews (nine sacks) is the Packers' best pass rusher and hardest worker against the run, but Harvin has been responsible for 1,347 total yards and five touchdowns in nine games for the Vikings this season. His role as a receiver and runner can't be understated for Minnesota's offense, and it's no coincidence that Ponder's struggles in the passing game have coincided with Harvin's lack of availability. Harvin may also be the game's best kick returner. Not having him available is as big a loss to Minnesota as Matthews would be for Green Bay.

Key Matchup: Packers RT T.J. Lang vs. Vikings LDE Brian Robison

Marshall Newhouse vs. Jared Allen is obviously important, but the Packers know he's a handful and you can live with losing a few battles against one of the NFL's top rushers. Things get sticky, however, when more than one passer rusher is consistently winning his one-on-one matchups.

Last season, the Packers didn't allow that to happen with Robison. In two games, the Vikings defensive end had just three total hurries and zero sacks. But that was with Bryan Bulaga anchoring the right side, which obviously isn't in the cards Sunday.

Lang, who will make his third start at right tackle, needs to handle Robison with similar effectiveness. In two games, he's really struggled handling the edge and getting his arms on athletic defensive ends. If the Packers have to provide both Newhouse and Lang help for long stretches, this offense could really get handcuffed.

Prediction

15 of the last 19 meetings between these two teams have been within a touchdown or less, so the safe bet here is a close game that comes down to a late stop or turnover. But if there's anything we know about Mike McCarthy and the Packers, it's that adversity fuels his team's best performances. All week, this team has heard that the sky is falling; that the butt-kicking they received Sunday was more than just a fluke. But you get a feeling that the Packers knew taking care of business in the four division games to end 2012 was vastly more important than beating the Giants on the road last week. And while Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen can be great equalizers, the Vikings are a struggling football team with big holes on both sides of the football. The Packers turn it back on Sunday to win their 10th straight game over the NFC North.

Packers 34, Vikings 18 (Season record: 6-5)

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (56) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

keeley2's picture

Living in Minneapolis, I am absolutely astounded by the "mask of false bravado" Viking fans are putting on this week. Ponder has no weapons to throw to and tends to make bad decisions under pressure. Matthews or not, Green Bay wins this one in a walk.

lebowski's picture

I'd like to think we can handle this one easily, but the thought of Hawk riding piggy-back on Peterson for 8 yards is giving me pause. Man, do I wish we had Bishop and Matthews again. Crap.

Beep's picture

It's sad how easy it is to imagine #50 being carried along for a ride. Hopefully he can hang on just long enough for someone to step up and strip Peterson once or twice.

IowaPackFan's picture

It would be funny to see some fan art of Hawk getting a piggy back ride from Peterson.

fubared's picture

Its too bad we didn't cut this loser two years ago when we had the chance. He sucks

KennyPayne's picture

Hawk has always been way overpaid for his extremely limited production. Even this year, which until recently was one of his "best", he has not created turnovers. Next year his really big $ kicks in. Would be a shame to overpay again for Hawk and let a difference maker like Jennings walk.

fubared's picture

I must watch the Vikings every week living in Minnesota so I've seen both teams a lot this year. Here's my take based on where these teams are right now talent wise:
The Vikes pass rush is as good as the Giants. Rogers must get rid of the ball and the passing game has to start to use the middle of the field and run shorter routes. If we try and play the same game on offense we did against the Giants, I see similar outcomes. MM better have changed things up or else.
Ponder hasn't been spectacular with the arm strength but they have designed a west coast offense around the tight ends and its fairly effective using short dunk passes of 8 yards that Ponder is capable or making. In other words they are taking what the defenses have been giving up, the short middle of the field.
Because of this success, The Vikes can keep a defense on the field a long time, wearing them down by the third quarter, then running Pederson more. Thats when he gets his best yardage.
The Vikes defensive backs have been healthy this year and with two new rookies playing tough have improved pass defense a lot. They seem to be faily good tacllers as well.
If the Vikes can get an early lead and take the fans out of the game, and rely on their defense, I see a Vike victory. If the Packers go to a slot receiver and short passing game and using the run effectively, I see the Pack eeking out a victory.
However, I just think overall the Vikes have more talent right now and win by 12.

CSS's picture

"The Vikes pass rush is as good as the Giants."

Not even close. Half of the Vikings sacks are coming from the back seven, not their front four. Even then, they're middle of the league in total sacks and even further back when you factor in pressures and hits. The Bears line shut them out last week. Worst offensive line in the NFL shut them down. Their inconsistent, at best.

"Ponder hasn’t been spectacular with the arm strength.."

Lay off the pipe. They don't stretch the field vertically because he has a pop-gun for an arm. Nothing to do with WCO.

Someones sock-puppet, or an awesome concern troll? Can't tell....

cow42's picture

While everything else you say may be true... the "Worst offensive line in the NFL" resides in Green Bay, WI.

CSS's picture

Ok, make your case since you've watched the other lines play. Give me the players on the following offensive lines that you would take over the current Packers starters:

Arizona, Chicago, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Detroit, Oakland, Tennessee.

Go through each group and tell me who, and why?

cow42's picture

37 sacks (most in NFL).

Nope - I'll just stick to the group as a whole, thankyouverymuch...

55% of pass plays last week Rodgers was "under duress".

10th highest % of "duress/drop back" in NFL.

Tied 4th worst average yards per carry rushing (3.8).

That's pretty f'n bad.

CSS's picture

Cow can google stats, check (and for the record, the stats you regurgitated don't have them dead last).

So, you're conceding this is an extended temper tantrum and haven't watched other offensive lines even play?

Tommyboy's picture

cow - would you mind doing something? Could you rank the following on a scale from 1 - 32? 1 being best in the NFL to 32 being the worst? Just roughly give me your assessment of each:

Head Coach -
Def. Coordinator -
QB -
O-line -
Receivers/Tight Ends -
D-line -
Linebackers -
Secondary -
Special Teams -

cow42's picture

Head Coach - 7
Def. Coordinator - 13
QB - 4
O-line - 32
Receivers/Tight Ends - 6
D-line - 15
Linebackers - 13
Secondary - 10
Special Teams - ?

Tommyboy's picture

Ok. Well, while I don't agree with your list, I also wouldn't say that it departs that far from what I'd say. I guess it's just surprising as you appear to be all doom and gloom and very little confidence they make the playoffs.

...Aaron Rodgers is the 4th best qb in the league? I would have thought you'd give him more than that if he's also got the 32nd ranked o-line.

Oh well, honestly, I won't rag on you for your rankings. I can't say mine would depart that far from yours.

cow42's picture

CSS -

"Cow can google stats, check (and for the record, the stats you regurgitated don’t have them dead last).

So, you’re conceding this is an extended temper tantrum and haven’t watched other offensive lines even play?"

Use stats you'll bash me.

Don't use stats you'll bash me.

And i don't think it's necessary to rank dead last in all categories in order to be considered dead last overall.

CSS's picture

Didn't post my real question, but you answered it nonetheless. Thanks.

cow42's picture

"Didn’t post my real question, but you answered it nonetheless. Thanks."

Damn! Yup - you got me. I haven't watched all of the Olines in the NFL (which I'm quite sure you have).

Due to the fact that I have clearly not done enough Oline study, I must retract my "Worst line in the NFL" statement.

I'll just go with "They suck f'n a$$". Don't need stats or knowledge of other olines for that one.

murphy's picture

Funny, reading fubared's post I was thinking "man, if cow has an alt, this is it". A slightly less pessimistic alt.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

cow42: Sacks and pressures can not be attributed to solely the offensive line. The quarterback's decision to hold the ball longer than necessary and the play selection for specific situations contribute to those stats. But since you want to rely only on stats then you must believe the Charger defense is vastly superior to the Ravens because the Chargers only give up 91 yards rushing per game and the Ravens give up 128 and rank near the bottom of the league. Stats are fine when used in context.

CSS's picture

He doesn't do nuance, that would command too many alternatives to a problem or solution. Sucks. Don't suck.

cow42's picture

or maybe the chargers DO have a better rush defense than the ravens.

looks like it to me.

POC - you're like the smartest football guy on the planet. no joke. i realize how little i know every time i read anything you post.

if you can tell me that the Packers' Oline is not horrible, I will believe you and shut my mouth... otherwise - why are people jumping down my throat for just stating what seems to be the obvious?

fubared's picture

actually the real problem is the Vikes linebackers are heads above the giants and they will stop the short routes and the running game. Vikes by 12 baby

Point Packer's picture

Whatever happens on Sunday, the Vikings are a s*#& franchise.

Jamie's picture

I didn't read your take based on your idiotic post about Hawk. I'm sure it sucked hard

Walty's picture

Not knowing the proper spelling of the name of your QB doesn't convince me that you know what you're talking about.

cow42's picture

Can't score points when you don't have the ball.
That will be the problem in this game.

Peterson may or may not "go off" but he will most definitely allow the Vikings to control time of possession.

The Packers will have to be ultra-efficient with their limited possessions... something they have not been good at for a while.

Penalties, offensive line break downs, poor play calling, and dropped passes (all calling cards of this year's version of the Packer offense) lead to a 13 point output.
----
The defense will have no answer for Peterson. He is an elite player. The Packer defense has no one who can match his level of play.
He is physical - they are not.

When the Vikings do have to pass... well - the Packers seem to have a magical way of making crappy quarterbacks (not named Cutler) look like all pros. Ponder throws for 300. Sounds ridiculous, I know - but deep down you all know it's VERY possible. Would not be out of character for a Capers-led defense AT ALL.

Packers have the ball with a chance to win... but an inopportune sack leads to a 2nd or 3rd and long which results in a Rodgers' pick (probably bounces off a receiver's/tight end's hands).

17-13 Vikings.

After this game everyone will stop thinking of the Packers as a "sleeping giant" and realize what they actually are... a great quarterback surrounded by mediocre talent.

I predict come next Tuesday, we'll begin to see a lot of articles being written about...

-What to do with McCarthy's "stubbornness".
-Who might be candidates for the Packers' next D-coordinator.
-First round draft options.

Chad Toporski's picture

Cow, I think I'm going to dub you the "anti-homer."

Denver's picture

Cow does seem to be a glass-with-nary-a-drop kind of guy.

Rocky70's picture

The truth is simple. I've seen almost all the Vike's games this season. If AP continues his rushing exploits (as he has all season), GB is in trouble (even at home). Someone on GB's "D" needs to step up. It may not happen. That old adage is simple. Run the ball & stop the run. At this point, can GB do either?

I fear it will all fall on AR's shoulders, again. (GB is going back to the Farve days, except the name is now Rodgers).

Tundraboy's picture

This is one game where who knows what will happen. It will be interesting thats for sure. Maybe someone will emerge this week. Green? Starks, anyone?

Nerdmann's picture

The Giants were fresh from a bye week AND playing at home. Not so with the Queens.

We got this.

If Aaron can get the ball out in under 8 seconds, that will greatly enhance the offense.

I'd also like to see some misdirection, traps, draws, screens. Utilize Green's skill set.

Plus, Jennings will make a few plays. He'll be on a pitch count, but he'll get a couple first downs.

Let them run the ball with Apete. This is a passing league. BEND BUT DON'T BREAK, BABY!

Chad Toporski's picture

The Packers are playing at Lambeau, remember. The O-line has a much harder time on the road than at home.

Without Kyle Rudolph and Percy Harvin, the Vikings become severely one-dimensional on offense.

cow42's picture

Yup - that oline looked pretty sweet against the 49'ers and Bears.

Chad Toporski's picture

Again cow... Things don't have to be all or nothing, best or worst, great or horrible. There are grey areas.

Chad Toporski's picture

BTW, Mr. Stat...

The Packers line has given up an average of 9 pressures and 1.8 sacks per game at home.

They have given up an average of 12.8 pressures and 3.5 sacks per game on the road.

That's almost twice as many sacks on the road as opposed to at home.

fubared's picture

Rudolph is playing in case you didn't here and I would not be shocked if harvin plays. There is no tomorrow for the Vikes

Mojo's picture

You are correct sir. There is no tomorrow for the Vikes.

Chad Toporski's picture

Wow... I'm a little surprised since he was a DNP on Wed. and a LP on Thurs. Thanks for the heads-up, though.

Harvin looks like he's still doubtful...

Derek's picture

Can you say "nine in the box"?

Denver's picture

Really looking forward to seeing #85 out there again. Sure can't hurt what has been ailing them.

woodson4president's picture

Fubared......vikes have more talent? Umm are u high? Wake n bake?

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

+1

fubared's picture

Woodson, are you nuts. The vikes actually have pass rushers, linebackers who can tackle, a fabulous running and kicking game and special teams. The passing game is second to the packers but only if Rogers has time to pass.

The Vikes have out drafted the Packers for years.
Perry? what did he do when he was in? Worthy, is living up to his reputation, missing in action in many games in college

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

"The Vikes have out drafted the Packers for years."

You dirty dog, you had me going for a sec... Well played! That quote gave it away though friend... That you were yanking our chain that is.

murphy's picture

"The Vikes have out drafted the Packers for years."

Sorry, but this really made my day. Seriously, Cow-ed Up Beyond All Recognition (CUBARed), keep them coming.

fubared's picture

Woodson, last week on this board I predicted the Giants by 28. This week Vikes by 12. Well see who knows what

murphy's picture

You might be right this week. You might be the American football reincarnation of Paul the Octopus.

You might also be a stopped clock.

Rocky70's picture

Zach,
I implore you to change your final score (34-18) prediction. In 534 chances in season 2011 only 3 times were 18 points scored by any team. Based on last season, there is only a .56% chance that the Vikes score 18 points on Sunday.

Another change you may want to consider. GB has only scored 30+ points in a game 3 times this entire season (30,31,42). That's only 3 out of 11 games. It's doubtful they surpass 30 aganst the Vikes.

Final: GB 27 --- Vikes 17. --- Take it to the bank.

woodson4president's picture

Fub....they have a better rb n oline. That's all. Their defense has decent players up front but the backend isn't very good. GB has a decent front and a damn good young secondary. U put our receivers in there and that gives us the advantage.

cow42's picture

receivers are irrelevant when your quarterback is on his back.

woodson4president's picture

Irrelevant? Tell that to old spice.

cow42's picture

don't even get me started on the level of ply displayed by all of the Packers who have started to do big time commercials...

rodgers/raji
matthews
jennings

ouch.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

The GREEN BAY PACKERS are giving up 9... They cover. There's my prediction.

GBP 4 LIFE

woodson4president's picture

Hope ur right. N cow.......its a fathead bighead.....its just a big awesome face.

steven's picture

Packers win. And cow whats good players have been drafted? Ted drafted rodgers, collins, matthews, nelson, cobb. Those are all rate talents. Vikings have good talent, but only peterson is rare. And perry and worhty are learning new positions and teqnique so chill. Packers 34 vikings 13

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