Game Preview: Vikings at Packers, Week 5

What to watch when the Packers host the Vikings on Thursday evening at Lambeau Field.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb celebrates a touchdown by Dennis Wierzbicki--USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb celebrates a touchdown by Dennis Wierzbicki--USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings travel to Lambeau Field for a date with the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night, televised nationally on NBC at 7:25 p.m. CT.

 

The Big Picture: What's at Stake?

The Packers in general and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in specific quieted critics in a 38-17 road win over the Chicago Bears last week to get back to .500 with a 2-2 record.

Facing their third NFC North division opponent in as many weeks, the Packers take on a Vikings team coming off a surprising 41-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons last week to likewise improve to 2-2. The winner will be a leg ahead in the division race.

 

What to Watch When the Packers Have the Ball

A) Run Blocking Catching up to Pass Blocking: A big part of the reason Rodgers had such a terrific performance in the Packers' last game against the Bears was because he had all day to throw, rarely under duress.

The Packers offensive line deserves credit for doing a good job protecting Rodgers a quarter of the way into the season. Their run blocking, however, is another matter.

Ranking 28th in the NFL and averaging just 73.0 yards per game on the ground, the Packers ground game looks worse than a year ago despite Eddie Lacy being more experienced, now in his second season in the NFL. The problems obviously go far beyond Lacy.

B) The Emergence of Two-Tight End Sets: The Packers offense, particularly the no-huddle, had a difficult time getting on track the first three games of the season, rarely substituting in their three wide receiver, one running back, one tight end set.

In need of a change, the Packers opened up in a two-tight end set against the Bears, and the offense hit its stride. Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers, who hadn't caught a single ball in the first three games, had the best game of his young career. He's still a work in progress as a run blocker, but he showed he's headed in the right direction.

Andrew Quarless led all tight ends in playing time against the Bears as the Packers continue to rely upon his veteran savvy. But will they ever turn to Brandon Bostick? He has to receive any playing time outside of special teams.

C) Aaron Rodgers Spreading the Ball Around: Rodgers may have had a big day against the Bears, but he still relied heavily on wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

Nelson leads the NFL in both receptions (33) and receiving yards (459) while Cobb is tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns (five). They'll continue to see plenty of passes thrown their way but who will join them?

Jarrett Boykin didn't play against the Bears and has already been ruled out of this week's game. Davante Adams received a bulk of the snaps in Boykin's absence, but he has yet to show consistency. Meanwhile, the tight ends and runnings backs remain only a small part of the Packers' passing game.

 

What to Watch When the Vikings Have the Ball

A) Defending the Run but not Adrian Peterson: After allowing the Matt Forte and the Bears to run crazy to the tune of 235 yards this past Sunday, the Packers now rank dead last in the NFL in run defense, allowing 176.0 yards per game.

Fault lies with every level of the Packers defense, but it's clear that the front seven shares the bulk of the burden. They'll face a Vikings run game that is doing an admirable job in the absence of Peterson, relying on Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata.

While it won't receive the attention Julius Peppers received last week, Letroy Guion faces his former team this week. The Packers nose tackle is a big part of the reason the Packers run defense has struggled in the early going.

B) Game-Planning for an Injured Teddy Bridgewater on Short Rest: With Matt Cassell out for the season out for the season with a broken foot, the Vikings have hitched their wagon to first round draft choice Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater looked good in the win over the Falcons, throwing for over 300 yards, but his status is in doubt after a sprained ankle suffered in the fourth quarter.

The updates on Bridgewater are encouraging, indicating he might have a chance to play. But if he doesn't, the Packers will face backup Christian Ponder, who they've faced in the past. Either way, the Packers secondary hopes to continuing its string of solid play early in the season no matter who they face.

C) A Bigger Role for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: Even though Micah Hyde got the start at safety against the Bears, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix saw more playing time between the two for the first time this season.

The first round draft choice of the Packers seems to get better with each game and saved the Packers defense on the final play of the first half at Chicago, tackling tight end Martellus Bennett short of the goal line.

As long as Clinton-Dix keeps progressing, his role only figures to grow. He'll play a key role in both stopping the bleeding on run defense and keeping the Vikings pass game in check.

 

What to Watch on Special Teams

Micah Hyde's Role: Now that appears Clinton-Dix has surpassed Hyde at safety, Hyde's role likewise appears to be growing on special teams, and more than just returns.

Against the Bears last week, Hyde shared kick return duties with DuJuan Harris. And outside of Mason Crosby, Hyde tied for the team-lead in special teams play-time percentage, on the field for 14 total plays.

Will Hyde continue to split return responsibilities on both kickoffs and punts? And how long will he be able to hold off Jeff Janis, who was active for the first time last Sunday?

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Comments (31)

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canadapacker's picture

October 01, 2014 at 05:12 pm

After what the Seahawks did to us with Harvin and with Lynch, I was really worried if they had Peterson and Cordell Patterson doing the same thing. Thought that that might happen with Teddy B but with him hobbled even if he plays, that appears to be less of an issue. However their small running back McKinnon can cause us problems if we dont shore it up. Happy that the tight end Rudolf will probably not play as he has hurt us before. We definitely need to run the ball against these guys just to keep the ball away from them. Atlanta's defense has been porous so I wouldnt say that Minnies O is great just yet but their D seems to be good as they held NO to very little in the second half

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murphy's picture

October 02, 2014 at 02:40 pm

How do you recommend they defend against such a look?

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Faisal Mahmud's picture

October 02, 2014 at 08:23 pm

Watch packer vs vikings live
Click HERE >> http://goo.gl/ucErhA

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Lphill's picture

October 01, 2014 at 06:54 pm

Packers will run the ball better and play the run better, Packers are afraid of nobody , do you really think teams look forward to playing Aaron Rodgers? especially after seeing what he did to a decent defense on the road in Chicago? RELAXXXXXXX

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jmac34's picture

October 01, 2014 at 07:40 pm

Your boy Kaepernick looked awful against them. I do agree they are awful defensively, but I don't think minny is all that great either

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4thand1's picture

October 01, 2014 at 08:12 pm

Don't you know kaep revolutionized the game jmac. cow logic

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Idiot Fan's picture

October 02, 2014 at 08:22 am

Through Week 4 (that is, including our game against them), Football Outsiders has the Bears D ranked at 14. So, just about average. For reference, the Packer D is ranked at 18 and ATL is 27.

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Lphill's picture

October 01, 2014 at 06:58 pm

yes so according to COW Bridgewater making his second start will go on the road and out perform Aaron Rodgers, who is past his prime and beat the talentless Packers. this COW is a clown.

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canadapacker's picture

October 01, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Minnie troll !!! Not a Packer fan - probably was dumping all over TT when Farvitus was spewing from supposed fans mouths.

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Barnacle's picture

October 02, 2014 at 11:23 am

Slocum retaining his job as STs coach shows how MM is so impressed with his own beliefs that he refuses to accept reality. Slocum is a big suck-up to MM and MM must like having a faithful(but incompetent) arse kisser to be his first person to review the game with. MM has exellent players and consistantly coaches them poorly.

It is disturbing to me that MM, Capers and Slocum could not find enough practice ideas to fill up 15 hours a week during training camp. But every game day stupid fundamental mistakes are made by STs and the defense?

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Tundraboy's picture

October 02, 2014 at 11:58 am

There is no such thing as a gimme with this team, You would have to be insane to use that term with them. But I think we are done with the discombobulated for a while and I'm thinking positive this week, How about a cakewalk?

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Evan's picture

October 02, 2014 at 10:37 pm

So...to recap, 0 for 6.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

October 02, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Gimme.

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4thand1's picture

October 01, 2014 at 08:14 pm

This game is not a gimmie. I guess that's why the Packers are 9 1/2 point favorites. cow sucks

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jmac34's picture

October 01, 2014 at 08:23 pm

I'll be worried until GB has a 20+ point lead with 4:00 left in the game, but GB should win this game.

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aj's picture

October 02, 2014 at 12:15 am

Haha, I second that!

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Lphill's picture

October 01, 2014 at 09:42 pm

COW dont quit your day job at Mcdonalds because you have no clue about football, stick to your Vikings please. you are a cancer on this site but what else can we expect from a non Packers fan.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 02, 2014 at 07:42 am

Packers on offense.
I think they will find ways to run the ball better tonight. I'm not projecting them to set world breaking numbers or anything, but I think they will improve.

Also I expect a lot more 2 TE sets. Honestly though, I would really like to see a 2 TE set of Rodgers and Bostick. Bostick is a very good receiving TE. Rodgers last week finally got his feet wet, and I think is primed for a big game.

And while I think they will use more 2 TE sets, I think we will see more production from Adams. That TD catch that he had called back to me looked like a play where Adams is now officially trusted by Rodgers.

On Defense.
I do think the run defense will be better. While they were atrocious against the Bears, I thought the previous 2 weeks they were improving.

I think we will see a lot more Pennel tonight. Hopefully he can be the guy we need to play NT.

Also, I think we will see a lot of HaHa tonight. He has been really improving each week.

Special Teams-

I would love to see Janis get some returns. He has game breaking speed as a KR.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 02, 2014 at 10:17 am

Nope...

I am just saying what I think they will do more of tonight.
I think tonight we will so more production from Adams, and Rodgers. I would like to see Bostick play, but i don't think he will unless there is an injury to Quarless or Rodgers.
Remember Adams had that 30+ yard TD reception that was nullified from a holding call. His stats would have a looked a bit different had that play held up. What I take from that play though, is Rodgers has the confidence in going to Adams now.

I'm banking on Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb, to continue to light up defenses.

I hope Pennel can come in and play well. We need him to.

I do expect the run defense to improve. I expect to see a lot more base tonight vs nickel/dime that they used last week against chicago.

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Tundraboy's picture

October 02, 2014 at 11:45 am

Still looking for my Cobb Janis reverse or some misdirection stunt or whatever,

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Tundraboy's picture

October 02, 2014 at 11:46 am

and Bostic playing.

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White92's picture

October 02, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I would also like to see more of Bostic and Janis.

As was said above, I think Capers schemes a bit more to stop the run than he did vs. Bears. Bears passing offense much more a threat than Vikings.

I'm not super confident here, but maybe thats a good thing.

Packers get it done 31-20

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 02, 2014 at 12:30 pm

As much as we want to criticize Capers and his defense. At the end of the day, the last 3 weeks they have given up 24 points (which they scored 14 points came in the first quarter), 10 points and 17 points. So since halftime of the Jets game they have given up 30 points total in 2 1/2 games. That's not bad.

He has done a pretty decent job of taking away the teams strengths the last 3 weeks as well... Jets - running the ball, Lions - Passing the ball, Bears - Passing the ball. Was it pretty, no. Could they do better, yes. Do they need to get better, yes.

But I do think there are some signs that they might not be as bad as many think.

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L's picture

October 02, 2014 at 01:51 pm

A major thing that helped lead to the Vikings win last week against the Falcons was the rash of injuries the Falcon's O-line suffered during the game. Hell, they had to finish the game with a Tight End playing Right Tackle... never a good thing.

The Pack IMO should be able to control and win this game as long as they can start out the game by stopping the Vikings' standard rushing attack, prevent them from getting any success with screens and or WR wrap-arounds that could put the ball in either McKinnon or Patterson's hands in open space to operate, and containing the Vikings special teams kick and punt returns. That's sounds much easier than it'll prove to be tonight given how horrible the Pack's D-line and Linebackers have been thus far in stopping the run and preventing teams from confusing them with trickery-ish plays.

Nevertheless, outside of those main attack methods for the Vikings against the Packers I think the Pack have the capability to really run away with this game. If the Pack can get up by two or more scores early on it'll help limit or remove those effective methods for attacking the Pack's D. The Pack's D can then focus on teeing off on the Vikings QB who'll get forced to play in a much more one dimensional method by having to attack through the air.

Again, the goal will be to stop the Vikings run game from getting any early traction and to keep an eye out for trickery screens and receiver wrap-arounds plus to contain the Vikings on special teams then on offense get some points put up on the board early so that the remainder of the game the Pack can focus on controlling the clock and teeing off on the Vikings' QB who'll be forced to move the ball through the air - not a strong suite - in an attempt to catch-up.

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Lphill's picture

October 02, 2014 at 02:50 pm

How about something new here from some of you, show some support for your team the" Packers" if that is your team, The Packers can beat anybody as long as they dont make mistakes its that simple, these are professionals we are not, so let them go out and play and letthe coaches coach. RELAX

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pooch's picture

October 02, 2014 at 02:53 pm

Silverstein column today."Eddie cant run out of shotgun"hmm seems pooch was making that point early after Bear game

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C's picture

October 02, 2014 at 04:05 pm

And that was debunked when ESPN packer beat writer pointed out Lacy, as a percentage, ran out of shotgun just as much last year, only with better results.

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Lphill's picture

October 02, 2014 at 05:37 pm

Packers against the Bears took away the deep threats to contain the passing game, so the trade off is the rushing yards so the run defense looks bad but look at the points given up, tonight the Packers will tighten up on the run and force ponder to throw downfield, we may see more richardson playing up tonight like a linebacker. just my guess.

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Faisal Mahmud's picture

October 02, 2014 at 08:24 pm

Enjoy nfl

packer vs vikings live
Click HERE >> http://goo.gl/ucErhA

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Lphill's picture

October 02, 2014 at 10:04 pm

COW comes up small again.

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