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Key Matchups: Packers vs. Vikings- Returning to the Scene of the Crime

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Key Matchups: Packers vs. Vikings- Returning to the Scene of the Crime

The playoffs have started early for the Packers this season, as they have put themselves into a situation in which they will all but likely have to win out in order to feel confident about making it to the tournament in January.  The first opponent that they must defeat in this series of must-win gauntlets is the team who essentially ended their season last year, the Minnesota Vikings.  

Sunday Night's matchup against their most hated rival will take Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers back to the scene of where his and the Packers hopes dramatically changed last year; and let's face it, he has probably circled this game on the schedule since it came out this spring.  The Packers are well aware that their hopes for this season ride on this game and I expect them to come out and play like a desperate team from the opening whistle.  Although they have backed themselves into quite a corner, the talent that is on this team always has a chance to shine through and allow them to break out.  

These are the key matchups that I believe will be the difference makers in Sunday Nights matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.  

1. Pat Efflin (Center), Mike Remmers (Right Guard), and Tom Compton (Left Guard) vs. Kyler Fackrell, Kenny Clark, and Clay Matthews

One indicator that will tell me if the Packers have a legitimate chance of winning in Minnesota tomorrow night will be the amount of pressure that they can generate against Minnesota's less than stellar offensive line. The Vikings interior offensive lineman struggle in pass protection as none of them have a grade higher than a 56.9 in that area.  This weakness plays right into Mike Pettine's ideal blitz scheme as he will look to break down the Vikings interior with Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, and Montravius Adams, and send Kyler Fackrell, Kenny Clark, and Clay Matthews up the A gap to come after Cousins.

Generating consistent pressures up the middle will allow Pettine to give Cousins different looks and blitz packages from other members of the defensive unit.  If the Packers are successful in sending pressure up the middle, I will look for Pettine to mix in some corner and safety blitzes on the outside which will leave Kirk Cousins a sitting duck for sacks from every angle.  I am looking for Pettine to dial up intense pressure on Kirk Cousins from the opening whistle as he looks to rattle him early and get him off of his game by forcing rushed and hurried passes.

2. Jaire Alexander vs. Adam Thielen

The rookie standout has certainly earned the right to face the NFL's best wide receiver in 2018 in one on one coverage in the Packers biggest game of the year.  Alexander has dazzled week after week showing an ability to make plays in one on one coverage situations against opponents number 1 wide receivers.  Sunday Night, Alexander will have to play his best game in the NFL in order for the Packers to win.  

I look for him to see a good amount of reps in one on one coverage against Adam Thielen as I suspect that the Packers will have to provide Kevin King (if active), Josh Jackson, and Tony Brown with safety help over the top against Stefon Diggs when the Packers send extra pressure at Cousins since Breeland most likely will be inactive again.

3. Aaron Rodgers vs. Himself

Despite having the highest graded performance of week 11, Rodgers acknowledged that he needs to improve in certain areas of his game in order for the Packers offense to get off of the ground...and finally start running.  While speaking with reporters he mentioned certain areas of his game that he can change which would help make for a more consistent Packers offense.

 

I think that if Rodgers can just trust his progressions/young receivers and consistently speed the tempo of the game up, this Packers offense will be light years better and more efficient than they have been all season.  The statistics back up the optimism that a higher tempo offense will galvanize the Packers, as Aaron Rodgers has his highest passer rating while in the hurry-up offense which leads him to have a more trusting approach when reading his progressions.  This will translate into fewer wasted plays and timeouts and will go a long way toward eliminating third and long sacks in crucial moments in the game.

4. The Packers Run Defense vs. Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook

Personally, I have always been a fan of Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook's explosive ability out of the backfield, until they became members of the Minnesota Vikings.  Now, I just sit back and worry about how their play could force Mike Pettine and the Packers defense to deploy a less than optimal game plan in order to stop this two-headed monster from bludgeoning their defense like Seattle's rushing attack did some ten days ago.  

In order to create situations where Mike Pettine can send six or even seven rushers at Kirk Cousins, the Packers run defense is going to have to prove that it can contain Murray and Cook in the backfield, and stop them from picking up first downs in short yardage situations.

If the Packers offense can force a few stops, the Vikings offense will gradually have to become more reliant on the pass which will allow Pettine to start to expose the weak links on the interior part of the Vikings offensive line.  Conversely, if the Packers run defense is not able to corral Murray and Cook, look for this to be a long day on defense with a lot of methodical drives resulting in points from both the Vikings rushing and passing attacks.

5. Danielle Hunter vs. Brian Bulaga and Bryon Bell

The NFL has been put on notice that Danielle Hunter is an immense talent that can single-handedly wreck a game, and on Sunday Night, Brian Bulaga and Bryon Bell will be given the responsibility to make sure that that does not happen.  This game can not be a replay of what Bears edge rusher, Khalil Mack did to the right side of the Packers offensive line on opening night.  

Protecting Aaron Rodgers will start by preventing Sheldon Richardson and Linvall Joseph from collapsing the interior of the Packers offensive line which will give Hunter uncontested rushing lanes on the right side to pressure and sack Aaron Rodgers.  If the Packers interior of their line collapses it will cause the entire line to break apart and provide ample opportunities for Hunter, Griffin, and Barr to get hit after hit on Rodgers forcing him to relive the horrors that he experienced at US Bank Stadium just one season ago.  

This is why the hurry-up offense will play such an enormous factor in whether or not the Packers will be able to move the ball against the Vikings defense.  The history of success through the running of an uptempo offense against the Vikings is two-fold; both through the successes that Rodgers has experienced in the hurry-up offense throughout his career as well as through the success that high tempo offenses like the Saints, Rams, and Bears have had against the Vikings during the 2018 season.  

The Packers offense will be successful in moving the ball if they consistently run an uptempo style offense for sixty minutes and they can provide the right side of the offensive line with pass protection from their running backs and tight ends.

6. The Packers Special Teams (The Triumphant Return of Trevor Davis)

Well, the week still has not come where the Packers special teams have not done something to shoot themselves in the foot, so here I sit at my laptop dreaming of the day that they can play mistake-free football.  However, the fortunes of the special teams unit does appear to be changing as they could be getting a much needed shot in the arm with the return of Trevor Davis to the active roster.  Davis will certainly provide an explosive dynamic to special teams in both the return and coverage aspects which will help Green Bay win the battle of field position which is so crucial on the road.  

The question now boils down to whether or not Trevor Davis's blockers can realize that they no longer need to hold or block defenders in the back.  Davis's speed is so dynamic that his blockers in some cases will only need to shield or chip a defender in order to provide enough of a lane for him to make a positive play.  The impact that Davis can make for this Packers team will be contingent on his blockers providing him with legal blocks.  

Predictions:

  • The Packers offense will wake up.
  • Aaron Rodgers will play his best game of the season.
  • The Packers defense will force sacks and turnovers.
  • Aaron Jones will get 20 carries.
  • Jaire Alexander will contain Adam Thielen.
  • The Packers will win by a score of 35-28. 

David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (24) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

BartySmith76's picture

Agree with Aaron - he does set the tempo of the offense and as the on-field leader, he needs to pick up the pace. Goes without saying, but the more the O stays on the field, the better our D will be. Can't go 3-11 on 3rd down. Hopefully we will see a balanced approach this week with one Aaron getting more touches, and the other Aaron taking what's in front of him in the passing game.

Lare's picture

Sounds great in theory, but everyone has been talking about ways to improve the Packers offense for several weeks now. Don't expect it to happen this week.

The Packers need a change, not sure what that is but they're getting worse every year.

Donster's picture

Better Head Coach? Better Special Teams Coach? Better offensive line? Better Outside LB's?

Or all of the above?

Nick Perry's picture

Nice write up David... LOTS and LOTS of keys but IMO the 2 MOST important are Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers like and not the version we've watched most of the year. Give me that dude who played the 2nd half of the Bears game (Only without the knee brace). The dude that made quick decisive throws and took what the defense gave him. These 50 yard bombs on 3rd and 2 have to stop. Throw it to that dude wearing #33 who's past the 1st down marker with no one near him!

Speaking of #33 lets USE him. I want to see that dude so exhausted after the game because he had close to 30 touches...Hell I'd settle for 22 to 25 but USE HIM!! I have him in like 20 Fantasy Football Leagues and only play him if I have to because I can't trust McCarthy to do the right God Damn thing. Get OUT of the way Mike or better yet get out of Aaron Jones way. Listen to EVERY sports outlet who is blaming YOU for the Packers demise this season.

End of Rant...

Kb999's picture

NP, your preaching to the choir. Right on!! I hope Big Mike takes your advice. I don't know why he chooses not to use A Jones.

Bearmeat's picture

If Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones gets 25 touches, Green Bay might very well be the best team in the conference. Think about it - ARod has looked not like himself all year and while we've lost the big games, they've been close.

henry113's picture

Bear, we cant play the IF game. They are who they are and there record backs it up. Lets hope the Vikes screw up more then the Pack.

Bearmeat's picture

See I think we can, because the talent is there and injuries shouldn't keep it from coming out. It's stupid to play the "what if" game in things we can't change - like the Rams game for example. But going forward, that talent is still there. They can figure it out.

Samson's picture

You keep talking about all this talent but never mention any names. -- Don't confuse 'potential' with actual on-field production. -- They're not the same.

Roadking's picture

I think you overrate the talent on this team. They have the talent of a below 500 team, which is exactly what they are.

Bearmeat's picture

Well then we disagree. That's fine.

EdsLaces's picture

Offense wake up? 11th game of the season and they finally wake up? Dont hold your breath . I predict the exact same Packers that we have seen all year. Good on some drives ...terrible on others. If we are lucky and we get a couple calls or balls to go or way we win, but it just never happens. 28 17 ...bad guys :( . I hope I'm wrong.

Samson's picture

No doubt GB has some talent. -- Every NFL team has talent. -- Every player that can come out of the college & play in the NFL has to be talented.
However, the next (if not the most important) factor is coaching. -- GB lacks that coaching talent necessary to be an elite NFC team at this time.

The Pack certainly have a chance to win Sunday night but the game's in Minnesota against a team that also has to win to stay in the playoff hunt. -- Sorry, my money is on the Norsemen.

EdsLaces's picture

*Lack the offensive coaching*

stockholder's picture

Time out! Arron Rodgers takes to much time. We don't have any Road wins! Can we just leave Crosby in GB. 26 Att. 20 made. 2 missed XP. Packers Rated 19th in 3rd down efficiency. Bombs Away as Arron Rodgers gets his face and #12 painted on a USA Bomber. Rated #31 in penalties in the NFL. I mean we can't keep blaming the Refs can we? The new veterans option, IR. I trust MM to keep coming up with ways to piss off the peanut Gallery. Gut check: This team has lost to much respect. Don't expect the Vikings to give them any. Doubts: can the packers play hard if they get behind. Curses: Win on the road and they won't have to kill a chicken. MM: I'm still in his corner. He's a winner. His players are losers. I only hope they open their eyes and see the grass is not greener on the other side. Stay on your feet and don't go down. A win would make everyone feel better.

henry113's picture

Right now, we can not beat a good team. We always find a way to loose. I put a lot of it on MM. He keeps having these brain Farts. Arod needs to step up. He's been inconsistent. Not playing like a 100 million. The good news is that the Vikings aren't playing on the level they played last year. I think GB gets its first road win.

Pierre's picture

If Rodgers does not show he can play one game this season of four solid quarters, sustaining drives for TDs, and they lose to this Vikings team...and they do not make the playoffs...the writing is clearly on the wall that they’d had better be planning towards a new QB sooner, rather than later, or they may find themselves finishing 4th in their division for the next several years. His inconsistent QB play in each game this season is quite evident, for whatever reasons.

This Viking game Is huge to see if Rodgers has enough ability and determination in him to turn things around, get a road win, and run the table by improving his play at QB and guiding this team to the playoffs. Go Pack Go!!

Rufus's picture

They only play 3 quarters, cant finish games. Coaching staff sucks, too many old players. They loose this one, its all over. They need to be in desperation mode.

Since '61's picture

The Packers have not won in Minnesota since 11/22/2015. They have yet to win on the road in 2018.
It would be nice to break both streaks this Sunday evening.

Like most games winning the LOS on both sides of the ball will be the keys to this game for the Packers. Another point will be to take the opening kickoff rather than defer and go down and get a score and play with a lead rather than deferring and get behind 7-0. However, if MM wins the toss I'm sure that he will defer again as he has done with every road game when he wins the toss. Our best hope is for the Vikings to win the toss and defer to us.

We need to use Aaron Jones and our ground game and keep Cousins off the field. The Vikings receiving corps is better than ours and better than our secondary except for Alexander. However, if we can get pressure on Cousins we can help out our secondary.

Most importantly our young WRs, MVS and EQ, need to get separation and gives Rodgers a target besides Adams who we can expect the Vikings to double cover.

Maybe STs can make a play with Trevor Davis and without being penalized. This game could come down to Crosby.

My hope is that we keep it close and Rodgers has the ball for the game's last possession whether we have the lead or not. Hate to think that our season could effectively be over by this time tomorrow. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

DD's picture

Since 61 says: I am a since 58. Your points are very good. Hope you're right, but I feel the team under MM lacks confidence in schemes and play on both sides of the ball. Tomorrow should be an interesting day of discussions!

DD's picture

All your comments are worthy, but many are false hopes. 0-5 on the road this year. MM failure in offensive schemes. Our d backs play way too soft. Crowd noise will affect any audibles, not that receiver routes present any problems to the vikes. Rodgers ability to move the chains. Rodgers running for his life. MM with a numb, dumb look on the sidelines. Things are certainly stacked against us I'm afraid. I'm hoping for a win, but most of us I feel aren't real confident in our team right now down deep inside. Will will play with confidence? Swag? Aggressive for 4 quarters? Unpredictabke in play calling?
Offset the vikes rush? Inspired? Motivated? We will see tonight. Go Pack, or go MM after tonight.

jlc1's picture

Tyler Lancaster? Who dat?

ILPackerBacker's picture

No team in the NFL can control the LOS when it refuses to run the ball.

I believe the packers have 170 some third down attempts, 19 were runs. Not hard to figure out.

of the 19 there were 10 by Rodgers and one kneel down.

Jones has 4 carries on 3rd out of 170+ times.

3rd down when our miserable OL needs help, might running the ball, or a draw slow down defenders a bit?

Does honor the treat of the run work when there is no run?

It is COACHING as plain and simple as it gets.
Self scout? A joke and week off in Green bay.

MM needs to go and has needed to go and his little dog JoeP too

Chuck Farley's picture

Four pass rushers for the vikes means 7 people back to cover the field. Four pass rushers and they did a dam fine job tonight. Lots of pressure, lots of hurrys.
The Packers pass rush was non existant most of the night. They got handled, as out O line got handled.
Vikes safeties and corners played solid and didnt miss many tackles.
Our guys had to gang tackle because no one can make a tackle on their own and they are slow and dont understand reading coverages. They were made to look like monkeys and thats on Petine. Its game 12

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