Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2020 Week 8

Here are six things to look for heading into Sunday’s NFC North matchup

After a two-game road stretch, the Packers are back home at Lambeau Field to take on the division rival Minnesota Vikings. Here are six things to look for heading into Sunday’s NFC North matchup: 

1. Packers Starting Games Strong

The Packers are the only team in the NFL to score points on every one of their opening drives this season. Of their six opening drives, they’ve kicked four field goals and scored two touchdowns. 

The Vikings are giving up an average of 32 points per game, ranking 30th in the NFL with 192 points against through six games. The Packers, on the other hand, are ranked second in points for with 197, averaging 32.8 points per game. 

2. LaFleur Undefeated in the NFC North

Head Coach Matt LaFleur enters Sunday’s matchup against the Vikings undefeated in the NFC North with a record of 8-0. When the Packers swept the North in 2019, not only was it something Green Bay hadn’t done since 2011, but it’s something no other NFC North foe has done since the division’s inception in 2002 (and the Packers have now done it twice). 

Strangely, the Packers will have seen the Vikings twice before facing the Bears even once this season, and the Bears sit at 5-2. After the Week 8 matchup at home against Minnesota, the Packers won’t see a division opponent again until Week 12 on Sunday Night Football against the Bears at Lambeau. Then, they’ll take on the Lions at Ford Field in Week 14 before ending the season in Chicago at Soldier Field in Week 17, where the Packers have plenty of fond memories. 

3. Adams on Pace for Career Bests

Through his four games played this season, Davante Adams is posting some career-best statistics. Right now, Adams is putting up a whopping 112.3 yards per game. His previous career best was in 2018 when he averaged 92.4 yards per game. Additionally, his catch percentage has improved significantly. While he completed around 65% of his catches in 2018 and 2019, he’s currently sitting at a catch percentage of 78.3%. Taking this even further, his yards per target is also at a career high at 9.8, with his previous high being 8.2 in 2018. 

Things look great for Adams in this second matchup against the Vikings, as Minnesota’s starting three cornerbacks are questionable for Sunday’s game. In Week 1, Adams hauled in 14 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings defense has allowed a 110.4 rating (29th in the NFL) and a completion percentage of 68.2%. If you thought Adams had a dominant showing in Houston last week, it’s possible his numbers are even better on Sunday at Lambeau Field. 

4. Offensive Line Shines Despite Shuffling 

Aaron Rodgers has only been sacked seven times through six games, which is the fewest sacks he’s taken in his 13 years as a starting quarterback. And, all of this is happening with musical chairs taking place along the offensive line. 

In Week 1, the Packers opened the game with starting left guard Elgton Jenkins at right tackle. Lane Taylor left the game with a season-ending injury, and even rookie sixth-round draft pick Jon Runyan Jr. took snaps along the line. The Packers didn’t give up a single sack.

Last week against the Texans, the Packers started Billy Turner at left tackle in place of David Bakhtiari, with Rick Wagner at right tackle. Once again, the Packers didn’t give up a single sack. 

Outside of the four-game sack outlier against the Buccaneers, this offensive line, regardless of who’s playing, has protected Rodgers well. With a depleted Vikings front seven missing newly-traded Yannick Ngakoue, Danielle Hunter, and Anthony Barr, look for more of the same this week even if Bakhtiari can’t play for a second straight game.

5. Welcome to Jaire’s Private Island

Jaire Alexander has absolutely shut opposing receivers down this season. Look at some of these numbers per Next Gen Stats. Against Atlanta, Alexander covered Calvin Ridley on 23 routes, was targeted five times, and allowed zero catches. Against the Buccaneers, he faced Mike Evans on 18 routes, was targeted once, and allowed zero catches. Sensing a theme? Last week in Houston, Alexander was on Will Fuller for 28 routes, was targeted once, and allowed, again, zero catches. 

Enter a wide receiver in the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation, Justin Jefferson. In his NFL debut Week 1, he was targeted three times and hauled in two receptions for 26 yards. Since then, Jefferson has exploded onto the scene and become Kirk Cousins’ preferred target. He leads the Vikings with 537 yards and has three touchdowns on the season. This is going to be a fun matchup to watch. 

6. Cousins Sending Gifts

Kirk Cousins currently is tied for the league-lead in interceptions thrown thus far this season with 10. He’s thrown 11 touchdowns and has taken 14 sacks. On the flip side of that, the Packers defense has only forced four turnovers through six weeks, and one of those came Week 1 against Cousins when Alexander had an interception. 

Cousins will give Green Bay opportunities, but it’s up to the players to capitalize. They’ve had chances the last few weeks to snag picks, but balls have simply bounced the wrong way. Last season, the Packers had 41 sacks, forced 12 fumbles, and had 17 interceptions. 

In 2020, the defense is on pace for five interceptions, 13 forced fumbles, and 40 sacks, the stark difference coming in the INT column. The saying goes “turnovers come in bunches” and it’s time for the Packers to force a few against a 1-5 Vikings team with the NFL’s interception leader at the helm.

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV, podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said, and hosts a weekly live show called Happy Hour through Game On Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (33)

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ShooterMcGee's picture

October 30, 2020 at 06:40 am

I was encouraged by the strong play of some of our backups vs the Texans. Guys like Turner, Redmond, Josh Jackson, Scott, Kamaal Martin, and others. I will be interested to see if their good play continues. Billy Turner playing well at LT again could change the need to sign Bahk. Redmond looked much better at safety than Savage. Might this mean Darnell becomes the back up. Josh Jackson looked great in run support so I wonder if he can play better against the pass, either guarding Thielen or Jefferson. Martin and Byrnes may be the answer to our ILB problem. Let's see how these guys look with 2 games in 5 days.

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stockholder's picture

October 30, 2020 at 08:11 am

Pack 6? Lets try Buyers or sellers this game. We have FAs we surly won't resign. King- Sell? Bahk? Sell? Wagner Trade? Kirksey Trade? Williams - Trade? - Yes- Cap reductions can give you a #2 Wr. Better Cap! So is that #2 WR worth it?

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Spock's picture

October 30, 2020 at 12:30 pm

No need to be "surly" about not resigning them. It could be done nicely. :)

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Coldworld's picture

October 30, 2020 at 04:40 pm

I don’t see a lot of cap there anyway. High cap hits come from expired contracts. This essentially boils down to a suggestion that we move on from Bakh and use that saving (though we would need another tackle, 2 if we let Wagner go as he suggests).

So the proposal is that we decide to let Bakh walk and sign a WR this year.

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Leatherhead's picture

October 31, 2020 at 12:54 pm

I agree we need to let Bakh walk. No need to spend any money on a WR, as we’re scoring plenty. If we don’t win the Super Bowl this year, it won’t be because Lazard’s backup wasn’t good enough. More likely is we don’t protect our QB or play bad defense.

I think all our vet FAs walk. I’d try hardest to keep King but I’m not going to throw a bank at a guy who is only healthy one year out of four.

So that would leave us with 5 holes in the gameday roster and very little money to work with. And then, some people would blow more holes by releasing players they don’t like or think are overpaid.

So, what’s the plan to fix those 5-7 holes ? Obviously the draft, but expecting to get five starters in the draft is shaky. We do have a few million, so if we can find a bargain FA we might be able to fill one.

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NickPerry's picture

October 30, 2020 at 08:12 am

MLF undefeated in the NFC North...Absolutely Priceless! Keep pounding the Vikings and the Bears in a few weeks Matt!

Speaking of MLF I keep thinking about LaFluer's overall record. The man has a regular season record of 18-4, soon to be 19-4 after Sunday. A week or two ago they flashed some stat of coaches who won their first 20 games in the fewest games and MLF was on that list and IIRC he could actually be the fastest to do it. My point is this was EXACTLY the right hire by the Packers. I didn't think so at the time but am gladly gobbling down that crow!

Alexander has totally erased any thoughts we should have drafted Derwin James or even Trumaine Edmunds the ILB who went to the Bills. The Packers could have drafted either one at 14 before trading to the pick to the Saints. Alexander is a Top 5 CB in the NFL now and only getting better.

The Packers are starting games fast because MLF has done a magnificent job with his first 15 plays each week. This week I think the streak continues with a TD on their opening drive.

Thanks Maggie, nice piece.

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PeteK's picture

October 30, 2020 at 08:52 am

Reminds me of the Holmgren era, when opening had a great scoring percentage.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 30, 2020 at 08:21 pm

Bill Walsh to Paul Hackett to Nathaniel Hackett. These guys are following the old school blueprint. Score early, use the FB/HB in play with the TE and high/low the crossing routes in the passing game.

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ShooterMcGee's picture

October 30, 2020 at 08:55 am

When will MLF get the national recognition he deserves? Read somewhere that Stephanski, coach of the Browns, is odds on favorite for coach of the year. Give me a break! The front office deserves so much credit for hiring MLF.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

October 30, 2020 at 12:11 pm

What Stephanski has done making the Browns relevant is nearly miraculous. If they make it in the playoffs he is CotY. The Packers had a couple down years. The Browns have had a down decade.

Not to take away from MLF but he inherited a team that had a track record of success and got them BACK to that level, while the Browns went from national laughingstock to national relevance.

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packerbackerjim's picture

October 30, 2020 at 02:35 pm

Getting all those high draft picks to play better when others couldn’t is nice but not remarkable.

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Coldworld's picture

October 30, 2020 at 04:43 pm

I’m with you. Making the Browns decent is not that impressive. If he gets them to the Super Bowl I’d take it seriously. The playoffs after the changes? No.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

October 30, 2020 at 05:29 pm

Cleveland has won five games against teams that currently have a 10-21-2 record. They have a quality win over Indy. They got trounced by Pitt and Balt 38-7 and 38-6.

Too early. 5-2 now. Beckham is out for the year. They play Raiders, Philly, Houston, Jets, Giants, and jacksonville. After playing that murderers row, they could get to 8 to 10 wins.
Likely losses to Balt, Pitt, and Tenn.

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

October 31, 2020 at 03:09 am

100% with you Shooter on the front office deserving credit. That credit should definitely extend to Mark Murphy.

Remember all of the idiots whining and complaining about about Murphy changing the organizational structure? Remember the mocking of Murphy's silos comment? What do those morons have to say now?

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NickPerry's picture

October 31, 2020 at 04:17 am

You should probably slow your roll when it comes to Murphy. After all, it was Murphy who allowed Ted to continue as GM when it was obvious to ANYONE and EVERYONE Ted's health was RAPIDLY failing.

Murphy deserves some credit for the turnaround but he also deserves 99% of the blame for Ted staying 2 or 3 years longer than he should have. Also wasn't the "Silos" back in McCarthy's final season or two? Maybe they still have that in place with MLF but I haven't heard that since MM.

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

October 31, 2020 at 06:50 am

Perhaps you should slow your roll when slandering someone regarding their health. You and the other ghouls who constantly stated that TT was suffering from dementia should be ashamed of yourselves. Maybe you should disclose where your medical degree is from and how you are able to diagnose someone from watching a TV screen.

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fordguy's picture

October 31, 2020 at 01:08 pm

A person doesn't exactly need to have a medical degree to diagnose that you're a asshole either.

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

November 01, 2020 at 06:30 am

Brilliant reply there fordguy. Now try having an intelligent conversation without resorting to vulgarity. I am guessing that you are incapable of that.

My Mother had Alzheimer's. I saw what it did to her. I saw what it did to the unfortunate people in the facility with her. So many people with so much knowledge locked up in their brains, unable to communicate with or even acknowledge their loved ones.

So excuse me for not tolerating insensitive boors like you who think it is appropriate to label someone as having dementia, just to try to support some uninformed opinion about the Packers President.

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RCPackerFan's picture

October 30, 2020 at 08:57 am

"Alexander has totally erased any thoughts we should have drafted Derwin James or even Trumaine Edmunds the ILB who went to the Bills. The Packers could have drafted either one at 14 before trading to the pick to the Saints. Alexander is a Top 5 CB in the NFL now and only getting better."

I continue to think back to Gutey's first draft. The moves he made were purely genius. He trades back in the draft to get the Saints first round pick the following year. Then they move back up and get take Alexander. The following year they essentially use that 1st round pick to get Savage. The moves he made still impress me today.

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Guam's picture

October 30, 2020 at 08:24 am

I think Gute deserves a great deal of credit for the depth on the Packer O-line. Signing Turner and Wagner to reasonable FA contracts and drafting Jenkins and Runyon as well as two we haven't seen much of yet (Hanson and Stepaniak) has really bolstered the O-line without negatively impacting the salary cap. Job well done.

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mrtundra's picture

October 30, 2020 at 08:37 am

Cannot wait to see the ZImmer-MLF handshake, after this one. I think both Josh Jackson and Chandon Sullivan get INTs from Kark, in this game. Kark will shy away from throwing the ball to whomever Jaire is covering, thereby giving up the two INTs, I mentioned a moment ago. Look for passes to Cook, out of the backfield, and for passes underneath the coverage to their TEs. If Kamal and Green are ready to play, they should shut down the vikings passing game underneath the coverage, and limit the vikings running game from the LOS. Let's put a huge, purple stain on Lambeau Field that will give the grounds crew some overtime just to get it removed, in time for the Packers' next home game! GO PACK, GO!!!

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Razer's picture

October 30, 2020 at 09:01 am

Take no joy in watching a gutted Vikings team coming in for a ass kicking - okay - maybe a little. We should win this game handily.

I do want to see a strong showing by our defense. They need to handle Dalvin Cook in preparation for our showdown against SF on Thursday. I also want to see Josh Jackson continue his climb to starter. He could be the surprise development of this season (hoping). Also want to see the linebackers continue their growth. This is the game to start jelling on defense.

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fansince1959's picture

October 30, 2020 at 09:33 am

I will take a lot of joy if we can beat them again----there is no team or fan base i would rather beat

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Coldworld's picture

October 30, 2020 at 04:46 pm

I can’t argue, though I hope that we are cautious with some of the more beaten up and returning players. We have a short week.

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PeteK's picture

October 30, 2020 at 09:25 am

Our offense should dominate. However, I'm looking forward to see how our youth on the defensive side fairs because this is a key to how far we go this season.

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Razer's picture

October 30, 2020 at 10:12 am

I agree PeteK. Defense needs to show grit and consistency.

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cheesehead1's picture

October 30, 2020 at 10:44 am

There are no easy games in the NFL, don’t take MIN lightly. I think if we can harass Cousins consistently we’ll get the W.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 30, 2020 at 12:18 pm

I don’t take this Vikings game lightly. If I remember right, a couple of Kirks INT’s were Hail Mary type throws and Cook and Madison are beasts. The wind effects us more than it does them. Jefferson is an up and coming star and we know what Thelan can do. We have a lot of important guys hurting or out including our kicker. I expect them to pressure Rodgers like crazy and double Adams. This game will not be as easy as the last.

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Coldworld's picture

October 30, 2020 at 04:49 pm

Wind affects Jefferson. But you are right. Conditions look like favoring the Vikings. One of the problems in Tampa was a strong, gusty wind. Rodgers accepted as much straight after. It may not have been the cause, but it didn’t help and it may take long passes out of the game. I think this is a game where they may dare us to go long and try and take away underneath.

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cheesehead1's picture

October 30, 2020 at 06:56 pm

No excuses, the weather is the same for both teams. The problem was we couldn’t protect Rodgers well enough and we barely touched Brady except for Gary’s face mask grab. The better team won big on that day.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 30, 2020 at 08:35 pm

Hard to lay the heavy pass rush on Rodgers w/out Hunter and Barr. No Everson Griffen or Weatherley. Hughes is out on IR. Zimmer will beat down on the Packer defense and see if he can create some cracks for Play action with Theilen and send Jefferson deep, hoping for a home run.

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TXCHEESE's picture

October 30, 2020 at 12:46 pm

I’m hoping the Vikings try to double Adams and it results in a big day from the remainder of the receiver group. That would build confidence for those guys and also give future opponents something to think about.

This would be a great game to begin getting those turnovers “in bunches”. Not taking this game lightly, but if GB can hold Cook and Mattison in check, that will put all the pressure on Cousins and he typically doesn’t respond well to that.

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Leatherhead's picture

October 31, 2020 at 11:02 am

If we protect Rodgers we’ll score 35 and win.

As Maggie points out, we’ve had some line changes. We’ve had Adams, Lazard, and Jones miss time. But if Rodgers is protected,our offense just keeps rolling.

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