Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2021 Week 17

The Packers will face off against the division rival Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football. Here are six things to keep in mind going into the primetime contest: 

1. LaFleurishing Coaching Record

Head Coach Matt LaFleur has officially tied George Seifert with 38 wins through his first three seasons, which is the most in NFL history. He has the opportunity to take sole possession of the record in the team’s final two weeks of the regular season. 

One team standing in his way, however, is the Vikings. While LaFleur is undefeated against the Bears and Lions, he holds a 3-2 record against Minnesota. That said, including the playoffs, the Packers are 23-3 at home under LaFleur (with one loss, unfortunately, to the Vikings), and 17-8 on the road. With a loss already to Minnesota this season at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Packers are fortunate to host this matchup at Lambeau Field. 

2. Making a Difference 

After an impressive four-interception performance against the Cleveland Browns, the Packers now lead the NFL in turnover differential with plus-16. Green Bay’s 18 interceptions rank fourth in the league behind only the Cowboys (25), Patriots (20), and Bills (19). 

On the flip side, the Packers know how to protect the football better than anyone, with only five interceptions and five fumbles lost through 15 games. Those 10 giveaways rank last in the NFL. For context, the Jaguars and Jets lead that category with a whopping 26 giveaways each. 

The first time the Packers and Vikings played, neither team had a single takeaway, though the Packers had a few near-interceptions. Green Bay remains undefeated this season when forcing even one turnover. 

3. Don’t Get Cooking

Going into Week 16 versus Cleveland, the Packers had yet to allow a single rusher to hit 100 yards all season. That changed against Nick Chubb. He carried the ball 17 times for 126 yards, averaging a whopping 7.41 yards per carry with one score. The Browns as a whole had 219 yards on the ground on Christmas Day. 

The Packers can’t afford to let explosive Vikings running back Dalvin Cook have a similar outing. While he was held mostly in check when the teams first met in Week 11 (22 rushing attempts for 86 yards and a score), Green Bay has given up a significant amount of yards on the ground these last three weeks, surrendering 137 yards to Chicago, 143 yards to Baltimore, and the aforementioned 219 yards to Cleveland. In the 12 games before the bye week, the Packers allowed an average of only 102.5 yards per game. That’s a stark contrast to the 166.3 average allowed post-bye week. 

4. Equivalent Offenses

Speaking of playmakers on offense, the Packers and Vikings are pretty evenly matched when it comes to offensive output. Minnesota ranks 12th overall in points for averaging 25.6 points per game while Green Bay is one behind at 13th overall with an almost identical 25.5 points per game. The Vikings have scored 384 points through 15 games while the Packers have scored 383 points. 

Now let’s look at each team’s No. 1 receiver. Justin Jefferson had arguably his best game of the season against the Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium when he had eight receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns. On the opposite sideline, Davante Adams also found plenty of success, hauling in seven receptions for 115 yards and two scores himself. On the year, Jefferson has 97 receptions for 1,451 yards and nine scores. Adams, meanwhile, has 106 receptions for 1,362 yards and 10 touchdowns in one less game. 

Both receivers lead their teams by an incredible margin. For the Packers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is second on the team with 427 yards in nine games. For the Vikings, Adam Thielen has almost exactly half of Jefferson’s total with 726 yards in 13 games, though he’s out the remainder of the season after having ankle surgery. The formula for success on Sunday is pretty clear. Shut down the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver and prosper. 

5. Not So Minnesota Nice

The Vikings boast one of the best fronts in the NFL, ranking eighth in quarterback pressures and tied for second in the league in sacks with 44 total. Last week against the Rams the Vikings sacked Matthew Stafford three times for a loss of 20 yards. In contrast, Aaron Rodgers didn’t take a single sack against the Browns, despite playing with only one preferred starter from Week 1 on the offensive line. On the season, he’s taken 27 total sacks, though some of those he’d point out were either mistakes he made or tackles at the line of scrimmage for no gain. 

The Vikings defense ranks fourth in the NFL on third downs, allowing only a 35.5% success rate. One of Green Bay’s struggles in recent weeks, specifically against Cleveland, has been sustaining drives in the second half. The Packers went 3-of-6 on third down in the first half, then failed to convert a single third down in the second half. Green Bay can’t afford to let the Vikings pass rush get hot and get them into long down-and-distances. 

6. Playoff Possibilities 

The Packers will know before kickoff on Sunday Night Football whether or not they can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win against the Vikings. For that to happen, Green Bay needs the Cardinals to beat the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. If Arizona wins, the Packers just need to beat the Vikings to earn the NFC’s only bye and have the playoffs roll through Lambeau Field. 

For the Vikings to sneak into the postseason, not only would they need wins against the Packers this week and the Bears next week, but Minnesota also needs Washington to beat the Eagles. If the Eagles win on Sunday, Minnesota will be out of contention for a wild card spot before kickoff. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

14 points

Comments (9)

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mrtundra's picture

December 31, 2021 at 07:45 am

Give them a drubbing! The grounds crews will remove all the purple stains and smears from the field, prior to the next game at Lambeau.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 31, 2021 at 10:21 am

If we can score points, our opponent can’t just keep handing the ball off. That’s what allowed Chubb to rack up so many yards. It’s not a coincidence that the highest scoring offenses also have the best rushing defense numbers.

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PeteK's picture

December 31, 2021 at 10:26 am

Cousins out with Covid ,don't like a cheap advantage , but I'll take it. it will be a third stringer as mansion is also out.

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dobber's picture

December 31, 2021 at 10:38 am

It mitigates the impact Jefferson might have on the game, but who is going to run their offense? Mannion? Mond? Sloter? Mannion is also on the Covid list but could be active by Sunday.

Can the rush D stop the run when they absolutely know it's coming?

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Ya_tittle's picture

December 31, 2021 at 10:26 am

Cousins is out now. ALL we need to do is STOP THE RUN!!!!!!!!!!!

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splitpea1's picture

December 31, 2021 at 12:11 pm

Maybe the Cowboys have been "reading their press clippings" and MM will continue to be jinxed by the Cardinals, but the Packers winning out sounds like the best solution.

Regardless of who the Vikings QB is, Stokes and company MUST do a better job at containing Jefferson. Needless to say, the run defense must show up. Looking for a more aggressive plan from Barry this time on pass defense.

After the past couple of weeks, it's time for a comfortable win....

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wildbill's picture

December 31, 2021 at 12:34 pm

We have a bad habit of playing down to teams. Hope our guys arent thinking this will be a cakewalk as the queens have a very good defense and lately we haven’t shown the ability to stop the rush.
But my big concern is our offense. The habit of coming out of the gate poorly and not finishing teams in the fourth quarter.
I hope we pound the snot out of the queens but if Zimmer is let go at the end of this season I would be very happy if we brought him in as DC. I know it wouldn’t happen but just saying

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PeteK's picture

December 31, 2021 at 03:37 pm

Actually, the Vikes D is second in the NFL in sacks, but towards the bottom in every other category. I really dislike Zimmer's classless attitude, hardly ever shakes the hand of an opposing coach.

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Harold Drake's picture

January 01, 2022 at 03:17 am

Excellent article. You've provided some very pertinent stats and made equally cogent observations. Of course, at the time of writing, Kirk Cousins was the presumptive Vikings' QB. But the anti--vaxxer fool is now out with COVID and this should make for an easy Packers' victory especially with Thielen, who has always plagued Green Bay, out for the season.

One small correction to your story: the Viking still have a route into the playoffs even if the Eagles defeat the WFT. For example, if the Eagles beat Washington and then lose to the Cowboys in their final game of the season, the Vikes' playoff chances stand at 61% should they beat both the Packers and the Bears the following week. Of course, there are many combinations at work but no matter what the outcome of the Philadelphia-WFT game, the Vikings will still be playing hard in the hopes of finding a wild card berth.

Another scenario for the Vikings: when they take the field against the Pack on Sunday night on the freezing tundra of Lambeau Field, even if the Eagles, Niners, and Saints have all won their games earlier in the day, the Vikings can improve their chances of obtaining a wild card from 12% to 38% by beating the Packers and then going into the final week of the season. (This is according to the New York Times' NFL Playoff Simulator.) So even without Cousins, the Vikings will still be playing hard no matter what.

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