Opponent by the Numbers: Minnesota Vikings Week 2

A quick look at the challenge facing the Packers in Week 2, when they take on the defending division champs. 

The Packers’ schedule sets up about as pivotal of a Week 2 matchup as possible. With each of Green Bay’s first two games at home against division opponents, a 2-0 start would set their rivals back before the season even warmed up. Losing to the Vikings this Sunday, however, would leave the Packers a game back of an NFC finalist team from last year, with only one road head-to-head left in the season.

Obviously this isn’t groundbreaking analysis. But every year we’re reminded how much every game matters. And it’s highly unfortunate that with Aaron Rodgers’ status still up in the air, the Packers have to deal with a team that went 13-3 last year, led by a stacked defense.

After a lost season last year, Packers fans deserve the Bills as an opponent in this week of uncertainty. Instead, it’s the Vikings, the border rival who spoiled 2017 by injuring Rodgers, and their fanbase, which seemed to delight in Rodgers’ injury a little too much.

It’s unfair to say that all Vikings fans celebrated Rodgers’ broken collarbone last year, but there was enough of a vocal minority that a vintage Rodgers spanking this week would be endlessly fulfilling. It could still happen, but it’s really too bad that the Packers’ quarterback won’t be at full strength, if he’s able to play at all.

Anyway, here are some illuminating numbers on the Vikings, and—spoiler alert—they’re good.

69.68 passer rating

The last 17 regular season games, this is the total pass efficiency surrendered by the Vikings’ defense, basically making quarterbacks league-wide produce like 2017 Brett Hundley and CJ Beathard. Giving renowned defensive mind Mike Zimmer a deep defensive front and solid secondary has been a formidable combination.

That 17-game stretch includes just 14 touchdown passes surrounded, 17 interceptions and a measly 57.7 completion percentage. And the relatively low number of passes that were completed went for just 9.85 yards each, which is again similar to turning quarterbacks league-wide into 2017 Brett Hundley. With talent, Zimmer ruins quarterbacks’ days. The challenge will be great for the Packers’ passing game.

3.5% better than average

That was the “weak link” of the Vikings’ pass defense last year: defending No. 3 receivers, according to Football Outsiders. Minnesota was top-10 against every other category of receiver—primary, secondary, tight ends and running backs—but ranked “just” 15th in defending third and fourth receivers.

It’s worth noting that the way Football Outsiders tabulates these stats has nothing to do with slot vs. outside receivers. Instead, it’s a subjective evaluation of top targets, meaning it’s likely that the Vikings will focus on stopping Davante Adams and Randall Cobb with relative success. Minnesota was best in the league in stopping running backs in the passing game last season and second best against tight ends, so this probably isn’t likely to be a breakout week for Jamaal Williams or Jimmy Graham catching balls either.

That places a large burden on Geronimo Allison in this game, even more than normal, to make the defense pay for prioritizing other matchups. Allison played well last week and could be a deciding factor on Sunday.

84.0

This was the pass protection score given to the Vikings by Pro Football Focus for their Week 1 performance against the 49ers, the third-highest in the league this young season. PFF had Minnesota at 17th in the league at protecting their quarterbacks last year with a score of 71.9, so it’s unclear if the great performance against San Francisco last week was an outlier or a sign of improvement.

Either way, Mike Pettine will likely have to generate some scheme pressures, with the Packers seemingly lacking the talent and depth to consistently win one-on-one matchups to harass opposing quarterbacks.

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Matt Kelley is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter via @hustleandheart1

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Comments (17)

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GBfaninMn's picture

September 14, 2018 at 03:26 pm

Let me tell ya. I live in Minnesota. It is not unfair to say that all Vikings fans celebrated Rodger's injury last year. In fact it would be very accurate. They damn near had parades. Don't kid yourself, Anthony Barr is an absolute hero in Minnesota.

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Lare's picture

September 14, 2018 at 06:52 pm

Usually, what goes around comes around for dirty players like Anthony Barr.

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Kb999's picture

September 14, 2018 at 09:00 pm

Ditto. They need to take care of Barr.

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dobber's picture

September 15, 2018 at 05:28 am

The best way to take care of Barr is for him to play, for them to make him look bad, and to beat the Vikings soundly.

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Lphill's picture

September 14, 2018 at 05:43 pm

I would sit Rodgers and Burks and regroup week 3 with Rodgers , Jones , Burks.

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Minniman's picture

September 14, 2018 at 10:46 pm

Regarding Rodgers I respectfully don't agree on sitting him - on many fronts (capability, leadership, opponent, schedule, psychology etc etc). He'll play on the weekend.

Regarding Burkes - he was limited participation all week so it will only be another warmup malfunction that keeps him out. He may not see the full game out, but barring re-injury he'll be thrown in when needed

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PatrickGB's picture

September 14, 2018 at 05:56 pm

With Aaron, there is no “third receiver”. The open receiver is his favorite receiver. Perhaps some are better than others at getting open. And some schemes work better than others at getting receivers open. But for #12 it does not matter who that person is. Yet he has also said he likes to have trust in the guy too. It sounds like G-mo is that guy.

My limited experience with Vikings fans has not been good. There seems to be a lot of resentments going on.

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Oppy's picture

September 14, 2018 at 08:11 pm

Game tape does not support it. It's one of the few details of QB'ing where Rodgers could stand to take some pointers from his predecessor.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 14, 2018 at 10:44 pm

Look back at targets Oppy Rodgers spreads the ball around.

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Oppy's picture

September 15, 2018 at 02:33 am

And watch the film, where too often Rodgers holds the ball while there's WR's underneath running around open, (especially if it's a young WR) scrambling out of the pocket and trying to force the ball to Jordy or Adams.

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Oppy's picture

September 15, 2018 at 06:01 am

For what it's worth, I have done an in-depth look at numbers (for 2016- Rodgers' last healthy season). Looking at total target count for every player, percentage of total targets by player, number of snaps each player who was targeted took on offense (and that number expressed as a percentage of total offensive snaps), and took the ratio of targets to snaps for each player as well.

I can tell you that Nelson accounted for just under one in four targets in 2016 (This includes ALL players who were targeted- not just WR's), Adams nearly one in five, and Cobb a hair more than one in eight. The 4th most targeted WR (Not counting Montgomery, who was sort of a WR, sort of a RB in 2016) was Alllison, who accounted for one in thirty targets on the year.

With that said, when you look at targets per snap played, it does suggest things are more even-keeled than the above numbers suggest, but there is still a definite hierarchy, With Nelson the clear favorite among WRs, evenly dropping through Adams, cobb, and Allison. After that, it is a cliff. (I took (targets / snaps played) for every player targeted in 2016 to generate a number from .0 to 1 as a simple indicator of targeting bias.) If you are interested I can share this sometime later today. At any rate, it's not perfect but It yields interesting results (especially about position group targeting) but ultimately, the numbers don't seem to relate to a player being "open" or not, unless you suspect that all of our WR's get open at roughly the same rate, which I guess is possible, but does not seem to meet my subjective observations.

Sorry for wall of text.

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Coldworld's picture

September 15, 2018 at 07:34 am

Nelson is no longer with us. Are you saying there is a new anointed receiver? Perhaps what you see is a factor that played into the release?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 15, 2018 at 10:42 am

Interesting data. I broke your idea down to targets/snap played. Results:

.155 - Cook
.149 - Nelson
.132 - Adams
.123 - Cobb
.118 - Allison
.083 - Abbrederis
.082 - Jeff Janis
.078 - Trevor Davis

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Oppy's picture

September 15, 2018 at 01:34 pm

Those are the numbers, TGR.

What was really interesting is the rate at which Rodgers was throwing to Christine Michaels and Knile Davis (.5, .54 respectively)! That's a massive tendency.

Also, while at first blush, the bias between, let's say, Nelson and Cobb (.15 vs .12)may seem insignificant, consider that if Cobb played the same number of snaps as Nelson (1013), it's a difference of roughly 30 targets. It's definitely significant.

My feeling is that Rodgers may deliberately attempt to "get WRs their targets" for the most part. I don't have the time, energy, or resources to do the massive amount of film study it would take- but I don't believe the targets or target bias aligns with decisively delivering the ball to the open receiver in the progression. My impressions from careful viewing over the years, for instance, is that many quick throws are to Jordy Nelson who is "tightly covered", many late throws are to Davante Adams down field after breaking the pocket. Both of these while Cobb is often wide open underneath (However, when Cobb gets his targets, it's often late throws when things break down).

A lot to analyze, probably a full time job. In the end, the best I can say between numbers and subjective observation is Aaron Rodgers spreads the ball around to a group of trusted individuals who are not necessarily the open receiver in the progression.

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Oppy's picture

September 15, 2018 at 01:46 pm

Coldworld,
Adams was already moving towards "favored target" status for Rodgers before Nelson's dismissal.

Ultimately, most agreed that the Packers were not going to be able to keep both Nelson and Cobb in 2018 due to salary, and it was a topic of discussion even in late 2016/early 2017. By early 2017, I was of the mind that the decision, were it mine, would be to keep Cobb and let Nelson go due to age and versatility. I would guess those were the main factors in the Packers decision, but I also believe that after Rodgers' "Return from injury" game last season, there had to be at least a discussion about how Nelson had become a crutch that was stifling the utilization and development of other weapons on the field.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 15, 2018 at 07:43 am

MIN's OL is hot garbage. That 84.0 rating from FO is after 1 game - with SF only having one front 7 player who is good. (Buckner).

GB's DL is going to eat tomorrow. Cousins is a serial interception artist and a choke artist. Our CBs are going to get their hands on 2 balls.

GB wins by 3 - regardless of our passing game struggling.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 15, 2018 at 08:27 pm

Nothing wakes up the Bear more than the Vikes. Looking forward to seeing just that.

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