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Packers vs. Vikings: Saturday Scoop

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Packers vs. Vikings: Saturday Scoop

The Green Bay Packers head to Minnesota to face the Vikings, as they do every season.  This time, however, Green Bay is not the division leader, and it's mid-November.  The Packers are looking to end a three-game skid and need this game more than most want to admit.  A win puts the Packers back on top of the division lead by virtue of a tie breaker over the Vikings, who they'll face again this season in week 17.  A loss puts the Packers two games back.

Green Bay may be without a few key starters this week in that of defensive back Micah Hyde, guard T.J. Lang and wide receiver Ty Montgomery.  Montgomery hasn't appeared for the Packers since their week six game against the San Diego Chargers and continues to deal with a high ankle sprain.  He wasn't able to finish Thursday's practice session and will likely get one more chance to make himself available after today's practice.  Hyde and Lang are likely in the same situations where today's practice will determine their final availability.  Left tackle David Bakhtiari is dealing with a knee injury and while he's not listed as questionable at this moment, he still has to get through Saturday to confirm that he'll be on the field Sunday.  Not having Lang or Bakhtiari is a less-than-ideal scenario and Don Barclay would likely step in for either.  Things get interesting if both are out and the Packers would then likely have to do some shuffling along the line, perhaps moving Bryan Bulaga to left tackle and inserting Josh Walker at right tackle.

Injuries have been an issue for this team most of the season and in this game, they'll need as many of their regulars as they can have.  After establishing themselves as one of the top rushing offenses in the league through the first six games, the Packers have slid further and further down the list.  Eddie Lacy is said to be healthy enough to suit up in this one but we have yet to see any hint of the guy who ran for over 1,000 the past two seasons and gave opposing defenses another something to worry about.  With a banged up offensive line and a good Minnesota front, the sledding won't come easy for Lacy or James Starks, who will likely get the start again this week.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers will see an old nemesis in that of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  The Packers didn't face Peterson at all last season as he sat out the majority of the season while dealing with charges of child abuse.  With that situation behind him, Peterson is back to his old self, leading the league in rushing yards and tearing off long runs.  Peterson has had a few games over 200 yards against the Packers in the past and he will come into this game as motivated as ever, looking to propel his team to a solid lead in the NFC North.  The Packers aren't tackling particularly well of late and that never bodes well when Peterson has the ball in his hands.  I predict a big day for #28 and the Packers can likely only hope to contain Peterson as they're not playing like a defense that has any chance of stopping him.

The Packers have had immense struggles over the last month and one of the reasons is that opposing teams are doing a good job of winning matchups.  Peterson is a bad matchup for any defense so let's focus on the receiving corps.  As good as Vikings rookie receiver Stefon Diggs has been, I'd put the Packers cornerbacks even in matchup up with Vikings receivers.  Tight end Kyle Rudolph, however, could be the difference.  Green Bay has had more than their share of issues covering tight ends over the past few seasons and this could be an area where Minnesota attacks Green Bay.  The Packers are giving up big chunks of yardage in the middle of the field again and this is where Rudolph will likely be roaming.  His size trumps any of the Packers defensive backs and if Green Bay, for whatever reason on earth, decides to trot out Nate Palmer at inside linebacker, expect Minnesota to be licking their chops if he ends up on Rudolph.

The quarterback matchup is usually a very one-sided one, however, with the recent struggles that Aaron Rodgers has had and with this being in Minnesota, don't be surprised if he's outdone once again.  Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has shown good improvement over last season and is playing well within Norv Turner's offensive system.  He's another mobile quarterback who can escape pressure and pick up yardage if left to open spaces.  Bridgewater's longest career run is 19 yards.  I'll be surprised if that's not eclipsed at some point in this game.  As obvious as it seems that Green Bay needs to stay disciplined in their lanes on the defensive side, the Vikings will somehow come up with the perfect way to distract defenders and get Bridgewater on the move.  Minnesota may be without left tackle Matt Kalil, who is questionable with a toe injury.  Minnesota's offensive line, even with Kalil, hasn't been stellar.  Still, the Packers haven't sniffed a quarterback sack in the last three weeks against lines that also weren't that great.  Not getting to Bridgewater will likely lead to a long and rough day for the defense in this contest.  Green Bay could use a resurgence by Clay Matthews or even 

As for Rodgers, his issues continue to get dissected at every turn.  The offensive line hasn't protected very well and he's also dealing with soreness in his throwing shoulder.  After launching it 61 times against the Detroit Lions last week, that's not surprising.  Rodgers isn't playing soundly and his footwork has been atrocious of late.  Minnesota's secondary is one of their strengths and they will be all over badly thrown passes this week.  The Vikings may be without safety Robert Blanton, as he is listed as questionable.

Green Bay's special teams took a big step backwards last week against the Lions.  They gave up a big return that led to a Lions score and Packers kicker Mason Crosby absolutely bombed his game-winning attempt at the end of the game.  Minnesota has two return scores already this season and have one of the best special teams units in the league.  Packers punter Tim Masthay continues to struggle and seems to have at least one shank per game.  Giving the Vikings offense a short field is not going to be ideal in this game.  Somehow, the Packers need to show up solid in this area.

I mentioned matchups earlier and another area that's key is adjustments.  The Packers are, well, stubborn, to put it mildly.  They don't adjust well during games on either side of the ball and seem to want to stick with what they've been doing all along.  At this point, this team needs a spark and they just need to get a win.  Whether that means giving Rodgers the personnel groupings to allow him more options at the line of scrimmage or taking some more shots downfield, the Packers have to start making bigger plays on offense.  Last week, receiver Davante Adams was targeted 21 times.  He had a few nice catches, but also had a huge drop on the two-point try that would have tied the game late and before that, was also flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Adams needs to be on a mission to redeem himself, along with Randall Cobb, who had a few big drops last week.  This receiver group needs to show some pride this week and rise above the press coverage.  Gone are they days of open field and pinpoint rockets from Rodgers, they are going to have to fight for every ball thrown.  It's a mentality that this group simply has to have.

Win here and the Packers can use this game as a turning point in getting themselves back on track.  A loss continues the downward spiral and makes a division title an uphill battle.  It's hard for me to write about the Packers needing to show some heart this week, as we haven't seen much of it over the last three games.  Yes, they mounted furious comebacks in the last two games, but they allowed themselves into huge holes to begin with and made their charges against defenses who finally backed off and were guarding against the big play, which the Packers haven't been making anyway.  If the Packers want to win this game, they have to play four quarters.

Gut Feeling of the Week

The Vikings are going to get a big day from someone on the offensive side of the ball and the Packers will have to overcome it to win.  I predict it's Peterson running wild and while that's not ideal, let's hope that's all that the Packers are contending with.  If Bridgewater or any of the Vikings receivers are able to join the party, this one can turn into a blowout and fast.  Green Bay has to get off the field on third down.  They've forced teams into long yardage situations, but they're allowing them to convert even when there are 15 or more yards to gain.  Somehow, some way, the Packers have to stop all of the negative trends that have dug them into this hole. 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Pulse of the Pack podcast.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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

Bearmeat's picture

I'm looking forward to this game. Either GB turns it around as they should or the division (and a bye) are goners.

The defense will be adequate to below adequate. The team is built on Arod and the passing game with LacySmash as a nice complement. When those two aren't working... they're in trouble. Here's hoping the offense WAKES THE EFF UP this weekend.

Tundraboy's picture

This is their chance on so many levels. Let's hope they rise from the ashes this week and play a great game. Go Pack Go

TommyG's picture

. Our defense needs to concentrate on containment and make teddy beet us with his arm. That being said, I see bridgewater having a cam newton like day. I don't see why we would suddenly generate a pass rush; so while he may be contained he will be able to throw. Our D is bad against TE in the crossing routes so there will be lots of yards there. And then we still have AP to deal with... Sigh.

IF (big if) our offensive line can hold for 4 seconds, and IFAR isn't jittery, and IF our receivers can catch the ball then maybe, just maybe, we can turn this thing into a points race. We could win that.

John Galt III's picture

Most important game of the season. The coaches and players are prepared and win or the season is pretty much over.

If they lose this game, the locker room will be a morgue and from that condition it is very difficult to recover. Psychology means a lot in all endeavors and football is no different.

We have a coaching staff that I have said is composed of plodders. I have gotten negative votes for that the last 4 weeks. What I mean is that they don't think quick, adjust and react. Jason above has said the same thing in different words. So maybe there is recognition, finally.

That does not mean the coaching staff can't change. They must recognize their shortcomings and fix things.

We all hope they do.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Remember when some people thought Lynch and Charles would run wild?

Oh...

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