Wednesday, October 1, 2014
NFL Preview: Green Bay Packers Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Thursday will cap off a short week for the Green Bay Packers as they welcome their rival, the Minnesota Vikings, to Lambeau field. This will be the Packers third straight NFC North divisional game, and their first Thursday night game since the 2012 season. The Packers and Vikings are both coming off of impressive wins against the Bears and Falcons respectively. The Vikings seem to be catching fire, and are clearly better than their 2-3 record says. The Packers have to keep their offense rolling if they want to get to 3-2 and 2-1 in the North.
The short week may prove costly for the Packers defense. The run defense ranks dead last in the NFL, and Mike McCarthy admitted on Tuesday that they look "run down," and that doesn't bode well going into a game on 4-days rest. Most would think the Vikings pose little threat running the ball without the best running back in the game, and Packer killer: Adrian Peterson. Peterson was suspended after week 1 when he was brought up on child abuse charges. Peterson will most likely miss both matchups against the Packers this season, but they still bring a strong running game to the table. Former fullback Matt Asiata is the type of bruising runner that gives the Packers fits.
The Packers defensive lacks the toughness to keep hard-running running backs bottled up. Marshawn Lynch and Chris Ivory have already made the linebackers and safeties look like children. And to switch it up the Vikings have rookie running back Jerick Mckinnon. Mckinnon is a speedy back who can run between the tackles. He posted 135 yard on 18 carries against the Atlanta Falcons in week 4. The other factor that kills the Packers defense is speed. The Vikings pose the perfect threat to rip the Packers apart. The Packers must get psychical if they want to stop the Vikings now underrated running game.
This psychicality starts upfront with Mike Daniels, Josh Boyd, and Latroy Guion. Guion, a former Viking, may have some extra motivation coming into this game. He has to perform better than he has the past four weeks. DT Mike Pennell got a chance last week against the Bears, but he failed as Matt Forte shredded the defense. Jammari Lattimore and AJ Hawk have also been pushed around way too much in the last few weeks. The inside linebackers must get stronger on their run defense, and get that inside pressure on the quarterback. It's been clear thus far that Hawk has lost a step this season. I look for the Vikings to exploit this weakness on Thursday. But the Packers can't overlook the Vikings passing game either.
Rookie Teddy Bridgewater made his first start against the Falcons in week 4, and he lived up to expectations. Bridgewater threw for 317 yards and rushed for a touchdown. He didn't turn the ball over, which goes a long way in showing that he's not your average rookie. Bridgewater seemed to build a rapport with receivers Jarius Wright and, Former Packer, Gregg Jennings. They also have the explosive Coradelle Patterson who can score anytime he touches the ball. Bridgewater showed pin point accuracy, and elusiveness in the win against the Falcons too. The fact that he showed elusiveness should worry the Packers defense. Elusiveness quarterbacks have given the Packers fits since 2011. They must keep a spy on Bridgewater, and try to confuse him with some exotic blitz's.
Dom Capers can never put a great gameplan togegther to confuse rookie quarterbacks. It's maddening to watch rookies, and inadequte QB's alike tear the Packers defense apart. This is going to be even more of a tougher test for the defense though after seeing a full game out of Bridgewater last week. Bridgewater did sprain his ankle in the win, but it seems as if he play on Thursday. The Packers best defense could be their offense though.
If the Packers can get a complete game out of their offense on Thursday it will be a long night for the Vikings. In both wins this season, Aaron Rodgers has been on fire, but the running game was lacking. Last week against the Bears, Rodgers put on an air raid, and basically controlled the game through the air. Eddie Lacy struggled again to break tackles and get to the next level of the defense. With rain in the forecast for thursday the Packers will need to get the run game going. The struggles aren't all on Lacy though. It doesn't seem like the offensive line is getting a good push or holding their blocks long enough. Everytime Lacy gets the ball he's surrounded instantly. You can't expect him to break 4 tackles at a time on every run.
If the run game doesn't get going though, I think Rodgers found his groove last week, and will continue to light it up. The Packers did what they needed to do last week: get all the receivers involved. Plays were called for Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. They opened up the playbook and looked like themselves. Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers even contributed, and looked a little like Jermichael Finley. The Packers need to get that tight end presence felt as they move forward. I think the Vikings secondary is somewhat strong, but Rodgers should be able to have a lot of success if he's given time. Adams needs to be a bigger part of this offense as well. He flashed a lot of signs of great talent against the Bears, and this confidence needs to carry over against the Vikings.
The Packers special teams have also enjoyed a great run recently against the Vikings. In 2011, it was Randall Cobb who returned a punt for a touchdown, in 2012 Jeremy Ross put on a clinic at kick returner, and last season Micah Hyde returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown. Could the Packers weak special teams be poised to break out on Thursday?
I believe being at Lambeau, this game should swing the Packers way all night. It'll be close early, but look for the Packers to pull away late in the third quarter.