Looking Ahead To The Minnesota Vikings


When the season started and the Green Bay Packers jumped out to a 6-0 start, not many people (myself included) would have pictured them in this scenario: a spiraling three-game losing streak, including a heartbreaking loss at home to the Detroit Lions, and now facing a potential must-win game against the division-leading Minnesota Vikings.

What a crazy thing three weeks will do to you, huh? 

While the Packers offense has looked downright awful the last three weeks, and the defense has been questionable, the Vikings have looked almost the complete opposite of that. Leaning on Adrian Peterson, the Vikings have climbed to a 7-2 record and now control the NFC North for at least this week. Will this finally be the game where the Packers wake up? Let’s take a look. 

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Who Are They?

The Minnesota Vikings are this year’s sudden threat to the NFC North, switching off with the Lions and Bears for this season. All jokes aside, the 2015 season has been very kind to the Vikings, as they continue to prove nearly every doubter wrong on their way to a 7-2 record, thanks to the play of some young and old talent.

Teddy Bridgewater, the quarterback the Vikings drafted last year, has continued to be a bright spot in the organization, showing a very uncanny ability to make some special plays when called upon. While he isn’t exactly having a stellar season by the numbers, he’s doing everything he needs to in order to help the Vikings succeed.

As he slowly improves upon his skill set, he’s going to be a major player in not only Minnesota, but the NFC North for years to come. For the moment, however, the Vikings look to someone else to make the majority of plays, and he’s someone that the Packers are all too familiar with. 

While the team is obviously better thanks to the skills of Bridgewater, it is safe to say that it is nearly entirely dependent on Adrian Peterson. The current NFL rushing leader has run the ball 195 times this season, almost 30 more than anyone else, which goes to show you just how heavily Minnesota leans on him.

The Packers are no strangers to Peterson, and no doubt know just how big of a threat he poses. In order to have any hopes of reclaiming first place in the division, the team is going to have to stop him early and often. 

Defensively, the Vikings have a group that’s extremely well suited to creating problems for a pass happy offense. Defensive backs like Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, and Captain Munnerlyn have helped the Vikings become the eighth-best defense against the pass.

Up front, they aren’t much weaker; up and coming stars like Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, and Sharrif Floyd are all proving their worth to Minnesota and will pose a very real threat to Aaron Rodgers.

What to watch for: 

  • Playoff Atmosphere: First and foremost, it’s important to note that this game will likely be very rowdy for fans of the Vikings. It’s not often the team finds itself on the rise, and with a 7-2 record and a chance to gain almost 2 games on the Packers (a long hated rival), it isn’t a stretch to say this might feel like a playoff game at TCF Bank Stadium. Of course, Green Bay will be doing everything it can to spoil that, and it all has to start with Aaron Rodgers, who’s been pretty good against Minnesota in his career (10-4, sporting a 31-4 TD/INT ratio, and a 119.0 passer rating).
  • Packers Offensive Line vs. Vikings: Obviously, this is going to be the biggest matchup of the day. Coming into the game with four of the five starting offensive linemen on the injury report (sans Corey Linsley) is never good, and even worse when your starting QB is there as well. With Rodgers “banged up” and sporting a sore throwing shoulder and knee, the battle between the Vikings very talented front four and the Packers offensive line is going to be the one most fans should look out for.
  • Packers Wide Receivers: While the recent offensive struggles are hard to blame on any one person, it’s safe to say that some of it needs to be given to the Packers receiving corp. Whether it’s drops, miscommunications, or just having trouble getting open, the receivers have all acknowledged that they have to perform better in order to give the team a chance to win. This week, it doesn’t get much easier, with a talented, experienced, and most importantly, physical secondary coming to face them. Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and James Jones will all have to step up in order to give the Packers any shot at winning.

Keys to Victory: 

To win the game, it starts and stops with the defense. This one is pretty obvious if you’re the Green Bay Packers: stop Adrian Peterson, at all costs.

In his 14 career games against Green Bay, Peterson has 1,648 yards, which averages out to around 117 per game. The way he’s playing now, it’s entirely possible he runs for double that on Sunday. If the Packers want any chance of stopping this losing streak and getting back to first place, it’s going to hinge on the defense stopping Peterson.

Of course, they aren’t the only ones who have to improve.

While the defense is certainly the main key to beating the Vikings, the offense is no doubt just as important. While you can look on the optimistic side and consider the Detroit game a “rock bottom” of sorts for the offense, there just hasn’t been anything to see that the team will suddenly right the ship.

The Vikings are another top 10 defense that the Packers must play, and if they could only muster 17 points at home to the lowly Lions, I can’t see them doing too much more on the road in what could very easily feel like a playoff game for the Vikings faithful.

While the Packers will continue to remain the team to beat in the NFC North so long as they have Aaron Rodgers, I don’t think they’re going to be the team to beat come Sunday.

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Prediction: Vikings 28, Packers 21