Sunday, November 23, 2014

Week 12: Packers vs. Vikings Preview and Prediction

It's about 90 minutes until kickoff between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis. Gone are the days of playing in the Humpty Dump and its piped-in crowd noise, replaced this season with the outdoor home field of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

But regardless of the venue these days, the Vikings are still the ViQueens. A team with a rookie quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, who will be good -- perhaps very good -- given a few more years in the NFL. But for now, he's still a rookie and one without many offensive weapons. RB Adrian Peterson is still on indefinite suspension by the league and depth for his replacement is an issue for Minnesota, although rookie third-round draft pick Jerick McKinnon has performed nicely, rushing for 489 yards overall and a 4.9-yards-per-carry average. You have to respect that, and the Packers had better. For receivers, you have to believe Greg Jennings wishes he had stayed in Green Bay. Do you ever hear of him any more? The 'Queens' offensive line is average at best and could be in for a long day if the Packers defensive scheme continues to perform at the same level as the last few weeks.

The 'Queens' defense, at least along the front seven, is probably it's strong suit. RE Everson Griffen may cause Packers LT David Bakhtiari problems. He leads his team in both sacks and quarterback hits. He will have to be accounted for and Bakhtiari will have to be up to the challenge or it could cause problems for Aaron Rodgers and the passing game. WLB Chad Greenway has played every snap and recorded 47 tackles in the last four games since returning from a broken rib that kept him out of the first game against the Pack. He likewise will have to be accounted for and handled. Greenway is a gamer and a good one. At age 31 and after 9 years in the league, he's perhaps not as fast as he once was. But he's still a smart ballplayer and can be a disruptive factor.

The weak spot in the Minnesota defense is the secondary. Some capable, but young, players there. Just the kind that Rodgers and his receiving corps can exploit if Rodgers is given protection.

Randall Cobb grabs a TD pass against Minnesota at Lambeau Field
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The other part of that equation, of course, especially in a game where rain is possible, is a sound running game led by Eddie Lacy. We should expect head coach Mike McCarthy to call plays which not only allow Lacy to run from scrimmage, but to get him on the outside for screens and set up opportunities for yardage after the catch, which we have seen in recent games is something Lacy is getting better and better at.

The 'Queens didn't play well against Chicago last week, particularly on defense. Expect them to come out fired up, especially in the first half where things could be tight. But over the course of the game, barring injuries or turnovers, the Packers' talent should take over at some point. In some recent games, that has happened very early and other teams have then be forced to try to play catch up. Ideally, that same scenario would apply today. We should get an indication of a fast start or a first-half dogfight early on. If Minnesota has to play from behind...well, good luck with that, Minnesota.

The Packers are favored by either 8 or 9 points going into this game, depending upon who you are looking at. We think this game should be a wider spread than that if things stay true to form. The over-under is 49.5 points. So scoring is have to assume it's skewed in the Pack's favor.

We're calling this 38-17 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!