Many fans of both the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings were beginning to panic ahead of their teams’ Week 4 games. After the two NFC North rivals picked up much needed wins on Sunday, they are set to begin Week 5 of the 2014 NFL season when they face off on “Thursday Night Football.”
Following Green Bay’s Week 3 loss that put the team at 1-2, Aaron Rodgers advised fans to “R-E-L-A-X” on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. The quarterback backed up his words by throwing four touchdown passes in a 21-point win over the Chicago Bears.
Minnesota shared last place with Green Bay and played the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday with no Adrian Peterson and a rookie quarterback making his first start. Teddy Bridgewater appears to have given the Vikings new life, leading them to a 41-28 win in Week 4.
There’s a chance that Bridgewater won’t be able to go on Thursday, but it appears likely that he’ll play. He suffered a sprained ankle towards the end of Sunday’s game, but an MRI showed no serious damage, and Minnesota is hopeful that Bridgewater can play in Week 5. Christian Ponder would start in his place.
Bridgewater was very impressive in his first NFL start, completing 19 of 30 pass attempts for 317 yards. Including the preseason, the rookie still has yet to throw an interception.
While the first-round pick’s play highlighted the team’s win, the Vikings' real advantage in their win came on the ground. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata combined to rush for 213 yards on 38 attempts, scoring three touchdowns. In Minnesota’s first two games without Peterson, they rushed for just 113 total yards.
The Packers are still trying to get their running game on track. The passing game has been responsible for most of the team’s offense, with Aaron Rodgers ranking second with a 109.1 passer rating and Jordy Nelson leading the NFL at 459 receiving yards.
Following a strong rookie campaign, Eddie Lacy has been one of the most disappointing players in the league. Twenty-seven running backs have totaled more than his 161 rushing yards, giving Green Bay the NFL’s No.28 rushing offense.
Thursday night’s contest could turn into a high-scoring affair, considering both teams have a poor time stopping their rival’s strength. McKinnon and Asiata could have another big day against the worst rush defense in all of football. The Vikings could have a tough time stopping Rodgers, allowing the last two quarterbacks they’ve faced to throw for 591 total yards. The over/under comes in at 48.5 points at Las Vegas casinos.
Even though both teams have the same record and the Vikings are coming off a big win, the betting odds have the Packers listed as heavy favorites. At home, Green Bay is giving Minnesota 9.5 points.
Prediction: The Vikings should be able to have success on the ground against the Packers, but it’s not likely that they’ll go over 200 yards at more than five yards per carry again. If Green Bay can give Rodgers ample time, he could have another big game. Bridgewater has looked good so far, but he might have his worst game yet playing in Lambeau Field and on a shaky ankle.
Prediction: Green Bay 34, Minnesota 23