The Green Bay Packers explosive offense enters Week 12 riding a wave of momentum, but will face an improving Minnesota Vikings defense at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday.
In their last two games, the Packers have scored a total of 108 points behind the particularly effective play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The 30-year-old threw for nine touchdown passes and 656 yards and no interceptions in games against the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson caught a total of 10 of Rodgers’s passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in the blowout victories.
The Packers offense can expect things to be a bit more difficult against the Vikings. On Oct. 2 at Lambeau Field, the Packers torched the Vikings, 42-10, but Minnesota’s defense has allowed only one opponent to score more than 21 points in the five games since then. On the season, the Vikings’ defense is 11th best in total yards, and 14th in points allowed.
Minnesota ranks eighth in pass defense, but the team has struggled against the league’s top quarterbacks. In Weeks 2 and 3, the Vikings allowed Tom Brady and Drew Brees to register passer ratings of 103.1 and 120.3, respectively.
In their four wins, the Vikings have combined to win the turnover battle, 7-0. It will be difficult to force Rodgers into throwing an interception, considering he’s been picked off in just two of 10 games. Green Bay leads the NFL with a +14 turnover differential.
While containing the Rodgers-Nelson combination is crucial for the Vikings, defensive coordinator George Edwards has stressed better tackling after the Packers’ Eddie Lacy rushed for 105 yards on 13 carries against the Vikings in October.
“We know coming into this game and after playing these guys the first time that you’ve got to do a good job of tackling Lacy,” said Edwards in a press conference. “They’re very good at run-after-the-catch. Their receivers are very good, athletic, and do a good job of stiff arming and stuff, and running after the catch, so we’ve got to do a good job of limiting those things. That’s been an emphasis for us, is we’ve got to do a good job of tackling. Once we get into position to make those plays, we’ve got to get them on the ground.”
The Vikings defense may need to step up for a lagging offense. With Adrian Peterson not on the roster, the running game has failed to make a serious impact. Rookie Jerick McKinnon leads the team in rushing yards (484), but has been limited in practice this week with a lower back injury. With Matt Asiata’s status unclear with a concussion, Ben Tate was picked up on waivers on Wednesday from the Cleveland Browns to bolster the unit, but the ground game faces a stiff challenge. The Packers defense limited the Eagles ground game, which includes Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy, to a total of just 109 yards on 31 carries in Week 11.
Teddy Bridgewater leads the Vikings offense against the No. 22 Packers defense. The rookie quarterback has thrown just one interception in the past three games, which was the only turnover the Vikings have committed in the stretch. However, he'll need to increase his production to keep up with the NFL's No.1 offense, failing to post a passer rating of at least 90.0 since he made his first start in Week 4.
After winning by 32 points in their first matchup against the Vikings in 2014, the Packers are 8.5-point road favorites. The over/under is 48.5 points, though Green Bay hasn’t played a game that has totaled less than 51 points since Week 3.
PREDICTION: Green Bay over Minnesota, 34-17
An IB Times staff reporter contributed to this report.