Packers Offense vs. Vikings Defense
No one will be resting in the Packers offense, as Green Bay has plenty to play for this week. With the chance to secure a first round bye, and at least one home game in the playoffs, the Packers want this win badly, but don’t need it like the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are winners of 9 of the last 10, and look to eliminate the Vikings before having to potentially play them in a playoff scenario. Rodgers is once again leading one of the more effective offenses in the NFL, ranked 13th in total yards, and 7th in scoring offense. The Minnesota Vikings 16th ranked defense has a tough time ahead of them in containing the dynamic Packers offense.
Aaron Rodgers and Weapons vs. Vikings Secondary
Rodgers is having another amazing season, leading the NFL in passer rating(106.2), 2nd in touchdown passes(35), 3rd in completion percentage(67%), and will attain his 4th 4,000 yard season with 70 yards against the Vikings 20th ranked passing defense. Each of Rodgers weapons has had a story filled season. Jermichael Finley has been disappointingly inconsistent, but finally seems to be producing consistently in the last three weeks. Veteran receiver Greg Jennings lost most of the season to injury, but has returned just in time for a playoff push. Jordy Nelson has been hot and cold all season, nursing injuries and seeing a decrease in targets. Nelson returns this week, and he and Jennings are returning at the right time.
As Randall Cobb, the Packers leader in catches(80) and yards(954), is questionable for this game. Cobb also returns punts and kicks, and his absence takes the primary weapon out of the Packers offense. That brings us to James Jones, quietly leading the NFL in touchdown catches(13), Jones has had the luck of just being there all season, but would be considered the Packers 4th weapon on an optimal day. Vikings rookie Harrison Smith and veteran Antoine Winfield are tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3. Winfield is questionable with a broken hand, but expects to play. Smith is the kind of versatile ball-hawking defender the Vikings were hoping for when the used their first round pick on a safety, he has 2 defensive touchdowns, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and is 3rd on the team in tackles(98). Watching Rodgers work his multitude of offensive weapons, while attempting to manipulate the secondary, and run for his life from Jared Allen and the Vikings pressure, will be worth watching as usual.
Offensive vs. Defensive Lines
The Packers have given up 46 sacks this year, tied for 3rd worst in the NFL. At times their offensive line has looked like a screen door, and Rodgers production has suffered from it. To take the pressure off Rodgers and their porous offensive line, the Packers have tried to establish the run, and have successfully rushed for 100-yards 5 of the last 6 weeks, despite not having a 100-yard rusher all season. The Vikings are 8th with 39 sacks, using multiple blitz schemes and stunts to manufacture pressure. Defensive ends Jared Allen(11) and Brian Robison(7.5) have been good pressuring the passer, and lead the team in sacks, but the Vikings have schemed 10 other players to a sack. Robison is questionable for this game, and the Vikings would miss him, Robison’s pressure has prevented teams from rolling protection to double Allen on the other side. Allen rushes from the left side, and last time facing the Packers left tackle Marshall Newhouse, Allen had 6 tackles and 2 sacks. The Packers success may hinge on how much pressure Allen, Robison, and the rest of the Vikings are able to scheme against Rodgers.
Alex Green and Ryan Grant vs. Run Defense
With Cedric Benson and James Starks out, the mantle of running the ball has passed to Alex Green and former Packers feature back Ryan Grant. Grant had 80 yards last week against a horrible Tennessee run defense, and led the Packers 100+ yard effort. Chad Greenway has 145 tackles for the Vikings defense, and Antoine Winfield has 100. Winfield is questionable for this game, but against a division rival in a must win, he may push to play. These two outstanding defenders are the keystones for the Vikings run defense. Being able to block Winfield from the outside, and Packers fullback John Kuhn getting through the hole to block Greenway, will be two keys to a successful Green Bay rushing attack.