Game Preview: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Coming off one of their worst regular season losses in recent memories, the Green Bay Packers look to get on track at home against the rival Minnesota Vikings. Fresh off getting trounced 38-10 at the hands of the Giants, Green Bay is in a standard trap game looking for their 8th win. Even with the recent history between the Vikes and the Pack (GB 4-0 in last four games), Green Bay can’t afford to lose this game if they want to lead the race for the playoffs. Although entering Sunday’s game as the severe underdog (+9.5), Minnesota remains one of the league’s biggest surprises given their competitive 6-5 record. Lots of playoff implications in this game, and it shouldn’t disappoint fans.
The Pack are the heavy favorites for Sunday, they’ve won 80% of game simulations. They also have a 60% probability of beating the 9.5 point spread, and it could be over quickly if QB Aaron Rodgers aggressively attacks. Rodgers averaged almost 300 yards passing and while spreading three touchdowns to his Packers receiving core. The simulations have showed a tale of two Christian Ponders: 19% of games the Vikings won Ponder averaged 1.27 TDs to just 0.77 INTs but was held under one TD and up to 1.44 INTs in the losses. Minnesota star running back Adrian Peterson surpassed 125 yards rushing in wins, but just 80 in losses. A positive turnover margin (which they should attain) helped the Packers to sim victory 90% of time.
Even with a poor performance last week against New York, Rodgers remains the league leader in passer rating. His 105.6 remains above his historic 104.4 career average, and he’s having this year without a stable or effective offensive lines. Green Bay has been hampered by injuries, and it’s apparent on their protective unit as their own back ups are undrafted rookies. Rodgers average almost 300 yards in their 2011 matchups, and combined for 7 TDs.
Even though Vikings CB Antoine Winfield is in line for another pro-bowl appearance, the Pack receiving attack gained another weapon in the return of WR Greg Jennings. With the return of one of the team leaders, Green Bay has one of the league’s most talented receiver trio in Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. This group projects to record over 150 yards combined, but I see them pushing closer to 200. Who knows, maybe TE Jermichael Finley can get on track or WR James Jones could surprise given his career revival.
For all their offensive successes, the Packers have yet to establish a run game in 2012. I don’t see the Packers (especially without Cedric Benson, who recently opted for surgery) running over the NFC with the likes of Alex Green and James Starks in the backfield. Through simulations, neither Green nor Starks gained over 25 rushing yards against Minnesota. Expect the league-average Vikings defense to shine against the run and improve their season averages.
There is no secret to the Viking’s offense; the “ground-n-pound” mentality with RB Adrian Peterson continues to be successful. Peterson leads the league in rushing, and figures to have another nice game as he projects to have 90 yards on 17 carries and a TD on the ground. Against most teams, I would expect Peterson to have a bigger game, but the Vikings will be behind early and be forced to use QB Christian Ponder early and more frequently.
The Packers have one of the worst performing secondaries in the league, but Ponder has been prone to turnovers and mistakes in his young career. With just a 13-9 TD INT ratio, Ponder has a lot room to improve. The simulations weren’t kind of the FSU alum as he underperformed and had 220 yards and 1 TD to 1.3 INTs. As stated, if the Vikings want any chance of succeeding, their quarterback will have to play above his level. The Packers’ defense averaged two turnovers in sims, but at vicious Lambeau it could be worse.
If Rodgers and co. have their way against the Packers, things could get ugly fast. The simulations predict a 31-20 Green Bay victory, and I don’t see a ton of scenarios in which Minnesota can improve their chances. Jared Allen may be a beast, but he doesn’t play all 11 defensive positions for the Vikings. Once the dusts settle, I see the Packers winning 33=17 and maintaining their edge on the NFC wildcard.
article originally written for AccuScore.com