|Photo Courtesy of Vikings.com|
The Vikings (7-2) will return to TCF Bank Stadium as they face off with a Green Bay Packers (6-3) squad that has lost three consecutive matchups. Daniel House previews this important division collision.
Updated: November 21st, 2015 12:00pm
Updated: November 21st, 2015 12:00pm
By: Daniel House
The Vikings (7-2) will return to TCF Bank Stadium as they face off with a Green Bay Packers (6-3) squad that has lost three consecutive matchups. Minnesota has been supported by the legs of Adrian Peterson, along with a defense that has performed beyond expectations. Green Bay is lacking an offensive rhythm as they arrive to Minnesota for this contest. They lost to a reeling Lions team at home for the first time since 1991. Not to mention, Aaron Rodgers hasn't been the same quarterback. Their defense is surrendering a big volume of yardage and they haven't played like the team that opened up the season with six consecutive wins. However, the Packers will eventually bounce back. The Vikings just need to play their style of football. That starts by running the ball well and continuing to play good team defense. If they can do those things, the Vikings have a chance to defend their one game lead over the Packers in the NFC North.
Here are my five keys to victory:
Getting after Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers has completed less than 50% of his passes in two consecutive games. However, he is bound to get back on track in a game of this nature. The Vikings defensive line needs to pressure Rodgers frequently. He is one of the best quarterbacks at extending plays and keeping drives alive. If he has time to make plays with his legs, he's a massive threat. The Packers offensive line allowed three sacks last week and injuries have plagued the group. Right guard T.J. Lang (shoulder) was upgraded from questionable to probable on Saturday. That means all four injured starting linemen: LT David Bakhtiari (knee), OG Josh Sitton (back) and RT Bryan Bulaga (knee) are probable. Getting after Rodgers and making him uncomfortable will be vital to a Vikings victory on Sunday. Mike Zimmer will be sending many different packages his way as he orchestrates his game plan. Aaron Rodgers has faced a Mike Zimmer defense four times, but has never gone over 300 yards passing.
Moving the ball on the ground
Adrian Peterson is heating up and has the chance to really do some more solid work against the Packers defense. They rank in the bottom third of the league in rushing, passing, and total yards allowed. Green Bay surrendered 500+ yards of offense to San Diego and Carolina. What's more, Peterson rushed for 203 yards against Oakland last week. Minnesota has been deploying three tight end sets on a frequent basis and that game plan should be expected again. By setting up the running game, the Vikings can open up more lanes for Teddy Bridgewater to do work through the air. Peterson historically performs well in games against Green Bay and the level of magnitude involved with this game will take his performance to the next level.
Get in a rhythm through the air
Teddy Bridgewater hasn't had a performance where he has been consistent through the air. If he could do that against Green Bay, the offense would really open. The Vikings don't have a clear-cut top wide receiver, but they have an arsenal of wide receivers to distribute the ball to. The Packers secondary hasn't been as stingy during their losing streak, but the unit is still respectable. The Vikings offensive line will need to protect Bridgewater. He is much more effective when he can step into the pocket and make good throws. Green Bay has went three consecutive games without a sack, but their pass rush shouldn't be discounted. They still have the seventh-most sacks (23) of any NFL team. Bridgewater might not be making flashy plays, but he isn't turning the ball over. Continuing to play like this will be critical for the Vikings in this game. The Packers offense simply can't be rewarded with a short field.
Taking control of the tempo
Being at home is an advantage and the Vikings must use it. That starts by dictating the tempo. They need to get off to a quick start against the Packers. The Vikings defense has allowed just 17 points per game and will need to be as sturdy this week. That starts by scoring first and allowing the defense to do their job without spending too much time on the field. The Packers are averaging just 69.3 rushing yards per game over the last three games. This has resulted in a higher number of passing attempts from the Green Bay offense. The secondary needs to cover Randall Cobb and James Jones well. However, it's even more critical to pressure Aaron Rodgers to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. If he doesn't have time to find his receivers, their offense loses flow.
Winning an important division game
The Packers are struggling and need to find an identity quickly. Minnesota must prevent that from happening by playing good football. Aaron Rodgers has won nine of his last ten starts against the Vikings, throwing 31 touchdowns and four interceptions in the past 12 matchups. Minnesota needs to prove that they can win against the Packers in a game that has meaning. Being victorious would improve the Vikings record to 8-2, while holding the tiebreaker over the Packers. This game has the potential to be very important for the future of both teams. Mike Zimmer is downplaying how much this game means, but we all know his true thoughts about this -- he wants it bad.