The Packers offense came to play last Sunday in a 38-17 win over the rival Chicago Bears moving them into a 3-way tie for 2nd in the division at 2-2. For the 3rd week in a row the Packers will play a division opponent but this time they will be in the comforts of Lambeau Field on Thursday Night Football. With in a win tonight, the Packers would find themselves above .500 for the first time on the season and it would keep their home record perfect. A win would also keep them on Detroit’s heels prior to their game on Sunday.
For the Vikings, they are coming off a big home victory over the Atlanta Falcons which moved their record to 2-2 as well. The Teddy Bridgewater era opened with a bang as he helped lead the Vikings to victory by throwing for over 300 yards and added a rushing touchdown before leaving the game early with an ankle sprain. That very injury is leaving his status in doubt for tonights game after he has been unable to practice much this week. For the Vikings, a win would put them back above .500 and keep them in the thick of the NFC North division race.
The recent history of this rivalry is in the Packers favor as they have a 7-1-1 (including postseason) record over the past 9 games against the Vikings. That includes a 4-0-1 record against the Vikings at home over that span. Offensively, the Packers have had no issues with the Vikings defense as they have an scored an average of 33.7 points over that span, which includes 5 games of at least 30 points.
With the game only a few hours away, here are 5 keys that will help lead the Packers to Victory:
- Stay Hot on Offense – As seen last week, when the offense is rolling, it can mask the defensive issues on the team. Aaron Rodgers put on a offensive clinic against the Bears defense last week and this week he gets the comforts of Lambeau Field on primetime television to keep it going. With the threat of rain on tap, getting the running game going will be important but ultimately, scoring points, no matter the source, is the most important thing. Getting Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and all of the other weapons involved early will put the Vikings defense on its heels early and allow Rodgers to pick them apart little by little. No matter how the defense plays, a strong offensive performance is what the Packers need to come away victorious.
- Stop the Vikings Running Game – No matter who starts for the Vikings tonight, Teddy Bridgewater or Christian Ponder, the running game is what the Vikings will want to establish early on. The Packers, after being gashed last week by the Bears, feel to dead last in the NFL in rush defense and are now allowing 176.0 yards a game, 12 yards more than any other team. If the Packers want to win tonight, they need to limit the Vikings ability to run the ball and force either Vikings quarterback to win the game with their arm. The Vikings are going to want to establish the run to take advantage of their strength versus the Packers weakness and to slow the game down and keep the Packers offense off the field. If the Packers are able to slow down the Vikings running attack, it will allow the Packers to be able send extra pressure and get some sacks or force a few turnovers. Ultimately, he best defense this week could be the Packers offense by putting up a lot of points early, forcing the Vikings to alter their game plan by playing from behind. Stopping, or at least slowing down, the Vikings running game is crucial to the Packers success this week.
- Keep Cordarrelle Patterson in Check – Whether it be in the running, receiving or return game, Cordarrelle Patterson has the potential to beat a team in each. While his numbers on the season to this point are anything jaw dropping but he is always a play away from breaking a big play. Last year, in only his 7th NFL game, Patterson took the opening kickoff back 109 yards, setting an NFL record, in a game against the Packers so they are well aware of what he is capable of. Mason Crosby will be put to the test trying to keep the ball out of Patterson’s hands on kickoffs, as to limit his ability for a big return and to not give the Vikings good field position. Keeping him contained and limited his big play ability will be important if the Packers defense wants to be successful tonight.
- Win the Turnover Battle – We discuss this each week, but winning the turnover battle will be crucial if the Packers hope to win tonight. As it was seen last night, winning the turnover battle made what looked like a bad defensive game look a little better after they were able to pick off Jay Cutler twice. While the defense still gave up almost 500 yards of offense, giving the offense a few extra possessions equalled a 21 point victory. On offense, holding onto the ball is vital to limiting the Vikings opportunity to work the clock and keep it out of the Packers hands. Last year, the Packers had 3 scoring drives that combined took around 8 mins, so they don’t need a lot of time to score. The last thing the offense needs to turn the ball over and limit their own scoring opportunties. Win the turnover battle and the odds of winning the game get much better.
- Ride the Momentum – A Thursday Night game on national television is going to produce an electric atmosphere in Lambeau Field and the Packers have to use that to their advantage. When the Packers are on defense, a loud and excited crowd has the ability to force a young team, like the Vikings, into mistakes whether they be turnovers or false starts. If the Packers can get a few quick scores, expect the volume to only increase. As is always the case, the Packers need to take advantage of the extra momentum from the home crowd and ride it to victory.
Prediction – Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense take advantage of another undermanned defense and score early and often. The defense, like last week, makes just enough plays to provide some cushion in the final score. Eddie Lacy finds the endzone for the second straight week while Aaron Rodgers tosses 3 touchdown passes, one of which goes to Davante Adams, which will be the first of his career. As a whole, the Packers have to much fire power on offense and can play just enough defense to come away with the victory. Final score: Packers 31 – Vikings 17
As always, make sure to follow @packers360 for Packers talk before, during and after the games. Give me a follow on twitter @mkhawk21 to talk all things Packers and more. Make sure to check back after the games as we will have our recaps and my thoughts on the game. Go Pack Go!