Packers, Vikings Square Off in NFC North Battle
The Green Bay Packers head into Minnesota trying to snap a three-game losing streak, while the Vikings hope to win their sixth game in a row.
Minnesota sits atop the division with a 7-2 record and Green Bay is a game behind with a 6-3 record.
For Sunday's at TCF Bank Stadium, the temperature will be 37 degrees with the wind blowing at about 12 miles per hour.
The Vikings come into this game reeling and have allowed opponents to score 17.1 points per game. That's second best in the NFL behind the Cincinnati Bengals. The Vikings have bought into Mike Zimmer's defensive coaching scheme. On offense, Minnesota pounds the ball on the ground with Adrian Peterson and that opens the passing game for Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater has formed quite the rapport with rookie wideout Stefon Diggs.
The Packers' offense comes into this game with their offense struggling. Green Bay's offense needs to start fast unlike its last two games against Carolina and Detroit. The Packers' run game needs a boost to help take some pressure off of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is listed on Green Bay's injury report for the first time this season with a shoulder injury. The good news is that Rodgers was a full practice participant on Thursday for the Packers. Eddie Lacy was also a full participant in practice Thursday and if he can get going, that should help the Packers. Jared Abberderis hasn't practiced this week and is expected to miss time with a ribs/chest injury. Against Detroit, Abberderis stepped up and made some big catches down the stretch to help the Packers.
Green Bay needs to get its offensive line healthy as well. David Bahktiari, Bryan Bulaga, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton have all been limited in practice this week. A big reason for the Packers' success last year was the success of this unit and their ability to make holes for Lacy and buy time for Rodgers to make passes in the pocket. For Rodgers, teams are making him sit in the pocket. I'm sure the Vikings will try and do the same. Rodgers is at his best when he can move around and make throws on the run.
One thing to watch this week is to see if Rodgers throws more towards Randall Cobb's way. Last week, Rodgers threw the ball 21 times towards Davante Adams versus Cobb, who was targeted 10 times.
On defense, stop Peterson and pressure Bridgewater. The Packers' defense needs to start getting sacks again like they did early in the season when they racked up 17 sacks through their first four games. Rookie cornerback Damarious Randall has been a big contributor. Last week, he came through in the clutch late in the fourth quarter by recovering an onside kick to give the Packers the ball back. From game saving pass deflections to interceptions, Randall has looked really good for Dom Capers' defensive unit this season. The Packers need to get Clay Matthews rushing the passer more too. He hasn't had a sack in four weeks. In a three-game stretch against San Francisco, St. Louis and San Diego, Matthews had 4.5 sacks.
Green Bay has 15 players on its injury report this week and Minnesota has 11.
Green Bay: Abberderis hasn't practiced this week, while Bahktiari, Bulaga, Jayrone Elliot, Micah Hyde, Lang, Matthews, Ty Montgomery and Sitton have all been limited in practice. Rodgers, Lacy, Morgan Burnett, Mike Neal and Nick Perry were all full participants in practice Thursday.
Minnesota: Matt Kahil did not practice this week, while Anthony Barr and Peterson have been limited in practice this week. Matt Asiata, Bridgewater, Shariff Floyd, Tom Johnson, Eric Kendricks, Adam Theilen and Justin Trattou practiced in full Thursday.
Sam Tastad will have stories on the Packers all season with pre-and-post game previews. Follow him on Twitter @samtastad and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.