Green Bay, Minnesota Get Set for Thursday Night Battle at Lambeau
For a third straight week, the Green Bay Packers will play another NFC North opponent. This time, it's at home against the Minnesota Vikings.
Both teams are 2-2, and are coming off big wins. The Packers beat the Chicago Bears, 38-17 behind Aaron Rodgers' strong performance. The Vikings knocked off the Atlanta Falcons, 41-28, as rookie Teddy Bridgewater threw for 317 yards in his first NFL start.
The Vikings, though, could be without Bridgewater tonight. The former Louisville quarterback is questionable after injuring his ankle late in the game late last Sunday.
That would mean Christian Ponder would start against Green Bay. Ponder is 1-4-1 against the Packers in the last three seasons, including one big game to send the Vikings to the playoffs in 2012. He was 16-of-28 for 234 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in a 37-34 win over the Packers in Green Bay.
If Bridgewater can't go, the Vikings will likely rely on their run game. Matt Asiata ran for 78 yards and three scores while rookie Jerick McKinnon ran for 135 yards and no touchdowns last week. Defensively, Minnesota did a great job of containing Matt Ryan. Ryan was pressured a lot, and the Vikings forced him to throw two interceptions.
The Vikings will need to get after Rodgers to have the same result. The former NFL MVP was nearly flawless last week, as he completed 22-of-28 passes for 302 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 151.2 passer rating.
It was all about the pass game last Sunday for the Packers, and Rodgers spread the ball around to everyone. He threw to two touchdowns each to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb and also found targets Richard Rodgers and Davante Adams.
One thing to watch will certainly be the Rodgers-Nelson connection. Rodgers has completed it to Nelson 33 times for 459 yards, and three touchdowns in 2014.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers played much better when Rodgers gave them a lead. In the second half, Green Bay's defensive backs got aggressive and forced two interceptions. Tramon Williams tipped a pass to Clay Matthews for an interception, and Sam Shields picked off Jay Cutler.
What the Packers defense can't do is be on the field for a long time. On the Bears opening drive, Chicago was on the field for over eight minutes and ended up scoring a touchdown.
Lastly, the Green Bay has to stop the run game. Before Cutler was forced to throw, Chicago was using Matt Forte and Ka'Deem Carey to gash the Packers on the ground. Forte ran for 122 yards and Carey rushed 72 yards. Overall, the Bears ran for 235 yards. Even without Peterson, the Vikings still have a solid run game. Asiata and McKinnon combined to run for over 100 yards and then when you factor in Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota has some dangerous weapons.
Chad Greenway and Kyle Rudolph are out for the Vikings tonight, while Bridgewater is questionable. Michael Mauti, Jerome Felton, McKinnon, Captain Munnerlyn, Josh Robinson, Rodney Smith, and Brandon Watts are all probable.
For the Packers, Jarrett Boykin is out, while Sam Barrington and Josh Boyd are doubtful. Brad Jones, T.J. Lang, Clay Matthews, and Mike Neal are all probable.
Kickoff at Lambeau Field tonight is set for 7:25 p.m., and can be seen on CBS and NFL Network. On the radio, it is right here on ESPN 99.1
Sam Tastad will have pre-and-post game report for the Packers all season long. Follow him on Twitter @samtastad and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.