By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, and Jim Boyce
The Packers survived week one in the sauna that is Jacksonville, pulling off a tough 27-23 victory against the young Jags. No return home yet though, as the Pack head to Minnesota to open up their new stadium against the division rival Vikings. Here’s what we think will happen.
Packers 20 Vikings 17
The Vikings offense really struggled to score points week one against Tennessee. Regardless of who starts at QB I don’t think they’ll have much more success against Green Bay unless Adrian Peterson goes off. As long as the Packers can keep contain on AP and not allow him to bust off any huge gainers I think they will keep the Vikings off the scoreboard for the most part.
The Packers offense had bouts of inconsistency in Jacksonville, with scoring drives mixed in with too many three and outs. The Vikings defense has play makers at all three levels and ball security will be of the utmost importance in this one. The vertical passing game did not return in week one. While I think that will change as Nelson gets more comfortable, I’m not sure the Packers are going to be racking up chunk plays this Sunday. There may be some frustrating sequences for the Packers offense in the hostile environment.
The Packers are highly unlikely to go 16-0 this season and this is one of the tougher road challenges they have on their schedule. I expect another nail biter, but as long as they avoid the turnovers that killed the Titans I think they will scrape by.
Packers 24 Vikings 16
If Teddy Bridgewater was under center I would have given the slight edge to the Vikings in this game. However, the stability that Bridgewater seemed to bring at quarterback is gone and I don’t see Sam Bradford being able to lead his team to a victory when he’s still learning his teammates’ names, not to mention the playbook. An average quarterback at best even in his top years, you can bet Bradford and the Vikings will rely heavily on handing the ball to Adrian Peterson. Dom Capers and the Packers defense are well aware of this and will look to build on the dominating run defense displayed last week against the Jaguars and force Bradford to beat them.
On offense, one thing’s for sure. The Packers communication needs to drastically improve after the embarrassing breakdowns last week. The Vikings are unveiling U.S. Bank Stadium. There is little doubt that at least in the beginning stages of the game the place will be rocking and loud. Getting out to an early lead could be crucial. With top cornerback Xavier Rhodes out Sunday night, expect Aaron Rodgers to attack Ol’ Man River Terence Newman, who was owned last year in Minnesota by James Jones and his hoodie. If active for his debut, I would love to see a speedster like Trevor Davis get isolated on Newman for a vertical route. Even with a top safety like Harrison Smith manning the middle, I would look for Rodgers to take more shots down the middle of the field, which should lead to success provided the offensive line gives enough time against a stout Vikings front.
Packers 24 Vikings 14
What better way for the Green Bay Packers to make a statement than to run the Vikings right out of their brand new and shiny stadium? Unfortunately I do not believe it is going to be that easy. Last week I was really high on Green Bay’s offense coming out firing and there was signs of last year’s ugly aerial attack. Whether it was because of the heat, or just week 1 inconsistencies, the Packers are going to have to unleash wide receiver Jordy Nelson now that he has a full game under his belt. This game could be a massive boost to Green Bay’s confidence and by taking their first two road games, it sets them up for a nice, but irregular, four game home stretch. Green Bay’s X-factor is going to have to be Clay Matthews on the defensive side, as he is going to be tasked with the responsibility of making Sam Bradford’s night a living hell. Matthews will hopefully turn in a better showing than last week against Jacksonville.
The Vikings may be in more trouble than most people think. While they will obviously have home-field advantage, questions are beginning to mount regarding whether or not Adrian Peterson is beginning to decline. Peterson was held to 31 yards against a pretty bad Tennessee Titans squad. Dating back to the first Packers Vikings game of last season as well as including the first game of this season, Peterson has had a stretch of eight games in which six of those games he was held under 100 yards (per ESPN). In both games against Minnesota last year, our run defense held Peterson to under 70 yards. I expect more of the same from our crew as they were stellar against the run in Jacksonville and will dare Bradford to throw to one of their very average receivers. Minnesota’s offensive line is pretty porous and worse than last year’s line, and that will help the Packers immensely. I would pick Green Bay to blow out Minnesota if this game was in Green Bay, but for now, I’ll give Green Bay a 10 point victory, keeping them #1 in the power rankings!