The Minnesota Vikings (12-3) travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers (7-8) at 4:25 pm (EST) at Lambeau Field. The Packers are a 3-point favorite and are given a 57.4% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI. The Vikings and Packers first played in week 1 and it set the tone for both team’s seasons. The Vikings won the battle in a semi-dominant fashion 23-7 and it has led them to a 12-3 start and an NFC north title.
The Packers on the other hand have struggled badly at points, but have fought back and have a chance to make the playoffs, but have to win out to make it. It all hangs on the line for the Packers, win and keep their playoff hopes alive. Lose and be eliminated. You know how badly the Vikings want to be the ones to do it. With that let’s take a look at what to expect from Minnesota vs. Green Bay.
The Minnesota Vikings are coming off another big win, defeating the New York Giants (8-6-1) 27-24. The Vikings are playing for the one seed, though unlikely, as they need the Eagles to lose out. After clinching the north a few weeks ago, all they are playing for is seeding and if you’re a fan, bragging rights. Minnesota currently holds the two seed (one game ahead of the 49ers). A win for Minnesota would get them to 13-3 and keep them in the running for the one seed (pending an Eagles win) and would keep their hold on the two seed. A loss would drop them to 12-4 and a likely tie with the 49ers for the two-three spot.
What To Watch
Justin Jefferson. Yeah, who or what else is there really to watch at this point? Jefferson is looking not only to break Calvin Johnson’s single season receiving yard record, but to be the first receiver to reach the 2,000-yard mark. So far this season Jefferson has 123 receptions (MN single season record), 1,756 (MN single season record), and eight touchdowns. In week one, Jefferson owned the Packers secondary, bringing in 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Green Bay is third in the league in passing yards allowed with 192.4. The Vikings on the flip side rank sixth in passing yards per game with 259.9
It’ll be strength on strength for the Vikings Sunday afternoon. Green Bay will have to face Minnesota with their new weapon in T.J. Hockenson, someone who they are familiar with, just not on this team. The Vikings will need to find ways to get everyone involved in the passing game in order to move the ball consistently against this Green Bay defense.
Can the Vikings defense play like they did last week? Yes, I know they gave up 445 yards to the Giants, but they held the Giants to 3-11 on third down, forced two turnovers and only allowed them to hold the ball for 29:13 time of possession. Quite frankly, they may just have to do that. Get teams in third down situations and get themselves off the field and allow the offense to find ways to keep drives going and score points.
The Packers this season rank 16th in total yards (342.6) and 18th in points per game (20.9). If the Vikings can find ways to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, it’ll help give them the best chance to complete the sweep of the division rival.
The Minnesota Vikings have five players currently on their injury report.
- Ezra Cleveland (G) – Shoulder
- Cameron Dantzler (CB) – Ankle
- Garrett Bradbury (C) – Back
- James Lynch (NT) – Shoulder
- Irv Smith Jr. (TE) – Ankle
Center Garrett Bradbury has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Packers with an ongoing back injury. Nose tackle James Lynch is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with a shoulder injury. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. was designated to return from the IR on Tuesday. Cleveland and Dantzler have been practicing this week. Ezra Cleveland was a full participant on Friday while Dantzler’s practice status for Thursday and Friday was unknown.
The Packers have been on a nice little run here to keep their playoff hopes alive. Christmas day was great for Packer fans who were gifted with a 26-20 comeback win over the Dolphins (8-7). Green Bay now has won three straight and needs to win two more to keep their playoff hopes alive. Now they take on their division rival and NFC north champ in the Minnesota Vikings. A win for the Packers would get them to 8-8 and continue their postseason push and set up a critical NFC north battle between them and the Lions in week 18. A loss would eliminate them and put them in a potential spoiler role next week against the Lions.
What To Watch
How the Packers will handle the Vikings offense. Minnesota this season has been great offensively. They rank seventh in points per game (25.2), 12th in yards per game (354.5), and sixth in passing yards per game (259.9). The Packers defense will have their hands full, and it’ll have to start with getting pressure on Kirk Cousins. The Vikings center Garrett Bradbury is out, and it is a prime opportunity to get pressure on the quarterback.
Cousins doesn’t do great under pressure, just look at the Dallas game. If the Packers can’t get consistent pressure, they’ll need to look to their secondary to stop the likes of Jefferson, Hockenson, Osborn, and Thielen. This squad has been great. and it seems like any game any one of them, if not two, go off.
Green Bay did not face this loaded group last time with Hockenson being acquired well after they met in week 1. The Packers must find a way to stop their passing game. If they can, the Vikings have proven to not be the best run team. If they don’t, well just look at any of the Vikings 12 wins to see why Green Bay would be in trouble.
How will the Packers look on offense if Christian Watson is out? This is going to be a problem for Green Bay if Watson can’t play Sunday. After a rough start to his season, Christian Watson in his last six games has 408 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. If he is out, it won’t be good for the Packers who also have Aaron Jones on their injury list. If their offense was to struggle against the Vikings it would be a near death sentence given how bad, they have been this year.
I don’t know how well Green Bay can pass without Watson and the Vikings only allow 120.8 yards rushing per game. The Packers better hope Watson is good to go Sunday because without him it could be a rough day for them at Lambeau.
The Green Bay Packers have 12 players currently on their injury report.
- Christian Watson (WR) – Hip
- Marcedes Lewis (TE) – NIR – Vet Rest
- Aaron Rodgers (QB) – Right Thumb/Knee
- Keisean Nixon (DB) – Groin
- Yosh Nijman (OT) – Shoulder
- Aaron Jones (RB) – Knee/Ankle
- Elgton Jenkins (OT) – Knee
- Rudy Ford (SAF) – Wrist/Knee
- Krys Barnes (LB) – Hand
- David Bakhtiari (OT) – Knee/Abdomen
- Jaire Alexander (CB) – Forearm
- Dean Lowry (DE) – Calf
Alexander, Barnes, Ford, Nijman, Rodgers, and Lewis were all full participants at Friday’s practice. Bakhtiari, Jenkins, Jones, and Watson were all limited participants at practice on Friday. Defensive back Keisean Nixon was a non-participant at Friday’s practice for the Packers. Defensive end Dean Lowry was placed on the IR on Tuesday with a calf injury.
Justin Jefferson will break Calvin Johnson’s single season receiving record on Sunday. Note, I said Calvin Johnson’s record not that he will break the 2,000-yard mark. We will have to wait another week for that. Last time these two played Jefferson went off for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jaire Alexander has said it was a “fluke” but being 208 yards shy of Calvin Johnson’s single season record is anything but a fluke. These two will be going at it and it’ll be so much fun to watch. In the end Alexander will be all bark and no bite. Jefferson torched him once this year and he’ll do it again.
The following betting lines are according to ESPN’s Pick Center.
- Minnesota: +3
- Green Bay: -3
- Minnesota: +155
- Green Bay: -175
Where To Watch
Minnesota vs. Green Bay will air on CBS at 4:25 (EST) Sunday afternoon. Commentating the game will be Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (analyst), and Tracy Wolfson (sideline). Streaming services that have CBS are Hulu (with live TV), fubo TV, Sling TV, DirectTV Stream, Paramount Plus (formally known as CBS All Access), and Youtube TV.
It’s Lambeau on New Year’s Day. It’s going to be freezing…right? Actually, projected temps for the game are in the 30’s so not quite the advantage the Packers were hoping for. With that the Vikings passing game will be in full effect. As mentioned above, Jefferson yet again will own the Packers and will break Calvin Johnson’s single season record. With that, the Vikings on offense will be firing on cylinders and Packers will struggle to get off the field.
Offensively for Green Bay they’ll move the ball well (and depending on Watson’s availability) keep it close for a while. In the end Kirk Cousins and Co. will be too much for the Packers, ending their playoff hopes once and for all. Minnesota wins 38-27.
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