Can the Packers sweep the Vikings and be crowned NFC North Champions?
The Green Bay Packers (11-3) and the Minnesota Vikings (10-4) clash at US Bank Stadium on Monday night. The Vikings will be looking to extend their unbeaten home record (6-0) against a Packers team who can wrap up the NFC North with a win.
The fourth overall rushing attack (average 135.9 yards per game ) of the Vikings will be spearheaded by Mike Boone after the Vikings ruled out Dalvin Cook over the weekend (shoulder). Alexander Mattison is also listed as doubtful (ankle). Boone an undrafted free agent (2018) averaged 5.4 yards rushing a game along with 9.2 yards per reception during his time at the University of Cincinnati. The 5ft 10” 206lb back rushed for 55 yards and two touchdowns during last weeks 39-10 victory over the LA Chargers.
Kirk Cousins has continued to defy the naysayers throughout 2019. The 31-year-old has a completion percentage of 70.5 along with 3481 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. Cousins has completed at least 76% of his passes in three of his last four games and will be looking to expose a Packers pass defense that’s ranked 22nd overall.
Adam Thielen’s return to the passing attack is a welcome sight for the Vikings. Thielen caught all three of his targets (3-of-3 for 27 yards) against the Chargers and the two-time Pro Bowlers presence on the field will come as a welcome relief for fellow wideout Stefon Diggs. The former fifth-round pick of the 2015 draft has endured the lions share of coverage by opposing defenses during Thielen’s absence. Recent circumstances aside, Diggs has graced the endzone just once during his last eight games. Tight end Kyle Rudolph will look to expose any mismatches in coverage due to the presence of Diggs and Thielen.
Defensively, the Vikings are an astute unit loaded with talent at key positions. One of the greatest snubs from a national perspective over the years is the play of defensive end Danielle Hunter. The 25-year-old has 13.5 sacks (five during his last three games) 14 tackles for a loss and 21 quarterback hits through 14 games. Outside of Hunter linebacker Eric Kendricks is a rare breed at the position, with a tough physical run-stuffing presence coupled with coverage skills that make him the envy of some of the best corners within the NFL. Continuing the trend of unappreciated players, Harrison Smith remains has been one of the more astute performers at the safety position for the past half a decade.
From the outside looking in the Packers boast an impressive winning record, however, I view them as a magician of sorts. As what’s presented to the naked eye/casual viewer of the Packers is far from the truth. Under the stewardship of Matt LaFleur, Aaron Rodgers numbers resemble those of an average signal-caller at best. Granted injuries, drops and a lack of trust/rapport from the supporting cast have contributed. But Rodger’s search for the perfect play to unfold before pulling the trigger has also been a contributing factor to an offense that’s ranked 21st overall. Another noteworthy factor is the Packers inability to sustain drives, having completed just 35% of third downs.
Once again expect the script to revolve around wideout DeVante Adams. The 27-year-old has been targeted 29 times during the last three games. Adams reeled in 7-of-11 for 103 yards and a touchdown during last weeks 21-13 victory over the Bears. Outside of Adams the likes of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison and Allen Lizard have done little to nothing to alleviate the threat posed beyond Adams.
Beyond the negatives laid before you, there has been a ray of light in the form of running back Aaron Jones. The 25-year-old year back has amassed 1255 yards from scrimmage and proved to be a real dual-threat for the Packers, averaging 4.4 yards per carry along with an additional 9.4 yards per reception. Jones will be looking to emulate his week two performance against the Vikings, of 150 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
The linebacker duo of Preston Smith and ZaDaruis Smith have accounted for 21.5 sacks, 23 tackles for a loss and 52 quarterback hits. With the team’s leading tackler Blake Martinez (140) listed as questionable with calf and hand injuries, both Smiths will need to bring their respective A-games to Monday’s matchup against the Vikings rushing attack that’s ranked fourth overall.
Potential keys to victory
- Can the Vikings overcome the loss of Dalvin Cook?
- How healthy is Adam Thielen?
- Danielle Hunter, nothing more needs to be said
- Is there a wide receiver outside of DeVante Adams that can make a game-changing play?
- Will the secondary of the Packers contain Cousins?
- Can Aaron Jones repeat his week two dismantling of the Vikings defense?