The Packers are fresh off one of the most exciting openers in the 100 years of the franchise.
This week, it’s right back to work with an even tougher division matchup. The Bears defense got a huge boost from Khalil Mack, who is more disruptive than anyone on the Vikings defense. But from top to bottom, Minnesota might be the best defense in the league. They stop the run (gave San Francisco 3.6 yards per carry last week), they rush the passer (three sacks last week), they can cover (45% completion rate last week), and they generate turnovers (3 interceptions and a fumble recovery last week). They don’t give up a lot of points or yards and they play dirty – injuring Rodgers last year and earning a fine for a late hit already in Week 1 this year,
To square off against that monster unit, enter a gimpy Aaron Rodgers. Last week, he was roughly a billion times better after injuring his knee than he was to start the game. Many feel that his limited mobility forced him to abandon the drop-back-and-dance-until-someone-is-open-deep offense in favor of a quick strike attack that fans clamor for weekly. Regardless of what the game plan is, it’s hard to argue that a dinged up Aaron Rodgers is a good thing.
The offense will probably resemble the 2014 game plan the team employed when Rodgers tore his calf muscle. It worked out quite well at home against Dallas, but was less successful against Seattle. A couple differences between this game and the Seattle game are that this game will be at home and this Vikings defense is not quite as potent as the 2014 Seattle defense (though they’re equally dirty). On the flip side, the 2018 Packers interior line can’t hold a candle to the 2014 squad.
The Packers also have a far less effective run game (since Aaron Jones is out) than the 2014 edition of Eddie Lacy. However, Jimmy Graham is a huge improvement over the 2014 tight ends. Add it all up and it’s looking like a battle for this offense. Warm, dry weather should help Mason Crosby steal some points on a long kick.
On defense, there’s really nothing to base this matchup off of.
The Vikings won with Teddy Bridgewater, they won with Sam Bradford, they won with Case Keenum (who took them to the brink of losing their fifth Super Bowl) and then dumped them all this offseason to sign high-priced Kirk Cousins. In Washington, Cousins put up some impressive stats, but not a lot of wins. This, coupled with the fact that I couldn’t find a single Redskins fan who thought he was a franchise QB, makes me not fear him as a guy who can take over a game. Heck, he couldn’t even take over Dom Capers at home in the playoffs a few years ago.
Dalvin Cook is another story. A freak of an athlete, he may be recovering slowly from his injury. Last week he had 16 carries for only 40 yards (take away his long of 15 yards and his average per carry drops to 1.7 yards). He did pick up 55 yards receiving on a game-high 6 receptions, though. With the Vikings offensive line woes – which make it hard to run and invite the blitz at the same time – Cook may be a bigger threat on the screen pass than as a runner. If the Packers end up with Reggie Gilbert covering him, they are toast.
The Packers are deep at cornerback for the first time in a long time and they’ll need it against Thielen, Diggs, and Rudolph. They may even stay in dime all game to guard Cook. I would not be surprised at all to see Tramon on Rudolph all game if Burks doesn’t play. King on Thielen and Jaire on Diggs would make for some entertaining battles. That could leave a linebacker on Cook (hopefully Burks), or maybe Kentrell Brice or possible Josh Jackson if they stay small. Zone options are also possible. This is basically a new offense against a new defense.
Whatever Pettine decides to do, he’ll need to get creative to stop this high-powered offense. One week is a small sample size, but against the Bears, our new DC showed the ability to come out in a basic set, see what’s working and what’s not, and make regular adjustments.
It sounds so simple, but it’s been a long time since Packers fans had that. This could make for a rare defensive battle that the Packers just might be able to hang with. The thing that gives me hope this week is that the 49ers moved the ball on these guys with Jimmy Garoppolo, turning it over at the goalline (and everywhere else) and still only losing by one score. The Packers – even with Rodgers are 85% – are better than that.
Rodgers plays, employing a quick pass game plan that looks a lot like the Dallas playoff game in 2014, resulting in 1 score and 1 interception as he gets battered behind the Vikings pass rush, which will be filled with unnecessary hits after plays – the Vikings will earn another fine after this game. I want to see the Rodgers Revenge tour kick into high gear in an early home game with that look in his eye, but I just can’t see him dominating this defense without being 100%.
Jamaal Williams struggles and gets less than 3 yards per carry.
Jimmy Graham gets his first touchdown.
Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark put a roadblock on any inside runs.
Clay Matthews gets a sack.
Jaire Alexander gets his first pick.
Randall Cobb fair catches every punt that comes near him.
Final Score: Packers 16, Vikings 13