Friday, November 30, 2012

Preview: Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Injuries are a major concern as the Green Bay Packers prepare to host the Vikings this Sunday at Lambeau.
That's three starters on defense and one on offense. Plus Shields, who'd be expected to play around 40 snaps if he was healthy. Except for White and Wilson, who both suffered concussions against the Giants, this isn't the first week any of these players have missed. But there's no doubt the season, and the team's performance, would have looked sharper if all of them had been healthy.

The injury report for the Vikings includes nine starters, but all of them except WR Percy Harvin should play. It was big news when Harvin actually practiced on Wednesday, but it was only the second time he's been able to do so all month. There's still a chance he could play, but there's no chance he'll be 100%. So the Vikings' 23rd ranked pass offense is closer to the bottom in efficiency without their No. 1 WR. The young Packers' secondary should hold up well, but the question will be whether anyone other than LB Dezman Moses can provide a pass rush.

Curiously, the Vikings rush offense is only ranked 10th overall despite the fact that RB Adrian Peterson is Football Outsiders' No. 1 ranked running back. This poor ranking seems to be entirely the fault of RB Toby Gerhart, who's played as bad as any running back in the league this season despite only 32 rushing attempts. Just as the Vikings pass offense should be taken down a notch without Harvin, the Vikings rushing offense should be carried up a few spots because the Vikings have apparently acknowledged Gerhart's problems and only given him one rushing attempt in November. He's unlikely to be given any opportunity to fumble the ball against the Packers. While the Packers' run defense has been decent this season, they're coming off their worst game against the Giants so they seem to be slumping right at the wrong time.

The Vikings' run defense isn't what it was a couple years ago, but the Packers' running game has been swirling the bowl since the injuries to RB Cedric Benson and RT Bryan Bulaga. Not that either player made their rushing attack great, but they're better than their replacements. Though they should de-emphasis the running game, their lousy pass protection is going to force them to try and make something of it. I'm expecting a lot of two yard carries by RB James Starks.

The Packers' pass offense doesn't seem quite as good as it's No. 3 ranking because of the poor pass protection. On the other hand, the Vikings' pass defense (No. 24 overall) isn't playing well either and QB Jay Cutler was only sacked once last week by the Vikings despite the fact that the Bears' offensive line is a disaster. The pass offense is going to have to produce and they should have success no matter how much they might be limiting the playbook now to compensate for their poor pass protection.

The Packers might surprise me, but I expect the Vikings will hang around in this game because the Packers don't seem able to blow out any team right now. The Packers might not score more than 24 points, which is what how much they managed in Detroit two weeks ago, and the Vikings might not be able to surpass the 20 points they scored in Seattle earlier this month.

Packers 24, Vikings 20.

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