Friday, October 25, 2013

Preview: Packers at Vikings (Sunday Night)

Back on December 30, 2012, the Vikings beat the Packers 37-34. It was the last time the Packers played in Minnesota, and just about the last time that anything went right for the Vikings.

If the Vikings do win on Sunday night, they'll need a return to last December. RB Adrian Peterson had a historic night and rushed for 199 yards (5.9 ypc) which seems unlikely now as he plays through a hamstring injury. The key to stopping the Vikings last season was shutting down their passing game, but instead QB Christian Ponder threw for three touchdowns last December (the only time he's done that in a single game). Of course, since then Ponder's lost his starting job to two different quarterbacks before Josh Freeman's concussion gave Ponder another chance this week.

In general, I put little faith into what happened last season, especially by the time we've reached Week 8.
Here are both teams' current rankings from Football Outsiders:

Team Pass Offense Run Offense Pass Defense Run Defense
Packers 3 4 25 3
Vikings 31 17 22 20

As it has been all season, the only problem area for the Packers has been their pass defense. However, thanks in part to a stinker performance from QB Brandon Weeden, the pass defense has slowly improved over the past couple weeks. The return of S Morgan Burnett, and the recent benching of S Jerron McMillian (he only played on 14 snaps last week) are the two reasons for their improvement, and they should continue to get better because CB Casey Hayward is expected back this week.

With CB Tramon Williams having taken over Hayward's role in the slot, and CB Sam Shields and CB Davon House playing outside, I'm not sure how Hayward's going to fit in. My guess is that he'll take away snaps from S Chris Banjo and CB Micah Hyde, but this is a good problem for them to have. No matter how the secondary shapes up this week, they'll have every player available for the first time this season while the Vikings have given no indication that their passing attack is something to fear.

The offense has survived the rash of injuries at receiver, it would be a surprise if WR James Jones returned this week, and now they're without TE Jermichael Finley. Against a better defense, this might be a concern, but the Vikings haven't consistently stopped anyone this season. The biggest concern should be protecting QB Aaron Rodgers, which is why they've been re-evaluating RT Don Barclay this week. I wouldn't be shocked to see Marshall Newhouse starting at right tackle, but he comes with his own limitations.

The Packers have averaged 26 points per game on the road this season, and the Vikings are easily the worst defense they've faced away, so scoring 28 to 35 points should be expected. The last time Ponder started a game at home was against the Browns and they scored 27 points, but 10 of those points came after turnovers. Assuming the Packers avoid turnovers they should have no problem holding the Vikings to under 20 points.

Packers 31, Vikings 17.


PackFaninFl said...

Do you think this is the beginning of the transition away from Tramon Williams? He's been very subpar the last year or so. I see so much more dynamism and potential from Heyward and House.

I wouldn't be surprised if come playoff time, Tramon is the dimeback.

PackFaninFl said...

By the way, our offense is such a refined, well-oiled machine that even without our top receivers we can still achieve respectability. Even better than respectable.

It kind of reminds of the Patriots with Brady. They lose receiver after receiver year after year, huge turnover, and yet no matter who they stick in there, they put points on the board.