Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Preview: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (Thursday Night Football)

Just like LG Josh Sitton, I hate Thursday night games because the players still haven't physically recovered from their game the previous Sunday. The game is usually sloppy and it brings out the worst in players.

If you've watched the previous two Thursday night games, you've seen the Buccaneers play as bad as possible in Atlanta and watched QB Kirk Cousins completely fall apart in the second half against the Giants. The Packers are overall the better team, so this short week might been seen as favoring them, but they'll be just as susceptible to exhaustion in the second half and a close game might slip away from them after one bad play.
For the Vikings, the short week comes at a bad time because QB Teddy Bridgewater can't practice and I expect QB Christian Ponder will start on Thursday night. Despite Ponder's obvious limitations as a QB, if Bridgewater started, he'd certainly be less than 100%. If he had to make his first NFL road start in a rivalry game, injured, with no practice time, I can't see how the Vikings would be better off with him over a healthy Ponder.

It's hard to know what to expect from the Vikings offense. Ponder hasn't started a game in new OC Norv Turner's offense, and Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers can't even remember their running backs' names. Football Outsiders says the Vikings have the No. 24 offense after four games, for what it's worth. The Ponder led Vikings put up 26 points against the Packers last November in Lambeau, but he had RB Adrian Peterson then and he faced the two-headed Flynn/Tolzien QB monster.

This is a new look Vikings defense for QB Aaron Rodgers. Mike Zimmer's a good coach, but unfortunately for him he left his No. 1 ranked Bengals defense in Cincinnati. SS Harrison Smith and LB Anthony Barr are playing very well, but the Vikings are only ranked by Football Outsiders at No. 22 overall (No. 24 against the pass). There's no obvious weakness, but there's no obvious strength either. Pro Football Focus has given them a negative grade as a team to both their pass rush and pass coverage.

However, the Viking run defense seems to be playing well and we know the Packers can't run block. This game could be similar to their strategy against the Bears, with a pass heavy attack featuring only an occasional rush by RB Eddie Lacy. Though Mike McCarthy said he'll give a larger role to RB James Starks this week.

The Vikings still have some weapons on offense and I expect they'll be able to move the ball and score against a Packer defense that is still having some problems. However, the Packers are going to have more success moving the ball against the Vikings D.

Packers 31, Vikings 17

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