Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Packers and Vikings Just Keep Losing

The Green Bay Packers made some transaction noise on Monday when they released RB Knile Davis. But that wasn't a big surprise. Over the past three seasons, Davis hadn't been able to get onto the field in Kansas City and the Packers saw more good from rookie RB Don Jackson, though neither player has done much over the past two games.

But the big news on Monday was that the Vikings lost, ugly, for the second week in a row. The Packers have lost two of their last three games and I thought they were giving up too much ground on the Vikings to overtake them in the NFC North. Instead, the wheels are coming off for the Vikings.
The Vikings have some problems on defense. They had trouble pressuring QB Jay Cutler on Monday night and rookie SS Jayron Kearse struggled in his first NFL start (replacing injured SS Andrew Sendejo). But overall these are minor complaints and as many as five of their defensive starters might be traveling to the Pro Bowl at the end of the season. Their big problem is the offensive line.

The Bears were all over QB Sam Bradford while only rushing four players, allowing their inside linebackers to drop back in coverage and smother all the short passes he threw to his running backs and tight ends, while giving him no time to look down field for his wide receivers. They were a disaster on running plays too, failing to get any push or create any cut-back lanes. The Vikings have now scored only 10 points in each of their last two games, and both of their touchdowns were late points in garbage time when the game was out of reach.

They'll get a breather next week when they host the Lions, and go up against the worst defense in the NFL. But then they travel to D.C. to play the Redskins and return home to host the Cardinals. Then they play on a short week and travel to Detroit, before they host the Cowboys on December 1st. While they'll beat the Lions next week, those next four games are all challenging for different reasons. If they don't solve their offensive line problems, what looked like a 13-3 team a couple weeks ago is starting to look 10-6 (or worse).

If the Vikings could run the ball and had a mobile quarterback, they could adjust to having the worst tandem of tackles in the NFL (LT Jake Long and RT T.J. Clemmings). But they only moved the ball well against the Bears when they got their wide receivers involved (Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen) and Bradford needs time to throw to be able to get them the ball.

Although the Packers have lost two of their last three games, and are looking ahead to a three game stretch on the road after they host the Colts next week, the Vikings are unraveling at the right time to give the Packers a chance to regain their footing (and health in the secondary) to overtake them in the NFC North race.

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