After clinching the NFC North last week, the Vikings head to Lambeau Field as they take on the Packers who are now of course, out of playoff contention. With the division in hand, the Vikings now look to secure one of the top two playoff spots in the NFC and get a first round bye.
Let us take a look and see how the rosters compare.
Case Keenum vs Brett Hundley. After it was official Green Bay was out of the playoff hunt, Aaron Rodgers was placed back on IR and out of the remaining two games of the season. We have yet to see Keenum play in frigid temperatures as a Viking, but not having to face Rodgers is a huge advantage for the Vikings.
Edge: Vikings. If Rodgers was playing, it would be hard to not give the Packers the edge here, but he is not. I will take the play of Keenum over Hundley any game.
With the game expecting to be close to in the negatives temperatures, this has the look of a heavy running game for both teams. Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon have been running and catching the ball extremely well for Minnesota, and I expect them to show up on Saturday night, especially with all the touches they will receive.
Edge: Vikings. Jamaal Williams have been running and catching the ball well for the Packers, but I think the Vikings will sell out to spot the run game and make Hundley beat them with his arm.
The combination last week of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs were once again great. I do not expect that to change against the Packers shaky secondary. The Packers will be without Davante Adams, Hundley’s best and most trusted weapon, as he is sidelined with a concussion.
Edge: Vikings. I am not sure either team will be throwing the ball much. But without Adams, the top weapon for the Packers is gone. Thielen and Diggs are still too tough of a one-two punch to not pick against as well.
One of the biggest shocks last week was that Kyle Rudolph was able to play after being ruled out on Friday right a leg injury. The training staff gave him another day and he was able to perform and catch a touchdown on Saturday. The combination of Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers has been really quiet for the Packers this season, and without Rodgers throwing them the ball, I expect to see the same.
Edge: Vikings. Rudolph has been one of the best tight ends in the league this season, and the Packers tight end group has not been relevant much of the season.
The Vikings offensive line was able to get back both Mike Remmers and Pat Elflein last week for the Bengals game and they took full advantage of it. Riley Reiff is still questionable for the Vikings and has a chance to play, meaning the starting offensive line may all be in tact and ready to go. Opponents have 46 sacks on the season against the Packers as they have dealt with tons of injuries in that department.
Edge: Vikings. With a chance at a full offensive line in tact against a Packers team that has struggled to see their linemen healthy. This is an easy Vikings pick for me.
The Vikings defensive line will be pinning their ears back and sending tons of pressure Hundley’s way on Saturday night. Led by Pro Bowler Everson Griffin, the Vikings feature one of the leagues best front four, along with Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph. I do not think there is anyway the Packers can stop this front four in any type of capacity.
Edge: Vikings. The Packers offensive line is not going to be able to stop this front four. Look for Griffin to have a dominant game.
With Pro Bowler Anthony Barr and snub Eric Kendricks, the Vikings have some of the best linebacker play in the NFL. This should be a game where Barr is very motivated to have a huge game, as Packers fans have still been sending him death threats and hate mail for his legal hit on Rodgers during the first meeting of these teams. Clay Matthews and Blake Martinez always play well against Minnesota, making this a closer call that I thought it would originally be.
Edge: Vikings. Like I said, this one is close, but I think the idea of Barr wanting to have a huge game to shut this Packers crowd up will make a difference.
With Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in the fold for Minnesota, it is hard to pick against them. With Davante Adams being ruled out, it will be interesting to see if Rhodes ends up shadowing Jordy Nelson or if he just rotates around for his matchups. The Packers have had a ton of injuries in the secondary, and that may be one of the weakest parts of their defense.
Edge: Vikings. Hundley has struggled to find targets others than Adams, so I expect the Vikings secondary to clamp down and make life miserable for him.
Although Kai Forbath has been much more reliable the last few games, Mason Crosby comes to mind as one of the first kickers I would want in a game with frigid conditions. It seems like he has played in many of these type of games and always connects on the big field goal.
Edge: Packers. Crosby is one of the best late game frigid kickers I have ever personally seen, so the Vikings need to hope it does not come down to a final kick for the win.
In a game where I think Minnesota has the advantage in basically all facets, I think the cold temperature of this one makes it closer than some might think. However, I think the Vikings do what they need to do and come out of Lambeau Field with a win.
Prediction: Vikings 21, Packers 17
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-Anthony Talanca writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Vikings. Like and follow @atalanca.