The Vikings are heading to Green Bay Saturday for their second meeting with the Packers this season. Like the first game, the Packers will be without Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley will start in his place. Here are the keys for the Vikings to reach their 12th win for the first time since 2009.
Disguise the Defense
Hundley has started eight games in his career, all of them this season. Minnesota can still take advantage of that inexperience by disguising coverages and blitzes – basically what they have been doing on every third down since Mike Zimmer became the coach. Hundley has looked okay against a decent Bears defense, a great Steelers team (which was going through a weird stretch of close games at the time), and the Browns. As for the other five games, which only included two teams in the playoff race, Hundley posted a one touchdown, eight interceptions, 162.4 yards per game and a rating high of 86.0.
Hundley’s less-than-impressive total QBR of 48.1 is 22nd-best in the NFL. Granted, he has improved since he first stepped on the field as the new starter on October 15th, but it should be noted that he posted his worst QBR (39.6) and threw three interceptions the first time Minnesota played him.
Keep the Green Bay Defense Guessing
Struggling to stop the run or the pass, the Packers rank 26th in yards allowed per game (356.4). Minnesota can capitalize on this by keeping Green Bay guessing on defense. Dom Capers is, yet again, coaching a lackluster defense in Green Bay and the Vikings finally have the offensive fire power to exploit it.
Jerick McKinnon, Latavius Murray, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph are just a few weapons that the Packers will have to try to stop this Saturday. But Michael Floyd, Jarius Wright, Laquon Treadwell and CJ Ham can also make an impact. If everyone is clicking, Green Bay will have no idea who is getting the ball. Plus, the Vikings can keep their starters healthy, leading into the final key to the game.
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Green Bay has been mathematically eliminated, meaning second string guys and beyond are going to get some playing time. The Vikings are still going strong with a lot to play for in these final two weeks of the season. In saying that, however, injury to major players would be devastating to this team this late in the year.
A first-round bye and home field advantage are on the line. With the Super Bowl being played in Minnesota this year, the Vikings would have an exponentially improved chance if every playoff game was a home game. But none of this matters if they lose key players to injury. Play hard, get ahead early and mix the back-ups in as much as possible. This game is important, but the health of the team heading into the playoffs is much more crucial at this point in the season.
If Minnesota can keep doing what they have been doing and not overlook the Packers then there is no reason they will not come away victorious.
Vikings 31, Packers 10
The Vikings are looking like a force to be reckoned with in the superior conference. With so much on the line against two division teams with nothing left to lose, it is hard to focus on being conservative, but that is what the Vikings need to do. They have been fortunate thus far with players stepping up in the place of injured predecessors. But the depth only goes so far and a team can only take so much. The Vikings want home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but they do not want to be heading in with more injuries than they can handle.
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