The divisional trend continues on Thursday night football as the Vikings go into Lambeau Field to take on the Packers. As crazy as it may be based on what they looked like entering the season, both of these teams are sitting at 2-2. Divisional games already had plenty of meaning, but this one could have long term implications in the divisional standings.
The Vikings are coming in off an impressive home win led by rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. At this point, Bridgewater is dealing with an ankle injury he suffered Sunday and his status will be up in the air until kickoff. If he can’t go, Christian Ponder would get the nod at quarterback. While many would have been flustered by the Matt Cassel/Bridgewater preseason competition, Ponder has been a true professional. He didn’t go pouting to the media about the situation and his patience could pay off.
If Ponder is starting, expect a lot of shorter passes. Chances are they’ll go to Cordarrelle Patterson who is extremely explosive in space. Up to this point, you could make the case the Vikings haven’t fully used Patterson’s talents since his ridiculous week one performance against the Rams. If Bridgewater is playing, it could be a nice opportunity for Jarius Wright. Wright set career highs last week with eight receptions and 132 yards. Greg Jennings should also see his fair share of targets within the intermediate passing game.
To keep Aaron Rodgers out of the game and pressure off Ponder or Bridgewater, look for the Vikings to run early and often. That the Packers allow over 175 yards a game on the ground doesn’t hurt either. Matt Asiata is more of a plodder, but he is also a solid receiver out of the backfield who can handle 20 plus carries. Rookie Jerick McKinnon hasn’t played much, but in spurts has shown skills that won’t have him as the backup for long. He should probably see around seven to ten touches in this one.
Much was made about the Packers offensive struggles the first three weeks, but all doubts should be erased now. In typical Aaron Rodgers fashion, he went out and shredded the Bears pass defense to the tune of 302 yards and four touchdowns. The Vikings have a younger secondary, so Rodgers will be looking to take shots early and often. While his quarterback gets all the love, Jordy Nelson is the league’s leading receiver. The Rodgers to Nelson connection is arguably the most dynamic in the league and they should be able to connect early and often in this one. Randall Cobb is another weapon at Rodgers’ disposal who is extremely tough to defend. He has the ability to beat teams deep and after the catch. It may sound scary, but the Packers offense is not close to its full potential.
Eddie Lacy was expected to have a monster year, but after a concussion and some tough matchups is only averaging three yards a carry. This could be the week where Lacy gets back on track. The Vikings have multiple injuries in their front seven so there should be some holes to run through. If the Packers stick to the run, a 100 yard day is very possible.
Regardless of who is starting at quarterback for the Vikings, this is a very tough game to pull out. A young quarterback on the road, in a short week is usually a recipe for disaster. They have the personnel to hang in the game and compete, but it probably won’t be enough to beat Aaron Rodgers and company. My prediction is Vikings 17 Packers (-8.5) 30.