Vikings Must Exploit One Green Bay Weakness
Game Week 8 sees the Minnesota Vikings head into Lambeau Field to take on the rival Green Bay Packers. Minnesota goes in as the unlikely recipient of the 7th playoff place in the NFC. Nobody saw that coming, especially not this soon after starting the season 1-4. They can thank a good conference and division record for heading the pike of five teams with a 3-4 record. If Minnesota will consolidate its position as a wildcard team, the Vikings must exploit one Green Bay weakness on Sunday.
Vikings Must Exploit One Green Bay Weakness
Green Bay would have hoped to be leaning on their defense this season, as quarterback Jordan Love was integrated into being the leader on offense. That hasn’t been going to plan, as the Pack sits with a disappointing 2-4 record. One big reason is that the Packers haven’t been able to defend the run.
Through six games, the Packers defense allows 143.7 rushing yards per game — third most in the league. They have twice this season allowed opposing teams (Atlanta and Detroit) to rush for a massive 211 yards. Their best day was restricting the New Orleans Saints, minus lead back Alvin Kamara, to 77 yards.
Last time out, they allowed the Denver Broncos to rush for 145 yards, which was a major factor in the Packers dropping a game they were expected to win. The Broncos have been a mess on offense this season, but their ability to move the ball on the ground at will proved a key factor in winning that game.
The defense has been good enough to keep opposing teams to 20 points or below in all games except two — in the two games, they conceded 211 rushing yards. Green Bay’s passing defense is a different story, allowing just 194.3 yards per game — 8th best in the league.
Minnesota doesn’t want to find themselves chasing the game, which would play into Green Bay’s strengths — though star CB Jaire Alexander is questionable with a back injury. His absence would be a blow to a Packers defense that has injuries mounting up. The Vikings don’t necessarily need to break the 200-yard barrier to win in Green Bay. However, Sunday would be a good day to have their best rushing game of the season. That currently stands as the 135 rushing yards against Carolina in Week 4.
The Vikings Run Game
Minnesota’s run game has been the subject of much discussion this season. The Vikings are the only team in the league that doesn’t have a rushing touchdown, and during the 67-year history of the team, they have never gone this far into a season without one. The Vikings rushing attack at the start of the season was poor until a trade for Cam Akers was actioned to give it a boost.
Although Alexander Mattison has still been the lead back handling the bulk of the carries, the Akers effect has certainly worked. The numbers aren’t anything special, but the Vikings offense has been more balanced in recent weeks, which has contributed to the team’s turnaround.
The game against the 49ers was the first time Akers (10 carries) had more rushing attempts than Mattison (8 carries) this season. Mattison started the game with an excellent 19-yard run, but on the final offensive drive, when the Vikings looked to eat up the clock with consecutive run plays, it was Akers who got the ball. Perhaps a telling moment in the season? We will see who gets the first touches on Sunday, but I would expect the share of touches to be relatively equal now Akers is settled into the team.
The Path to Victory
The Vikings are built to be a pass-heavy offense, and that’s not about to change. I don’t expect them to suddenly come out and run the ball 30 times on Sunday — Minnesota averages a league-low 19.1 rushing attempts per game. They do need to keep the offense balanced, as they have in recent weeks, while attempting to exploit Green Bay’s weakness of defending the run. Doing that should open the game up for the likes of Jordan Addison to provide the explosive plays that may ultimately win the game.
Of course, the defense will also have to play their role and keep the pressure on the inexperienced quarterback and stuttering Packers offense. The Packers offense has largely struggled since putting up 38 points against the Bears in the opening game. They scored 20 points or less in their last four games and struggled until a sudden and ultimately futile burst of points in the middle of the Week 2 game against Atlanta.
Green Bay will be under pressure to snap a three-game losing streak in front of their home fans. If the Vikings defense can dominate and then be backed up by a dominant performance by the offense on the ground, Minnesota will be well-set to win to bring home their fourth win of the season.
No game at Lambeau Field should be expected to be easy, but this Packers team has weaknesses to exploit. If the Vikings do that on Sunday, then this is a game they should win.
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