Once upon a time, in a land not too far from Lambeau, the Minnesota Vikings were 5-0 and looking like a new dangerous team in the NFC. The Green Bay Packers, on the other hand, were once a struggling team at 4-6. Both teams have since flipped the script. Green Bay has won four straight and is hot on the tail of those Lions in Detroit. Meanwhile, Minnesota continues to struggle.
The Packers are playing on Christmas Eve for the first time since 2004. They won that game 34-31, at Minnesota, to clinch the NFC North title. Here is how Green Bay can repeat that success:
The Full Monty
Last week the Packers found a running game. Finally! Believe it or not, the rushing offense contributed more yards than the passing game. Running back Ty Montgomery ran like a man with something to prove. He torched the Bears defense for 162 yards and two touchdowns on only 16 carries, racking up a 10.1 average. Pretty legit for a receiver turned running back.
As if that wasn’t enough, Christine Michael showed his speed and hunger as he added 45 yards on only four carries. That is an average of 11.3 yards per rush. Two backs averaging over 10 yards per carry. And you thought we didn’t have a running game.
Opponents now have something more to gameplan for when they meet Green Bay.
Control the clock. Run the ball. Win the game.
Feed the Cook
When the Packers signed tight end Jared Cook this offseason, the general consensus was that he would be that down-the-field threat that we sorely missed. he hasn’t exactly been that, but he has developed into Aaron Rodgers favorite third down target.
Rodgers is 9-of-11 for 172 yards (118.8 passer rating) when targeting the 6-foot-5, 254-pound tight end on third down this season, generating eight first downs in the process.
Two of those conversions occurred on the Packers’ opening scoring drive in last Sunday’s 30-27 win over Chicago, with another two coming on scoring drives earlier this month against Houston. Clutch
Cook’s production has contributed to the Packers ranking second in the league in third-down offense this season (46.2 percent).
Cook’s six catches for 85 yards went a long way to the Packers securing a much-needed win over the Bears last weekend. Although his numbers aren’t eye-popping (23 receptions for 284 yards and a touchdown), Green Bay’s offense is different with Cook on the field.
Get To Bradford
The Packers have struggled when it comes to pass rush. Lets face it: throughout the season, the Packers have made a habit of making incompetent offensive lines look competent.
Outside of Mike Daniels, no one applies much of anything resembling interior pressure. Clay Matthews has become more of a distraction than a disturbance. His shoulder injury has hampered him from being effective on the field and teams are aware. Julius Peppers has given the Packers a sack seemingly every week during the team’s winning streak, and his big play of a sack, strip and fumble recovery in Chicago was huge.
Luckily for the Packers, the secondary has grown and continues to rack up turnovers. In the past two weeks this secondary has grabbed 8 – yes 8 – interceptions.
Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers will have to continue to increase his pressure in lieu of an effective four man rush. Hopefully this doesn’t leave the secondary on an island.
Perhaps the Vikings’ struggling offensive line will open the dam. Sacks do tend to come in bunches. The Packers could use a few on Saturday afternoon.
- Aaron Rodgers is 11-6 vs. the Vikings in his career and has won 10 out of the last 13 games (including postseason)
- Rodgers is 6-2 vs. Minnesota at home with a 107.2 passer rating, 16 touchdowns and four picks
- He also has had a 100+ passer ratings in 10 of the last 15 games vs. the Vikings
- Coach McCarthy has a 14-6-1 record against Minnesota since he took over in 2006
- McCarthy has an 8-2-1 record at home against the Vikings
- Since 2006, the Packers have scored over 20 points per game 18/21 times vs. Minnesota
Expect to see this game live up to the rivalry game that it is. With playoff implications on the line, both teams are going to bring everything they have to the field. At the end of the day, the Green Bay Packers are the better team. They are playing at a high level and will win this game. Green Bay will improve to 9-6 and inch even closer to that NFC North division title.
Green Bay Packers – 38
Minnesota Vikings – 17