Packers Pregame Primer: Green Bay at Minnesota

Packers Pregame Primer: Green Bay at Minnesota
Posted at 9:00 AM, Oct 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-15 10:00:05-04

The Packers make their second trip to U.S. Bank Stadium, hoping for a different result than the first time they played at the Vikings’ new stadium. We’ve rounded up everything you need to know about this matchup before kickoff at 12 p.m. Sunday.

Storylines to watch

  • Infinite injury report: Both of these teams are significantly beat up. The Packers began the week with nine players on the injury report, while the Vikings listed 10, and for both teams, the injury bug has bitten some of the most important players. Vikings QB Sam Bradford tried to return Monday against the Bears, but it was evident he wasn’t nearly 100 percent and dropped out of the game before halftime. Minnesota’s leading receiver, Stefon Diggs, was limited Monday - only totalling four receiving yards. Both will not play Sunday against the Packers. On top of that, the Vikings are also missing star running back Dalvin Cook, whom they lost to a season-ending ACL tear and would have been a key piece to a victory over the Packers. 
  • Best Case scenario: Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s defense will ultimately win games for the Vikings, but backup QB Case Keenum is good enough to give them a chance on offense to win games. The key for the Packers is to bring the heat and force him to hurry up, making more costly mistakes more likely. The related question here is where will the Vikings’ offensive production come from without Diggs? The Vikings are not deep at receiver.
  • Turn it on over: The Packers must remain clean in the turnover margin; any errors by the Green Bay offense will be taken advantage of by the Vikings defense, another key for Minnesota to win Sunday’s contest. Since 2016, the Packers’ turnover margin is plus-11 in divisional games, which is No. 1 in the NFL. So far this season, the Pack is plus-four in its lone divisional game against the Bears. During Week 2 of last season, the last time Aaron Rodgers was in the building, he was sacked fives times -- but he also threw a pick and fumbled three times, which became the game-changer in the 17-14 loss. Meanwhile, the Vikings haven’t thrown an interception through five games, tying a team record, and the Packers defense has only picked off opponents three times and forced three fumbles in 21017 (both marks tied for 20th in the NFL). The Packers have had nine takeaways this season, while the Vikings have had five.
  • Aren’t you tired of hearing about the OL?: We know we’re tired of talking about it. Lane Taylor is ready to be back on the inside, doing what he’s paid to do: play left guard. David Bakhtiari is undoubtedly ready to get back and contribute. And Aaron Rodgers is certainly ready to be thrown around less in games. This week would be the fifth consecutive game Bakhtiari is held out, the longest stretch of games he’s missed in his career. Taylor said earlier this week he “bounced back and forth” in practice between guard and tackle, so the return of Bakhtiari is still murky to predict. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ most prolific pass rushers, Everson Griffin (six sacks) and Danielle Hunter (two sacks), are ready to capitalize on any mistakes the mixed-and-matched line makes Sunday. How the Packers contain one of the best front fours they’ll see all season is a major key in this matchup.
  • Keeping up with the Jones: Rookie RB Aaron Jones broke out in his first NFL career start at Dallas with 134 yards and a touchdown on 20 touches. While he showed trusty hands, quick decision making and hard-nosed running ability, Jones did not have to do much pass protecting against the Cowboys. This week, given Minnesota’s ability to blitz in a way that will keep the Packers continually guessing, Jones might be asked to step up his game in that regard. Starter Ty Montgomery - if he plays - will be severely limited with his broken ribs and might only be used on third downs as a utility player. Throw into the mix that Minnesota has the NFL’s sixth-best run defense, allowing an average of 80 yards on the ground per game. It’ll be interesting to see if the Packers stay with the hot hand, Jones, or plug in Jamaal Williams, who has shown he’s more advanced in pass protection than the other rookies.
  • Mutual admiration society: Aaron Rodgers is a game-planning nightmare for most coaches, but Zimmer has been an exception to the rule. Zimmer has gone 2-4 against the Packers since he became head coach in 2014, but the Vikings have sacked him more than any other team (56 times). Rodgers lauded Zimmer’s “genius of him and his innovation that he’s brought to the league and that style defense.” Meanwhile, Zimmer told reporters this week “I’ve been in the NFL 20-some years and I can’t remember a guy that does the things that this guy does. … I mean, when you combine everything - his arm strength, his intelligence, his escapability, the way he sees things - you know, I think they should trade him.”

Numbers to know

  • .739: Packers’ regular-season record (49-17-1) against NFC North opponents under McCarthy, a divisional mark that’s second best in the league since 2006
  • 5/5: Packers’ record on fourth-downs this season; meanwhile, the Vikings are 0-for-4
  • 13: Total Green Bay receiving touchdowns this season, most in the NFL
  • 12: How many different Packers have at least one catch in the regular season so far. Seven have a reception of 20-plus yards
  • 4th: Where Minnesota’s red-zone defense ranks in the NFL. The Vikings allow opponents to score touchdowns on just five of 13 trips inside the 20-yard line; meanwhile, the Packers offense is the best red-zone offense in the league (scoring on 15 of 19 possessions)
  • 25.5%: Third-down conversion rate for Vikings’ opponents, a league-best mark
  • 97.6: Keenum’s passer rating in 2017, good for 10th-best in the NFL
  • 3: Ranking in the NFL of the Packers in defending third-and-long situations

Series snippets

  • Last meeting: Packers won 38-25 at Lambeau on Dec. 24, 2017
  • Packers lead the all-time series, 60-51-2
  • The two teams have split the regular-season series the last two years 
  • Green Bay has won five of the last seven at Minnesota
  • Of the last 29 regular-season contests between these two teams, 20 have been decided by seven points or less

What they’re saying in the Twin Cities

What they’re saying in Titletown

  • What drove TE Lance Kendricks to sit for the national anthem weeks ago, and where has his head been at since then? Ryan Wood finds out.
  • Michael Cohen examines the Packers’ dilemma that is what to do with Quinten Rollins
  • After living together their whole lives, Aaron Jones and twin brother Alvin rely on one another now from 1,567 miles apart, Rob Demovksy writes
  • A closer look at the offensive line that helped Jones shine against Dallas, by Nick Shook

Injury report: Packers

  • Questionable: LT David Bakhtiari (hamstring), RT Bryan Bulaga (ankle), RB Ty Montgomery (ribs) and CB Davon House (quad)
  • Doubtful: LB Ahmad Brooks (back) and CB Kevin King (concussion)
  • Expected to play: WR Jordy Nelson (back) and LB Nick Perry (hand)
  • Out: S Morgan Burnett (hamstring) and LB Joe Thomas (ankle)

Injury report: Vikings

  • Questionable: S Andrew Sendejo (groin)
  • Out: QB Sam Bradford (knee), WR Stefon Diggs (groin) and G Nick Easton (calf)
  • Expected to play: C Pat Elflein (toe), T Rashod Hill (knee), DT Tom Johnson (knee), S Jayron Kearse (groin), LB Eric Kendricks (shoulder) and DT Shamar Stephen (back)