Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings: Breaking Down Green Bay's Game Plan

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Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings: Breaking Down Green Bay's Game Plan
USA TODAY Sports
The Green Bay Packers take on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8.

The Green Bay Packers are coming off of an impressive win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 7, and they are now preparing for a Sunday night showdown with the Minnesota Vikings.

While Green Bay dominated its game from start to finish last week, the same can't be said for the Vikings. They lost in horrible fashion to the previously winless New York Giants and now sit at 1-5 on the season.

This should be a rather lopsided game in favor of Green Bay. However, the Packers have struggled on the road against Minnesota, so it certainly won't be a slam-dunk victory for the Packers.

Let's break down what Green Bay's game plan needs to be in order to ensure no letdown happens on Sunday night.

 

 

The Competitive Edge

Quarterback

It won't matter whether the Vikings start Josh Freeman or Christian Ponder on Sunday. Heck, it wouldn't matter if they went back a decade and started Daunte Culpepper.

Aaron Rodgers is playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Advantage: Green Bay

 

Running Backs

This matchup is actually closer than it seems, simply because Minnesota seems content with giving the ball to Adrian Peterson sparingly over the course of the game.

Eddie Lacy, on the other hand, has been the league's top rusher over the past three weeks, per ESPN Stats & Info. The nod still goes to Minnesota, but it's really quite close.

Advantage: Minnesota

 

Wide Receivers 

We saw last week that it doesn't matter who the Packers throw out at wide receiver because they're going to be successful.

Also, until the Vikings start using rookie Cordarrelle Patterson more often, they don't have the advantage over anyone.

Advantage: Green Bay

 

Tight Ends

With Jermichael Finley out for the foreseeable future, it's going to be hard for the Packers to have the edge over any team at the tight end position.

Kyle Rudolph isn't great, but he's sure better than Andrew Quarless or Brandon Bostick.

Advantage: Minnesota

 

Offensive Line

This tweet from Bleacher Report's NFC North lead writer Zach Kruse says all you need to know about who has the better offensive line:

Advantage: Green Bay

 

Defensive Line

At times, both defensive lines have been rather dominant this season.

The Vikings have the advantage in creating pressure on the quarterback, but the Packers defensive line has been so good against the run that they get the slight advantage here.

Advantage: Green Bay

 

Linebackers

Despite being ravaged by injuries, Green Bay's linebackers have been much better than the Vikings. The backups have really stepped it up over the last two weeks, especially Jamari Lattimore.

Advantage: Green Bay

 

Secondary

Last week was the best the Packers secondary has looked all season. The Vikings, on the other hand, struggled mightily against the New York Giants on Monday night.

If the Packers can get cornerback Casey Hayward back (more on this later), they will have an even bigger advantage than they do now.

Advantage: Green Bay

 

Special Teams

With Green Bay having to play so many backups in expanded roles, its coverage on kick and punt returns have really suffered. And with Patterson proving to be rather dangerous in the return game, the Packers could be in some real trouble this week.

Advantage: Minnesota

 

 

Packers Offense vs. Vikings Defense

After a slowish start to the season, the Packers offense has really started to click over the past two weeks. 

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Eddie Lacy should be a big part of the Packers' game plan on offense.

A huge reason for this is the success that the Packers have had with their ground game, as rookie Eddie Lacy has provided a rushing attack that Green Bay hasn't had in years. 

Lacy should be able to continue his success, considering the Vikings have the sixth-worst run defense, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). With the Packers still being extremely banged up at wide receiver and tight end, look for Lacy to be a huge part of the offensive game plan for Green Bay.

However, even if the Vikings are somehow able to slow down the Packers ground game, there is still Mr. Rodgers that they'll have to deal with. He put on quite a performance last week when he made wide receiver Jarrett Boykin look like an elite talent.

As bad as the Vikings defense has been against the run, they've been nearly as bad against the pass. Pro Football Focus has them graded as the seventh-worst team in terms of pass coverage this year, two spots lower than the Packers grade in pass coverage.

Simply put, the Packers should pretty much be able to do whatever they want on offense in this game. Look for them to have an even better offensive output than the 31 points they laid on the Browns last week.

 

 

Packers Defense vs. Vikings Offense

According to Pro Football Focus, only two teams have been worse with their passing offense this year than the Vikings: the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills.

That means the Packers can focus the majority of their defensive resources on slowing down the best running back in the league, Adrian Peterson (more on this later). The good news is that the Packers currently field the sixth-best run defense, according to Pro Football Focus.

The most intriguing matchup of this game will be how the Packers handle wide receiver Greg Jennings. Jennings has been rather vocal this offseason about his departure from Green Bay and his signing with the Vikings.

Don't be surprised if Jennings' former teammates do everything in their power to keep him from making any type of impact in this game. Without many other passing options outside of Jennings, look for the Vikings to struggle offensively.

 

 

Special Teams

Last week against the Browns, the Packers gave up two huge returns. While neither went for a touchdown, return specialist Travis Benjamin did put Cleveland in position to score with his long return.

Green Bay is going to need to do a much better job in covering kick returns this week due to the fact that Patterson is an even more dangerous return man than Benjamin. If the Packers give the Vikings multiple short fields to work with, this game could become much closer than it needs to be.

As for the Packers return game, look for cornerback Micah Hyde and running back Johnathan Franklin to continue to improve and have success.

 

 

Wednesday's Injury Report Analysis

Packers Injury Report
Name Position Injury Practice Status
Jarrett Bush CB Hamstring Full Participation
Jermichael Finley TE Neck Out
Casey Hayward CB Hamstring Full Participation
James Jones WR Knee Did Not Practice
Brad Jones LB Hamstring Full Participation
Clay Matthews LB Thumb Out
Nick Perry LB Foot Did Not Practice
James Starks RB Knee Full Participation
Ryan Taylor TE Knee Did Not Practice

Via Packers.com

There is obviously quite a bit to digest here from Wednesday's injury report.

We'll start with the good news, which is that both Hayward and linebacker Brad Jones fully participated in practice on Wednesday. The Packers have desperately missed Hayward's playmaking abilities in the secondary, and Jones will bring some much-needed depth at the linebacker position.

Unfortunately, there is also plenty of bad news for the Packers concerning injuries this week. It all starts with Finley, whose future is still unknown at this point, according to Ed Werder of ESPN:

With Finley almost certainly gone for an extended period of time, and with fellow tight end Ryan Taylor out of practice on Wednesday, the Packers are extremely thin at tight end for Week 8.

Overall, the Packers are beginning to slowly get healthy. If they can avoid a major injury this weekwhich hasn't been easy to do for them this seasontheir outlook will be much improved heading into Week 9.

 

 

The Packers Will Win If...

They can contain Mr. Peterson.

USA TODAY Sports
The Packers need to be successful in slowing down Adrian Peterson if they want to win on Sunday.

In the two games these teams played in the regular season last year, Peterson ran for a total of 409 yards and two touchdowns. That's an average up just under 205 rushing yards and one touchdown per game.

The Packers best bet for stopping Peterson is for the Vikings to have the same game plan that they had last week against the Giants. In that game, Peterson only had 13 carries for a pedestrian 28 yards and no touchdowns.

However, it's unlikely that Minnesota will fail to give its best player the ball only 13 times for two games in a row. And since it's impossible to completely stop the best running back in the game, that means the Packers will need to do their best to contain him.

In order to do so, Green Bay will need to put eight men in the box on probable running downs and be aggressive at the point of attack. They need to force the Vikings to beat them through the air, not on the ground.

The magic number to keep Peterson under is 100. As long as he doesn't hit the century mark, the Packers will have done a good enough job at slowing him down to come away with the win. 

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