Six Points: Packers vs. Vikings
A battle for NFC North superiority will take place at TCF Bank Stadium this weekend, as the Green Bay Packers (6-3) aim to take down the division-leading Minnesota Vikings (7-2) on Sunday. Although both teams are vying for a first-place position, these two squads are headed in total opposite directions: The Vikings are riding a five-game winning streak, while the Packers are losers of three straight.
Will quarterback Aaron Rodgers save the Packers' ship before it sinks, or will running back Adrian Peterson plow his way to another victory for the Vikings?
Here are three keys to the game for both the Packers and the Vikings.
Can you beat the Crowd's Line? Submit your final score prediction below. Good luck!
1. Force Teddy Bridgewater to throw the ball
If the Packers can make this game into a quarterback duel, Teddy Bridgewater won't stand a chance against Aaron Rodgers. In order to do that, however, they'll need to neutralize Adrian Peterson -- a tall task for a team that has historically struggled to contain the All-Pro back, who is averaging over 100 yards per game this year. The best thing they can do is stack the box with eight and sometimes nine defenders.
2. Attack the edges with pass-rushers
The Packers need to get their pass rush back on track. They have not recorded a single sack during their three-game losing streak. In the six games before that (all wins), they averaged nearly four sacks per game. The Packers should crash the edges, where the Vikings have left tackle Matt Kalil, who's dealing with a toe injury, and rookie right tackle T.J. Clemmings, who should be raw meat for a veteran pass-rusher like Julius Peppers.
3. Spread out the offensive touches and targets
Green Bay's offense did not feature a balanced approach in the team's Week 11 loss to the Detroit Lions. The Packers only called 18 run plays; in turn, Aaron Rodgers dropped back to pass 64 times. Second-year wide receiver Davante Adams saw 21 targets, of which he caught less than half. Rodgers should explore a budding connection with his tight ends, Richard Rodgers and Justin Perillo, against Minnesota's banged up linebackers.
1. Put the ball in Peterson's hands more than 20 times
Minnesota's magic number is 21 this season. The Vikings are 7-0 in games in which Adrian Peterson has over 20 offensive touches, 0-2 in games in which he has 20 or less. The winning formula is simple for this NFC North-leading squad: Put the ball in Peterson's hands and good things will happen.
2. Overpower Green Bay's offensive line
Four out of Green Bay's five starting offensive linemen are listed on the injury report this week. Guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are suffering from knee and shoulder injuries, respectively. Tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari both have knee injuries. Nose tackle Linval Joseph has been a force for the Vikings as of late; he and defensive end Everson Griffen should be able to penetrate the Packers' backfield with ease on Sunday.
3. Make another big play on special teams
Only three teams have a better record than the Vikings, and yet their offense ranks 29th in the NFL (328.7 yards per game). Although they have a running back who's as steady as they come in Adrian Peterson, Teddy Bridgewater is not the most dynamic of passers. They sometimes need a big play on special teams to create some scoring, like Marcus Sherels' 65-yard punt-return touchdown in Week 8 and Cordarrelle Patterson's 93-yard kickoff-return touchdown in Week 10.