Obviously, we all knew the first Vikings-Packers meeting of the year would feature the first-place Vikings (7-2) riding a five-game winning streak while the second-place Packers (6-3) would be on a three-game slide after losing to Detroit (18-16) in Wisconsin for the first time since 1991.
Too bad this league is so predictable, eh?
Here’s our Early Look at the Packers and their suddenly mortal-looking quarterback Aaron Rodgers …
NEXT UP: Green Bay Packers, 3:25 p.m. CT, TCF Bank Stadium. The Packers are 2-2 on the road with wins at Chicago and San Francisco and losses at Denver and Carolina. The Vikings are 4-0 at home with wins over the Lions, Chargers, Chiefs and Rams.
PLAY-CALLING PROBLEMS?: Think anyone can call plays for Aaron Rodgers? Well, Packer fans aren’t so sure of that in recent weeks as their team’s offense has sputtered uncharacteristically with three games of fewer than 20 points, including two in the past three weeks. Coach Mike McCarthy handed his play-calling duties to Tom Clements this season so he could focus more on managing the entire team and game situations. Things looked OK for six games and six wins. Now, after 16 points against the league’s worst defense, McCarthy might want to consider grabbing the offensive reins back. Here’s one example why:
HINDSIGHT IS 20-20, BUT, C’MON: The Packers led 3-0 late in the first half last week. There were 52 seconds left and Rodgers is the quarterback. Even on an off day, the guy is the anti-Favre when it comes to a refusal to throw anything that might have a chance of being intercepted. And what does Clements call? An inside run out of the shotgun against a Lions team that was playing the run well. The Packers punted and the Lions kicked a game-tying field goal as the first half expired. Would McCarthy have made that call on third down?
KEY INJURY: One injured Packer to keep an eye on is left tackle David Bakhtiari. He left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter because of a knee injury.
THE SERIES:The Packers lead 58-49-2 and are 4-0-1 since the Vikings won the 2012 season finale 37-34 at the Metrodome to clinch a wild-card berth and a trip to Green Bay for a loss the following week.
VS. RODGERS: The Vikings are 4-11 versus Rodgers. Half of those wins came in 2009 with Brett Favre motivated to stick it to Packers GM Ted Thompson. Rodgers is 10-4 against the Vikings in the regular season and 1-0 in the postseason. In the regular season, he has completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 3,490 yards, 31 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 119.0 passer rating. In his 15 games against the Purple, he has posted passer ratings of 102.7 or better 11 times. Eleven. Last year, in his first two games against Zimmer’s Vikings defense, he posted passer ratings of 138.7 and 109.7.
A LOOK AT THE FILM …
OFFENSE: First of all, the Lions played with passion and the kind of focus and motivation that comes right after the owner cans the president and the general manager. They pressured Rodgers consistently and played even better in coverage. Rodgers looked uncharacteristically jittery and rushed in the pocket. And the anti-Favre in him refuses to let him take risks when the windows were shut as often as they were by Detroit defenders in tight coverage. But, that being said, Rodgers also wasn’t Rodgers for at least the second straight week. On Green Bay’s second possession, Rodgers had perfect protection, no wind and a bright sunshiny day when he overthrew Davante Adams by 3-4 yards on a deep route. The coverage was tight, but not tight enough to beat the typical Rodgers deep-ball laser. Rodgers also threw passes that were too wide and one that even did a T-Jackian one-hopper to the target. On what could have been the game-tying two-point conversion, Rodgers was pressured up the middle and didn’t lead Adams to the open space in the corner of the end zone, as he typically would. Throwing the ball right on Adams allowed the cornerback, Crezdon Butler, who was signed off the practice squad two days earlier, to get a hand in and knock the ball from Adams’ grasp. It also didn’t help that Randall Cobb dropped what could have been a catch-and-run touchdown. Adams also dropped a ball. It’s obvious that Rodgers misses Jordy Nelson and is still trying to get comfortable with his other receivers.
DEFENSE: Lost in the shadows of the Packers’ struggling offense is a defense that played exceptionally well on Sunday. The Packers forced five three-and-outs and got an interception in the red zone by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Yes, the Packers didn’t record a sack for the third straight game. But watch the game and you’ll see enough pressure to make a difference. One of Detroit’s two touchdowns was a 1-yard drive set up by a 104-yard kickoff return by Ameer Abdullah. Other than the poor tackling on a 43-yard reception on Detroit’s 80-yard touchdown drive late in the game, the Packers’ defense looked very good.
THE QUOTE: “This isn’t easy. And frankly, if we spoiled you in the past, that’s great. We’re looking forward to spoiling you again in the future.” — Packers coach Mike McCarthy, talking about a struggling offense on a team that hasn’t struggled much on offense the past 20-some years.
RANKINGS: Offense: 21st (16 rushing, 22 passing). Defense 23 (24 rushing, 21 passing). Scoring: 11th (24.3). Scoring defense: 11th (20.6).
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Rodgers’ yards per pass attempt, which ranks 16th in the league. Rodgers has been first or second in that category in four of the past five years. In 2011, he was No. 1 at 9.2. Last year, he was No. 2 at 8.4.
TURNOVER MARGIN: Plus-7 (4)
They have 13 takeaways and 6 giveaways. Their three interceptions thrown is tied with Kansas City and New England for fewest in the NFL.