If something feels oddly familiar about this second meeting with the Packers, that’s because there’s something oddly familiar about this second meeting with the Packers.
Six weeks ago, the Vikings were rolling and the Packers were getting rolled. The Vikings had won five straight. The Packers had lost three straight.
Naturally, the Packers came into TCF Bank Stadium and crushed the Vikings 30-13.
Next up: Vikings (10-5) vs. Packers (10-5), 7:30 p.m. Sunday, at Lambeau Field. Both teams have qualified for the playoffs. The winner gets the NFC North title and a home game for next week’s wild-card round.
Deja vu: The Vikings have been impressive in back-to-back blowouts of the Bears (38-17) and Giants (49-17). The Packers were humiliated 38-8 on Sunday by an Arizona team the Vikings pushed to the final seconds before losing by 3. But before we all lean in favor of the Vikings, scroll up and take a look at that final the last time we all leaned in favor of the Vikings.
Key injuries for Packers: The offensive line is the biggest concern. There was a parade of big fellas limping to the sideline during the Cardinals game. So many that it’s a wonder there weren’t quarterbacks being carried off the field, too. The Packers were without left tackle David Bakhtiari for the entire game and lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga because of an ankle injury during the game. The Vikings’ pass rush will be keeping a close eye on this week’s injury report coming from Green Bay.
Rankings: Offense: 24th (359.4), 10th rushing (106.4), 26th passing (253.1). Defense: 19th (336.8), 21st rushing (118.5), 13th passing (218.3).
Scoring: Offense 13th (23.7). Defense 10th (20.2).
Turnover ratio: T-8 (plus-5). The Packers and Vikings are tied at plus-5. Both have 20 takeaways and 15 giveaways. The Packers have thrown seven interceptions, while the Vikings have thrown eight.
Did you know?: The Packers rank 31st in the league in passing net yards per play.
The tape: It’s been a season-long theme since receiver Jordy Nelson went down for the season, but it’s still strange to watch the tape and see the Packers’ offense struggle unlike any other point during coach Mike McCarthy’s 10 seasons. Against Arizona, the Packers executed a successful fake punt and got an interception in the red zone, yet the offense got no points out of either. Without Nelson, Rodgers doesn’t have a receiver that can separate from defenders consistently. And judging by how long he holds the ball, he clearly doesn’t trust his targets well enough to throw into tight coverage. He’s holding the ball longer than he ever has and the offensive line isn’t good enough to protect him when he does. The Packers gave up nine sacks on Sunday. Rodgers was dropped eight times. He fumbled three times, two of which were returned for touchdowns. One of the few times Rodgers gambled on a covered receivers, he was picked in the end zone, killing a red-zone scoring opportunity. It’s been a long time — possibly pre-Favre — since the Packers have looked this out of sorts offensively. Defensively, the Packers aren’t bad. But they give up too many rushing yards, which puts them in unfavorable downs and distances. When that happens, they have to be mindful of the running game but still aggressive with the pass rush. Against Arizona, that didn’t work. Time after time, Carson Palmer had too much time to sit and survey the secondary while Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers were stonewalled coming off the edge. The Cardinals had a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took only 51 seconds late in the first half. The complete lack of pressure allowed the Cardinals to take a 17-0 lead with six seconds left in the half. And, strangely, that seemed like more than enough of a cushion against the Packers’ offense.