Coaches and players will have keys to victory, They will study film and statistics, look for patterns and weaknesses, injuries.. and exploit them. A developed game plan.
We fans are free from the constraints of logic when it comes to our football team.
Passion > Logic.
So with that in mind, the keys to a Vikings' victory this Sunday include:
1. Referees stop treating Green Bay receivers like they are royalty.
Having watched a handful of Packers games this year, and all of the Minnesota games, it is clear to me that there is a bias toward the Green and Gold. The Packers offense thrives almost as much on penalties as they do performance. Don't believe me? Here are the stats:
The Packers are 2nd in first downs by penalty with 43. The Vikings are 19th with 28.
The Packers are 1st in fewest first downs allowed via penalty with 18. Minnesota is 25th best with 34.
So, Green Bay is a plus 25 in first downs by penalty and Minnesota is minus 6.
In the 11/22 meeting that the Packers won 30-13, the Green and Gold were awarded three first downs by penalty to none for Minnesota. Rodgers might have drawn us offside one of those times, but it is clear to purple fans that referees see more crimes against the Pack than otherwise.
Now someone will try and say logical things like... good teams draw penalties, or a young secondary will commit more fouls...but we fans in purple know better. It is the same treatment Michael Jordan and the Bulls got for years, or the Yankees, or Red Wings. Winning teams get the calls.
On this Sunday we would like a reprieve. Just because Xavier Rhodes has his hand on a receiver it does not always mean you have to throw a flag, and conversely, if the Packers slow down our receivers with their arms and hands, you can throw a flag once in a while.
2. Must dominate 3rd Down Conversion battle
In the first meeting Minnesota was 5 for 13 on 3rd down conversions, or roughly 39 percent. Green Bay was 6 for 16, or 38.5 percent. Advantage Minnesota, but barely.
On the season Minnesota's offense is 17th overall in the NFL with 39.4%; Green Bay is 27th at 35.2%. Defensively, Minnesota is ranked 8th in allowing 3rd down conversions at a rate of 36.1%, good for 3rd in the NFC. The Packers are 10th defensively in 3rd down conversion, with a 36.8%.
In this game that margin of difference will be crucial. Minnesota must get Aaron Rodgers off of the field early and often. If the Vikings can avoid defensive penalties on 3rd down that might just be enough. If not, expect more of the same from the last five seasons, where Green Bay has won ten of the last twelve games.
3. Win the turnover battle
Coming into the final game of the season these two teams could not be more even in the plus/minus category of turnovers. Both teams are plus five, with 20 takeaways and 15 turnovers.
In the previous meeting, Green Bay won the turnover battle 1-0 with a lone fumble by Adrian Peterson recoverd by Sam Shields. In the rematch, the Vikings must finish on the plus side in order to win. A two turnover swing could mean as much as 14 points.
Teddy Bridgewater has avoided the turnovers that plagued the quarterbacks before him. Rodgers has only recently begun to turn the ball over via the pass. He is known for his ability to avoid turnovers. Pressure on the quarterback will be one of the keys to who will win this battle.
4. Adrian Peterson vs. Eddie Lacy
Peterson has looked very strong all year. Eddie Lacy looks like he spent the off-season on his couch watching reruns of Happy Days. Peterson has the overall rushing title in the NFL nearly wrapped up, while Lacy fights for playing time (and air) with veteran James Starks.
However, in the first meeting Lacy ran for 100 yards on 22 carries, including a 27 yard run. Peterson was given the ball 13 times which resulted in 45 yards. This was not a shock to those in the know, Lacy has been tough to stop in all the border battles.
On Sunday, Minnesota must find ways to give AP the ball when the Packers are not fully expecting him to have it. The predictable run on 1st and 10 might need a few down field passes instead. In 2005, Randy Moss scored 3 TDs on passes to humble the Packers at Lambeau Field. Like a visit to Disney World, it might behoove the Vikings to look for "off-peak" hours or plays do get Peterson involved.
One thing is certain, do not give up on Peterson like we did in November.
Stopping Lacy is apparently more difficult for Minnesota than it should be. The big back has broken many tackles the last few years. With Linval Joseph out, the run defense is suspect. While Green Bay is most dangerous via the pass, stopping Lacy and/or Starks is important in allowing our defensive rush to attack the pocket.
5. Contain and Batter Aaron Rodgers
Finally, anyone who witnessed the Packers last game vs. the Cardinals was given a blueprint for beating Green Bay. The Packers offensive line is struggling with injuries to the point I almost felt sorry for them as they were overrun by Arizona last week.
Green Bay and Minnesota have surrendered 2.8 sacks per game. However, in the last three games the Packers have surrendered 4.3 sacks per game compared to Minnesota's 2.3. The nine sacks that Green Bay allowed last week was a joy to watch. Rodgers was beaten, angry, but unable to change what was happening.
In the first meeting the Packers sacked Bridgewater six times, as he tried to pass while behind in the game. Rodgers was sacked twice. Rodgers deftly stepped up and around our rush, finding receivers like James Jones, who had six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Those numbers should be reversed. One of the issues Minnesota has had this year is containing teams with mobile quarterbacks. It is no coincidence that the three blowouts the Vikings suffered this year (San Fran, Green Bay, and Seattle) all involved QBs who avoided our pass rush. Minnesota fared much better against pocket passers like Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler...
Gone are the days of all-out rushes from guys like Jared Allen, hell-bent on getting a sack. Our defensive ends (Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, and Brian Robison) must contain Rodgers within the pocket. If we must blitz to add pressure, then so be it.
If Minnesota hits Rodgers early and often, it will be a glorious day most certainly.
Well, that is a fan's view of what must occur in order to end this silly domination since 2010. Yes, Green Bay has been a very good team over the years. No, they are not invincible.
In fact, they look ripe for a beating.