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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Prime Time Preview: Packers vs. Vikings

Our week seven LBS Game of the Week preview takes us to historic Lambeau Field for a match-up that we can always count on to produce some fireworks — the Minnesota Vikings vs. the Green Bay Packers.  In the 48-year history of the rivalry, the Packers hold an amazingly slight edge with the series sitting at 49-46-1.  It doesn’t get much closer than that.

Why Should I Watch?

For starters, Vikings-Packers may just be the best rivalry in the NFL at the moment.  It’s older than Brett Favre.  As of late, the battles have always seemed to have huge NFC North implications.  This year is no different.  Minnesota kept its season alive last week with a much-needed victory over the reeling Cowboys, while Green Bay is trying to avoid losing its third straight game after a hot start.  Oh yeah, and the last time Randy Moss went to Lambeau Field was 2005, when he pretended to moon the crowd.

Three Things to Watch

1. Randy Moss’ Reception (no, the other reception)

January 9, 2005 was the last time Moss visited Green Bay.  His Vikings defeated the Packers in the wild card round of the playoffs, but in a lot of ways that wasn’t the biggest story of the day.  The most buzz was created when Moss caught a touchdown pass and proceeded to run to the goal post, turn around, and pretend to moon the Lambeau Field crowd.  From the way everyone reacted, you’d swear he actually pulled down his pants.  To this day, the moment comes up pretty frequently, even in campaign ads.  Cheese Heads are not the types who would forget something like that, so it’ll be fun to see how loudly they boo Randy when he comes onto the field and every time he touches the ball.  Does Moss dare do something disrespectful again if he scores?  We shall see.

2. Will Aaron Rodgers Be Aaron Rodgers?

Aaron Rodgers has already thrown for over 1500 yards and 10 touchdowns this year, but he really hasn’t looked as great as many of us expected.  He’s been picked off seven times and been banged up quite a bit on 14 sacks.  Although he suffered a concussion week five against the Redskins, Rodgers started the following game against Miami.  It’s tough for us to tell if he’s still hurting or feeling any ill effects from getting his squash banged in, but he certainly didn’t look his sharpest against the Dolphins.  The Packers quarterback racked up over 300 yards in the air, but threw only one touchdown pass to go along with his interception.  The touchdown pass was more of a broken coverage on Miami’s part than anything.  If the Packers want to avoid losing a third straight game, they’ll need Rodgers to do what he does best — play like the top-5 NFL quarterback that he is.

3. The Packers’ Rushing Attack

We haven’t heard many people talk about how much the loss of Ryan Grant has hurt the Packers this year.  That’s surprising.  The Packers have rushed for over 100 yards as a team only twice this year.  Grant had 45 of them the first time they did it, and the second time was when Rodgers missed a lot of the game with a concussion.  They need to do a better job of running the ball with Rodgers at the helm, especially without Jermichael Finley to throw to.  If they don’t, they risk becoming one-dimensional which usually won’t get you a lot of wins at the NFL level.  Whether it’s Brandon Jackson or John Kuhn, someone has to step up and run with a purpose for the Packers if they want to get back to being successful.

Injury Concerns

The only real concern for the Vikings is Brett Favre — if you even want to call it one.  Favre has supposedly been battling an arm injury to go along with his ankle injury, but nobody knows if that’s an excuse for off-field issues or not.  His health really didn’t seem to be a factor against the Cowboys last weekend, so I would assume it won’t be in this game, either.  Percy Harvin has been dinged up a lot this year but is somehow helping the team every week, so you can expect him to do it again on Sunday night.

Injuries have been a huge problem for the Packers over the past few games. Aaron Rodgers is good to go once again after sustaining a concussion against the Redskins two weeks ago.  Jermichael Finley is done for the year, but most of the most significant injury problems for Green Bay have come on defense.  Cornerback Al Harris (knee) and safety Atari Bigby (ankle) have yet to play in 2010 but neither is listed on the injury report, so they’ll probably suit up for the first time this year.  Most importantly, NFL sack leader Clay Matthews is hoping to return this week after sitting out against the Dolphins with a hamstring injury.

Fantasy Forecast

Green Bay ranks 21st in stopping the run and the weather forecast for this game doesn’t look all that lovely. Although it’s early for that, my point is it could be a big week for Adrian Peterson. Randy Moss always seems to score when he plays in Sunday night or Monday night games, so I’d make sure you have him in your lineup. As for Favre, that’s up to you. He hasn’t been very good this year, as you know, and he might be a little more banged up than usual, not to mention distracted. Personally, I’d bench him if you have a better option. Percy Harvin is a desperation flex play at this point.  He has a knack for making big plays, even if they come on special teams.

The Vikings rank 6th in the NFL against the pass and 11th against the run. You have to start Aaron Rodgers if you have him, but the Packers could try to establish the run in this one against a tough secondary. Greg Jennings is the best candidate for increased production with Jermichael Finley out, so I’d use him this week but not Donald Driver. Brandon Jackson hasn’t really shown much, but he should get a good amount of touches if you’re in need of a flex player.

Verdict

When these two AFC North rivals clash, it’s always a close one. The home team has won four of the last five, and I think that trend will continue on Sunday night.  The Vikings really haven’t done nothing to impress people so far this year, and Green Bay could be getting several key players back on defense. I’d pick the Packers either way, but I feel even better picking them at Lambeau.

Packers 27, Vikings 20



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