Preview, predictions: Packers vs. Vikings

Bob McGinn
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Aaron Rodgers did not have his best game in the first game against the Vikings this season, fumbling three times and completing 20 of 36 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown and an interception.

Teams: Minnesota Vikings (7-7) at Green Bay Packers (8-6).

When: Noon Saturday.

Where: Lambeau Field.

TV: Fox.

Radio: AM-620 in Milwaukee, AM-1360 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network

Series: Packers lead, 59-51-2.

Line: Packers by 6 1/2.

Weather: 35, partly cloudy.

Surface: DD GrassMaster.

Coaches: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (120-68-1) vs. Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer (25-22).

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ONE TO WATCH: Stefon Diggs caught nine passes for 182 yards in the first meeting. His explosive plays included a 46-yard catch when Blake Martinez was out of position, a 44-yard catch when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was out of position and a 25-yard touchdown when he beat Damarious Randall to the post. Randall also was penalized twice for pass interference and gave up sideline receptions of 15 and 12 yards to Adam Thielen. “Diggs is good – I wouldn’t say he’s really good,” an executive in personnel said. “He’s really competitive. He’s got quickness. He can do damage with the ball in his hand.” Tight end Kyle Rudolph ranks No. 2 in receptions. “He’s a matchup issue just from his hands and being a good athlete,” the scout said. “He won’t really threaten the seam but he is a big target.”

MOTIVATION GAME: Coach Mike Zimmer needs a third straight victory in the series to even his record against coach Mike McCarthy at 3-3. On Sunday, Zimmer appeared angry about his team’s play in a 34-6 defeat at home to Indianapolis. In effect, he questioned his team’s fighting spirit and vowed to use the last two games to weed out those that weren’t worthy of returning next season. Following the tongue-lashing from Zimmer, would the Vikings be set to give a supreme effort and upset the Packers? “I could see that,” said one personnel man. “Only thing I would say is that Zimmer’s always pissed. He’s perpetually pissed. With those types of guys, yeah, they can keep the troops going for a couple games but how much more. …I think he’s a heck of a coach and has done a great job to get them to 7-7. Where they’re at is amazing considering their starting quarterback came on a plane a week before the season and then all the offensive-line issues.”

INSIDE MATCHUPS: Probably the Packers’ two best players in the first meeting were Mike Daniels and Julius Peppers. Daniels registered all three of the defensive line’s pressures, and all came at the expense of RG Brandon Fusco. Peppers had 1½ sacks, two knockdowns and 4½ pressures in all working mostly against RT Andre Smith. Fusco (concussion) will be replaced by Joe Berger, who started at center in the Sept. 18 game. Smith is on injured reserve and will be replaced by Jeremiah Sirles. “This group that they’re putting out there is pretty bad,” one scout said. “In the Indy game (Robert) Mathis looked like he was in his prime. Their interior guys don’t have any rush at all and they were killing them (the Vikings). (Alex) Boone is their best. Solid pass protector. I guess he’s the solidifying presence.”

THE BIG RUSH: The Vikings’ strength remains a defensive line that was weakened by the loss of DT Tom Johnson (hamstring) in the Colts game and the fact DT Sharrif Floyd played in the opener only. It leaves RE Everson Griffen, LE Brian Robison and swing DE Danielle Hunter as the leading rushers. “Griffen is still really good,” one scout said. “He’s a leverage rusher. Quick and explosive. …Robison has some success inside on third down. He’s explosive. Been a real good player. …Hunter’s always had the physical tools. Now the game is slowing down for him. He’s what you draw up physically. He’s powerful converting speed to power.”

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW: The Vikings have slipped to sixth in points allowed after a long season of trying to prop up a 31st-ranked offense. “It’s kind of the cumulative effect of having to carry this team and the offense, and being put in bad spots week after week after week,” said one scout. “Eventually it kind of wears you down. You have older players like Terence Newman and (Chad) Greenway, and I wonder if that’s kind of catching up. They’re still a good defense. But a good defense can only hold up so long when you have to carry that much weight. When your offense isn’t dynamic and makes no explosive plays, you’ve got to keep grinding it out and get the ball back. It’s tough on them.”

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There’s little doubt the Vikings will come to play against their archrival. They were flogged Sunday by the Colts, which made it an easy motivational week for Mike Zimmer and his excellent staff. But do they have enough firepower to win at Lambeau Field? They shouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.


These are two teams heading in different directions. This should be a good test of the Packers' ability to finish off an opponent. Chicago didn't look like a team wanting to hurry up and get inside, but the Packers did once they got a big lead. This needs to be a build-up to a season-ending crescendo, not another great escape.  Packers 34, Vikings 13


The Vikings' defense will keep them in most games, and that should be the case Saturday. But Sam Bradford doesn't have much help around him, which places a premium on offensive production. In that department, I trust the Packers over the Vikings. Packers 20, Vikings 17


The Vikings still have a really good defense, and if safety Harrison Smith (ankle) is back from injury they'll get a huge lift. But Aaron Rodgers and Ty Montgomery have brought the Packers back to life, and the Vikings haven't shown they pack the punch to keep up on the scoreboard even in a fairly low-scoring game. Packers 24, Vikings 14


Since starting the season 5-0, the Vikings have gone 2-7 to plummet virtually out of the NFC playoff picture. The Packers, meanwhile, appear to be on a mission to “run the table,” as their quarterback put it. Expect Aaron Rodgers finally to have some success against Mike Zimmer’s defense. Packers 27, Vikings 17

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