Opposite Sideline: Beating Packers important for Vikings
The lowdown on the next Packers opponent from a beat writer who covers the team.
The Green Bay Packers fell out of playoff contention this week and have two games left on their regular-season schedule before the players head their separate ways for the offseason.
They will face off against the surging Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night in what the league probably thought was going to be an important division battle when it released its schedule back in April. Instead, it will be Brett Hundley vs. Case Keenum in a game that means nothing to the home team and little beyond playoff seeding for the visitors.
We spoke with Cris Thomason of the St. Paul Pioneer Press to get a better idea of where the Vikings are heading into Saturday night's game. You can find part of our exchange below and also in the video above.
1. What has been the biggest key to the offensive turnaround for the Vikings? Last season they seemed very inconsistent while this year they seem like a well-oiled machine.
A retooled offensive line has been pivotal to the Vikings' turnaround. The line has been able to open holes to establish a running game after the Vikings couldn't get one going last year and were last in the NFL. And the line has been able to protect quarterback Case Keenum well. Of course, Keenum has helped matters plenty with a scrambling ability that has conjured up memories of Fran Tarkenton.
2. How hard will it be for the Vikings to get "up" for a game against a team that is just playing out the string?
I don't think it will be hard for the Vikings to get up for this game. They really want to secure at least the second seed in the NFC and might have to win out to do that. If the Vikings were to fall and Carolina wins the NFC South and has the same record, the Panthers would win a tiebreaker. Then the Vikings would drop to the No. 3 seed and might have to win two road games to make it to the Super Bowl.
3. Do you think Mike Zimmer will come after Brett Hundley with heavy pressure, or will they stick to their regular game plan?
I'm sure they will pressure Brett Hundley plenty. The Vikings, after all, have rattled some of the top quarterbacks in the NFL with pressure this season, including Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff. Even though they didn't sack Ryan in a 14-9 win at Atlanta earlier this month, the Vikings' pass rush prevented him from throwing downfield much.