Green Bay Packers' Next Opponent: Quick takes on the Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings overtook the Green Bay Packers for the top spot in the NFC North a year ago, going 13-3 and beating Green Bay twice. After beating the New Orleans Saints 29-24, they were drubbed by the Philadelphia Eagles 38-7 in the NFC Championship game. In the offseason, they saw offensive coordinator Pat Shumur depart to coach the New York Giants and the team elected to move on from quarterback Case Keenum.
The Vikings signed quarterback Kirk Cousins to help them fare better in the postseason. During coach Mike Zimmer’s five-year tenure, the Vikings have given the Packers all they can handle. Since coming to Minnesota, the Vikings have won the NFC North three times – but are 1-2 in the postseason.
Basics on the Vikings
The Vikings won their home opener 24-16 over the San Francisco 49ers behind 244 yards and two touchdowns by Cousins.
The Vikings brought in offensive coordinator John DeFilippo off the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning staff. It is the first time he has called plays since 2015, when he did so in Cleveland for current Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. DeFilippo runs a “West Coast” based system, reliant on timing passing. On defense, the team runs Zimmer’s 4-3 scheme under coordinator George Edwards. The Vikings have finished in the top six in scoring defense the last four years and have been in the top half in total defense in each season Edwards has coordinated.
The 49ers had two shots at goal-to-go against the Vikings' defense and could not dent the end zone on those plays. This included the Vikings forcing, and recovering, a 49ers fumble at their own 2.
Consecutive victories by the Vikings over the Packers, as they swept the season series in 2017.
Interceptions by the Vikings' defense last week. They had 14 all of last season. It is also the number of sacks they recorded.
Players to watch
Everson Griffen, DE
A year ago, the 31-year-old defensive end turned in his third straight Pro Bowl season by recording 13 sacks. It was the third time in seven years he reached double-digits in quarterback takedowns. He got to 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for a half sack Sunday. He also hurried Garoppolo three times. While Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari is one of the best pass blockers in the league, Griffen could make things difficult for the Packers if Aaron Rodgers isn’t his usual mobile self.
Kirk Cousins, QB
Cousins made headlines this offseason when he signed a fully guaranteed, three-year, $84 million deal to leave Washington and – in the view of the Vikings – lead them to the Super Bowl. Cousins completed 55.5 percent of his passes indoors last week but tossed two touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over. He wasn’t able to really push the ball down the field against the 49ers, however, averaging just 6.8 yards per attempt. The Vikings’ longest play from scrimmage was 34 yards and they had just two of over 20 yards in the victory.
Dalvin Cook, RB
The Vikings rushed for 112 yards in each of their two victories over the Packers last season, and each were without the promising running back out of Florida State. A second-round pick a year ago, Cook rushed for 354 yards in four games before tearing an ACL. He returned last week against San Francisco and rushed 16 times for 40 yards. True, that averaged out to just 2.5 yards per carry, but he also caught six balls for an additional 55 yards. Cook can be dynamic playmaker on the ground or through the air.
Reasons to worry
The Vikings had 37 sacks a year ago and they started this season by getting to the quarterback three times in Week 1. While the Packers' pass protection improved in the second half against the Chicago Bears and a hobbled Rodgers wasn’t brought down, the Vikings now have an idea of the quarterback’s limitations and the game plan used to erase a 20-point deficit. It’s already a given that the Vikings can bring the heat, either through their front four or through Edwards’ blitz schemes, so if they can get to Rodgers it could make for a long afternoon for the Packers.
Reasons to relax
The Vikings' offense struggled out of the gate, and it may still take time for Cousins and company to work out all the wrinkles with new play caller DeFilippo and his new offense. Of the 10 Minnesota drives that didn’t end with the half or game, six possessions concluded with punts and one on a fumble. Mike Pettine and DeFilippo are very familiar with one another, so the Packers defensive coordinator may be able to more quickly counteract some of the unscouted looks/scripted plays that befuddled them against Chicago for a quarter. Cousins isn’t as mobile as Mitch Trubisky, which could also help the Packers' front four create pressure as the 49ers sacked Cousins three times and hit him an additional six times.
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