3 storylines: Packers at Vikings
Each Tuesday, Press-Gazette Media will turn to the week ahead with three storylines for the Green Bay Packers’ next game. This weekend, the opponent is the Minnesota Vikings. Here’s a glimpse of what to watch for when the Packers travel to Minnesota for a 3:25 p.m. kickoff Sunday.
1. The losing streak: For a team that has won four straight NFC North titles, it has been a while since the Packers haven’t been in control of their division. That’s where they sit entering this weekend, a game behind the Minnesota Vikings. This is not a must-win game. The NFC isn’t particularly deep. Even at 6-4, the Packers have enough time – and a season finale against the Vikings at Lambeau Field – to save their season. Whatever is a step below “must win,” that’s what this week is. Super Bowl contenders don’t typically experience four-game losing streaks. Of course, Super Bowl contenders don’t typically lose to the Detroit Lions at home, either. But with the season heading in the wrong direction, a win Sunday could be an important momentum shift.
2. Rodgers’ recovery: In the state of Wisconsin, Aaron Rodgers generally has been above reproach. He is a two-time MVP, a Super Bowl champion, one of the elite quarterbacks in NFL history. And, each week, he typically delivers. He returned from a broken collarbone to lead the Packers to the playoffs in 2013. He strained his calf last season and led the Packers to the NFC Championship Game. On the football field, Rodgers always seems to find the answer. Now, he faces some unfamiliar adversity. The past three weeks have been his worst since becoming the Packers’ starting quarterback in 2008. He’s still the two-time MVP, the Super Bowl champion, an elite quarterback. He just needs to play like it.
3. Lacy’s workload: Here’s a crazy idea. If Eddie Lacy is healthy enough to play against the Vikings after being inactive Sunday with a groin injury, he should get 20 carries – minimum. Look, his lack of production has been among the greatest disappointments in the NFL this season. Nearing Thanksgiving, he still hasn’t rushed for 100 yards in any game. But you can’t point to his career-low pace of 547 yards without mentioning he’s also on pace for a career-low 147 carries, 99 fewer than he had last season. James Starks didn’t exactly light up the Lions’ poor run defense, rushing for 42 yards on 15 carries (2.8 yards per carry). Amazingly, those 15 carries are a mark Lacy has reached only twice this season. In those games, Lacy has rushed for 85 yards (on 19 carries at Chicago) and 90 yards (on 18 carries at San Francisco). It’s clear what isn’t going to fix the Packers' offense. They can’t throw their way out of this mess, as seen Sunday when Rodgers threw 61 passes. They need to commit to the running game. It has worked for them in the past. When the Packers traveled to Minnesota last season, they won by a field goal on the strength of Lacy’s 25 carries for 125 yards. This week, it’s time to give the workhorse more carries, not fewer.
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