Vikings

PREDICTION: Vikings vs Packers

Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch (USA Today Sports)

The Vikings host the Packers Sunday night with a chance to bury their archrival in the playoff race and, in turn, bolster their own hopes. As usual, they’ll have the challenge of slowing Aaron Rodgers.

Before examining some elements from this game and making a call, here’s some of the writing you might have missed during the holiday weekend.

An examination of how Anthony Harris and Eric Wilson filled in as starters in recent weeks.

How much the Vikings missed the blocking of tight end David Morgan in their loss last week.

An in-depth look at Kirk Cousins’ poor record in primetime games.

And for those who prefer listening to reading, the latest Zone Coverage Football Machine podcast.

Injury Situation

The Vikings get an important linebacker returning in Anthony Barr (hamstring), but they’ll be without Ben Gedeon (concussion) in their base package. Andrew Sendejo (groin) will miss a sixth game at safety. Chad Beebe (hamstring) and David Morgan (knee) are also out, meaning Brandon Zylstra and Tyler Conklin should see more snaps on offense.

DT Mike Daniels (foot), LB Nick Perry (knee), CB Kevin King (hamstring) and CB Bashaud Breeland (groin) are notable inactives defensively for Green Bay, leaving them short in the secondary. Wide receiver Randall Cobb (hamstring) is out again as well, putting a greater responsibility on Green Bay’s young receiving corps.

Key stat

The Packers are 0-5 on the road and have given up 27 to 31 points in all five losses. Head coach Mike McCarthy pointed to their inability to close out games. Untimely second-half turnovers recently burned the Packers in losses to the Patriots and Seahawks.

“We haven’t finished games on the road, particularly of late, and we’re definitely gonna have to finish on Sunday to get the victory,” McCarthy said. “Particularly when we get together with the Vikings, the norm is there’s momentum swings at a pretty high rate and a lot of energy spent throughout the course of the game. … We’re definitely gonna have to play four quarters and, hey, maybe even more than that based on the last one.”

Two X-Factors

For Green Bay: Rookie fifth-round pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling has become one of Rodgers’ favorite receiving targets with injuries to Geronimo Allison and Cobb. He has 410 yards on the season and has received five or more targets in five of the last six games.

For Minnesota: Anthony Harris has been exquisite in his five games as starter at the safety position. His two interceptions helped keep the Vikings in the game last Sunday night, and he’ll be tested on the back end against the Packers if Rodgers looks to push the ball downfield.

Prediction

These two teams have played rather similarly this season: Both have faltered against good teams while failing to meet high  expectations.

With their defense getting healthier all the time, the Vikings should have plenty of able bodies to pressure Rodgers and keep Green Bay’s offense relatively off balance.

Cousins has dealt all week with the stigma of his 4-12 primetime record and can silence the scrutiny with a mistake-free game. The quarterback struggled mightily against Chicago a week ago, but his career suggests that he’s capable of following up poor performances with high-level play. Sunday will be vital for his reputation in the Twin Cities.

Vikings 24, Packers 20


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