So here we are, the Green Bay Packers (5-5) are sitting outside the playoffs, but still in the race for the NFC North title. The wildcard hunt is an impossible road due to the tiebreakers so the Packers must with the NFC North to get into the playoffs. Everyone knows by now that the Packers are on their third string QB, but this game is a must win. If the Packers want to win the North they must win this game. The Minnesota Vikings (2-8) come to Lambeau Field with just about as bad QB play and hoping to give the Packers NFC North dominance a knock down a peg. With six winnable games left on the schedule the Packers need to start here with Scott Tolzien as their QB.
Keys to the Game
1. This will be the first real cold weather game of the season with temperatures in the mid 20s because of this, the game needs to take on a different form than Packers fans have been used to over the years with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. The Vikings are a dome team so the Packers need to take advantage of the home field advantage!
2. The Vikings can only win this game with a big game out of Adrian Peterson. The last meeting of these two teams AP only ran for 60 yards, but that was on 13 carries because the Packers got out to a big lead. The Packers were able to load the box because there was no threat of a passing game, but with the injuries to Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde that could change in this game. I would rather make Matt Cassel beat the Packers than AP. I guarantee that AP will have more than 13 carries and with all the tackling problems this could be an issue for the Packers.
3. Eddie Lacy was shut down last week against the New York Giants, but he cannot be on Sunday. The Packers are going to need to run the ball to win this game. We are going to see the old Black & Blue NFC North in this game, it’s going to be ground and pound all day. Lacy has shown he can carry the Packers, he did it with Rodgers at QB and with Seneca Wallace at QB versus the Chicago Bears when Rodgers went down. Now he needs to help Tolzien and get the QB his first win.
4. Both the offensive and defensive lines need to control the line of scrimmage. Not only for run purposes, but to get after Cassel and to protect Tolzien. Over the last two weeks the Eagles and Giants have shown they are not afraid to blitz Tolzien, if the line can give Tolzien time to throw he has shown he can throw a great deep ball, completing 5 throws of over 30 yards last week. On the other side the Packers pass rush has been pretty awful recently and they need to get back to their ways. After five weeks of the NFL season the Packers were atop the sack rankings, but that is no longer true. It’s time for Clay Matthews to get going and for Dom Capers to get the scheme rolling.
5. I said it last week and I will say it again…turnovers, turnovers, turnovers…get them and stop them from happening. Without Rodgers under center the Packers the Packers have not put up a lot of points, which means they can’t let up points and can’t give up opportunities to score. Just get it done!
6. Mason Crosby made a couple big kicks in the first half last week in New York and he is going to have to do it again this week. No missed field goals and this is the Packers game.
Player of the Game
This will be Matthews 3rd game back from the thumb injury and he knows it is his time to lead, he will get it done in this game. I am predicting a two sack game with a forced fumble in there. If Matthews is not dominant in this game I am not sure the Packers can win.
As I said in the opening I see a Ground and Pound type of game which is going to lead to very few points. With how much this game means to Green Bay the fans are going to be crazy, not to mention hunting season opens on Saturday in Wisconsin. There are going to be some hyped up fans and this is going to carry them to a big victory to keep them in the NFC North contention. Packers win 16-10