This Sunday, the Green Bay Packers will travel back to Lambeau Field and take on the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers are currently 7-7 and have been eliminated from playoff contention. On the other side of the equation, the Vikings clinched the NFC North division title last week and are still trying to get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Currently, the Vikings are one game back of the Eagles in the race for the top seed and need a victory against the Packers to keep that dream alive. Based on the motivation disparity between both teams, one can expect this game to be rather lopsided.
There are three specific matchups that can decide this game:
1. Brett Hundley vs. Minnesota’s Defense
Last week, Aaron Rodgers returned against the Carolina Panthers in a must-win situation. Rodgers struggled against Carolina’s stout defense and threw three interceptions as the Packers lost and were eliminated from the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers has since been placed on injury reserve which means that Brett Hundley is the starter once again. As the starter, Hundley was extremely inconsistent. However, Hundley did manage to go 3-4 as the starter and had moments where he looked like a quality NFL quarterback.
One has to wonder how sharp Hundley will be with the extra week off as he prepares to take on this elite Minnesota defense. In Hundley’s first game this season, he was thrown into the fire against the Vikings after Rodgers broke his collarbone in the middle of the first half. In that game, Hundley struggled mightily and threw three interceptions. Hopefully, he will look a lot better the second time around with more time to prepare.
2. The Packers’ Defense vs. Case Keenum
Last week, the Packers got torched by Cam Newton, who threw for four touchdowns and 242 yards. This Packers team has struggled all season long at covering opposing receivers as well as pressuring the quarterback. The Packers currently allow the ninth-most passing yards per game and will need to improve on that moving forward if the Packers plan on pulling off this upset. Furthermore, the Packers are tied for 16th in sacks per game and will need to generate more pressure this Sunday to prevent Case Keenum from exposing Green Bay’s weak secondary.
When Sam Bradford got injured earlier this season, some people assumed that Minnesota’s season was over. However, Case Keenum has been remarkable as the starter since he filled in and will be attempting to lead the Vikings to a potential Superbowl in January. This season, Keenum has thrown for 20 touchdowns and over 3,200 passing yards with only seven interceptions. Although he will not win the MVP award this season, Keenum has been the savior of the Vikings’ season and will probably be the quarterback for this franchise moving forward.
3. Green Bay’s Offensive Line vs. Minnesota’s Defensive Line
The Packers offensive line has been atrocious this season and Bryan Bulaga’s torn ACL has not improved this glaring concern. Green Bay currently allows the third-most sacks in the entire league with 46. Although Brett Hundley is more mobile than Aaron Rodgers, he will be unable to elongate plays if he is constantly running for his life.
On the other side, Minnesota is tied for 13th with 35.0 sacks this season. Led by pass rusher Everson Griffen, this Vikings defense is elite and its great defensive line allows its secondary to flourish. This season, Griffen has 13 sacks and is essentially a lock to make it to the Pro Bowl along with a lot of his fellow teammates. In the first meeting against the Packers this season, the Vikings sacked Hundley four times and one can expect this Vikings pass rush to sack Hundley a few more times this Sunday.
As for my prediction, I am going to pick Minnesota. Outside of pride, why should the Packers be motivated for this contest? The team is officially not going to the playoffs and is facing a dominant foe with tons of motivation. I expect Minnesota to win pretty easily as Hundley struggles in his first game back as the starter.
Prediction: Vikings 31, Packers 14