Early Bird Breakdown Week 8: Packers @ Vikings

Continuing the on-going series of early morning Packer game previews, we first take a quick look back at last week’s contest:

 The Good: Aaron Rodgers & Jarrett Boykin
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This may become Rodgers’ most telling season. Rodgers truly elevates what he has been given. He was extremely efficient against Cleveland’s top-10 defense, and it looks like whoever the Packers throw out there for him it won’t slow him down. On the other hand though, as seen in New England young and inexperienced receivers can have issues, but Jarrett Boykin looked great out there. Nelson, who was kept in-check for the most part by Cleveland’s star corner Joe Haden, it left it to Boykin to be Rodgers’ difference maker, and he was. Boykin led Green Bay with eight catches for 108 yards and a touchdown and looks like he will fit in nicely with the offense going forward. He is no Cobb, but if he plays like this he will be at least on Jones’ level, and with him returning in the near future, Green Bay will look to have lots of weapons going forward if they can weather the injury storm.

The Bad: Brandon Weeden

I have been watching football for years but until I see someone do it worse, I will forever refer to missing a receiver by more yards over their head then they are past the line of scrimmage on a third down as a, “Weeden throw.” For most of the game the Packers’ penalties were the Browns offense, and it is why incumbent quarterback Jason Campbell (who I never will forget was Oakland’s consolation prize to missing Rodgers by one pick) is starting against Kansas City this week.

The Ugly: Finley’s Injury

Injuries have been a common theme in this spot in recent weeks, but Finley’s injury is the definition of ugly. Not because the hit was illegal, it wasn’t – Finley lowered his head and the defender on tape was tackling fine and it was his shoulder that hit Finley. It also isn’t because of the sheer number of injuries either at this point, though that would deserve mention. It is because Finley couldn’t move after the hit, and Quarless told him to just stay put. After his last concussion Finley’s son asked him to walk away from football. I’m not sure he can look his son in the eye and tell him he wants to come back after something this scary.

How I did:

“24-13 Green Bay over Cleveland .”  – Despite already being down two of Rodgers’ top targets and losing another during the game, Green Bay ended up scoring a touchdown over my prediction against a then-ranked-top-10 defense. The real final was 31-13 Green Bay .

Opponent Recap:

The Vikings were dismantled on primetime television last week by the now former winless Giants. New Vikings QB Josh Freeman looked lost, Peterson ran for only 28 yards on 13 carries, though the Giants knew he was the only offense they had and every eye was on him early. Eventually it turned into just Freeman throwing, as he had 53 drop backs. Minnesota was also the first team Eli had faced this season that did not force him to turn it over.

The Breakdown:

Packers Offense vs. Vikings Defense:

Going in, the Packers already had a nine-point spread, and looking into the numbers that might not be enough. Minnesota has the 27 th ranked total defense (yards per game) and Green Bay is second to only Denver on total offense. They haven’t been effective in both getting to the quarterback (28 th in sacks) or in coverage. They have been slightly above average against the run (14 th ) but that is mostly because teams can throw on them at will.  Rodgers and company had no issue against Cleveland and if Boykin plays like he did last week, they should have even less trouble this week. Rodgers also will be coming in with a chip on his shoulder to one-up former teammate Greg Jennings who had some choice words for Rodgers and the Packers over the summer.

Packers Defense vs. Vikings Offense:

Last season Adrian Peterson ran for 409 yards combined in the two regular season games against Green Bay. He can go off because he has done it time and again in his career. This week I’m not sure he will. I don’t think he will only get 28 yards again, I think Minnesota will be closer to 20 carries this week just to feature him more; his last two games he has had a combined 23 carries. Ponder returns to the team this week and the last time he played the Packers (the final game of the 2012 season) he looked pretty good. If he plays like that, it could make things interesting, but if he plays like he has done so far this season it will be a long day for Minnesota. Adding to the potential trouble for Ponder, Green Bay looks to have Casey Hayward back. The Packers, who are second to last in interceptions on the season, have been playing well in the secondary despite his absence but could be getting much better soon. Hayward adds a much needed playmaker to the secondary and Green Bay should expect that the defense will begin to get turnovers in the coming weeks.

The Weather Factor:

Conditions are as they have been since Minnesota moved into the dome: artificial turf and a comfortable 65 o Fahrenheit.

The Game:

Historically, these games have always been close. However, the combination of Minnesota’s poor offensive and defensive play and how the Packers look like they are beginning to really click with all their backups (ala 2010) really paints a bleak picture. Rodgers and the Packers will look to make a statement this weekend. I could see this one becoming exciting if the Vikings give it their all, but I’m not sure where their heads are at after a 1-5 start. I think the Packers win, 31-10 over Minnesota.

Fantasy Extra:

I’m going to add a fantasy spot to the end of each breakdown going forward.

Start’em:

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Aaron Rodgers: Because you know if you had him you were going to start him anyway…unless you also had Peyton Manning

Andrew Quarless: With Boykin and Nelson both manning the outside, someone has to be getting the looks in the middle. Finley would have been the obvious choice, as he was in the Cleveland game until his tragic injury. Quarless is going to start at TE and I trust him more than slot receiver Myles White.

Jordy Nelson & Brandon Boykin: Minnesota has been torched all season by opposing offenses. Start these two with confidence

Adrian Peterson: I don’t care how good Green Bay’s run defense is, how bad he was last week, or how bad the QB situation is. It is Adrian Peterson, he ran all over Green Bay last year. One missed tackle and he will get all the points you need.

Sit’em:

James Jones: Jones most likely is not playing. He was listed earlier as doubtful and even if he miraculously plays, he won’t be up to snuff and the Packers would limit his field time.

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Any Vikings player not named Peterson:  Ponder has looked incredibly lost this season. Sure, Jennings will have a chip on his shoulder, Rudolph will be his first look in the red zone, but it doesn’t matter, Ponder will struggle to get the ball to them and it isn’t worth the risk.

 

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