Thanks to some merciless scheduling, Green Bay’s reward for a hard-fought win in 100+ degree Jacksonville heat is a road trip for the second week in a row.
The good news is the Packers can leave their aloe vera at home this week. The bad news? They’ll be facing the Vikings, who already treat games with the Packers as their Super Bowl, and who will now be boosted by this being the first game in their new home stadium. On the bright side, maybe a new stadium means Minnesota will do away with that maddeningly annoying Gjallarhorn noise? Eh, wishful thinking, I know.
The Vikings will surely take whatever help they can find on offense. Their passing game was predictably nonexistent last week with Shaun Hill at QB, and Tennessee’s defense was able to load the box and limit AP to 31 yards on 19 carries. The Vikes will get some help (in theory) from Sam Bradford, who the team panic-traded for after the Bridgewater injury, but they’ll still need a bounce-back game from AP here.
The run blocking won’t be getting any easier for Minnesota this week, however. Despite a thin and inexperienced front seven, the Packers completely stifled Jacksonville’s run game and limited TJ Yeldon to 39 yards on 21 carries. While no one is going to confuse Yeldon with AP, it was a dominant performance by the defensive front and they should have their way again with Minnesota’s weak offensive line this week.
Minnesota still managed to win last week with a dominant defense that scored two TDs (two more than the offense could muster). Defense is obviously the strength of the team, and they proved it last year when they held Green Bay to 13 points at Lambeau in a week 17 matchup with the Division on the line.
That Packers team didn’t have Jordy Nelson. Green Bay could go a long way to restoring peace and balance in the NFC North this year with a win this week. Let’s take a look at a few match-ups that could help make that possible.
Nick Perry had himself a day last week in Jacksonville, finishing with 2 tackles for a loss and a sack while being generally disruptive. Finally healthy in a career that has been defined more by potential than production, this could be the year Perry puts it all together. He’ll have a tremendous opportunity to keep the momentum going this week against Andre Smith Jr., the right tackle for the Vikings who struggled mightily in both pass protection and run blocking against the Titans. It will take a strong effort by Perry in this matchup for the Pack to contain AP for four quarters.
This could really read Lacy vs. “the entire Minnesota front seven plus 1 in the box”. With Jordy Nelson still working his way back to full speed, Jared Cook still trying to get comfortable in the offense, and Cobb historically struggling vs. Minny (he had 61 total receiving yards across both games last year), Eddie will have to step up in this game. Lacy’s final stat line from week 1 won’t turn many heads, but he had several eye-popping runs. Lacy looked back to his old self, with 50 of his 61 rush yards coming after contact. He’s rushed for 100 yards in 4 of his last 5 games against Minnesota, and the team will be counting on him to lead the O again.
Green Bay’s offense struggled at times in Jacksonville, and their lives won’t get any easier in Minnesota. In a game that will likely be a tight, low scoring affair, field position swings will end up playing a major role in victory or defeat. Schum punted okay for most of the game in week 1, but he had a terrible shank late in the 4th quarter with Green Bay clinging to a 4-point lead. The Packers can’t do the struggling Minnesota offense any favors by giving them short fields to work with.
It seems like a weekly tradition for Green Bay to burn a timeout or two early in the half due to slow play communication, followed by a frustrated A-Rod glaring toward the sideline. The team hit a new low with this issue in Jacksonville, however. First, they managed to take a delay of game on the first play of the second half, despite knowing what play they were going to run before they even left the locker room. Then, in a far bigger spot, Green Bay took a delay of game on 3rd-and-4 on their own 24 with 3:28 left, immediately after calling a timeout the play before with the play clock winding down. Perhaps we can give the team the benefit of the doubt and chalk this up to week 1 rust, but this veteran coaching staff better get this sorted out in a hurry before a divisional road game that will be loud.
Needless to say, as far as week 2 games go, this one is as big as it gets. I’m going to start something new this week and wrap up this post with a game prediction: Packers win a defensive struggle; 16-13.