Packers at Vikings: Gameday Preview - 2021 Week 11

The banged-up Packers travel to Bird-killer Stadium to face a Vikings team that is getting healthy. Something's gotta give...

The last time these teams met, Dalvin Cook ran wild, gaining 226 total yards and scoring 4 touchdowns. A late Packers rally came up short when Aaron Rodgers was strip-sacked on the final play of the game and Minnesota won 28-22.

That was the only time the Vikings beat Matt LaFleur's Packers in 4 tries, though.

This year, the Vikings have been wildly inconsistent, losing close games to good teams. They lost to the Bengals and Ravens in overtime, lost to the Cardinals by 1, and the Cowboys by 4. Only 1 game for the Vikings (their Week 3 victory over Seattle) has been decided by more than one score. 

 

WHEN THE VIKINGS HAVE THE BALL

Joe Barry has had to be creative with a depleted cornerbacks room most of the season. Now he's also gonna have to deal with a depleted edge rushing group. Given the fact that they already have a weak defensive line, this one could get ugly against a Vikings offense that has some big weapons.

Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are one of the top receiver duos in the league. JK Osborn is a pretty nice 3rd receiver, too. Kirk Cousins may not be elite, but he has been productive with those guys. The Packers were able to contain a more explosive Cardinals passing attack, but that was when they had their pass rushers at 100%.

Today, they're going to need to depend on blanket coverage if they want to stop the passing attack. Kevin King, who may be having his best season as a pro in Joe Barry's scheme, has the frame to match up nicely with Adam Thielen and Eric Stokes looks like he can rise to the occasion against any receiver in the league. His matchup against Justin Jefferson should be a fun battle to watch.

All year, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage have been critical to helping the Packers keep tight coverage and this week should be no different.

Barring any coverage sacks, the Packers will probably have get creative with pressure and pull out some stops like sending De'Vondre Campbell on inside blitzes.

Campbell, however, will need to focus on stopping Dalvin Cook, too. Cook is one of the most talented backs in the league and dominated the game the last time he faced Green Bay. He's been a productive runner this year, even if he hasn't done much in the passing game or scored may times. He'll be the biggest test yet for a Packers defense that has been much improved against the run. The Packers have held their last 3 opponents under 80 yards rushing. Cook, meanwhile, has been averaging nearly 100 yards per game rushing.

With a great nose tackle and inside linebacker, the Packers biggest struggles may come in keep the edge contained in the ground game. Dean Lowry may play a larger role in containment this week and Kenny Clark and TJ Slaton may both be called on to play a similar role. With a depleted edge group, the Packers may get worn down if the Vikings choose to run outside a lot. On the plus side, the Packers have been tackling better than I can ever remember seeing.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

The Packers offense still hasn't exploded the way it regularly did in 2020.

The offense line has been beat up and receivers have been hurt.

Aaron Rodgers looked off last week (though a case can  be made that he hasn't really been "on" all year). Part of that could have been a lack of conditioning after his illness, part of that could have been some footwork issues from his toe injury, but I'm guessing a lot of it has to do with the fact that he hasn't really had practice time with his receivers in close to a month. Without his precision timing and rhythm, he hasn't looked like he's in midseason form yet this midseason.

The passing game has come through when it's needed to, but this team has leaned on the run very heavily.
 
Now Aaron Jones is out.
 
AJ Dillon is coming into his own, but he's a power back who's gonna be playing on a speed surface. Allen Lazard is doubtful and, while he's a big target in the passing game, he's also a key blocker in the perimeter run game
 
It's not the best situation for this offense.

The Vikings defense hasn't had the best season statistically, but Mike Zimmer has a way of figuring out how to slow down the Packers.

If the Packers are going to win, Matt LaFleur is going to have to pencil-whip Zimmer's defense because the offensive line hasn't played great, the timing in the passing game is non-existent, and the run game just lost its lead back. Maybe screen passes and some creative route combinations will be enough.

 

OTHER NOTES

The Vikings have been very responsible with the ball this year and have only 6 turnovers in 9 games. On defense, they've taken the ball away 10 times in the last 5 games.

If the Packers could get one game where special teams wasn't a glaring albatross, this would be a nice week for them to have that.

Jonathin Garvin's middle name is Neo. That's neat.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

At some point, the injuries become too much to deal with. The Packers have been without their best tackle all year, which has, by substitution, robbed them of their best guard. Their receivers are banged up and now their best running back is out. Oh, and their quarterback is hurt and hasn't practiced in like a month. On defense, they've been missing their best corner and now will potentially be without their top three pass rushers.

It's getting ridiculous.

Now they're going on the road against a team that will surely see this as their Super Bowl (because, well, you know).

Division games are always tough and this one has the injury deck clearly stacked against the Packers. They've rallied around each other to find victory with backups all year, but I'm not betting on that continuing. The Vikings can  have their Super Bowl today, the Packers will get theirs in February.

Packers 22, Vikings 27

 

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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Comments (6)

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NitschkeFromTheGrave's picture

November 21, 2021 at 10:17 am

I'm looking for a surprise, for the stars to align and Aaron Rogers to make a statement and finally have a break-out, lights-out type of game that seems like it's been years since he's had one. The surprise could be on the Vikings when Rogers locks on to new targets that he begins to trust. Lets not forget Dillion and the V-queens will have a difficult time with him. Special teams stopped dumpster diving last week with the exception of Crosby. Who knows maybe we'll see a special team score this game, wouldn't that be the shit. The back breaker for Purple Tears is we have a defense that is ROCKING NOW, they don't. Combined all of this also takes the crowd noise out of play as the train gains steam going down hill.

Packers 38
Vikings 17

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BruceIrons's picture

November 21, 2021 at 10:01 am

I'd love to see Rodgers light it up today. Just have to hope that toe issue doesn't hurt him too much.

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NitschkeFromTheGrave's picture

November 21, 2021 at 10:12 am

It could be the "TOE" thing is just press / headfuck warfare. It's a nothing-burger, nobody seemed to notice any toe issues in A.R.'s play last week.

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jurp's picture

November 21, 2021 at 11:03 am

Could also be a handy excuse for his play that isn't "covid hangover".

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jurp's picture

November 21, 2021 at 11:02 am

I'd like some of what you're smoking...

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jh9's picture

November 21, 2021 at 10:46 am

Bruce, this is an excellent analysis.

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