What to watch in Packers vs Vikings: Stop. The. Run.

What to watch as the Packers host the Vikings at a freezing Lambeau Field.

The Green Bay Packers host the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football knowing they are just two wins away from clinching the top seed in the NFC and earning a bye from the first week of the playoffs.

Matt LaFleur’s squad have been handed a loss by the Vikings in each of the last two meetings, with Mike Zimmer’s team the only NFC North foe to have defeated the Packers since LaFleur came to town.

Green Bay will be looking to exact some revenge for those losses, and potentially end Minnesota’s playoffs hopes in the process.

Here are five things to watch as the Packers take on the Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Stop. The. Run.

The Vikings are a run-first offense regardless of who is playing quarterback, but with Kirk Cousins knocked out of the lineup by COVID, the ground game will be even more important for Minnesota.

Dalvin Cook is one of the NFL’s top backs, and his backup Alexander Mattison is no slouch, either. The vast majority of Green Bay’s attention on defense will undoubtedly be focused on the run game on Sunday night.

However, the Packers were not able to stop Nick Chubb from running all over them last week, despite everyone in the building knowing the Browns would try to run whenever possible.

When Minnesota bested Green Bay during a weird and windy game at Lambeau last season, Dalvin Cook was dominant, carrying the ball 30 times for 163 yards and three touchdowns. Shutting down Cook and Mattison must be the top priority for Joe Barry’s defense this Sunday.

Are you Mann enough?

With Kirk Cousins unavailable, veteran QB Sean Mannion will be under center for the Vikings to begin 2022.

Mannion, 29, has started just two games in his NFL career since being drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2015, and is yet to throw a touchdown.

He has thrown three interceptions in limited action, and looms as a serious downgrade on Cousins, who may be a stat padder, but is still an above average starting quarterback.

Barring the Vikings implementing a game plan akin to that of the Patriots against the Bills a few weeks ago, Mannion will have to throw the ball at some point, especially if the Packers get out to a multiple-score lead.

Minnesota will be hoping Mannion simply plays sensible football and doesn’t kill them with a turnover or two, but Green Bay’s defense will be licking their lips at the prospect of feasting on an overmatched backup.

Put the game away

The Packers haven’t really had a blowout win this year, and in recent weeks have almost blown leads to the Ravens and Browns.

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense had the chance to put Cleveland away on multiple occasions, but went ice cold in the second half and invited their opponents back into the game.

Slow starts have been common this season for the Packers, which may be partially to blame for their inability to build, and then ultimately hold big leads.

At the end of the day, wins count the same whether you win by one point or 20, but a comfortable win this week could serve as a welcome confidence builder as the playoffs approach.

The Frozen Tundra

It’s expected to be a cold one in Green Bay this Sunday, just how the Packers like it as they prepare to host a dome team.

Aaron Rodgers prides himself on being a cold weather quarterback, and that could give him another advantage over his opposite number Mannion, along with just being a much better football player.

The frigid weather would also appear to present the perfect opportunity for the Packers to ride their cold weather running back, A.J. Dillon against the Vikings.

Tackling Dillon does not look an enticing proposition on a good day, but in freezing temperatures, it’s downright unfair.

Brian Gutekunst has built his team to thrive in the elements during cold Wisconsin winters, and the Packers should thrive at the Frozen Tundra on Sunday.

Rodgers’ farewell?

Despite Aaron Rodgers’ glistening play in recent weeks as he marches to another MVP award, and his apparent healthier relationship with Green Bay’s front office, there is still plenty to be worked out in terms of 12’s future.

The Packers are in cap hell, and keeping Rodgers would mean plenty of other talented players have to be let go, not to mention probably dumping Jordan Love.

With that in mind, there is every chance this Sunday will mark Rodgers’ final regular season game at Lambeau Field… at least as a member of the Packers.

Packer fans don’t need telling they have been extremely blessed to experience two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in quick succession, but as the season winds down, it is worth remembering to savour every moment of Aaron Rodgers in green and gold.

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @Marko7LW

5 points

Comments (15)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Lphill's picture

January 01, 2022 at 03:23 pm

3 down lineman every down and Campbell and Barnes together , could probably keep a safety in the box too should do the trick stopping the run.

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relleum61's picture

January 01, 2022 at 03:34 pm

I would do that and run a "Bull Dog 17" type coverage on Jefferson,

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Coldworld's picture

January 01, 2022 at 06:13 pm

Let that S be Amos not Savage, if it’s a choice between the two. I fully agree, go heavy, let the CBs stay tight. Mansion has a big arm but he’s immobile. Funnel Cook inside wherever possible. On O, lead off with Dillon—remember that they wear down too: use Dillon to open the pass but really to tire them and keep Cook and our D off the field.

2 points
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Packerlifer's picture

January 01, 2022 at 04:26 pm

Four things: Scheme, Personnel, Execution, Fundamentals.

https://www.acmepackingcompany.com/2021/12/31/22860605/packers-film-brea...

4 points
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Charvid's picture

January 01, 2022 at 04:48 pm

Cook is exceptional, no question. And Matteson is adequate. But we have Jones and Dillon. I wouldn’t trade ours for theirs. I won’t be surprised when we outrush them as a team. Our rv’s are as good as theirs and our QB is far superior, obviously. They might put up 30 on us, but I see us scoring 40+.

3 points
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stockholder's picture

January 01, 2022 at 05:59 pm

Campbell is the player to watch.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

January 02, 2022 at 10:34 am

They will send Ham as the lead dog to spring Cook. The Dline has to get a hat on him to iso Cook. If this defense doesn't gang tackle and pursue tonight you might as well write them off for the playoffs. They have to regain the mojo. Get down and dirty.

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TheBigCheeze's picture

January 01, 2022 at 06:36 pm

Minny does a lot of the dump passes...yet Barry does not scheme for it.... and for offense....more play action....🧀🧀🧀

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Rossonero's picture

January 02, 2022 at 09:15 am

I suspected Kenny Clark was still feeling the after effects of COVID in the Browns game, and via the Green Bay Press-Gazette, he confirmed that was the case. He was tired -- COVID hit him hard he said. He also said he had to play way more snaps than he was expecting. Hopefully he's back to 100% or close to it this week.

That said, if we can't stop the run in this game -- then the Packers coaching staff should view this as a red blinking light. Dalvin Cook is going to get probably close to 30 carries. Aside from not having Cousins, plus the cold weather and missing Adam Thielen, this shapes up to be a massive workload for Cook. If they can run the ball, they can milk the clock and keep Rodgers off the field. All they'll want to do is keep this game close.

I say stack the box on Cook and dare Mannion to throw. He's good for a few ducks -- I expect 1-2 interceptions today, especially if they're stopping the run. If they can't stop the run though, it could be a long game.

Packers 31, Vikings 17

3 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

January 02, 2022 at 10:39 am

They will try to spring Jefferson off the post and crosses for the big play until the Pack can prove they stop him.
Have to be alert for Conklin the TE and Osborn.

2 points
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jont's picture

January 02, 2022 at 11:31 am

I agree but think the score will be lower. The weather will be rough, and into the 3rd quarter with a Packer lead and a punchless Minnesota offense, we'll all be looking at the clock and counting the minutes until we can go home.
GB wins 24-13 or 21-10 in a game that isn't as close at the score indicates.

1 points
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Irish_Cheesehead's picture

January 02, 2022 at 03:51 pm

7 degrees at kickoff! Yikes! And to think a week ago I was in Key West...

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PatrickGB's picture

January 02, 2022 at 09:38 am

So, pretty much everyone expects the Vikings to run the ball. And they will run it a lot. But the reason these last few games were so close is because an inferior QB also got big chunk plays by passing the ball. Their WR’s (and Cook) can also catch the ball. I would not be surprised to see that as a Zimmer scheme this game.

1 points
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calabasa's picture

January 02, 2022 at 10:46 am

I hope 12 stays, but the one thing I’m sure of is he plays the “possible last game at Lambeau” angle way up in his unique way. Most likely the on-field interview postgame, or maybe we’ll get a victory lap from our complicated fella ;)

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Irish_Cheesehead's picture

January 02, 2022 at 03:53 pm

Pretty sure we'll have at least one playoff game at Lambeau. Tonight won't be his last.

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