Green Bay vs. Minnesota: Pre-game primer


Just five days ago the Green Bay Packers marched into Solider Field with, seemingly, their season hanging in the balance.

Sporting a then-record of 1-2 the Packers’ outlook was shaky at best.

Through the first three games of 2014 quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense were largely stuck in neutral – never able to consistently generate first downs, sustain drives, establish the running game or score points.

Through the first three games of 2014 quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense were largely stuck in neutral – never able to consistently generate first downs, sustain drives, establish the running game or score points.

Defensively the Packers haven’t seemed willing to tackle, stop the opponent on third downs or stop or pressure the quarterback.

According to, the Packers offense generated over 400 yards per-game while averaging 26 points through the first three-game stretch of 2013.

Those numbers are down so far this year through week three.

The Green Bay offense has combined for 306 total yards, averaging just 23 points per-contest.

For an offense that is predicated on the ability to score – and taking into consideration head coach Mike McCarthy’s offseason blueprint to reach 75 offensive plays per game – and considering the talent level of the collective personnel – those numbers are almost shocking.

Of course, Green Bay has faced three of the NFL’s toughest defenses during harrowing bookend road losses to the Seahawks and Lions to open the year sandwiched around a narrow home win versus the Jets.

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy looks to up his contributions for the Packers. Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports photograph

A Packers road loss to the Bears last time out would’ve sent them into a two-game deficit with just four left to play versus NFC North division opponents – a sizeable disadvantage to be sure.

A win, though, in which Green Bay utterly dominated the Bears in the second half (at one point they put up 24 unanswered points) proved to be the perfect elixir for their baffling inconsistency thus far.

Green Bay enters tonight’s home game versus Minnesota on the heels that dominating win over Chicago earlier in the week.

Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer, who historically has had Aaron Rodgers’ number in games pitting the ex-Cincinnati defensive coordinator against the former Cal-Berkeley star, is 2-0 as a staff member against the Packers.

In order for Green Bay to notch its second divisional win in five days they’ll need to come out firing against a suspect Minnesota secondary, among other things.

Green Bay absolutely needs to solidify its offensive line and improve their blocking schemes and there’s be no better opponent to do so to this point than the Vikings who rank in bottom third of the league in rushing yards allowed and yards per carry average by opposing running backs.

Eddie Lacy and James Starks – and to a certain extent DuJuan Harris – should have an easier time finding wider running lanes this time around so look for head coach Mike McCarthy to turn to the running game early and often.

Green Bay has run more three wide sets than any other team in the NFL to this point and will undoubtedly lean on their passing game – rain or shine.

Anchoring the NFL’s deepest unit is Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson who has caught 33 passes for 459 yards and three touchdowns.

The ex-Kansas State star is on pace to catch 132 passes for 1,800-plus yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014. Think the contact extension he signed prior to the start at of this season was modest?

Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson is on pace for a record-breaking season. Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports photograph

If he comes close to those final numbers his deal may go down as one of the biggest values in NFL history.

Nelson is a dominating perimeter player who thrives at all levels in the passing game and isn’t just a big play receiver. Twenty-four of his catches have generated first downs. He’s making a case to eclipse 200 targets on the year and the Green Bay game plan shows no signs of slowing that trend.

They will continue to feed him the football. Additionally, Nelson shows no ill-effects of a lingering hamstring injury that slowed him for parts of 2013.

Adding to Green Bay’s bounty of riches at receiver is rookie wide out Davante Adams whose arrival amongst the starting group may just have spelled an abrupt changing of the guard for the backend roster holdovers.

Don’t be surprised if fellow undrafted rookie Jeff Jannis leapfrogs veteran Jarrett Boykin on the depth chart moving forward.

Defensively the Packers need to generate pressure on Christian Ponder who was tabbed to start as of this release.

He hasn’t started any games for the Vikings so far this season and was rumored to be on the trading block (or the chopping block, depending on your perspective) heading into training camp. He’ll get a shot to restake his claim to increased playing time- depending on how he fares in the rain during tonight’s game.

More importantly, how does Ponder’s prescence impact the Green Bay game plan?

Rookie signal caller Teddy Bridgewater will not be making his first career road start which may lead to Green Bay loading up the box and daring Ponder to throw.

Which takes us back to the issue of hurrying the passer and how it’ll be the lynchpin to how this game turns out.

Doing so in the first and second levels – namely off the edge from Julius Peppers, and new starting linebacker Jamari Lattimore – would help the secondary create hugely critical takeaways.

Veteran safety Morgan Burnett has gone another quarter season with no interceptions and that’s another trend which must be reversed – especially if he expects to hold off emerging rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (who already has registered his first ever pickoff this year) for playing time alongside the versatile Micah Hyde.

And they’ll love any opportunity to get their licks in on ex-Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings who makes another return to Lambeau Field.

A major focal point in Green Bay’s game plan will be to effectively contain a rejuvenated Vikings rushing attack which will certainly feature an increased workload by rookie phenom Jerrick McKinnon.

McKinnon logged 18 carries for 135 yards and added a 17-yard reception last week in the Minnesota win over Atlanta and looks to have a level of athleticism, elusiveness and a fifth gear that incumbent Vikings starter Matt Asiata (3.4 yards per carry average) simply doesn’t possess.

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  • It wouldn’t be out of the question for the ex-Georgia Southern star to become a fixture in the screen game tonight given his aforementioned measurables. The Vikings would be wise to get him the football in space where he can more effectively create.

    Green Bay can counter that short-to-intermediate attack with improved tackling and more assignment-sure zone support in the secondary.

    Another area of focus for Green Bay is the offensive line and new starting center Corey Linsley‘s matchup with Minnesota defensive lineman Shariff Floyd who specializes in stopping the run. The Vikings lost Jared Allen and have surrendered a healthy 4.0 yards per-carry to opposing rushers and has allowed teams to convert 28-of-56 season third downs.

    Ultimately the Green Bay offense may be the deciding factor in this game and it helps they’re showing signs of emerging with a renewed sense of focus and on the heels of a quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ breakout showing in the Windy City.

    Final score: Green Bay 31 Vikings 16