Packers vs. Vikings: Three things to watch in Week 16

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 10: Jamaal Williams
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 10: Jamaal Williams /

Three things to watch in the Green Bay Packers’ Week 16 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Packers’ season officially ended on Monday night when the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-21.

Green Bay put themselves in that situation after losing to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, 31-24 and dropping to 7-7 on the year.

If Green Bay wanted to make the postseason, it had to run the table again.

In Aaron Rodgers’ return, he was less than stellar. He threw for 290 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. It was the first time he threw three picks in a game since 2009.

With the playoffs out of reach, the Packers have officially shutdown Rodgers and announced he has been put on injured reserve.

This week the Vikings come to Lambeau on Saturday night and the narrative has changed completely.

What could have been the “revenge game” for the Packers is now a meaningless one. However, a Green Bay victory could shake up the NFC playoff seeding.

If you are still watching, here are my three things to watch.

Packers rushing attack

When Rodgers got injured and missed seven games, what did the Packers rely on to help win some games?

The answer is simple, the ground game. What did the Packers not do enough of against the Carolina Panthers?

Another simple answer, run the the ball. Last week, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones combined for 13 carries and 77 yards.

In Williams’ last five games, he had at least 15 carries a game. Now, in some of those games, he was the lone back, but nevertheless he was the workhorse.

GREEN BAY, WI – SEPTEMBER 28: Jamaal Williams
GREEN BAY, WI – SEPTEMBER 28: Jamaal Williams /

This was a great opportunity to finally see what the offense would look like with Rodgers under center and a decent run game.

With Rodgers on IR and out the rest of the season, if the Packers plan on trying to win, they will go back to running the ball 20-plus times a game.

This week against the Vikings, running the ball will be tough. The Vikings are ranked second in the NFL for rushing yards allowed and are fifth in the league for yards per carry.

But these stats shouldn’t scare the Packers from attempting to get the ground game going.

Last time these two team met, Ty Montgomery was in the backfield and Williams wasn’t featured. Montgomery and Jones combined for 69 yards on 23 carries.

It’s safe to assume as of now, the Packers future at the running back position will include Williams and Jones. These last two games could help solidify that.

Quarterback play 

With Rodgers back on IR, Brett Hundley will start against the Vikings. In eight games this season, Hundley has amassed 1,534 yards, thrown eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.

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The move to end Rodgers’ season also resulted in the Packers signing Joe Callahan to the active roster.

Hundley struggled in his first appearance earlier this year against the Vikings, throwing for 157 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

The Packers have gotten enough of a sample size to understand what they have from Hundley. These last two games are key for Hundley’s future, especially if he has aspirations to become a starting quarterback in the NFL.

As for Callahan, he has yet to make an appearance for the Packers but has an interesting  opportunity.

If Hundley struggles in the final two games, do not be surprised if Mike McCarthy gives Callahan a shot. At this point, the Packers have nothing to lose by giving him a chance.

At 24-years old, he could prove himself as a viable back-up option if given the opportunity. Both quarterbacks will be playing for their future in the final two weeks.

Defense, Defense, Defense 

The Packers’ defense has gotten a significant amount of blame for the team’s overall struggles for years.

Green Bay’s defense has been subpar this season. It has allowed 4,990 total yards (26th in the NFL), struggled to apply pressure on opposing defenses and have not been able to get off the field on third-down.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has been on the hot seat and will continue to be on the hot seat.

These last two weeks could determine Capers’ fate with the Packers. If the unit quits and stops playing, it is unlikely Capers will return.

However, if the unit plays inspired football and finds a way to win, it could save Capers job for at least another year.

Capers expressed his desire to continue coaching after this season.

“As long as I enjoy it,” Capers said to the media. “I enjoy the competitiveness of it, and the relationship with the players. So as long as I enjoy it.”

On Thursday, the latest injury report indicated cornerback Demetri Goodson, linebacker Nick Perry is doubtful, Clay Matthews and Davon House are questionable.

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The veteran coordinator’s fate will lie in the hands of his defensive unit.