The Green Bay Packers’ Week 11 game is against the Minnesota Vikings. Here’s an early look at that game at TCF Bank Stadium.
Series: Green Bay leads 57-48-2 in a series dating to 1961, and the teams have split two postseason games. With a win, the Packers will have won three straight at Minnesota – their longest streak since winning five in a row from 1980 through 1985.
Last time (at Minnesota): Green Bay won 24-21 on Nov. 23. Eddie Lacy scored the first points on a 1-yard touchdown and the final points on a 10-yard reception. The Vikings got touchdowns from two former Packers – a 22-yard catch by Charles Johnson and a 5-yard catch by Greg Jennings. The touchdown by Jennings made it 24-21 but Green Bay an out the final 3:23.
Noteworthy: Even without Adrian Peterson, first-year coach Mike Zimmer coaxed the Vikings to two more victories than in 2013. With Zimmer’s defensive pedigree, Minnesota went from allowing 480 points in 2013 to 343 in 2014. How? Good question. The Vikings’ defense finished 20th in yards per carry (4.3), 23rd in passer rating (92.8) and 25th in takeaways (19), so it’s not as if this were a dominant unit. With that in mind, the Vikings used their first three picks on defenders. To dethrone the Packers in the NFC North, you’ve got to find a way to slow down Aaron Rodgers and Co. So, the Vikings used their first-round pick on Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes, potentially giving them a top tandem with Xavier Rhodes. With Waynes, Minnesota’s defense could feature six first-round draft picks – defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (2013), outside linebacker Anthony Barr (2014), outside linebacker Chad Greenway (2006), safety Harrison Smith (2012) and Rhodes (2013).
Of course, the big news for the Vikings is the return of running back Adrian Peterson. We’ll cover that in our offense-focused preview of the Week 17 game. With Peterson back and a stout defense, the Vikings could be a playoff contender -- assuming quarterback Teddy Bridgewater takes a sizeable step forward in his second year as the starter.
Offensive rankings: 20th in points (20.3 per game). 27th in yards (315.5 per game). 28th in passing (202.8 per game). 14th in rushing (112.8 per game).
Defensive rankings: 11th in points (21.4 per game). 14th in yards (344.7 per game). 7th in passing (223.3 per game). 25th in rushing (121.4 per game).
2015 Comings and Goings
Draft: It hasn’t taken coach Mike Zimmer long to put his imprint on the team. After last season’s turnaround, the Vikings used their first three picks on defenders. Cornerback Trae Waynes could give the Vikings a terrific tandem, which is critical with six games every season against Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler in the NFC North. The Packers could have taken inside linebacker Eric Kendricks in the first round. Instead, he’ll fill an enormous void in the middle of the Vikings’ defense as a second-round choice. Third-round defensive end Danielle Hunter has terrific measurables but didn’t do much of anything at LSU. Minnesota turned to offense for its next four picks. In the short term, T.J. Clemmings might start at right guard. Over the long haul, could he be like David Bakhtiari and be that rare fourth-round starting left tackle? Fifth-rounder MyCole Pruitt was the best pass-catching tight end in the draft. A few picks later, the Vikings landed speedy Maryland receiver/returner Stefon Diggs.
2015 Personnel in Focus
Pro Football Focus, that is. PFF has a color-coded rankings system for each team’s 24 “starters,” with the extra player to account for a key substitution package such as a third cornerback or third wide receiver. Green Bay has four blue/elite starters (Rodgers, Cobb, Nelson and Sitton), six dark green/high-quality starters (Lang, Lacy, Hayward, Peppers, Daniels and Matthews), four green/good starters (Linsley, Bulaga, Shields and Burnett), six yellow/average starters (Bakhtiari, Quarless, Kuhn, Hyde, Perry and Clinton-Dix) and four orange/below-average starters (Adams, Guion, Raji and Barrington). The Packers don’t have any starters rated poor and they don’t have any rookies projected to be starters.
The Vikings have ...
Blue/elite (2): RB Adrian Peterson, S Harrison Smith.
Red/Poor (1): OLB Chad Greenway.
Silver/Not enough information (2): LG David Yankey, FB Zach Line.
Purple/Rookie (1): MLB Eric Kendricks.
Defensive coordinator George Edwards, on CB Trae Waynes: “We’ve thrown a lot at Trae this offseason, lots of different positions, to see his skill-sets and see what he can handle. And the big thing is him being able to transfer those things once we get to training camp, to be able to be more consistent with the techniques and fundamentals and the calls and communication and all those things we’re asking him to do. So, from that aspect of it, we like where he’s at right now. We know he has a lot of work to do. He has a good skill-set (and we’re) trying to see the different ways we can use it.”
CB Terence Newman, on coach Mike Zimmer: “He’s got an uncanny ability to get under people’s skin and make them better players,” Newman said. “I was in Dallas with him and (Bill) Parcells and I see a little bit of Parcells in him in some of his mentalities and the things that he believes in, and his teachings. He’s a hard-ass, for lack of better terms, but he also cares about his players. He’s not a guy that’s going to go out there and ride you, ride you, ride you, but he actually genuinely cares about everybody that plays for him.”
Vikings GM Rick Spielman: “I think everybody is excited to see when you get into pads. That first week of pads guys are getting used to getting back into it. They’re going to be sore. They’re going to bang heads a little bit. Coach Zimmer is always preaching smart, tough, passionate (play). We’re going to have another physical camp. It’s going to be a very competitive camp at a lot of positions. There are a lot of guys that are fighting for roster spots, fighting for play time, fighting for starting jobs. I think with the youth in the draft the couple of years and some of the additions we’ve been able to add, it might be the most competitive camp we’ve had in a while.”Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.