Hardcore stats: Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Packers

A weekly look at the Vikings’ upcoming matchup featuring numbers that shouldn’t give the reader a headache or require an advanced mathematics degree to decipher.

Green Bay (1-0) at Minnesota (1-0)

Last Week

Minnesota topped Tennessee on the road, 25-16; Green Bay hung on to beat Jacksonville, 27-23.

The Series

One of the NFL’s all-time best rivalries, this will be the 110th regular-season clash between the two foes. The Packers lead the series 58-49-2. The teams have also split two playoff games. Since Mike McCarthy’s arrival in 2006, the Packers have dominated the Vikings with a 15-5-1 mark (including playoffs). Under Mike Zimmer, the Vikings are 1-3 versus Green Bay. However, the lone victory was a huge one, the 20-13 NFC North-clinching win last January at Lambeau Field.

Early-Season Encounters

Sunday night marks the earliest the Vikings and Packers have played in a season since the 2008 opener, a 24-19 Green Bay win that ushered in the Aaron Rodgers era. The two also began the 2003 campaign (a 30-25 Minnesota victory) and played in Week 3 in 1999 (a last-second 23-20 win for the Packers).

New Stadium

Sunday night, of course, marks Minnesota’s first regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium. In team history, the Vikings are 2-0 in their initial game at home stadiums. Minnesota upset Chicago 30-13 in its inaugural game at Metropolitan Stadium in 1961 and beat Tamp Bay 17-10 in the opener at the Metrodome in 1982.

Fun Facts

Including playoffs, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers has gone 10 straight games without eclipsing 300 yards passing. His last 300-yard performance came against Detroit in Week 10 of the 2015 season.

Despite winning the NFL rushing crown in 2015, the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson led the league in a dubious category. He had 47 rushing attempts that produced zero or negative yardage. In last week’s opener against the Titans, Peterson lost yardage on five of his 19 runs.

Quarterbacks

During the past eight seasons, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers arguably has been the NFL’s top quarterback, winning two MVP awards and a Super Bowl while compiling a 104.1 career passer rating, the best in history. However, 2015 wasn’t as stellar as his MVP performance the prior year. In 2014, Rodgers completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 4,381 yards, 38 touchdowns and just five interceptions. A healthy Jordy Nelson was key to that potent passing attack. The deep threat caught 98 passes for 1,519 yards (15.3 yards per catch) and 13 TDs. Nelson missed all of 2015 with a knee injury, and Rodgers’ numbers, while still excellent, dipped. He completed 60.7 percent of his throws  for 3,821 yards with 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Most notably, Rodgers’ yards per attempt and net yards per attempt dropped from 8.4 and 7.68 in 2014 to 6.7 and 5.67, respectively, last season.

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Nelson returned for the 2016 opener, but the Green Bay passing attack resembled the 2015 version. Rodgers went 20 for 34 with 199 yards, averaging just 5.9 yards-per-attempt. His long completion was 32 yards.

Surprisingly, Minnesota journeyman Shaun Hill surpassed Rodgers in some categories last week at Tennessee. The veteran backup threw for 236 yards, averaged 7.15 yards per attempt and had a long completion of 33 yards. Hill’s average-pass-length completion was 9.56 yards compared to Rogers’ 6.9 yards. The biggest difference between the two, however, was that Rodgers tossed a pair of touchdowns and compiled a 109.7 red zone quarterback rating. The Vikings didn’t score an offensive TD and never threatened to do so in their Week 1 red zone trips.

Traditionally, Rodgers has excelled against the Vikings. In 16 regular-season matchups, he has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 3,993 yards, 34 TDs and five interceptions for an off-the-charts 113.2 passer rating. Even if Rodgers doesn’t approach such high production on Sunday night, the Vikings will need Hill or the recently acquired Sam Bradford to not only mirror the steady, error-free approach of last week’s passing game but actually produce some touchdowns to hang with the Packers.

Running Backs

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Adrian Peterson has put up outstanding career numbers against Green Bay, rushing for 1,760 (5.27 a carry) in 16 games. The Packers’ Eddie Lacey has returned the favor with 568 yards (4.47 per carry) in six contests. Last year, both did struggle in one of the games. Peterson managed a mere 35 yards in the first encounter, and Lacey produced just 34 yards in the regular-season finale.

In this year’s openers, Lacey had a pedestrian 61 yards on 14 attempts versus Jacksonville. Those numbers though are Hall-of-Fame worthy compared to Peterson’s miserable afternoon at Tennessee. The Titans held the All-Pro to 31 yards on 19 carries as he consistently faced eight-and nine-man fronts. It’s the second straight year that Peterson has rushed for only 31 yards in the season opener.

Defense

Both Peterson and Lacey might find it difficult to improve much this week. While the Packers ranked 21st against the run in 2015 (119 yards a game), they held Jacksonville to 48 yards on 26 carries in Week 1. The Vikings turned the Titans’ self-described “exotic smash-mouth” running attack into a mundane weak ground game, surrendering just 64 yards on 22 carries.

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Overall, both defensive units played well last week. The Packers registered three sacks, 10 tackles-for-loss, four quarterback hits and two turnovers against Jacksonville. Besides stuffing the Titans’ rushing attack, Minnesota recorded two sacks, six tackles-for-loss and four quarterback hits. Most importantly, the Viking defense scored two touchdowns in a game for the first time since 2007.

While the Minnesota defense can’t count on scoring TDs every week, quarterback pressure is realistic. In last season’s win over the Packers, the Vikings sacked Aaron Rodgers five times. In the loss to Green Bay, Minnesota managed just two sacks. The trend held true for the Packers. In their 30-13 win at Minnesota, they sacked Teddy Bridgewater six times, but that number dropped to three in their home defeat to the Vikings. 

Predictions

According to the computer analysis of fivethirtyeight.com, Minnesota has a 58 percent chance of beating the Packers.

WhatIfSports.com‘s NFL simulation engine only gives the Vikings a 35.4 percent chance of winning.

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