Inconsistent Packers and in-flux Vikings battle in Minnesota
The 7-8 Green Bay Packers travel to take on the 7-8 Minnesota Vikings for Sunday Night Football in Week 17 as both teams look to keep their postseason hopes alive with a win. As it stands, the Packers are the ninth seed, and the Vikings are the eighth seed. Both teams would increase their chances of making the playoffs with a win, so the stakes are high.
The Vikings cruised to a 24-10 victory in Week 8, the last time these two teams met in what was Kirk Cousins’ final start of the season before tearing his Achilles. Since that moment, the Vikings have started Jaren Hall, Joshua Dobbs, and Nick Mullens as they look to find some consistency at the quarterback position. The Packers bounced back in Week 16 with a 33-30 win over the Carolina Panthers after two straight losses as Jordan Love completed 60.7% of his passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns.
The Packers might have to handle the blitz to win
Minnesota’s defense has rebounded under Brian Flores. It was one of the worst units in the NFL last season but is top-12 in EPA this season and is allowing just 19.9 points per game. The Vikings are blitzing on a league-high 56.9% of all defensive plays and on 55.1% of passing plays — again, a league-high, per PFF.
Those blitzes can not only give the quarterback fits in the pocket because of the extra rushers and the numbers advantage for the defense, but they often change the picture in the secondary, since the extra rusher can come from anywhere on the back end. The Packers’ offensive line has the sixth-lowest pressure rate allowed this season, per PFF, and has been solid all year, but it’ll likely need to be at its best against a Vikings defense that will ask a lot of questions.
Vikings’ path to victory likely includes playing turnover-free football
The Vikings’ offense hasn’t been the same since losing Cousins, but it’s found ways to stay treading water as the season has progressed. T.J. Hockenson has been excellent at tight end, Jordan Addison has been exciting in his rookie season, and the offensive line doesn’t give up too much in pass protection. However, the team’s had a major turnover issue all season, and it’s been exacerbated in the last five games as the offense has turned the ball over 13 times.
Minnesota has lost four of its last five games, and the only game it didn’t turn the ball over in was its win against the Raiders. Nick Mullens has been the starter after taking over from Dobbs, who was also turning the ball over at a high rate. If the Vikings continue to turn the ball over, they’ll likely struggle. However, they are going up against a Green Bay defense that has forced the fourth-fewest turnovers this season.
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Packers vs. Vikings head to head
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Packers vs. Vikings injury report: Who’s out, who’s starting?
The Packers may be without wide receivers Christian Watson and Jayden Reed again. Watson has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury, while Reed sat out of the Week 16 win against the Panthers with toe and chest injuries. Their potential absences likely mean more work for Romeo Doubs and Dontayvion Wicks.
Meanwhile, the Vikings lost a few key players to injury against the Lions in Week 16. T.J. Hockenson and D.J. Wonnum are out for the rest of the season with knee and quadriceps injuries, respectively, while rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison is day-to-day with an ankle injury. Josh Oliver will likely step into the starting role with Hockenson out, while K.J. Osborn caught five passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in Addison’s absence.
Green Bay Packers Week 17 injury update: Christian Watson questionable