Of the five games left on the schedule for the Green Bay Packers, four of them are against division opponents. This weekend will be the first of two matchups against one of the biggest surprises in the NFL in the Minnesota Vikings.
The Packers are coming off their most disappointing loss of the season, losing to the New York Giants 38-10, and they have now fallen a game behind the Chicago Bears for first place in the NFC North. However, Green Bay does hold the first wild-card spot and is a game ahead of three teams including the Vikings. The Packers know that this weekend is a big game and they will use last week as motivation to perform well this week.
“Maybe it’s a good reminder of what happens when you don’t come to play,” defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. ‘We’re going to take this as a positive. This will be motivation for us the rest of the year.”
How quickly everyone forgets that the Packers were the hottest team in the NFL just two weeks ago. With one devastating loss, that has gone out the window and now the talk is about how the Packers can fix their problems about protecting Aaron Rodgers.
“You win five in a row and everyone is happy, but like I said last year, there are things that go under the radar that need to be handled,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes it takes a loss. We need to remember this feeling and not have this kind of embarrassment happen again.”
Rodgers has known even in their winning streak that they are far from being a perfect team. The offensive line has allowed Rodgers to be sacked a league-high 37 times, including five times last week against the Giants. This week won’t be any easier for the offensive line as they will be going against the Vikings pass-rush that has 27 sacks on the season, led by Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen.
Good news for the Packers is that they will be getting a big upgrade on the offensive side of the ball with their star wide receiver Greg Jennings coming back from a groin injury that has kept him out since Week 5. Jennings can help improve the Packers offense that led the league in scoring last year at 35.0 points a game last year, but is now ranked 13th this season at 24.8 points a game.
While Jennings is coming back, the Packers still have plenty of injury problems, mainly on the defensive side of the ball. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews is most likely to miss his third straight game due to a hamstring injury and one of the best run stoppers for the Packers, C.J. Wilson, is doubtful to play this weekend as well.
As for the Vikings, they have been led by Peterson all season. He leads the league in rushing through 11 games and has helped the Vikings to have the third best rushing team in the NFL. Quarterback Christian Ponder has been the weak spot for the Vikings so far this season, but he has done a good job of limiting his mistakes and keeping the Vikings in games. The loss of Percy Harvin has stalled Ponder and the Vikings progress as an offense which included a loss last week to the Bears 28-10. Harvin is questionable to return this weekend and his presence would provide a huge boost for Minnesota.
The Packers have won five straight against the Vikings and last season they were able to hold Peterson to just 51 yards on 14 carries at Green Bay. However, in Peterson’s last five games, he has been averaging 147 yards per game and 7.2 yards per carry. After allowing 147 yards rushing to the Giants last week, the Packers need to make sure they fix their run defense problems or the Vikings will have a good shot at getting the win. As for the Vikings, they need to make sure they get to Rodgers early and often to slow down the Packers offense.
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