The Green Bay Packers (4-2) travel to Minneapolis this weekend to play the NFC North division rival Minnesota Vikings (1-5), and the Packers finally will get their long-awaited opportunity to defend Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings.
After catching 425 passes in Green Bay primarily from Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers for 6,537 yards and scoring 53 touchdowns, Jennings signed a five-year contract this past offseason with the Vikings.
Jennings could’ve left with grace and dignity, but he decided to talk trash about Rodgers and the Packers organization. Jennings publicly questioned Rodgers’ leadership and said everyone who plays for the Packers is essentially “brainwashed” into thinking there is not a better place to be in the NFL.
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier publicly and indirectly told Jennings this offseason to “shut up” and focus on the Vikings instead of complaining about his split with the Packers.
Luckily for Packer fans, it has been a rough start for Jennings in Minnesota. The Vikings traded Percy Harvin to Seattle in March to clear room for Jennings, as the former Packer was expected to be the No. 1 wide receiver for quarterback Christian Ponder.
Jennings though hasn’t performed like a top receiver, and Ponder isn’t Minnesota’s quarterback for the foreseeable future. With a trio of poor quarterbacks, Jennings has 24 catches for 327 yards and has scored two touchdowns. Jennings doesn’t even lead his own team in catches and yards, as those honors belong to Jerome Simpson.
Jennings’ best statistical game this season was catching three passes for 92 yards and scoring two touchdowns in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London. This past weekend, Packers’ second-year wide receiver (and former fourth-stringer) Jarrett Boykin caught eight passes for 103 yards and he scored one touchdown in his first career start.
Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley have more catches and just as many touchdowns as Jennings this season. Nelson, Cobb and James Jones each have more yards than Jennings through six games as well. For now, the Packers have proven that they didn’t need Jennings as desperately as Jennings thought Minnesota needed him.
Cobb and Finley will be out for awhile with serious injuries, but in Green Bay the Packers are leading the NFC North with a battered-up wide receiving corps, thanks in large part to their MVP quarterback. Compared to the Vikings, the Packers have ran the ball better, passed the ball better and turned the football over less through the air in 2013.
Without Jennings, Rodgers is averaging 300 passing yards per game (4th in NFL), possesses a 104.5 passer rating (4th), has completed 65 percent of his passes (9th), averaged 8.7 yards per passing attempt (2nd), has thrown 13 touchdown passes (t-7th most) and has only thrown four interceptions (t-4th fewest).
In Minnesota, Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman are averaging 214 passing yards per game (24th), possess a 68.0 passer rating (30th), completed 57.2 percent of their passes (24th), averaged 6.2 yards per passing attempt (29th) and have thrown eight interceptions (t-7th most).
Rodgers’ passing statistics have slightly dropped off from a season ago, but the Vikings haven’t seen much improvement in their passing game with Jennings. The Packers’ defense, though, will make it tough for the Vikings to have production in the passing game on Sunday Night.
This season, Green Bay’s defense is allowing 345.8 yards per game (15th), 21.2 points per game (12th) and has registered 20 sacks (t-7th most). In Green Bay’s last three games, the defense has allowed 13 points per game and registered 13 sacks on opposing quarterbacks.
Between Jennings and the Packers, one side clearly made the better decision. If the statistics aren’t enough proof, just look at how many games each team has won this season.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the ‘W’. Jennings may have been right about one thing though this past offseason: Maybe Green Bay is the best place to be in the NFL.