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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Preview: Teddy Bridgewater carries a hot hand into match for NFC North

By Andrew Krammer

Minnesota Vikings (10-5) at the Green Bay Packers (10-5)

When/where: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. CT at Lambeau Field

Line: Packers by 3

Series: Packers lead 59-49-2

Last meeting: Teddy Bridgewater was sacked six times, James Jones had 109 yards receiving and a touchdown for the Packers as the Vikings fell 30-13 at TCF Bank Stadium on Nov. 22.

Coaches: Mike Zimmer (17-14, second season) vs. Mike McCarthy (104-54, 10th season)

Last week: The Vikings dismantled the New York Giants on Sunday night, 49-17; the Packers were pummeled in Arizona, 38-8.

Carrying the hot hand — Something about December has brought out the best in young Teddy Bridgewater. He’s carrying a hot hand into the biggest stage of his career, a NFC North title game against Green Bay in Lambeau Field. His 102.8 average passer rating last month was a tick better than the impressive end to his rookie season (101.7). Bridgewater has settled into an offense that has pivoted more toward a quick passing game, and he’s also taking advantage of the downfield shots when they come. He’s amassed seven touchdowns to just one interception over the last four games. On the other side, Aaron Rodgers is coming off a forgettable outing in Arizona, where he was sacked eight times. Rodgers is completing a career-low 60.4 percent of his passes this season, but he’s 5-1 against the Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Another DT shuffle? — The Vikings will likely be without Linval Joseph again on Sunday as he missed practice all week and is officially doubtful. They’ll be forced to shuffle along the interior again, this time against a running back who has dominated Minnesota in Eddie Lacy. Lacy averages 107 yards rushing and a touchdown in five career games vs. the Vikings, running for his first 100-yard game of the season in the Vikings’ 30-13 loss to Green Bay in November. He’s crossed the century mark twice in the five games since, and the Packers could feature him after their pass protection was shellacked by the Cardinals. Sharrif Floyd, who is probable with a knee injury, will likely shift to Joseph’s spot at nose tackle with Tom Johnson coming off the bench to take Floyd’s spot as the three-technique defensive tackle. Nose tackle Kenrick Ellis, who signed with the team in October, will also be available.

Making history — Adrian Peterson has already planted himself among the age-specific milestones for NFL running backs. On Sunday night, he may claim his third rushing title and become just the third back in league history to do so after a 30th birthday. He has a 64-yard lead on Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin, and will know the mark he needs, if he’s surpassed, by kickoff in Green Bay. He currently sits with the ninth-most yardage in a single season by a 30+ back, and a 100-yard game would move him past Barry Sanders’ 1998 and into seventh all time.

Breaking through – Mike Zimmer hasn’t used the blitz against Aaron Rodgers very much in the three outings since he was hired in Minnesota. Sunday’s matchup will an interesting case study to see if Zimmer sticks with that approach after the Cardinals sent a five-man rush or more on nearly half of Rodgers’ drop backs last week. The Packers allowed as many sacks (8) as they had points (8) in the blowout loss at Arizona. A healthy linebacker Anthony Barr, who was not on the injury report for the first time in eight weeks, could certainly help the Vikings create havoc. Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari is questionable with an ankle injury.

Staying upright — Sunday will provide a chance for left tackle Matt Kalil and the Vikings’ offensive line to get revenge after they were thoroughly beat by the Packers to the tune of six sacks in November’s loss. A recently tweaked approach with quicker passes could help the Vikings this time around. Though this offense still incorporates a lot of vertical routes, and they’ll need better play from protection against Green Bay.

Injury reports

Vikings: NT Linval Joseph (foot) is doubtful; RB Adrian Peterson (shoulder/ankle), DE Everson Griffen (shoulder), T Matt Kalil (lower leg), DT Sharrif Floyd (knee), S Harrison Smith (hamstring), S Anthony Harris (hip) and WR Adam Thielen (low back) are probable.

Packers: LB Jayrone Elliott (quad) and TE Justin Perillo (hamstring) won’t play as they’re out; T David Bakhtiari (ankle), DT Mike Daniels (groin), LB Mike Neal (hip), DT B.J. Raji (concussion),CB Sam Shields (concussion) were listed as questionable; T Bryan Bulaga (ankle), G Josh Sitton (back), LB Nick Perry (shoulder), LB Clay Matthews (ankle), G T.J. Lang (shoulder), C Corey Linsley (ankle), RB Eddie Lacy (rib), CB Casey Hayward (ankle) and DT Letroy Guion (foot) are all probable.

Prediction

The Vikings are capable of beating a vulnerable Packers team for their first division title in six years, but Aaron Rodgers hasn’t lost to them at home since that 2009 season. Vikings 23, Packers 27

Additional listening: On this episode of the Purple Podcast, Andrew Krammer and Derek Wetmore are joined by ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling to preview Vikings-Packers. What’s different this time? How has the Vikings’ approach differed from last month’s meeting?

The post Preview: Teddy Bridgewater carries a hot hand into match for NFC North appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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