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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Position-by-position: How do the Vikings match up with the Packers?

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings (3-2) are set to face off with the Green Bay Packers (4-1) at US Bank Stadium on Sunday. Injuries will be the story for the Vikings on offense as they look to overcoming losing QB1, RB1 and WR1.

The Packers are coming off an incredible comeback win in Dallas, but they have shown some areas of weakness.

How do the two teams match up? Let’s have a look…

Quarterback

How the Vikings slowed Aaron Rodgers in Week 2 last season

You might be familiar with the Packers’ starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He has the highest quarterback rating of all time and a career regular season record of 94-46 and leads the NFL in touchdowns. Vikings head coach said Rodgers was the most difficult quarterback to face, even compared to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. He is the among the smartest quarterbacks in the league and has outrageous accuracy. Rodgers is 4-2 against Zimmer since he joined the Vikings in 2014.

Case Keenum will be making his fifth appearance with the Vikings. He’s won two and lost two games, but the two victories were quite impressive. Against the Bucs, he threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns, then in Chicago he came in after Sam Bradford re-aggravated his knee and went 17-for-21 with a touchdown. He has a 130.9 rating in wins and 70.9 in losses against Pittsburgh and Detroit. Which Keenum shows up might determine whether the VIkings stay in the game against Green Bay.

Advantage: Packers

Running back

Vikings RB Latavius Murray: ‘I will be better’

If the Vikings had Dalvin Cook in the lineup, they would be a runaway in this category, but the Jerick McKinnon-Latavius Murray combination is less scary for opposing defenses. However, McKinnon had his best game in a long time last week, hitting on a 58-yard touchdown run and leading the team in receptions. He is showing burst and physicality on outside runs that at least makes him a big-play threat. Murray is yet to get going, but averages 1.4 more yards per attempt for his career than he has this season. He is likely to improve. Green Bay allows 4.3 yards per carry, 20th in the NFL.

Aaron Jones, a fifth-round pick out of UTEP, showed impressive athleticism and quickness last week against Dallas, picking up 125 yards and a touchdown. He will share the backfield with Ty Montgomery, who will be playing through injured ribs. When Montgomery is fully healthy, he’s a dynamic threat. Last season he converted from receiver to running back and averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

Advantage: Draw

Wide receiver/tight end

Stefon Diggs’ injury puts Michael Floyd in the spotlight

Rodgers has been distributing the ball all over the field in the first five games. The Packers have five players with between 18 and 23 receptions. Martellus Bennett has been a strong addition to the team, catching 20 passes on 31 targets. His frame presents a mismatch against either linebackers or safeties and adds a different dimension to an already-impressive group of weapons. Jordy Nelson has six touchdown catches this year. He may be shadowed by star corner Xavier Rhodes. And Randall Cobb and Devante Adams have 23 catches each. The Vikings’ secondary will have its hands full with all of Green Bay’s weapons.

The Vikings will be short handed as they play without Stefon Diggs, who “tweaked” his groin on Monday night. That puts pressure on Michael Floyd to step into his role as a top receiver. Floyd has done it in the past, but is coming into a new offense after missing the first four weeks. He had one catch for 19 yards against the Bears. Either Laquon Treadwell will have to step up or the Vikings will need something from Jarius Wright or even Stacy Coley if he’s active. Tight end Kyle Rudolph has gained instant chemistry with Keenum, catching 16 passes on 24 targets this year.

Advantage: Packers

Offensive line

Sirles prepares to start, lauds Reiff’s presence on Vikings O-line

The Packers’ offensive line has been dinged up. Starting tackles Brian Bulaga and David Bakhtiari are both questionable for the game. If they are out, it could be a long day for Rodgers against the Vikings’ defensive line. Getting them back, however, would completely change the Packers’ strength up front as both are proven quality veteran players.

Minnesota’s offensive line has performed even better than expected so far this season, save for a few moments in Pittsburgh and the first half in Chicago. Left tackle Riley Reiff has been a revelation for the Vikings, while rookie center Pat Elflein has quickly adapted to the NFL and right tackle Mike Remmers has been largely reliable and added toughness to the O-line. Starting left guard Nick Easton is out, forcing Jeremiah Sirles off the bench. While Sirles is powerful, he isn’t quite as mobile as Easton.

Advantage: Draw (if Packers line is healthy)

Defensive line

Aaron Rodgers calls Zimmer an ‘innovator,’ praises Griffen

The Packers’ defensive line isn’t as good as the Vikings’ starters up front, but they have two players who can be game changers. Powerhouse D-lineman Mike Daniels had sacks in each game last year and currently ranks as the 18th best defensive end in the NFL (though he will play inside quite a bit). Nose tackle Kenny Clark will present a challenge for Elflein.

On the Vikings’ side, Everson Griffen might be the best defensive end in the NFL through five games, considering he’s more than just a traditional edge rusher, he can also shut down the run. He has six sacks, possibly in part because teams have been forced to focus on Danielle Hunter after 12.5 sacks last season. Tom Johnson has admirably filled the role of three-technique and Linval Joseph has been a dominant force on the NFL’s fourth best run defense in yards per carry.

Advantage: Vikings

Linebackers

Green Bay’s defense revolves around its impressive group of linebackers. Nick Perry had 11.0 sacks last season, Clay Matthews appears to have bounced back from a down 2016 as he has 2.5 sacks this year and middle linebacker Blake Martinez has become a quality all-around middle linebacker. He currently ranks sixth in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.

Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr have had an excellent start to the season. Kendricks has established himself as one of the NFL’s best cover linebackers, showing the ability to stop speedy backs or handle big tight ends. His services will especially be needed against the Packers’ running backs, who are big weapons in the passing game. Barr is having a 2015-esque season. He ranks tied for sixth by PFF metrics and is among the highest rated in pass rushing and coverage. As he continues to play well, it feels like a “splash” play or two may be on the way for Barr.

Advantage: Draw

Defensive backs

The Packers elected not to spend big in free agency to bolster their secondary, rather signing Davon House, who ranks 84th in the NFL by PFF metrics. All four starting defenders are in the bottom half of the league. Heading into last week Damarious Randall was allowing 10.5 yards per attempt on throws in his direction. Safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix has been a quality playmaking safety in the past. He intercepted five passes last year.

Last week, the Chicago Bears didn’t throw a single pass in Xavier Rhodes’ direction. After last season, it was hard to believe he could get better, but considering the competition Rhodes has faced to start the year, his numbers are eye-popping. He’s given up just 5.1 YPA on throws his way. Harrison Smith is having a superstar type season – as has become the norm. There is some concern over Andrew Sendejo, who is questionable. Last season when Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris filled in for Sendejo, the Vikings’ secondary wasn’t nearly as strong.

Advantage: Vikings

Rodgers vs. Zimmer, Round 7 (ep 231)

The post Position-by-position: How do the Vikings match up with the Packers? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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