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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 (11-3) have wrapped up a playoff spot, but they still have plenty to play for as they travel to face the Green Bay Packers (7-7) at Lambeau Field on Saturday. The Vikings still have a shot at home field advantage throughout the playoffs or a first-round bye and guaranteed home playoff game. How do they match up with the Pack? Let’s have a look…

Quarterback

Green Bay: Brett Hundley

Brett Hundley’s relief appearance against the Vikings was nothing short of a disaster as he tossed three interceptions and was sacked four times in a 23-10 loss. Since then there have been brief flashes of strong play. Hundley went 18-for-25 with a 110.7 rating on the road against the Bears, came close to beating the Steelers with a 137.3 rating in primetime and tossed three touchdowns against Cleveland in his last start. He also mixed in another three-INT game against Baltimore and threw for just 84 yards against the Bucs. Hundley has had some success with short passes and he has mobility and can throw accurately on the move, but when he’s asked to make multiple reads on a play, panic sets in and he takes sacks or makes mistakes. Mike Zimmer’s defense is going to make it very tough on the former UCLA star.

Minnesota: Case Keenum

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Keenum bounced back from a tough game in Carolina to drub the Cincinnati Bengals. He went 20-for-23 in the game with two touchdowns. Only seven passes traveled over 10 yards, which has become his M.O. over the second half of the season. Only Joe Flacco, Eli Manning and Jay Cutler have averaged fewer air yards per completion than Keenum, but the strategy has been working brilliantly when the Vikings’ offensive line is at full strength. Outside of a chilly day affecting his throwing, there isn’t much on the Green Bay side to convince you that Keenum will have any troubles this week. The Packers are allowing the third highest passer rating against in the NFL.

Advantage: Vikings

Running back

Green Bay: Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Ty Montgomery

If there’s any flicker of silver lining for the Packers in a lost year, it’s that they found an impressive running back in the fifth round when they picked Aaron Jones. While he hasn’t been the top back, Jones has been the most dangerous runner on the roster averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He only rushed three times last week, but gained 47 yards. Williams and Montgomery have become huge parts of the passing game, combining for 55 catches for 404 yards.

Minnesota: Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon

After being slowed down by Carolina’s strong front seven, Murray and McKinnon bounced back in a big way against the Bengals. Murray rushed for 76 yards, a touch down and added his longest pass reception of the year (28 yards), while McKinnon dominated Cincinnati with 114 yards receiving. The Packers rank 20th against the run and rank 28th by Football Outsiders in passing allowed to running backs. With Nick Perry doubtful for the game, everything sets up for a big day for Murray and McKinnon.

Advantage: Vikings

Wide receiver/tight end

Green Bay: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Richard Rodgers

With Devante Adams out, the Packers’ group of weapons takes a huge hit. Adams was shadowed by Xavier Rhodes in the two teams’ first matchup, not Nelson, which may point to a decline in Nelson’s play from last year. Cobb has been effective in the short passing game, catching 73 percent of passes his way and averaging 10.1 yards per catch. Rodgers and Lance Kendrcks haven’t been very effective in the passing game, combining for just 26 receptions.

Minnesota: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph

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Opponents have simply not figured out a way to cover Thielen and Diggs. Combined they have 136 catches on 210 targets (65 percent completion percentage) for 1,915 yards and 10 touchdowns. And if anyone thinks Diggs is having a down year, well, he’s not. Diggs averages 0.7 fewer yards per catch than Thielen, has two more touchdowns and catches a slightly higher percentage of throws his way. If not for a midseason groin injury, he’d probably have better numbers. He’d absolutely have better numbers if he weren’t part of the best tandem in football. Rudolph is healthier this week and continues to be unstoppable in the red zone. He didn’t earn a trip to the Pro Bowl, but probably deserved it. Pro Football Focus rates him as the third best TE in the NFC this year.

Advantage: Vikings

Offensive line

Green Bay: David Bakhtiari, Jason Spriggs, Lane Taylor, Justin McCray, Corey Linsley

At left tackle, Bakhtiari is one of the league’s best and will battle all night against Everson Griffen. The other four spots are far less impressive. Spriggs could be in for a tough game against Danielle Hunter, who had, by Mike Zimmer’s standards, his best game against the Bengals. Up the middle, it’s hard to see the struggling interior lineman handling Linval Joseph.

Minnesota: Riley Reiff, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein, Joe Berger, Mike Remmers

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If you want to understand the impact Pat Elflein has made on the Vikings’ offense, see the last two weeks. Against Carolina, they struggled to create a screen game and had runs consistently stuffed up the middle. With Elflein back, they mauled Cincinnati, creating huge chunks of yards on throws to running backs. The rookie center’s ability to block in space and quickly get upfield have made a huge difference in the Vikings’ offense. Minnesota might get Riley Reiff back in the lineup this week. If not, quality backup Rashod Hill will handle the left tackle duties. Mike Remmers’ return at right tackle is also important for the long haul. He’s been an excellent run blocker.

Advantage: Vikings

Defensive line

Green Bay: Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry

The Packers’ 3-4 defensive line is more of a tandem. Both Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark rank in the top 20 by Pro Football Focus rankings. Daniels is a consistent, do-it-all three-technique defensive tackle who has 4.0 sacks this year. Clark is huge and strong. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 314-pounds but he’s probably bigger than that. At just 22 years old, Clark is still improving his pass rush. He’s added 2.5 sacks this year after going without a sack in his rookie year.

Minnesota: Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson, Danielle Hunter

No doubt we will see Green Bay getting the ball out quickly after they allowed Brett Hundley to get sacked four times against the Vikings in Week 6. Everson Griffen is fourth in the NFL in sacks with 13.0 and while he’s been held without a sack for two of the last three games, Griffen is still consistently in the backfield pressuring quarterbacks. Hunter is coming off an excellent game and has an extreme mismatch off the offense’s right edge. Joseph had a great case for the Pro Bowl, but got left off the list despite ranking among the elite nose tackles. Tom Johnson has been a revelation at the three-tech spot. He was expected to play a one-dimensional pass rush role, instead the veteran has stepped up and become a three-down player.

Advantage: Vikings

Linebackers

Green Bay: Nick Perry, Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan, Clay Matthews

The strength of Green Bay’s linebackers depends greatly on whether Nick Perry can play. He’s listed as doubtful, making it more likely we see Ahmad Brooks. Perry has 7.0 sacks this season following an 11.0 sack 2016. Matthews has bounced back from a rough ’16 season, posting his highest sack total (7.5) since 2014. Martinez might be the best player of the group. He was one of the few Packers to have a great game against the Vikings back in October. He’s quickly grown into a solid cover linebacker who can close on running backs quickly.

Minnesota: Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon

While a lot of the talk this week has been about whether the Packers would be motivated to face Barr, you might think the same thing applies to him. The Vikings’ linebacker has faced months of angry messages and scrutiny over his hit on Aaron Rodgers, despite the hit being deemed clean by the NFL. Mike McCarthy even backed off his accusation from earlier this year. Eric Kendricks is coming off an impressive game against the Bengals in which he returned an interception for a touchdown. His PFF grade jumped up with one week – which is one reason it can be difficult to use grades in a small sample. He’s been a major part of the Vikings shutting down opposing RBs in the passing game, which they will have to do against the Pack.

Advantage: Even

Defensive backs

Green Bay: Damarious Randall, Josh Hawkins, Morgan Burnett, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Josh Jones

Heading into last offseason, it was clear that the Packers needed to fix their back end. Their solution was to let go Micah Hyde, who made the Pro Bowl for the Buffalo Bills, and sign Davon House, who ranked 89th by PFF standards before getting hurt, and draft Kevin King (also hurt). Randall has been solid, allowing 6.9 yards per attempt into his coverage, but he’s been burned by Stefon Diggs in the past. Clinton-Dix is a solid player, but Jones has struggled at times. Overall, ranking third worst in QB rating against is not an improvement from 2016.

Minnesota: Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo

Harrison Smith may have missed the Pro Bowl, but he’ll be Brett Hundley’s toughest challenge

First of all, it’s insane that Harrison Smith didn’t make the Pro Bowl as he remains ranked PFF’s No. 1 safety. Second, Rhodes is allowing 6.1 YPA into his coverage despite facing Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Julio Jones and AJ Green this year. Third, the Vikings will lack depth in the secondary this week with Mackensie Alexander slowed by a rib injury and Tramaine Brock out. That may require Newman to play more snaps.

Advantage: Vikings

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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