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Bleacher Report – Vikings

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

By Matthew Coller

MThe Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1) face off with the Green Bay Packers (5-4-1) on Sunday Night Football at US Bank Stadium. Here’s how the two teams compare, position by position (all stats via Pro-Football Reference and Pro Football Focus)…

Quarterback

Can we draw any conclusions from Cousins’ primetime record?

Vikings starter: Kirk Cousins

So far the Minnesota Vikings offense with Cousins has been the definition of average. By Football Outsiders DVOA standards (a formula for yards that adjusts for game situations and competition) they are the 17th best offense and 15th rated passing game. PFF grades Cousins as the 12th best quarterback, which aligns with his 12th ranked traditional quarterback rating. The Vikings have struggled to hit on big passing plays, sitting 23rd in passes of 20-plus yards and Cousins ranks 18th in yards per pass attempt. Against a dinged-up Packers defense, he will be looking to bolster those numbers with a repeat of his 425-yard, fourth-touchdown performance at Lambeau Field in Week 2.

Packers starter: Aaron Rodgers

While the Green Bay offense has not been as explosive as in years past, its quarterback is humming along at his usual excellent pace. Rodgers is only rated behind Drew Brees, Pat Mahomes and Jared Goff by Pro Football Focus and has 19 touchdowns to just one interception. Rodgers’ traditional quarterback rating isn’t quite as high as some of the NFL’s best in part because of his surprisingly low 61.8 percent completion percentage (24th in the NFL), but Green Bay has the seventh most completions of 20-plus yards.

The first time the Vikings faced Rodgers, the future Hall of Fame QB was just coming off a Week 1 knee injury that kept him from practicing all week and Green Bay still posted 29 points. This time he is much healthier, so the Vikings will have to be aware of his ability to move in the pocket and take off.

Advantage: Packers

Running back

Vikings starter: Dalvin Cook

Last week against the Bears was the worst game of Cook’s young career. He gained just 12 yards on nine rushes and minus-2 yards on three receptions. He was injured the last time the Vikings matched up with the Packers, but picked up 38 yards rushing and 52 receiving in Week 2. After head coach Mike Zimmer mentioned the struggling screen passing game, it would not be a surprise to see Cook very involved through the air this week.

Packers starter: Aaron Jones

Simply put: Aaron Jones has been one of the best running backs in the NFL this season. He averages 6.4 yards per attempt and has 18 rushes of more than 10 yards in just 84 carries. Earlier this season, Jones was not much in the way of a receiving threat, but last week he picked up 63 yards on five receptions. The Vikings may have to keep an eye on him out of the backfield.

Advantage: Even

Wide receiver/tight end

Which of the Vikings’ issues on offense are solvable?

Viking starters: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Kyle Rudolph

A big night in Chicago helped Diggs close the gap with Thielen in catch total, but both continue to be impressive in their efficiency, catching near 75 percent of Cousins passes in their direction. The Vikings still haven’t found a consistent way to get the ball to other options. Aldrick Robinson has four touchdowns, but only nine total catches and Treadwell has the lowest rating when targeted of any Vikings receiver or tight end. Cousins and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo have not consistently found a way to get Rudolph involved. He has just nine catches over the last four weeks. The last big game for Rudolph came against the Packers when he grabbed seven passes.

Packers starters: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Randall Cobb (?), Jimmy Graham (?)

Adams has been dominant this season, catching 72 passes on 100 targets and registering a 131.8 rating when targeted by Rodgers. He will likely be shadowed by Xavier Rhodes as has been the case since last season. In their Week 2 matchup, Adams caught eight passes, but gained just 64 yards and scored one touchdown. The rest of the crew is either dinged up or hasn’t been particularly effective. Valdes-Scantling is a big-play receiver at 17.1 yards per catch and Jimmy Graham’s return offers a quick-passing option for Rodgers, but Graham isn’t as dangerous as he was several years ago.

Advantage: Vikings

Offensive line

Vikings starters: Riley Reiff – Tom Compton – Pat Elflein – Mike Remmers – Brian O’Neill

It’s been a rough ride for the offensive line this season. After 10 games of Case Keenum starting last year, they only gave up seven sacks. After 10 games of Cousins, they have given up 26 sacks for 157 yards lost. Overall the Vikings rank 31st in pass blocking by Pro Football Focus grades. A good amount of that pressure has come up the middle. Remmers leads the team with 32 pressures allowed while Compton has given up 20 pastures. They will have to match up with star NT Kenny Clark, who was dominant in Week 2. On the outsides, O’Neill has played well in his rookie season. He’s given up 17 pressures but zero sacks. Reiff will likely have a much better time against The Pack than he did against The Mack last week.

Packers starters: David Bakhtiari – Lane Taylor – Corey Linsley – Byron Bell – Bryan Bulaga

Green Bay ranks as PFF’s No. 1 pass blocking offensive line despite Rodgers’ 30 sacks. Look for the Vikings’ interior defensive linemen to shine as guards Lane Taylor and Byron Bell have allowed 55 pressures combined. Bakhtairi versus Everson Griffen is always an incredible battle of two of the elite players at their position in the NFL.

Advantage: Packers

Defensive line

Vikings starters: Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter

After a 10-sack game against the Lions, the Vikings struggled to take down Mitch Trubisky last week. Everson Griffen finished with zero pressures per PFF, which marks the first time he has failed to pressure the QB when playing a full game since Zimmer took over in 2014. Hunter still racked up seven pressures and Richardson moved into eighth place in the NFL in pressures for interior defensive linemen. Interestingly the Vikings have added a new wrinkle with Stephen Weatherly, dropping him back in coverage occasionally on zone blitzes. He has 12 coverage snaps this year.

Packers starters: Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Montravious Adams

Without Mike Daniels in the lineup, the Packers are a much weaker defense, but Clark has become an elite player at his position, ranking only behind Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox and Akiem Hicks by PFF ratings. The Vikings will have to do much better against Clark than they did against Hicks, who blew up a number of key plays last Sunday night.

Advantage: Vikings

Linebackers

Vikings starters: Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Eric Wilson

The return of Barr means the Vikings’ defense can be a little more versatile, especially when rushing the passer on third downs. On just 58 pass rush snaps, Barr has 13 pressures. Aside from a bad night in Los Angeles, he has also been rarely targeted, giving up just two catches against Philadelphia, Arizona and New York. With Barr coming off a hamstring injury, we may see Wilson mix in.

Packers starters: Clay Matthews, Blake Martinez, Kyler Fackrell, Reggie Gilbert

Green Bay’s attack is weakened by the absence of Nick Perry, but the linebacking corps can still do some damage. Fackrell has emerged as a force with eight sacks in just 122 pass rush snaps and Martinez has become a solid coverage middle linebacker. Matthews isn’t as dangerous as he once was. He’s picked up just 17 pressures in 227 snaps and was largely handled by O’Neill in the Vikings’ rookie’s first NFL action.

Advantage: Even

Secondary

Vikings starters: Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris

The secondary has gone through some ups and downs this season, but has mostly performed well. The Vikings are allowing the sixth lowest quarterback rating against and rank seventh best in Adjusted New Yards per Attempt. You wouldn’t have thought that possible after their Week 4 meltdown against the Rams. Harrison Smith has rebounded from some early-season bumps in the road and is allowing just a 62.0 rating into his coverage. Anthony Harris might never give the job back to Andrew Sendejo after stringing together multiple strong performances at safety.

Packers starters: Tramon Williams, Jaire Alexander, Kentrell Brice (?), Josh Jackson

Surprisingly the Packers’ pass defense has been pretty solid. They allow the fifth fewest total yards passing per game and are tied for 14th in ANY/A. But without Kevin King and with Brice questionable for the game, it could be a challenge to slow down the Vikings’ pass attack to Diggs and Thielen. The rookie Alexander has been excellent, giving up just a 77.2 rating on throws into his coverage but Jackson has not had the same luck with a 104.8 rating against.

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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