A pair of 2-2 teams will face off in Green Bay for Thursday Night Football, when the Minnesota Vikings come to town to face the Packers. Both teams are coming off big wins, with Green Bay coming off a big decisive win over the Chicago Bears and the Vikings beating the Falcons at home. Each team has had their fair share of inconsistency early this year with some big losses and some big wins, and this will be a test for both teams to try to get a leg up on the other in the NFC North.
Going into Week 3, the Packers were 1-2, showing an inability to get their normally high-powered offense going. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was feeling the need to tell Green Bay fans to relax, and after a big win in Chicago, that is exactly what they are doing. In the two losses to Seattle and Detroit, the offense looked stagnant, but against Chicago, it looked like one of the best offenses in the NFL, which is what many expected of it coming into the season. In that game, Rodgers threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns, with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb ending the day with more than 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns each.
Even though the offense seemed to correct itself in the Bears game, the problem that remains is the Packers’ ability to run the ball. Running back Eddie Lacy had a very good rookie year, leading many to believe he would improve upon that this year, but in four games, he only has 161 yards and one touchdown. For the Packers offense to truly start firing on all cylinders, Lacy and that running game need to get going.
The Vikings come into this game with a lot of uncertainty around their rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Against the Falcons in Week 4, Bridgewater had a great game throwing for 317 yards and rushing for 27 yards and a touchdown. That is, until he got hurt late in the game with an ankle sprain that has limited his availability coming into the Thursday night game with the Packers. The team seems like they are leaning towards resting the rookie in favor of Christian Ponder, but it will be a game time decision.
Without Bridgewater, the offense will likely be more focused on the run considering Ponder’s limitations in the passing game. Look for the Vikings to get Cordarelle Patterson in space, either on designed runs or in the screen game if Ponder does in fact get the start. Patterson has shown to be a real weapon in the passing and running games, and he could be the key factor for Minnesota if they are to beat the Packers.
The defenses of these two teams have not looked particularly good early on this season, giving up big points in nearly all of their respective games. This will likely be a high scoring game and that will probably favor the Packers, who will want this to become a shootout. Rodgers spreading the ball around in the pass game will be Green Bay’s key to victory in this one, since the Vikings have shown an inability to limit other team’s passing games so far this year.
If the Vikings want to win this game, they will need to slow the game down and rush the ball, keeping it out of Rodgers hands. Green Bay’s rush defense is below average at best, and the Vikings, even without Adrian Peterson, have the ability to exploit that with Matt Asiata and Jerrod McKinnon, who showed last week they can get after it on the ground.
This Week 5 edition of Thursday Night Football between the Vikings and Packers should be a big one for the NFC North. These two are tied at 2-2 right now and a win for either team will be crucial, especially for Minnesota as it is their first game in the division. However, it could be an uphill battle for the Vikings, as it looks like their talented rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater is likely to miss this one with an ankle injury.
Prediction: Packers 31 – Vikings 19
Commentary by Max Petkevicius