Bring On the Border Battle

It’s time for the first Border Battle of the season and the Pack arrives in the Twin Cities limping toward bye week, with two key NFC matchups on tap before they get a chance to rest. They’ll get a Vikings team that will play like its season is on the line because it is, and they’ll need to match their intensity and, for lack of a better word, desperation.

 A desperate team is a dangerous team and you know Zim will remind the team that Green Bay has won the last two games at US Bank Stadium. The Vikings have been underwhelming at home this season—the last time we saw them play there they couldn’t beat Cooper Rush and the Cowboys. The game before they needed a last minute miracle to beat the lowly Lions. But you can bet the crowd and the players will come into this one with an entirely different mindset.

 For me, it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Pack’s rising defense handles Minnesota’s offense, which can be perplexing to Purple fans, but which boasts PFF’s top ranked passing offense. Generating pressure all afternoon on Kirk Cousins is the path to a victory, so it would be really nice to see Rashan Gary out there. He’s practicing with a brace on his hyperextended elbow and hasn’t been ruled out as I write this. With Whitney Mercilus lost for the season, the team is getting really thin at the OLB spot. I expect the Pack to cause problems up the middle, with Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Kingsley Keke presenting a mismatch for the Vikes’ inexperienced interior offensive line.

 Justin Jefferson was held in check in the two meetings last season—of course he wasn’t JJ yet in the season opener. We’ll see if Eric Stokes is charged with following him around—Stokes said this week that when they met in college he was charged with covering Jamarr Chase. So this could be the beginning of a fun rivalry for years to come—or, more likely, Stokes and Jaire Alexander will share the duties going forward. With Kevin King and Rasul Douglas stepping up in recent weeks, there’s reason to believe the Pack’s secondary is equipped to deal with the Vikes’ passing attack,

 As you recall, when Minnesota won at Lambeau last season, it was the Dalvin Cook show. The howling winds pretty much negated the passing game and the Pack had no answers for #33. While the run defense is improved, they haven’t faced a back like Cook. The performance so far by De’Vondre Campbell and Krys Barnes gives us hope that we have the speed and athleticism to make him earn every yard—we’ll see if they’re up to the challenge.

 What concerns me about this game is the state of Green Bay’s offense. Aaron Rodgers, hasn’t practiced this week with a toe injury and after coming off COVID and not practicing for three weeks, the passing game has not been in sync. Throw in the fact that Davante Adams and Allen Lazard haven’t practiced this week and things are less than optimal. Green Bay would love to lean on AJ Dillon and the running game—this will be his first opportunity to be the bell cow because even his backup, Patrick Taylor, is dealing with an injury. Can he handle 20-25 touches? I’d like to think so, but he’s never been asked to do it.

 Most likely, this game will come down to special teams and turnovers. We know that special teams has been a problem all season, so they’ll need to clean things up. The Vikes have gotten some big returns of late and have tried a couple of fake punts. No doubt they’re licking their chops, eager for the opportunities that might be in front of them. Both teams have been good in the turnover department, with the Pack +7 and Minnesota +6.

 I’m thinking this one comes down to the closing seconds, like virtually every Vikings game. For me, it really is a coin flip and if the Pack is going to split these next two games before the bye, I’d rather win next week against the Rams, with all the playoff implications that game brings. True, a Minnesota win would Green Bay’s division lead to 2.5 games, but there is no way they make it a race unless Rodgers goes down.

 Matt LaFleur will eventually lose a divisional road game. Maybe this is the week. But I know how much this matchup means to Rodgers and this may be his last game at the Bank in the green and gold. I say he and the Pack figure out a way to sneak out with a win.

 

Packers 24  Vikings 23

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