Recent visits to Minneapolis have been all about trying to contain Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. And if Peterson was actually active this week, one could be sure that he would be the center of Dom Capers and the 29th-ranked run defense’s game plan. But with Peterson still suspended, the Packers face a considerably weaker Vikings offense, led by rookies Teddy Bridgewater and Jerick McKinnon.
While the Vikings are missing Peterson, the Packer defense gets a slightly tougher test than their October meeting with Minnesota, where they sacked Christian Ponder six times and picked him off twice. But like Ponder, Bridgewater is more than capable of turning the ball over, having thrown six interceptions in his last five starts. Meanwhile, the Green Bay defense has collected four interceptions since the bye week while consistently forcing bad throws from opposing QBs.
While I don’t expect former Packers receiver Greg Jennings to pose much of a threat on Sunday, veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph could. Rudolph was eased back into action last week versus Chicago after spending six weeks on the sideline with a hernia. The Green Bay defense has allowed big games to tight ends Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham this season, which suggests that Minnesota could give Rudolph a prominent role in the offense this week.
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings match up well with Green Bay – at least on paper. Minnesota ranks 8th in the league versus the pass, thanks to the defensive mindset of head coach Mike Zimmer and to a number of young contributors, including Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr and Sharrif Floyd. The Vikings also have two strong pass rushers in Brian Robinson and Everson Griffen, which could be a test for Packers tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari.
To keep the Minnesota defense honest, I expect Mike McCarthy to run with ball often with Eddie Lacy. The Vikings run defense struggled versus Lacy in the first meeting and allowed 138 rushing yards to Matt Forte and the Bears last week. Though many describe this matchup as a ‘trap game’ for the Packers, it’s difficult to visualize the fundamentally-worse Vikings beating a red hot Packers team – even at home.