So many times in the past, the NFC North division lead has been on the line when the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers line up against each other. That’s not the case here since the Bears are sitting atop the division. Coincidentally though, that means there’s more on the line this time because a loss would be devastating to the playoff hopes of the side that comes up short. And the fact that these teams tied the first time they played this year adds a unique wrinkle this time around.
Featured Pick #1: Will there be a field goal miss? (Yes)
Neither team in this game has been a pillar of kicking stability this season. Minnesota cut their first kicker, Daniel Carlson after he started the season one for four. Then they picked up Dan Bailey, who’s been good. Bailey is 14-17 on the year. But the Vikings have been pretty careful with him. He’s 1-1 on tries from 50 yards and beyond, but 3-5 in the 40-49-yard range. It’s logical to see a situation where Minnesota might trot him out there for a deep try just before the half, at the end of a close game, or even just a run-of-the-mill 45-yarder. Right in the zone where he’s struggled the most this season.
For Green Bay, Mason Crosby’s numbers are skewed a bit by one awful 1-5 performance at Detroit in Week 5. Crosby’s career percentage on field goals is 80.1%. Which is fine, but leaves something to be desired. Last season he finished at 78.9%. And this season he’s a full two percentage points behind that. The downward trend has to be concerning.
On top of it all, one has to consider the conditions more and more as we get later into the season. A late-November night game in the open-air stadium in Minnesota? The forecast calls for temperatures in the low-20s with a wind that could also reach the low-20s. If you bet against a missed field goal, you’re putting an awful lot of confidence in two kickers that having glaring weaknesses. If you bet for a missed kick, you’re betting against those semi-shaky kickers plus some less-than-ideal conditions.
Featured Pick #2: Who will score the Vikings first touchdown? (Stefon Diggs)
Diggs has owned the Packers as far as scoring goes. While his raw counting numbers might not always look great in this match-up, he seems to always find the end zone.
Going back to 2016, Diggs has had: nine catches for 182 yards and a touchdown; four catches for 29 yards and a touchdown; five catches for 60 yards and a touchdown; and nine catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2 of this season against the Packers. (There was a Vikings-Packers game in there that Diggs was injured and didn’t suit up.) There’s a trend there.
Additionally, Green Bay’s secondary isn’t exactly in the best shape. They moved Tramon Williams from cornerback to safety to replace HaHa Clinton-Dix when he was traded to Washington. Jermaine Whitehead was cut after the Seattle game. Safeties Kentrell Brice and Raven Greene are hurt. Same for corners Bashaud Breeland and Kevin King. That only leaves rookies Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, and Tony Brown along with third-year man Will Redmond as the only healthy CBs on the roster. Behind them, Josh Jones will now be counted on heavily as a starting safety. He hardly saw the field until three weeks ago. Besides Williams and the injured players, the only other safety on the roster is Ibraheim Campbell, who was claimed off waivers at the beginning of November.
Featured Pick #3: Who will win the game? (Packers by 1-6)
Green Bay is desperate. Their backs are against the wall. There’s a lot of teams that are most dangerous when that’s the case. Plus they (0bviously) have Aaron Rodgers. And they’ve had ten days to prepare. As opposed to the Vikings, who are in the semi-rare situation of playing back-to-back Sunday night games.
As for Rodgers, specifically, it’s been a weird year. If you just look at his stats, he’s right in line – more or less – with his career numbers. But watching him, and the Packers offense in general, there’s been something off all season. Rodgers hasn’t had his best game of the season yet. Maybe it won’t come. But that’s not something most would be comfortable betting against. Green Bay also has a coach who’s going into every remaining game this season with his job on the line.
These divisional Vikings-Packers games are almost always close. And to be fair, Minnesota has quite a lot on the line too. They have to fend off whatever run Green Bay has in order to keep an NFC wild-card spot within reach. If they end up in a position to compete with the Bears for the division lead, that’d be a bonus.
It seems as if this is about as solidly in the toss-up zone as a game can get. But this late in the season, teams with more to lose often come out on top. And there’s no question who that team is in this game.
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