Preview: Packers at Minnesota

So long as the Packers' run defense remains one of the worst in the NFL, I'm going to assume that the Packers can't beat any quality team with a good run offense. Therefore the Packers will play Minnesota close and tough, but lose a close game because Minnesota will be able to run right at the Packers in the 4th quarter on a game winning drive. Because, according to the rankings at NFL.com, Minnesota has a great run offense:

Teams Run Offense Pass Offense Run Defense Pass Defense
Packers 21 9 28 5
Minnesota 6 17 2 23

But the official NFL rankings are based just on yardage. The stats at Football Outsiders take several other factors into account, and also give the stats some context based on the strength of schedule:

Teams Run Offense Pass Offense Run Defense Pass Defense
Packers 23 10 31 2
Minnesota 25 18 4 6

The Packers stats are basically the same whether it's NFL.com or Football Outsiders, but Minnesota's are completely different. Minnesota's pass offense is average either way, which is actually outstanding considering QB Gus Frerotte is their starting QB. Minnesota's run defense is outstanding either way, but that could be subject to change due to the possible loss of the Williams Wall (doubtful) and the loss of DE Jared Allen (likely). Their pass defense looks a lot better because they've only allowed 8 TDs which is tied for 6th best in the NFL. It's been hard to score against their pass defense.

But how in hell is the Packers' awful run offense better than Minnesota's? RB Adrian Peterson isn't as good this season, he's already lost as many fumbles and his yard/carry average is down from 5.6 to 4.7. The biggest difference is that RB Chester Taylor's stats are way down, and his yard/carry is down from 5.4 to 4.0. But all those stats are still better than RB Ryan Grant. The reason is Minnesota has played against a whole bunch of awful run defenses. Except for games against Chicago and Tennessee, Minnesota has run the ball against 3 of the 4 worst run defenses in the NFL (Houston, Detroit, and the Packers) while taking on a few others that are below average (Carolina, Indianapolis, and New Orleans). 

Minnesota was involved in a close game in week 1 at Lambeau, but Brad Childress is a genius and decided to have QB Tarvaris Jackson throw a ton of passes late in the game, instead of running the ball right down the Packers throat. Minnesota was out of timeouts, so it wasn't all bad play calling by Childress. He did have to throw the ball to stop the clock. Unfortunately for the Packers, Jackson is now sitting on the bench and Childress was more than willing to call twice as many running plays as passing plays last week against Houston's awful, awful run defense. Since the Packers can't stop the run, and Minnesota can run against the Packers, I expect another close Packer defeat as Childress gets his first win in six games against the Packers, 23-20.

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