Preview: Minnesota at Green Bay

I took part in a podcast last week with Gonzo over at Daily Norseman, and he admitted that he has blocked all memory of the 34-0 week 10 pasting Minnesota took during their last game at Lambeau in 2007. The Packers 23-16 win at Minnesota in week 4 was a lot closer. QB Tavaris Jackson was injured for the game at Lambeau, but RB Ryan Grant was not the Packers starting running back at Minnesota. Minnesota's offense under Brad Childress has not scored a single point in two games at Lambeau, although that's sure to change in this game, but he's got a lot to prove. What else has changed since 2007?

  1. Aaron Rodgers is the starting QB. This isn't a factor. Rodgers will be as good as Favre.
  2. Minnesota DE Jared Allen. He changes Minnesota's defense a lot. They could not get after the quarterback last season with their front four alone and had to blitz their linebackers. Now they don't have to blitz as much. Whatever they do, at least they have more options on defense. Favre had passing games of 344 and 351 yards in their two games last season against Minnesota. When the Packers played the Kansas City Chiefs last season in week 9, Favre threw for 360 yards against Allen's team. Allen alone isn't going to stop the Packers pass offense.
  3. Minnesota lost starting LT Bryant McKinnie to a suspension. He's had some bad games against the Packers, so his absence might not make a big difference. It all depends on how good/bad his replacement, Artis Hicks, is. 

On offense, the Packers have to protect Rodgers. It's something they struggled with this preseason, but with almost the same offensive line (RG Tony Moll will start and Jason Spitz will move to center for the injured Scott Wells) and the same starting tight end and running back as extra blockers, the pass blocking should be just as good as last season when they only allowed 19 sacks. They have to run the ball to keep Minnesota honest, but Grant ran for 119 yards in his last game against Minnesota so he can defintely contribute. Still the pass offense will do most of the work. On defense, contain RB Adrian Peterson. He'll probably get 100 yards rushing, but the defense has to make sure he has no carries over 10 yards. Make Minnesota work the length of the field, run a lot of plays on each drive, and wait for Tavaris Jackson to make some mistakes. They don't have to sack Jackson, hold the rushing lanes so he doesn't have any big scrambles, but get in his face and force him to throw the ball.

The Packers were clearly the better team last season, and there's no reason that shouldn't continue this season. These divisional games are especially important to secure that division championship. Sometimes too many good teams are fighting for too few wild card spots. There should be some ugly moments as players get used to playing a full regular season game again, but this should be a game the Packers win.

Last season's rankings from Football Outsiders:

Teams FO Ranking
Packers Rushing Offense 9
Minnesota Rushing Defense 2
Minnesota Rushing Offense 3
Packers Rushing Defense 8
Packers Passing Offense 5
Minnesota Passing Defense 23
Minnesota Passing Offense 19
Packers Passing Defense 17
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