Attack The Vikings Through The Air

In his 2nd career start for the Green Bay Packers, back in 2007, RB Ryan Grant carried the ball 25 times against the Minnesota Vikings, as the Packers won 34-0 in Green Bay. Since then, he's started 3 more games against the Vikings and carried the ball 12 times, 16 times, and 11 times. He's never had a yards/carry average below 4.6 against them, but it's clear that the Packers aren't leaning on Grant when they play the Vikings. This is probably a good idea since Football Outsiders currently has the Vikings ranked as the 5th best run defense.

Their pass defense, however, is currently ranked as the No. 17 overall by FO. At NFL.com, their pass defense has allowed a 90.6 QB rating. And they probably will be without their best defensive back, CB Antoine Winfield. He is one of Mike McCarthy's favorite players (just go ahead and say it):

I think Winfield is an excellent player. I've said that before in here. In my opinion, from a defensive standpoint, he's one of, I don't want to say my favorite players, I think he's one of the better defensive players in the NFC. I just love the way he plays. He's physical, he's tough against the run. He's competitive, he's well-experienced. He has a unique set of skills. He's definitely their best player in the secondary.

More after the jump.

Here's a breakdown of the Vikings pass defense so far this season. QB rating against, sacks and QB hits from ESPN.com, and opponents pass offense ranking from Football Outsiders:

Opponent QB Rating Against Pass Offense Sacks QB Hits
at Cleveland 74.1 31 5 7
at Detroit 56.5 30 2 2
San Francisco 94.6 20 1 5
Green Bay 110.6 10 8 9
at St. Louis 89.6 25 2 4
Baltimore 109.2 11 3 8
at Pittsburgh 87.8 6 3 3

The first thing that jumped out was that their pass defense seems to be playing much better on the road. The best performance at home was holding the recently benched QB Shaun Hill to "only" a 94.6 QB rating. It's not a great sample size comparison because only the Steelers have a good pass offense among their 4 road opponents.

The second thing was that a consistent pass rush has no relationship on whether they can stop the pass. They did a great job sacking and hitting QB Aaron Rodgers and Baltimore's QB Joe Flacco, but those were their two worst games of the season per opponents' QB rating. Let's say, hypothetically, we do go ahead and pull out the 4.5 sacks DE Jared Allen had against the Packers last time, then it turns out that the Vikings would still have 20.5 sacks on the season, which would leave them ranked No. 4 overall. Once you actually add back in those 4.5 sacks, then the Vikings are the leading the league with 25 sacks as a team. The defensive front seven is getting to the QB, but it hasn't helped their pass defense climb any higher than No. 17 overall, so far.

A final point is their inconsistency. The backup CBs replacing Winfield were solid last week in Pittsburgh, but they were terrible when they had to play in the 4th quarter against the Ravens.

Their pass defense has struggled at times, whether they are recording 8 sacks against QB Aaron Rodgers or not, so this has to be the area the Packers will focus on. This is where they have to attack on Sunday.

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