On Sunday, the Packers meet NFC North rival Minnesota for the second time this season. Eric Thompson of Daily Norseman was kind enough to answer some questions about the Vikings and provide some insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
APC: Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier stated this week that Christian Ponder will get the start at quarterback with Matt Cassel backing him up. Is the Josh Freeman experiment already over?
The decision has puzzled Vikings fans to say the least. It has become blatantly obvious that Christian Ponder is not the quarterback of the future for this franchise. But Leslie Frazier continues to say that Ponder gives the Vikings the best chance to win. You know what? I completely believe him. You know what else? That is probably the saddest part about being a Vikings fan right now. They have three quarterbacks on the roster that have all started a significant amount of games in the NFL and the coach thinks the mistake-prone guy with the 76.6 career quarterback rating is the best of the lot.
I personally disliked the acquisition of Josh Freeman from the first time I heard rumors about it until the moment he was actually on the team. Yet I'm completely baffled why the team hasn't given him another look after rushing him out for that Monday Night Football debacle against the Giants. At 2-8, the season is completely lost. Doesn't it make sense to give Freeman another shot now that he's had more than a fortnight to learn the offense? At the very least he'll suck just as much as he did in New York and Frazier can say "SEE! I TOLD YOU PONDER GIVES US THE BEST CHANCE!" in his press conference. It sure beats hearing "We're gonna go back...look at the film...clean a few things up...and try to play better next Sunday" for the 135th time this year.
But other than that, everything about the quarterback situation here is just hunky dory.
APC: This is Greg Jennings' first game at Lambeau Field since departing for the Vikings in free agency. Is Jennings treating this as just another game, or has do you believe it means more to him?
It has to mean more to him regardless of how he's letting on. Jennings talked waaaayy too much about the Packers leading up to the season to make us think that he doesn't care a little bit more about this game. Hopefully Jennings' return to Lambeau is as successful as Favre's was in 2009. However, it will be interesting to see if he's close to full strength after sitting out last week's game with an Achilles injury.
APC: Of the three first round picks the Vikings took this year, Sharrif Floyd has been the quietest. Have there been problems with his play, or is he just buried on the depth chart?
It's more of a depth chart thing with Floyd. Kevin Williams isn't quite the player he used to be in his Williams Wall days but he's still a very efficient tackle. Letroy Guion isn't anything special and he has been injured, but the emergence of Fred Evans has kept Floyd limited to 25-35 snaps a game. Defensive line is one of the only positions where the Vikings have any significant depth, so Floyd being a rotational player at this point makes sense. Williams is all but guaranteed to leave the team after the season so I'd expect Floyd's role to increase in 2014. He hasn't shown the flair for explosive plays like he did in the preseason before tweaking his knee but he has performed pretty well overall.
Vikings fans have been much more concerned about the snap count for Cordarrelle Patterson this year. He's finally getting more looks; now if only he had a quarterback that could throw to him more than five yards down the field...
APC: If you were game planning against the Vikings, how would you attack them offensively and defensively?
It's no secret how you defend the Vikings-put a ton of bodies in the box to stop Adrian Peterson and dare Ponder to make some throws. It's not like we're talking quantum physics here. Ponder is capable of completing some decent passes ever now and then, like his gorgeous 38-yard touchdown pass to Jarius Wright in Seattle. But over the course of the game he'll usually make more mistakes, like the awful pick-six that put the game away for good.
Unfortunately attacking the Vikings defense isn't much more complicated. The Tampa 2 scheme gives plenty of help to outside receivers over the top but there are usually acres of space for pass catchers over the middle. The Vikings linebackers have been absolutely atrocious in coverage all season. The Packers should also have a rule in place this week: if Josh Robinson is covering anyone in the slot, throw the ball to him. Quarterbacks are completing 84.8% of their passes for a 127.0 rating on 66 passes thrown to the man Robinson is "covering" this season. And those numbers have actually gone down in the last couple weeks thanks to Robinson playing outside more. Mix in a healthy dose of Eddie Lacy to keep the pass rush honest and the Packers should have little problem putting up a lot of points as long as Tolzien isn't completely inept.
APC: Finally, it's prediction time. Who wins on Sunday and why?
I post my preview article every Thursday so I probably can't lie and say "VIKES ARE GONNA ROLL, WOOO!!" to troll Green Bay fans when I already picked the Packers to win on Daily Norseman. Neither team is even close to 100% with all the injuries to important players, but I have a bad feeling that Scott Tolzien is going to have a less spectacular version of the "Matt Flynn Game" against the Vikings' woeful defense. Tolzien has been turnover prone through his first two games, but Minnesota has forced all of 2 turnovers the past six weeks. Peterson usually gouges the Packers but he isn't healthy. I think Lacy outrushes AP, the Packers control the clock, and Vikings fans get one week closer to drafting their next quarterback of the future in May 2014. Packers 33, Vikings 24.
We'd like to thank Eric and Daily Norseman for answering our questions. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Vikings. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game day coverage of Vikings vs. Packers.
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