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Talk about two teams headed in opposite directions. Green Bay has lost their last three games and is struggling to find any consistency on offense. Minnesota, meanwhile, has won five straight and now finds themselves with a one-game lead in the NFC North. A big reason for this is consistency and execution all around. The Vikings, led by Adrian Peterson, have the best rushing attack in the league (147.2 ypg) and the second-best scoring defense (17.1 ppg). For comparison's sake, the Packers are 16th in rushing (108 ypg) and 11th in scoring defense (20.1).
Very few people would have predicted the division standings to look how they currently do when the season began. Minnesota was viewed as a dark-horse team to potentially sneak into the playoffs while Green Bay was supposed to once again win the division and potentially have the top seed in the NFC. So what happened? How did we get to this point? Here are a few reasons:
Offensively, Minnesota is built to run the ball and they do it better than any other team. Peterson is a workhorse and no one can shut him down for an entire game. Sooner or later, he will wear you down and take advantage.
Teddy Bridgewater is far from an elite quarterback, but he is smart and protects the ball. Teams will always focus on Peterson, and Bridgewater is more than capable of taking what the defense gives him and making the right play. As long as he has Peterson to hand the ball to, Bridgewater will never be asked to do too much. With such a solid defense backing them up, this offense is rarely put into a quick-score mode, which benefits their style of play.
Green Bay, on the other hand, fully relies on Aaron Rodgers. It has worked wonderfully in previous years, and in the early part of this season as well. The current issue is the lack of support from the rest of the offense. There has been next to no run game to speak of all year, and an injury-riddled receiving core has lost the ability to create separation. A once dominant offensive line is now unable to create running lanes and looks confused against the blitz, resulting in Rodgers hurrying far too many throws. This team is too one-dimensional to be able to overcome shortcomings in the passing game.
The Vikings defense is loaded with young studs on all three levels. Linval Joseph has emerged in his second year in Minnesota and is anchoring a stout interior line and stuffing the run as good as anyone in the league. Second-year linebacker Anthony Barr has solidified his spot on this unit and leads the team with 39 solo tackles. On the back end, Harrison Smith has turned into one of the best safeties in the league. There is no player he is afraid to take on, and he leads the team with 50 total tackles.
This team also has a good mix of veteran leadership and young potential at the corner position. Terence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn are still playing at a high level while also paving the way for former first-round picks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes.
Together, this team gives up about 17 points per game. There is no single area they excel in, but there are other no weaknesses for opposing teams to attack. Head coach and defensive guru Mike Zimmer has assembled his ideal unit to work with, reliable and disciplined. This team is also the least penalized in the NFL, drawing just 57 flags in nine games.
Green Bay has similar playmaking ability with guys like Mike Daniels, Clay Matthews and Morgan Burnett but are relied on too much lately by their failing offense. They have failed to produce a single sack since Oct. 18, while playing from behind for most of the time since then. The unit has been leaky at times, allowing 500 passing yards from Philip Rivers as one example, but have been tough in the red zone and, generally speaking, have been giving the team a chance to win games.
All in all, both teams have playmakers with game-changing ability on both sides of the ball. The big difference right now is that Minnesota's are living up to or exceeding expectations, while Green Bay's are falling considerably short.