The Packers have lost three games in a row and have looked so listless at times that the future of the entire leadership of the franchise is beginning to be drawn into question. It’s a dramatic turnaround from the high vibes after the Week 1 win over the Chicago Bears.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are at 3-4 after a 0-3 start to the season. They went through their own rough patch after star receiver Justin Jefferson went on injured reserve but they’re actually 2-0 without him. It wouldn’t be surprising if they gave Detroit some trouble for the division crown.
APC asked five questions of Christopher Gates from our sister site The Daily Norseman about this week’s matchup and what life has been like for the Vikings so far this year.
The Vikings are 2-0 without Justin Jefferson. How is this possible?
A big part of it has been the play of the defense. They’ve allowed 15 points/game over those two games and it appears that the team has gotten themselves a firm grasp of the new defense a lot more quickly than a lot of us expected. Another big part of it has been the play of the offensive line, which has played incredibly well over the past couple of games, including allowing no sacks to a very good San Francisco defense on Monday night. When you lose a player the caliber of Justin Jefferson, multiple players are going to have to step up for the team to be successful, and we’ve seen that so far in the two games since Jefferson’s injury.
Kirk Cousins is playing well yet was a common topic of trade rumors. What else does he have to do to get some respect?
I think most of us have reached the conclusion that Cousins will never get the level of respect that he deserves. The guy goes out and produces, never gets hurt, and we still hear the same narratives about him (stats in garbage time, can’t win in prime time, etc.). Then when he has a game like he had against the Niners on Monday, it basically gets ignored until the next time the same narratives can be trotted out again. Cousins has been incredibly productive, and if he can keep things going the way he has so far without Jefferson in the lineup, you’d have to believe that the Vikings will be that much more explosive when he finally does return. But short of taking the Vikings on a run to the Super Bowl, Kirk Cousins will never be viewed as favorably as he probably should be
The Vikings defense wasn’t perceived as very good going into the session. What has Brian Flores done that’s made them better than expected?
Brian Flores has been the anti-Ed Donatell in terms of his defense. Donatell was content to rush four, let his secondary sit back and get nickel and dimed all the way down the field. Flores is calling blitzes at a higher rate than any defensive coordinator in the league at this point, and given the age and relative inexperience of most of his defensive players it’s a way of putting those players in a position to be successful. The defense has guys like Danielle Hunter, Jordan Hicks, and Harrison Smith that have been around for a while, but most of the other players, particularly in the secondary, are still young, developing players. The blitzing at least attempts to help those young defensive backs by getting pressure on the quarterback. I think a lot of us were hoping the defense would “get it” by the second half of the season, but it seems that they’re already much closer to that than we expected.
What is your best bet for Sunday’s game at DraftKings Sportsbook? The Vikings are underdogs…is that a surprise?
I think the best bet that I can come up with at this point is under 44 points. While the Vikings have been alright on offense without Justin Jefferson so far, they still haven’t been putting up points in bunches or anything like that. Combine that with the fact that Jordan Love has been struggling against the blitz this year and Brian Flores’ defense is going to be bringing the heat as a result of that, and this just doesn’t have the hallmarks of a high-scoring game as far as I can see. The weather could potentially be a factor as well, though it’s not the early January Lambeau Field weather that we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons.
What do you expect in Sunday’s game? Prediction?
I have a feeling that this is going to be a back-and-forth game, and again I don’t think there are going to be a ton of points put up. If the Vikings’ offensive line can continue its momentum from the Monday night game, I think they’ll be able to do just enough to keep Kirk Cousins upright and give him the opportunity to make some plays to get the Vikings back to .500 on the year. I’ll go with a final score of 20-17 in favor of Minnesota.