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Vikings’ pass defense has been vulnerable at home and in the first half this year

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A quick start for the Green Bay offense may be critical to earning a road victory over a Minnesota defense that has struggled on its home turf and gets markedly better as the game wears on.

Buffalo Bills v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

After suffering a Sunday night loss at the hands of the Chicago Bears last week, the Minnesota Vikings’ prime time struggles this season were brought to light with a third loss of that variety. Perhaps lost in the continuous ebb and flow of the Vikings’ current campaign is their pass coverage issues in the first half of games as well as at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Certainly, that is something the Green Bay Packers will be looking to exploit this weekend.

Minnesota has played an even five games on the road and five at home in 2018. Although they are 3-2 in those games, the Vikings have seen drastically different outputs in defending the pass on their home turf and on the road.

Vikings’ 2018 Pass Defense Splits from Pro Football Reference

Location Completions Attempts Cmp % Yards Yards/Attempt TD INT First Downs Rate Adj. Net Yds/Attempt
Location Completions Attempts Cmp % Yards Yards/Attempt TD INT First Downs Rate Adj. Net Yds/Attempt
Home 117 184 63.6 1341 7.3 10 5 65 92.2 6.7
Away 95 146 65.1 922 6.3 3 5 48 75.2 4.6

Although there have been 38 more total pass attempts on the road against the Minnesota defense over the course of the season, the Vikings have allowed a staggering 419 more yards at home in addition to a whopping seven more touchdowns. A quarterback rating 17 points higher also points to the Vikings’ defense being susceptible at home. Oddly, Minnesota has faced a crew of San Francisco, Buffalo, Arizona, New Orleans, and Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the exception of the Saints, all four other teams have faced massive struggles on the offensive side of the ball this season. Surely, a Packers offense with its season on the line could pose a legitimate threat on Sunday night.

Another potential advantage for Green Bay would be an early lead. In the previous matchup between the two teams this season in week two, the Packers were able to take a 17-7 lead into halftime behind a blocked punt recovery for a touchdown and two scoring drives in five first-half possessions. All three drives without points were destroyed by either penalties or untimely sacks. While Green Bay was able to successfully move the ball on Minnesota defense with a quicker passing game, only a well-orchestrated second drive of the game reached the end zone.

For the Packers to win on Sunday, they must once again jump out to an early lead with the Vikings’ rocky first half numbers versus the pass.

Vikings’ 2018 Pass Defense Splits from Pro Football Reference

Half Completions Attempts Cmp % Yards Yards/Attempt TD INT First Downs Rate Adj. Yds/Attempt
Half Completions Attempts Cmp % Yards Yards/Attempt TD INT First Downs Rate Adj. Yds/Attempt
1st 98 149 65.8 1057 7.1 9 2 55 101.0 7.1
2nd 112 179 62.6 1198 6.7 4 8 58 70.9 4.7

Similar to the home versus road statistics above, the Vikings have allowed more passing touchdowns and higher yard per attempt numbers, both adjusted and non-adjusted, in the first half this season. Jumping off the page is the quarterback rating, with opponents sporting a 101.0 mark in the first half of games compared to just 70.9 in the second. A significant reason behind that gap is the interception rate, as the Minnesota defense has forced eight interceptions in the second half and just two in the first two quarters. The Vikings have also registered a striking 13 sacks in the third quarter of games this season, six more than in any other quarter. It becomes apparent that the Packers will be far more likely to pick up a crucial divisional win if they can expose the Vikings’ defense before they make halftime adjustments.

While Anthony Barr figures to boost the Vikings’ pass rush after a three-game hiatus, the Packers were successful against a fully healthy Minnesota squad in week two. Although personnel is different now for both teams with Mike Hughes on injured reserve for Minnesota and Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb missing significant time for Green Bay, there should be opportunities for players like Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to make early-game impacts in the passing game. And with Aaron Jones available this time around, the Packers have an opportunity to be more balanced and further add to the Vikings’ defensive woes against the pass on their home field this Sunday night.