The Past: The Vikings had a little bit of an emotional letdown right from the start of the game, where rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who they took at the end of the 1st round, was declared out of the Packers game after suffering an ankle injury in the previous game. While losing Bridgewater was bad enough, the Vikings had to turn in desperation on a short week to one Christian Ponder, another former 1st round pick who should have been mercifully released instead of staying in quarterback purgatory as the former savior turned forgotten backup. Ponder must have known this was a golden opportunity to raise his stock before hitting free agency, but almost immediately the game got out of hand; the Packers scored 14 points every quarter including a Julius Peppers pick 6 to the Vikings 0 until the 4th quarter when Matt Flynn and the backups got some playing time and the Vikings managed to avoid a goose egg with 10 points. After the game it was very apparent that no one, and most certainly not Ponder, thought they could beat the Packers and expressed more disappointment in themselves than anger towards the Packers.
The Present: The big news of the week is that star running back Adrian Peterson will be suspended for the rest of the season after sitting out the first 11 weeks on the commissioner’s exempt list for beating his young son with a switch. While the NFL and NFLPA will naturally fight over Peterson’s ruling over the next couple of weeks, it’s almost certain that Peterson will not be available for this week against the Packers (honestly, even if he had been reinstated this week, I highly doubt Peterson is in good enough football shape to immediately step in and play).
The Vikings have essentially retained their offensive identity even without Peterson, leading to the 29th ranked offense according to Football Outsiders; while the Vikings are 3rd in rushing the ball, they are 31st in passing the ball, which is a little surprising since Teddy Bridgewater was supposed to be one of the most pro-ready QBs to come into the league and he does have a decent receiving corps with Corradelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph at his disposal. Against the Packers, expect a very run heavy offense from the Vikings where they try to keep the ball away from Aaron Rodgers, however if the game gets out of hand quick, the Vikings don’t really have the personnel to really keep up with the Packers high scoring game. Either way expect Clay Matthews to have a field day at middle linebacker stuffing the run and harassing left tackle Matt Kalil, who has unexpectedly gone from a franchise left tackle to one of the worse in the league all in one season.
The Vikings hired Mike Zimmer as head coach to fix the defense and overall the results have been good, albeit not spectacular. The Vikings ranked 10th in overall defense according to Football Outsiders again, just one rank ahead of the Packers. Both teams are better at stopping the pass than stuffing runs, so Eddie Lacy does have an attractive front 7 to beat this time around (which hasn’t been the case for the majority of the season); however with Rodgers playing at an ungodly level, the running game has been downplayed somewhat, but Lacy has been getting his yards on screens and dump offs, which essentially are just long handoffs for the Packers.
The Future: The Vikings long-term future was discussed in a previous installment of Packers Periscope, so instead we’ll be looking at the Vikings short-term prospects and their chances of reaching the playoffs. At the moment the Vikings are in last place in the NFC North with a 4-6 record that includes a 0-3 record against division rivals, so at best the Vikings could only split a tiebreaker. It should be noted that the Bears managed to “upset” the Vikings last week and moved from 4th to 3rd place, and Packers fans will notice how dysfunctional a team the Bears were in week 10.
The Vikings remaining schedule isn’t too bad as they have a shot to split the remainder of the season; they have a good shot of winning against the Panthers, Jets and Bears but also have to contend with the Packers, Lions and Dolphins down the stretch. Unfortunately the Packers and Lions also have relatively easy schedules so while the Vikings might win a couple more games, they likely won’t be able to catch up to either the Lions or Packers.
As for playoff hopes, there really isn’t any. Either the Packers or Lions is sure to take the NFC crown; even if the Vikings win out, the Packers and Lions would both have to lose 4 out of 6 games and that’s just not going to happen to both teams that coincidentally. Getting in as the wildcard like they did a year ago is also a tall order; whoever loses the NFC crown will definitely be in the wildcard hunt alongside the Cowboys or Eagles and likely either Seattle or San Francisco (assuming Arizona can keep their hold on the NFC West).——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.