I’m back after a break last week to give a pick on the Green Bay Packers hosting the Minnesota Vikings in week eight. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to break down the beating the Buccaneers gave the Packers two weeks ago, but that’s alright. It wasn’t going to be a fun time for any of us. The Packers were on the other end of a beat down last weekend and seem to have righted the ship. At least against one of the worst teams in the league.
The good news is that’s exactly what the Packers get this week: one of the worst teams in the league! For the record, I was going to take the Packers to cover against Houston. That one was easy. A rebound game for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers against a team in shambles that just fired its head coach. The Packers were going to play well against any team they played last week that isn’t in the top 7 or so of the league. The Vikings fall into a similar category as Houston. The only difference is the Vikings still have their head coach on the sidelines.
Since the Packers last played the Vikings, rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson (for the Vikings, not the Packers – the Packers don’t draft rookie receivers under this regime) had a breakout game. A few, actually. He’s starting to look like the next great receiver in the NFC North. Opposite Adam Thielen, that’s a new dynamic the Packers need to be worried about this week.
Dalvin Cook looks like he’ll be ready for the game, but reports out of Green Bay today (Friday, October 30) say Aaron Jones still isn’t practicing. It’s looking like another opportunity for Jamaal Williams to earn a new contract with the Packers. As great as Jones is, Williams is able to get the job done at least 90% of the way. And against Minnesota, it could be even better than that.
I’ve learned my lesson from the Buccaneers game so I won’t completely write off the Packers opponents from this point forward. Except if they’re actually bad. I wasn’t counting on Rob Gronkowski to find his old form or the Bucs defense to constantly rattle Rodgers. But that was one of things I said needed to happen for the game to go the way it eventually did. The Packers were one of the best teams in the leagues at keeping their QB upright. If that suddenly, uncharacteristically changed, then the game could get tough, like it did, for the Packers.
But the Vikings don’t have a pass rush like that, and they definitely don’t have the overall team speed on the defense that Tampa Bay does, or the coaching ability overall. There are a lot of teams I will give credit to, but Minnesota isn’t one. Not on defense, anyway.
The offense is where my concern is. If Minnesota can effectively run the ball and control the pace of the game, it might force the Packer offense to have to play without error to win. Without Kevin King, who is also not practicing today according to reports, the secondary is vulnerable to one of the better receiving duos in the league. Add in the threat of Dalvin Cook, it might just be enough for the Vikings.
The wild cards here are the new and returning faces in the middle of the Packer defense. Kenny Clark has been back for a couple of weeks, but he should be getting back up to full speed now, and back to the Kenny Clark we know and love clogging up the middle. Behind him are rookies Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin who played very well last week against Houston. That trio must play well, specifically against the run, in order to keep the Packers in control of the game. Barnes and Martin will have a lot of eyes on them Sunday afternoon.
As is always, depending where you look the Packers are around a touchdown favorite against the Vikings. If you’re taking the Packers you ideally want to get it at -6.5 instead of surrendering the football number at -7, but I still think the Packers win by multiple scores. The Vikings defense is just not going to be good enough to impose any of its will on the Packers. Even if Dalvin Cook dominates and the Packers need to be perfect when they have the ball, I think they can do it. The Vikings are just that bad. That’s an extreme case though and a very unlikely outcome.
The Packers are tied with the Steelers for having the best record against the spread in the NFL at 5-1. The market is probably still trying to adjust after the Buccaneers game, so there’s still value in taking the Packers, especially at home against a dome team, which I think matters a lot as we get closer to these winter months.
Take the Packers, lay the points, and let’s beat the Vikings.
Tanner Nestle is born and raised in Wisconsin, and he takes nothing more seriously than his fandom of the Green Bay Packers! You can follow him on twitter at @NestleIsTheName.