SNF - Packers at Vikings
October 25, 2013
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GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-2) at MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1-5)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Green Bay -9.5 & 47.5
Opening Line & Total: Packers -6.5 & 46.5
The Vikings play their second straight primetime game when they host the injury-riddled Packers on Sunday night.
Minnesota played the Giants in what was a sloppy Monday night affair, losing 23-7 after turning the ball over three times and putting up just 206 total yards of offense. QB Josh Freeman's awful performance coupled with an apparent concussion has the Vikings turning the offense back over to QB Christian Ponder, their Week 1 starter. Green Bay has a whole slew of injuries to top receivers, with WR Randall Cobb (fibula), TE Jermichael Finley (neck) and WR James Jones (knee) all out, but the team has still won three straight contests and will get back its top CB in Casey Hayward (hamstring) on Sunday night as well.
The Packers improved to 3-2-1 ATS on the season with last week's 31-13 rout of the Browns, but are 0-2-1 ATS on the road. They are 6-1 SU (5-2 ATS) in this series since 2010, but the lone SU loss was a 37-34 defeat at Minnesota in Week 17 last year, which allowed the Vikings to make the playoffs, where they lost 24-10 in Green Bay a week later. The Packers are 18-8 ATS (69%) after the first month of the season over the last three years and they are 13-2 ATS (87%) after allowing 99 or less rushing yards in four straight games since 1992. But Minnesota is 6-0 ATS versus poor kickoff coverage teams (24+ yards per return) in the past two seasons, and benefits from the fact that favorites coming off a win by 14+ points against an opponent with two straight double-digit losses are just 10-32 ATS (24%) over the past 10 seasons.
The Packers have now won three straight games despite battling through a number of injuries. QB Aaron Rodgers was on his game against Cleveland on Sunday as he threw for 260 yards with three touchdowns and no picks. That gives Rodgers 1,906 passing yards this season with 13 TD and just 4 INT. He has always played well in this series too, with a 71% completion rate, 2,823 passing yards, 24 TD and just 4 INT in 10 career starts versus Green Bay. Rodgers will be without many of his favorite targets against the Vikings, but WR Jarrett Boykin seems to be more than ready to step in and make up the loss. Last week, the undrafted second-year pro caught eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown, and will start Sunday's game alongside top WR Jordy Nelson, who is enjoying a fine season with 32 catches for 526 yards (16.4 avg.) and 5 TD.
A big reason the Packers have been able to win despite the receiver injuries is the emergence of rookie RB Eddie Lacy, who has rushed for an NFL-best 301 yards over the past three games on a solid 4.4 YPC. Last week he also caught five passes for 26 yards, showing he can help Rodgers through the air with their receivers down. Green Bay's rushing defense will have the tough task of stopping Adrian Peterson, but it appears they are ready for the challenge as they have allowed just 79.0 rushing YPG and 3.4 yards per carry, which both rank 3rd in the NFL.
Green Bay's struggling secondary has allowed 267 passing YPG (24th in NFL), but the return of CB Casey Hayward will give his team a significant boost, especially in the red zone where the Packers rank last in the NFL with a 71% efficiency rate on defense. Although Green Bay's best pass rusher, OLB Clay Matthews (thumb) remains out, the team has still be able to rack up 17 sacks in the past four games. That has helped compensate for a defense that has forced one turnover or less in five of six contests in 2013.
The Vikings turned to QB Josh Freeman as their starting quarterback against the Giants and he came away with a memorable performance. Unfortunately for Minnesota, that performance will remembered as one of the worst of all time as Freeman went 20-for-53 for 190 yards and an interception. Freeman's 37.7% completion rate was the worst in the NFL for a passer who attempted over 40 attempts in six years.
But having suffered a concussion in the game, the team will turn back to QB Christian Ponder, who is 0-3 as a starter this year with a 59% completion rate, 6.9 YPA, 2 TD and 5 INT. He has also been wildly inaccurate versus the Packers in four career starts (47.9% completion rate), but had a huge game against them in Week 17 of last year with 234 passing yards, 3 TD and 0 INT. RB Adrian Peterson has also run all over Green Bay in a dozen career games, piling up 1,442 rushing yards (5.6 YPC) and 10 touchdowns. But last week Peterson struggled (28 yards on 13 carries) as the Giants loaded up the box, which is likely going to happen again.
Vikings WR Greg Jennings, a long-time Packers player, was targeted 10 times in the last game and should maintain a large workload with Ponder, as the duo has connected on 11 of the 17 passes for a strong 14.6 yards per reception. Although Minnesota's defense has allowed the sixth-most yards in the NFL (391 YPG), and fourth-most points (30.2 PPG), a big part of that is a terrible offense that has put the defense on the field for a league-high 34:10 this season. One positive for this Vikings team is that they have defended the run well all season. Minnesota is allowing just 102.3 yards per game on the ground (14th in NFL), and just 3.6 yards per carry (7th in league). Stopping the red-hot Eddie Lacy is going to be crucial on Monday, as will pressuring Aaron Rodgers, who the Vikings have compiled 35 sacks over the past nine times they have faced him.