Acme Packing Company is dedicated to all things Green Bay on SB Nation, and they put out a heck of a product for a group that's forced to write about the Green Bay Packers. I kid, I kid. They volunteer, so I've been told.
Jason Hirschhorn is the Big Block Of Cheese over there (cheese, get it?), and we exchanged a Q and A in preparation of tonight's game. Thanks to Jason and the gang over at APC, and you can read my answers to his questions right here.
1. The Packers have seen a rash of injuries this season, the most recent being the really scary Jermichael Finley hit. First off, how is he doing, and what's the prognosis for Sunday for some of the bigger names on your injury report?
Jermichael Finley seems to have avoided any life altering injury. Within the first 24 hours following the hit, we learned that he had regained full motion in his arms and legs and was in good spirits. There have even been some reports that the doctors have told him he will be able to continue his NFL career, though at what point he can return remains a mystery.
As for this weekend's game, the Packers will be without the services of Clay Matthews, James Jones, and likely Nick Perry and Brad Jones. However, cornerback Casey Hayward is set to make his season debut. For those unfamiliar, Hayward took over slot corner duties his rookie year and quickly became one of the league's best in that role. He was expected to take on greater responsibility this season, but a nagging hamstring injury has kept him off the field since the preseason. Hayward's return gives the Packers five dependable cornerbacks, which they'll need given the way the pass defense has struggled.
When healthy, Eddie Lacy provides Green Bay with its most dangerous rushing threat since Ahman Green.
The fact that I had to lead that sentence off with a caveat should tell you all you need to know about the problem. Lacy dealt with health issues while still at Alabama, and has endured a series of concerns since joining Green Bay. The most recent injury, a concussion suffered against Washington, isn't the type that he's normally dealt with, but it's troubling all the same.
The good news for the Packers is that the offensive line has become one of the league's better run blocking units this year. Not only has the line had success with Lacy in the backfield, but they've also blocked big gains for James Starks (who returns this week) and rookie Johnathan Franklin. If something were to happen to Lacy, there's reason to believe the Packers could still run the ball effectively.
3. A lot of people picked Green Bay as the pre-season favorites to win the NFC North. Other than Seattle and New Orleans, there really isn't a dominant team in the NFC. With all the injuries you've had, do you still like Green Bay's chances to win the division, and who do you see as the biggest obstacle? And yeah, we know this is a Vikings site, but you don't have to be nice and say the Vikings, because we all know it isn't them.
The NFC North might have settled itself with the injuries to Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs. Anytime a team loses its two best players, especially when one of them is a quarterback, it makes it especially difficult to compete. The Bears are going to be without both for a month or more, which probably places them on the outside come the playoffs. The Lions stand a better shot, but their team still has holes on defense and hasn't found a compliment to Calvin Johnson. Given the Packers already have a win against the, Detroit is probably looking at a wildcard berth rather than a division crown.
As for Green Bay, the injuries are obviously a glaring concern, especially considering that three of the Packers top five players have missed time already this season. While they performed well a week ago, this isn't a team that can handle a premier opponent like the Seahawks or Saints as currently constituted.
However, many of the Packers' injured players are set to return in the coming weeks. Nick Perry returned to practice this week and is likely to return to game action November 4th against Chicago. James Jones and Brad Jones are expected to join him, with Clay Matthews returning very shortly after that. Later in the season, the Packers will regain the services of Randall Cobb and, depending on whom you believe, Jermichael Finley. That would give the Packers nearly their full arsenal heading into the playoffs.
4. The Vikings are a mess right now. They've got a bad offense, a bad defense, and a disorganized front office that is sending a lot of mixed messages right now. Is there anything that worries you about this game? If so, what?
I'm hearing from a lot of fans who think this is a game where Greg Jennings might go off for 100+ yards and a touchdown or two, but I have a hard time seeing that kind of production from this Vikings' aerial assault. The bigger concern, as always, is the threat of Adrian Peterson, however the Packers defense has found success all season against the run.
The area that concerns me most is special teams, where the Vikings have had considerable success with Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels returning kickoffs and punts respectively. Green Bay's injuries have depleted the resources for special teams, and this is where Minnesota could find an advantage.
5. Okay, prediction time. Give me how you see this game playing out, and what the final score will be.
I'm terrible with final scores, but I think the Packers are a 10-14 point winner Sunday night. Minnesota is having one of those years where nothing goes right, and while rivalry games often play host to strange outcomes, I don't see that happening here.