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Vikings/Packers Preview And Week 12 Picks: Square One

While the Green Bay Packers seem to be surging toward another deep playoff run, the Vikings seem to be starting from scratch all over again.

"Hey Jordy! Just run really far downfield! They'll never expect that!"
"Hey Jordy! Just run really far downfield! They'll never expect that!"
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

I haven't led a weekly preview with a song parody yet this year. Since this week's game could quickly turn into a football parody, let's do one this week. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present :

"Back At Square One" (sung to the tune of "Back At One" by Brian McKnight)

It's undeniable...when these teams get together
It's I still just say that we'll win never
The basis is need to know, how mad the Vikings make me feel
So let me show you now the Pack's for real
And a win is what the Vikes just can't steal...
Yeah's a nightmare come true
Two...nobody covers you
Three...I'm talking you you walk in for another TD
And four...repeat steps one through three
Five...I wanna break my TV
Green Bay's dominance is never done
The Vikes start back at Square One

Yeah yeah yeah...

So incredible...the way things work themselves out
I'm all emotional, once I know that it's another blowout...
It's undesirable, to watch Teddy get torn apart
The offense never makes it very far...
'Cause Kalil stinks worse than rotten broccoli farts...'s a nightmare come true
Two...Rodgers I'm so done with you
Three...I never wanna see...your stupid mustache on TV
And four...I know I'll probably see're finished after Quarter 3
Announcer's saying "I guess his work is done"
While the Vikes are back at Square One

Here we go again. The red-hot Packers storm into Minnesota, poised to lay waste to a Vikings team still struggling to find their identity. If that sounds familiar, it's because we have now seen it four of the past five years.

  • 2010: Green Bay wins their fourth straight and stomp Brett Favre's corpse, 31-3. The Packers go onto win the Super Bowl.
  • 2011: The Vikings put up a fight and make it respectable late, but the 7-0 Packers walk out of the Metrodome with a 33-27 win en route to a 15-1 record.
  • 2012: Yay the one Vikings win in the past ten games against Green Bay and the lone signature win of Christian Ponder's career but we played them again in Lambeau the following week in the playoffs and oh no now I'm thinking about Joe Webb throwing ducks everywhere and now I'm sad again.
  • 2013: Green Bay wins their fourth straight on national television while holding the ball for over 40 minutes. They ruin my NBC Sunday Night Football Fan of the Week experience by whipping the Vikings 44-31, and it wasn't even nearly as close as the score indicates.

Wow, that trip down memory lane was nearly as depressing as watching this Matt Kalil Vine about 400 times:

We'll get to the Vikings offense soon enough. First let's take a look at how the Packers are making football look so easy lately.

Let's start with the obvious: when playing against the Packers, you might want to stop Jordy Nelson from getting behind you. The results aren't good for your defense. If you're silly like the Eagles were last week, you might try to bump him at the line with only a single safety over the top that has no chance to cover the sideline. Of course, Nelson excels at beating press coverage, so this happened:

Nelson TD vs Eagles

Or you could be like the Panthers in Week 7. Even though there's safety help on Nelson's side this time, the Packers' Dagger concept keeps the safety in the middle of the field just long enough for another long completion down the sideline. Once again the play results in the worst thing in the world: a Packer touchdown.

Nelson TD vs Panthers

Those are just two of the ways the Packers can beat you deep with just one of their talented receivers. If you want to get a more complete breakdown of all the different methods Green Bay uses to dial up big plays, I suggest giving Justin Mosqueda's post from last month a read. (Yes, he's a Packers fan, but he's been on the Norse Code podcast before and he really knows his stuff.)

It's not like the Packers are using revolutionary new concepts to catch their opponents by surprise. They're just executing well-known schemes to perfection. Neither touchdown shown above is possible without a very precise deep ball from Aaron Rodgers. And the second touchdown isn't possible with just any secondary receiver out there. The defense needs to be genuinely afraid of the guy underneath for the safety to bite; Randall Cobb genuinely causes fear in opposing secondaries. Then again, even if you cover Nelson and Cobb correctly, there's always Davante Adams and Andrew Quarless to worry about.

Not to go all Captain Obvious on you, but the Green Bay offense has a lot of ways to gain yards in large chunks. And not to go all Dan Patrick on you, but you can't stop them; you only hope to contain them. Therefore, the Vikings have to do their best to take away the big play. That means getting an effective pass rush without sending extra defenders on the blitz. If Eddie Lacy runs wild on the Vikings, so be it. I'd much rather take my chances with the Round Mound of First Down toting the rock 30 times than have Rodgers throw it deep all day.

[Sidebar: I'd be a lot more appreciative of the Packers' dominant offense if it wasn't for two things:

  1. They're the f*cking Packers, so f*ck them.
  2. They're just so damn smug about how good they are. There is NOTHING I hate more than when Green Bay scores and they cut to Aaron Rodgers yukking it up with his receivers on the sidelines afterward. They're all like "Dude that was so friggin' easy haha oh man I can't believe how bad those guys suck" and pantomiming how they just flew past the defense for the score. Please, Everson Griffen, prevent this from happening on Sunday.

...and yes, I'd totally be cool with all of this if it was the know, if the Vikings were ever actually capable of having an offense like that. I'm a bitter, jealous hypocrite. Deal with it. Anyway, back to the preview.]

The Vikings defense will have to play better than they did a week ago in Chicago. And they probably will, especially in the tackling department. (Remember, Robert Blanton causing the runner to fall over him as he gets trampled still counts as a tackle.) But the injuries are starting to mount on the Vikings defense and Green Bay's talented offense can do a lot more than screen passes and throwing jump balls over poor Josh Robinson's head. They're clicking in nearly every facet of offense.


Meanwhile, the Vikings offense is...well, doing the exact opposite of clicking. Clashing? Sure, let's go with that. The wide receivers not named Charles Johnson are clashing into defensive backs instead of finding space. Norv Turner's offensive philosophy seems to be clashing with the personnel he has on the field. And Matt Kalil isn't clashing into much of anyone.

We already showed you what Green Bay is doing on offense; with the Vikings it's more about what they're not doing. They were not on the field for even 50 snaps last week. They did not establish the run in what was a close game throughout, which led to a backup safety being the team's leading rusher. (Andrew Sendejo's 48-yard fake punt run gave him the team lead by 10 yards.) They are not pass blocking worth a damn. Teddy Bridgewater is not just going out there and playing football which is leading to him over-thinking things and missing throws. As a result the Vikings are not converting third downs with any semblance of efficiency. But other than that, the Vikings offense is a well-oiled machine!

Want to feel even worse about Minnesota's offense? Andy Carlson of the Purple FTW Podcast was kind enough to have me as a guest again Wednesday night. During our discussion we stumbled upon a very simple yet chillingly accurate theory:

Cordarrelle Patterson is Josh Cribbs.

Think about it. Cribbs came into the league and lit the world on fire. He returned kicks for touchdowns at will, yet he couldn't really find a spot on Cleveland's offense that worked for him. The Browns fed him screen passes, hand offs, and chucked deep balls for him all with minimal success. There was no questioning Cribbs' athletic ability but his route running skills made him a square peg in a round hole.

Sound like anyone we know? The only difference is that the Browns signed Cribbs as an undrafted free agent and the Vikings traded back into the first round to get Patterson. I'm not saying all hope is lost with CP84, but I'm not sure if we can afford to have the patience that the Vikings coaching staff has been asking for all season.

Thankfully it wasn't all doom and gloom on the podcast. Andy offered up a hallucination pipe dream best-case scenario where the Vikings could grind out an unexpected upset. Minnesota could in theory control the ball with Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata, and maybe even the newly acquired Ben Tate against Green Bay's forgiving run defense. Perhaps they can bother Rodgers enough to force a couple less-than-perfect throws and create a turnover or two. Green Bay might be coming into TCF a little too confident--they're probably due for a clunker after rattling off two nearly flawless performances.

But let's face it--that's not going to happen. I mean, Letroy Guion hasn't even playing terribly lately. The football gods won't even give us that to make fun of; they sure as hell aren't going to give us a Vikings win on Sunday. It feels like the Packers are twice the team the Vikings are right now, so that's what I'll go with for a score prediction.

Back to square one. Again.


Packers 34, Vikings 17

And now for the rest of my Week 12 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):

Chiefs over RAIDERS

This one has "Letdown Game" written all over it. And the Chiefs might play poorly too.

Browns over FALCONS

Atlanta still hasn't beat anyone outside of their own horrible division this year. And that still might be enough to win said horrible division.

BILLS over Jets

Not even Mother Nature wants to see this game.

BEARS over Buccaneers

Josh McCown returns to face his old team with basically nothing on the line! This registers as a 0.04 on the Revenge Scale. I can just imagine each team's respective huddle:

McCown: "OK Mike, I'm just going to throw it up to you. Go ahead and do the rest."

Jay Cutler: "OK Alshon and Brandon, I'm just going to throw it up to you. Go ahead and do the rest."

Bengals over TEXANS

I have a feeling we're either going to see a well-played quarterback duel or 13 interceptions between Andy Dalton and Ryan Mallett. No in between.

PATRIOTS over Lions

Enjoy your last few days at the top of the division, Detroit. It was a nice little run. By the way, if you picked up Jonas Gray this week, have fun watching LeGarrette Blount run for 125 yards and two scores instead. Bill Belichick hates fantasy football and he hates all of you.

EAGLES over Titans

Philly is probably going to win, but how in the world is Vegas giving Mark Sanchez 11 points? Are they just banking on a Zach Mettenberger pick six and a Darren Sproles return TD? They must be. Let's just show the Gratuitous Picture of the Week before I bet actual money on the Titans spread.

Eagles cheerleader

"We'll dominate the Titans until they're gone / But this is a butt you'd want to fumble on!"

COLTS over Jaguars

My Survivor Pool pick of the week, now a disappointing 8-3 on the season after St. Louis upset Denver last week. As Bill Simmons pointed out on his podcast this week, Indianapolis is this year's "Good Bad Team". They look amazing against bad teams and lousy against good teams. We all know which category Jacksonville fits into.

CHARGERS over Rams

I don't think San Diego is a good enough team for St. Louis to beat. The Rams only beat really good teams.

SEAHAWKS over Cardinals

I have picked against Arizona EIGHT TIMES this season. I have been right once. Ninth time's a charm though, right?

BRONCOS over Dolphins

Denver could have a ton of key players out...Miami's defense is really good...I should really pick the Dolphins upset here. But to paraphrase Peter Gibbons from Office Space, I'm not gonna end up doing it because, uh...because I'm a big p*ssy.

49ERS over Redskins

I can't wait to see the next Robert Griffin III quote that gets completely blown out of proportion after another bad loss. "Up next on SportsCenter: RGIII acknowledged that Washington lost--is he implying that his team is full of LOSERS?!?!"

Cowboys over GIANTS

Beware the New York game with a line that looks way too low. Remember when Pittsburgh opened as only a 2.5 point favorite against the Jets a couple weeks ago? Dallas is only favored by a field goal against the Giants. VEGAS KNOWS THINGS. But again, I'm not actually going to pick the Giants, because I'm the Peter Gibbons of NFL picks.

SAINTS over Ravens

This is a selfish pick instead of a logical one. I'll probably need a ton of points from Drew Brees on Monday night to keep my 8-3 fantasy team in first place. So Geaux Saints!*

(* = Just kidding. I'd love to see the 'Aints lose three in a row at home.)

Last week: 8-6
Season so far: 103-57-1