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Opposition Analysis and Research: Green Bay Edition

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A statistical look at Minnesota’s opponent on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings
Everson Griffen got to Brett Hundley several times when these two teams last played. Will he repeat the feat?
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Last week’s OAR was the first to be written after a Vikings loss, so I’m glad that this week’s OAR could be written with a happier tone. After a sound 34-7 beatdown of the Cincinnati Bengals, the Vikings will head out on the road for possibly the final time this season as they head across the border for their away game with the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings are 3-1 so far against their rivals in the North this season, so let’s see what their border rivals are up to.

Schedule

The Packers have, naturally, had a back and forth season through 14 games. They split their first two games, beating the Seahawks in Week 1 [17-9] and losing to the Falcons [34-23] in Week 2. Then they went on a three-game winning streak against the Cincinnati Bengals [27-24 OT], the Chicago Bears [35-14] and the Dallas Cowboys [35-31]. Then they played the Vikings for the first time and, obviously, their season changed completely when Anthony Barr knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game.

That Vikings game was the first of a stretch where the Packers won just one of their next six games. They lost to the Vikings [23-10], Saints [26-17], Lions [30-17], Ravens [23-0], and Steelers [31-28] and beat the Bears 23-16. Then they went on a mini two-game overtime streak, eking past two of the worst teams in the NFL this season, the Tampa Bay Bucs [26-20] and the Cleveland Browns [27-21]. Aaron Rodgers returned for last week in an attempt to save their season and promply threw three interceptions and was sent straight back to IR.

Thus far the Packers have the third-worst strength of victory in the NFC and seventh-worst strength of victory in the NFL at .337. Their only wins against teams with winning records this season came against the Seahawks in Week 1 and against the Cowboys in Week 5. The next two weeks will also decide whether or not the Packers have all their divisional series this season decided by sweeps; they beat the Bears twice and if they lose to the Vikings and Lions in the next two weeks, the Packers will have been swept by both teams.

Most recent game

Green Bay’s most recent game was a tasty one for Vikings fans to watch happen. The Packers were down two touchdowns with less than three minutes to go, then Aaron Rodgers connected with tight end Richard Rodgers for a 24-yard touchdown to close the lead from 31-17 to 31-24. The Packers even recovered the ensuing onside kick, and got all the way to the Carolina 38 before their dreams of a comeback were crushed. Geronimo Allison fumbled after a pitch-and-catch of 10 yards and Mike Adams recovered, sealing the win for Carolina.

[Aaron] Rodgers went 26/45 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. In an odd statistical quirk, Rodgers has thrown three interceptions in a game just four times in his career and every single one of them have gone against NFC South teams (Tampa Bay: 08, 09; Saints: 08; Carolina: 17) and all of them resulted in losses for the Packers. It was an efficient day on the ground for the Packers, as they ran 19 times for 120 yards. Aaron Jones led the backfield with 47 yards on three carries, Rodgers ran six times for 43 yards and Jamaal Williams ran 10 times for 30 yards.

Randall Cobb got off the schneid and had more than 60 receiving yards for the first time since Week 2 [84 yards] and just his third touchdown catch of the season. Richard Rodgers was second in receiving with 77 yards and a score, and Davante Adams had 57 yards and a touchdown before he was decapitated by Thomas Davis.

Cam Newton roundly abused Green Bay’s defense all day long, going 20/31 (64.5%) for 242 yards, four touchdowns and was sacked just once. Christian McCaffrey led their backfield with 63 yards on 12 carries, Newton added 58 yards on 14 carries and John Stewart had 27 yards on 11 carries. Greg Olsen went off big-time against the Packers, catching nine passes for 116 yards and a wide-open score. Christian McCaffrey caught six balls for 73 yards and a score and little-used backup wide receiver Damiere Byrd caught three passes for 25 yards and two touchdowns. The best moment of the game was easily this:

Even funnier, if it had been a wheel route, the Packers would have given up a touchdown anyway because there was nobody covering the seam that a wheel route would have had near the sideline.

Let’s set aside the Packers being incapable of playing defense for a moment and see what they bring to the table on offense. As this is a divisional game, I’ll be utilizing the first Vikings/Packers game this season in my analysis.

Offense

Ground game

Despite what you might think, this Packers offense has actually been a relatively effective unit at running the ball so far this season. The Packers have the sixth-fewest rushing attempts but have the 18th-most yards, seventh-most rushing touchdowns, and sixth-most yards per attempt.

Green Bay’s running game

Player Attempts (Rank) Yards (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rushing touchdowns (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Player Attempts (Rank) Yards (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rushing touchdowns (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Jamaal Williams 116 (35) 416 (40) 3.6 (t-173) 4 (t-26) 92 (13) 8.4% (10)
Aaron Jones 78 (t-51) 435 (39) 5.6 (t-59) 4 (t-26) 138 (DNQ) 30.8% (DNQ)
Ty Montgomery 71 (t-59) 273 (67) 3.8 (t-155) 3 (t-38) 42 (DNQ) 4.3% (DNQ)
Brett Hundley 28 (107) 207 (83) 7.4 (32) 2 (t-51) 97 (5) 51.9% (3)
Aaron Rodgers 24 (117) 126 (103) 5.3 (t-64) 0 (t-115) 52 (14) 46.2% (7)

The Packers have gone through several running backs this season, including Ty Montgomery, who finished last season as Green Bay’s starter after shifting away from wide receiver. But with Montgomery on the shelf, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have had to step up and, for the most part, they have done an okay job. They both have four rushing touchdowns on the season, but Jones has been far more effective than Williams thus far (5.6 YPC for Jones, 3.6 for Jamaal). Green Bay has the second-best run offense by DVOA standards (13.4%), so effectiveness has been the name of the game over quantity.

Jones was the lead back in Week 6 and he was limited to 41 yards on 13 carries. Week 6 was the third-lowest rushing total the Packers managed on the season, and I would imagine the Vikings are hoping to equal or better that mark when they head to Lambeau tomorrow.

Thus far, the Packers have run for 772 yards on the ground in their seven games at Lambeau and they are averaging 110.3 rushing yards per game there. Two of Williams’ four rushing touchdowns have come at Lambeau and three of Jones’ have come at home, so the Packers are certainly committed to running the ball at home. The Packers have run for more than 100 yards just five times this season and two of the five came at home (OT win against the Bucs, loss against the Saints). It’ll be interesting to see how much the Packers end up relying on their ground game tomorrow, in what is expected to be the kind of game that favors defense and running games.

Football Outsiders: Green Bay’s OL

Green Bay's Offensive Line Adjusted line yards (Rank) Power success (Rank) Stuffed percentage (Rank) 2nd level yards (Rank) Open field yards (Rank) ALY: Left End (Rank) ALY: Left tackle (Rank) ALY: Mid/Guard (Rank) ALY: Right tackle (Rank) ALY: Right end (Rank) Adjusted sack rate (Rank)
Green Bay's Offensive Line Adjusted line yards (Rank) Power success (Rank) Stuffed percentage (Rank) 2nd level yards (Rank) Open field yards (Rank) ALY: Left End (Rank) ALY: Left tackle (Rank) ALY: Mid/Guard (Rank) ALY: Right tackle (Rank) ALY: Right end (Rank) Adjusted sack rate (Rank)
2017 4.57 (5) 64% (14) 17% (4) 1.13 (17) .58 (21) 4.75 (7) 5.62 (2) 4.19 (14) 5.23 (2) 3.86 (15) 8.8% (30)

As I indicated up above, Green Bay’s running game has been fairly good this season, and their offensive line is a big reason why. They are average or above in nearly every statistic. Their tackles are good run-blockers, they are slightly above-average at running up the middle and they are good to excellent at short-yardage situations. They are slightly below-average in longer runs, likely because their two longest runs are for 46 and 37 yards.

Where their offensive line has struggled this season is in pass protection. They are third-worst in the NFL at adjusted sack rate and it has meant their quarterbacks have been sacked a combined 46 times in just 14 games (3.3 sacks per game allowed). The Vikings sacked Brett Hundley four times in the game at U.S. Bank Stadium earlier this season, and they should be in good shape if they manage to repeat that feat.

Green Bay’s passing game

Player Targets Receptions Yards Receiving touchdowns Catch % DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank) DPI
Player Targets Receptions Yards Receiving touchdowns Catch % DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank) DPI
Davante Adams 117 74 885 10 63.20% 209 (14) 9.7% (23) 1/11
Jordy Nelson 83 50 471 6 60.20% 72 (47) -2.5% (50) 3/35
Randall Cobb 79 58 586 3 73.40% 49 (56) -4.4% (57) 0
Geronimo Allison 33 20 229 0 60.60% -3 (DNQ) -13.8% (DNQ) 2/18
Ty Montgomery 31 23 173 1 74.20% 16 (32) -5.2% (32) 0
Jamaal Williams 26 22 231 2 84.60% 90 (9) 45.9% (2) 0
Lance Kendricks 26 14 167 1 53.80% -23 (40) -19.8% (44) 1/33
Richard Rodgers 19 12 160 1 63.20% 25 (DNQ) 15.9% (DNQ) 0
Aaron Jones 18 9 22 0 50% -59 (DNQ) -74.4% (DNQ) 0

This is a versatile passing game with a lot of capable targets for a quarterback, no matter who is under center. Obviously the ability to USE those targets to their fullest advantage takes a hit when it’s Brett Hundley under center instead of Aaron Rodgers, but still, lots of players to make things happen with. Of course, the big kahuna is Davante Adams, who rose up from being utter trash his first year or two in the league to be the top receiver in this passing attack. Adams has, however, been the unfortunate recipient of several cheap shots and has now sustained two concussions this season, including one last week at the hands of Thomas Davis. Adams has been declared out and there’s a chance he could miss Green Bay’s final game of the season as well.

That leaves Jordy Nelson as the top receiver in this passing attack and that’s not so good for the Packers. Nelson and Adams combined for 11 receptions, 114 receiving yards and a touchdown in Week 6, but with Adams out, Nelson will likely be receiving the majority of Rhodes’ attention. How the Green Bay passing attack, rated 20th in DVOA (4.8%), can deal with that attention on their best receiver will certainly determine how close this game will be to a shutout for the Vikings.

Montgomery was the initial threat out of the backfield for the Packers, but the Vikings held him to one catch for three yards on three targets in Week 6. Jamaal Williams has taken over as Green Bay’s go-to pass-catching back out of the backfield (Jones is basically a non-factor in the passing game) and the Vikings would be wise to keep an eye on him.

Quarterback

Player Comp./Att. (Comp %) Yards TD/INT Y/A (Rank) AY/A (Rank) Quarterback rating (Rank) QBR (rank) NY/A (Rank) ANY/A (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Player Comp./Att. (Comp %) Yards TD/INT Y/A (Rank) AY/A (Rank) Quarterback rating (Rank) QBR (rank) NY/A (Rank) ANY/A (Rank) DYAR (Rank) DVOA (Rank)
Aaron Rodgers 154/238 (64.7%) 1675 16/6 7.0 (t-19) 7.2 (t-16) 97.2 (10) 62.7 (8) 5.8 (23) 5.99 (19) 293 (18) 5.4% (14)
Brett Hundley 161252 (63.9%) 1534 8/8 6.1 (t-32) 5.3 (34) 78 (29) 48.1 (22) 5.0 (35) 4.28 (34) -162 (29) -20% (30)

In what I think is a first for the OAR, our opponent has actually been using more than one quarterback in their season. Obviously the Vikings only saw eight snaps of Rodgers this season so there’s not much to be said about how well Rodgers performed against the Vikings in their first meeting.

As for how Hundley did, he struggled and struggled mightily. The Vikings put pressure in his face almost from the moment he got in the game and he completed just 18 of 33 passes (54.5%) for one touchdown and three interceptions. That touchdown also came on a short field where the Packers started on the Vikings’ 18-yard line after Clay Matthews returned a Jerick McKinnon fumble 63 yards. Hundley also completed just six passes of 10 yards or longer in that game, the longest of which was a 26-yard completion to Jordy Nelson that helped Green Bay kick a field goal just after the two-minute warning.

As for the rest of Hundley’s season, he’s genuinely playing like one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. I’m sure he’s not helped out by the unfriendly offensive system he’s playing in, so there’s a little blame that should go to Mike McCarthy and the rest of Green Bay’s offensive staff with how he’s played, but he definitely deserves at least some responsibility for his ineptitude. The Packers are clearly worse-off that he’s the starter for the final two games of the season and the Vikings will need to take advantage of that.

Offensive Efficiency

PFR efficiency: Green Bay Packers

Organization Offensive scoring % (Rank) Average starting field position (Rank) Average time of drive (Rank) Avg. # of plays per drive (Rank) Avg. # of yards per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Organization Offensive scoring % (Rank) Average starting field position (Rank) Average time of drive (Rank) Avg. # of plays per drive (Rank) Avg. # of yards per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Pro Football Reference 34.2% (16) Own 26.3 (29) 2:44 (10) 6.0 (9) 29.5 (17) 2.02 (11)

Football Outsiders efficiency: Green Bay Packers

Organization Yards per drive (Rank) Points per drive (Rank) Avg. starting field position (Rank) Plays per drive (Rank) TOP per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate (Rank) Touchdowns per drive (Rank) Field goals per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs per drive (Rank) Average field position after kickoff (Rank) Pts. per red zone drive (Rank) TDs per red zone drive (Rank) Avg. lead at the beginning of drives (Rank)
Organization Yards per drive (Rank) Points per drive (Rank) Avg. starting field position (Rank) Plays per drive (Rank) TOP per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate (Rank) Touchdowns per drive (Rank) Field goals per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs per drive (Rank) Average field position after kickoff (Rank) Pts. per red zone drive (Rank) TDs per red zone drive (Rank) Avg. lead at the beginning of drives (Rank)
Football Outsiders 31.19 (13) 2.09 (10) 26.03 (30) 6.12 (7) 2:49 (10) .722 (7) .257 (5) .097 (29) .410 (16) .229 (13) 25.2 (12) 5.26 (3) .641 (3) -3.62 (24)

As far as I can tell, the fact that Green Bay is rated as highly as it is in efficiency is that they are tied for second with the Patriots and Cowboys for the second-fewest offensive drives in the NFL. They are in the top-half of most offensive efficiency stats, with the exception of starting field position, where they are third-worst. Of course, that improves quite a lot when only taking into account average field position after kickoffs, so the Packers are likely being pinned back into their own end quite a bit.

When the Vikings and Packers played the first time, Green Bay’s first four drives started no further downfield than their own 25 yard line. In fact, of their 12 drives in that game, eight started at or behind the 25-yard line. The other four were: Green Bay’s touchdown drive (MN 18), their field goal drive (MN 38), a 3 and out and a drive that saw the Packers turn the ball over on downs. Green Bay is one of the best teams in the NFL at scoring touchdowns inside the red zone, converting on 25 of their 39 trips inside their opponent’s 20-yard line. The Vikings, if they want to sweep the Packers, will need to keep from turning the ball over (how the Packers got all 10 of their points in Week 6) and play tight in the red zone.

As for third downs, the Packers are currently 11th in converting third downs, so the Vikings will have a little tougher of a challenge in this department than last week when they faced the utterly woeful Bengals. The Packers were just 4/17 (23.5%) in third-down conversions in Week 6, and that will once again be a big factor in whether Minnesota can beat their border rivals.

Defense

Green Bay’s run defense

Year Attempts against (Rank) Rushing yards against (Rank) Rushing touchdowns against (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rush defense DVOA (Rank) Adjusted line yards allowed (Rank) Power success against (Rank) Stuffed (Rank) 2nd Level Yards (Rank) Open Field Yards (Rank)
Year Attempts against (Rank) Rushing yards against (Rank) Rushing touchdowns against (Rank) Yards per attempt (Rank) Rush defense DVOA (Rank) Adjusted line yards allowed (Rank) Power success against (Rank) Stuffed (Rank) 2nd Level Yards (Rank) Open Field Yards (Rank)
2017 408 (27) 1630 (20) 9 (10) 4.0 (9) -14.3% (8) 3.99 (11) 53% (6) 19% (21) 1.11 (15) .64 (11)

Green Bay has an average run defense so far this season. What they have done well to prevent in yards per attempt opponents have more than made up for it with volume, as they have faced the sixth-most rushing attempts in the NFL. They have actually been fairly good at not allowing much to opposing running backs in short-yardage situations, though they don’t quite have the defense to be good in stuffing runs. So, like most things about the Packers this season, their run defense is up and down.

The Vikings last meeting with the Green Bay run defense didn’t go so well for the Vikings. We rushed for more than 100 yards, but more out of sheer commitment to the run than any true effectiveness. The Vikings averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in Week 6, with Jerick McKinnon carrying the load with 69 yards (nice!) and a touchdown on 15 carries for a YPC of 4.6. That was unfortunately one of the games where Pat Shurmur felt it necessary to bash Latavius Murray into a brick wall 15 times, and he accrued a truly pathetic 28 yards on those 15 carries (~1.9 YPC). Keenum added two scrambles for 15 yards to the effort as well.

The Packers are 5-5 when allowing more than 100 yards rushing, so we will see if the Vikings manage to find a way to be more effective on the ground tomorrow.

Green Bay’s pass defense

Team Completions/Attempts (Comp. %) Passing yards against (Rank) Passing touchdowns against (Rank) Net yards per attempt against (Rank) Pass Defense DVOA (Rank) Adjusted sack rate (Rank)
Team Completions/Attempts (Comp. %) Passing yards against (Rank) Passing touchdowns against (Rank) Net yards per attempt against (Rank) Pass Defense DVOA (Rank) Adjusted sack rate (Rank)
Packers 314/459 (68.4%) 3360 (24) 26 (26) 6.8 (27) 21.5% (26) 7.3% (11)

I honestly did not know it was possible to allow your opponents to complete nearly 68.5% of their passes in this day and age, even with recent rule changes to protect offenses. But that’s what the Packers have allowed, and their defense has suffered for it. They have faced the seventh-fewest passing attempts but have allowed the 24th-most passing yards against, 26 passing touchdowns, and the sixth-worst net yards per attempt. More or less their only saving grace has been their ability to get sacks, and even that will be hindered in tomorrow’s game.

Green Bay actually did an okay job against Case Keenum in Week 6 in one of the final games before Keenum stepped up his game. Keenum completed 24 of 38 passes (63%) for 239 yards (6.3 yards per attempt), a touchdown and an interception. Thielen did what he does, catching nine balls for 96 yards, Laquon Treadwell was actually second on the Vikings in receiving yards with 51 on three catches, Rudy added five catches for 47 yards and McKinnon caught Keenum’s only touchdown throw.

Due mostly to the fact that people have been running on them more than passing, Keenum’s 239 passing yards is still the sixth-most the Packers have given up this season. What the Packers didn’t get in their game against the Vikings in Week 6 was sacks, and if Keenum can keep himself clean for the second straight game against the Green and Yellow, the Vikings should have a good chance of surpassing Week 6’s offensive output.

Green Bay Packers defenders

Player Solo tackles Assisted tackles Sacks Passes defensed
Player Solo tackles Assisted tackles Sacks Passes defensed
Blake Martinez 84 41 1 6
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 60 14 0 5
Josh Jones 50 8 2 4
Morgan Burnett 42 18 0 3
Damarious Randall 38 9 0 9
Clay Matthews 26 15 7.5 3
Nick Perry 23 15 7 0
Mike Daniels 31 15 4 0
Josh Hawkins 22 6 0 6
Davon House 35 7 1 5

At the moment, second-string cornerback Demetri Goodson has already been ruled out of tomorrow’s game with a hamstring issue. Linebacker Nick Perry, who is currently second on the Packers in sacks, is doubtful and didn’t practice this week. Their leader in sacks, Clay Matthews, also didn’t practice all week and is labeled as questionable. Current top cornerback Damarious Randall was added to Green Bay’s injury report today with a knee injury and is labeled as questionable. If Randall were to miss the game, that would leave Davon House, who was on the injury report with shoulder and back issues though he did practice in all sessions, and Josh Hawkins as their top cornerbacks. I don’t know how serious Randall’s knee issue is, but if it’s bad enough for him to miss the game, the Vikings, in theory, should have a field day against Green Bay’s secondary.

Defensive efficiency

PFR defensive efficiency: Green Bay Packers

Organization Scoring % (Rank) Avg. defensive starting field position (Rank) Avg. drive time allowed (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Yards allowed per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Organization Scoring % (Rank) Avg. defensive starting field position (Rank) Avg. drive time allowed (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Yards allowed per drive (Rank) Avg. points per drive (Rank)
Pro Football Reference 40.3% (31) Own 29.6 (25) 3:00 (31) 6.2 (30) 33.3 (29) 2.15 (32)

Football Outsiders defensive efficiency: Green Bay Packers

Organization Yards per drive allowed (Rank) Points per drive allowed (Rank) LOS per drive (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Time of possession allowed per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate against (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per drive (Rank) Field goals allowed per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs forced per drive Defensive LOS after kickoff (Rank) Points allowed per red zone trip (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per red zone trip (Rank)
Organization Yards per drive allowed (Rank) Points per drive allowed (Rank) LOS per drive (Rank) Plays allowed per drive (Rank) Time of possession allowed per drive (Rank) Drive Success Rate against (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per drive (Rank) Field goals allowed per drive (Rank) Punts per drive (Rank) 3&Outs forced per drive Defensive LOS after kickoff (Rank) Points allowed per red zone trip (Rank) Touchdowns allowed per red zone trip (Rank)
Football Outsiders 34.63 (28) 2.22 (32) 29.85 (27) 6.4 (30) 3:05 (32) .732 (32) .243 (31) .174 (24) .275 (29) .194 (29) 25.1 (20) 5.77 (32) .692 (31)

Like one would expect when they have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, the Packers aren’t well-regarded by efficiency metrics. They are in the bottom eight of every Pro Football Reference metric and the only metric that keeps them from the same statistic on Football Outsiders is defensive LOS post-kickoff. The Vikings had five scoring drives against the Packers, with two starting inside Green Bay’s territory and the other three starting at or behind Minnesota’s 25-yard line, so the Vikings know they are capable of driving on this team. Now they just need to convert more efficiently on their chances.

In that Week 6 win, the Vikings had four different drives start inside Green Bay’s territory. I’ll forgive the one that occurred with 5:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, because that one was all about burning clock, but the Vikings only converted one of their other two drives that started inside Green Bay’s territory into a touchdown. The other drive was the one McKinnon fumbled on.

At the moment, Green Bay is currently 30th in the NFL in defensive third-down percentage and 31st in defensive red zone touchdown percentage; just get the ball into the red zone like they have been doing the last few weeks and the Vikings should be able to house it with ease.

Turnovers

Like I will say at the beginning of this section in every analysis, turnovers are usually what separate the average teams from the elite teams. The average teams have games where they lose the turnover battle and games where they win it. Elite teams are almost always winning the turnover battle, even if they turn the ball over once or twice themselves. One of Green Bay’s saving graces this season is that despite their offense turning it over 19 times, they’ve taken the ball away 22 times.

Turnovers: Green Bay Packers

Side of ball Interceptions (Rank) Fumbles (Rank) Give/take (PFR) Turnover % (Rank) (FO) Turnovers per drive Interceptions per drive (Rank) Fumbles per drive (Rank)
Side of ball Interceptions (Rank) Fumbles (Rank) Give/take (PFR) Turnover % (Rank) (FO) Turnovers per drive Interceptions per drive (Rank) Fumbles per drive (Rank)
Offense 14 (25) 5 (6) 19 giveaways 12.1% (22) .125 (22) .097 (28) .028 (4)
Defense 11 (17) 11 (3) 22 takeaways 13.4% (9) .139 (8) .076 (17) .062 (4)

Like I’ve mentioned above, the only two scoring drives that Brett Hundley led against the Vikings resulted from Minnesota’s two turnovers in that game. What helped the Vikings prevent the Packers from doing any more damage was the three interceptions they snagged off of Hundley. The Week 6 win by the Vikings was one of just four times the Packers have failed to beat their opponent in take/give, and all four of the times they have lost the take/give have been losses for the Packers.

In fact, the Packers defense has had just two games this season where they have failed to force at least one turnover, their loss to the Falcons and last week’s loss to the Panthers. Keeping Green Bay’s defense off the turnover ratio will benefit our defense and will likely give Minnesota a few shots at turnovers themselves. It’s a whole circle-of-life kind of deal, and the Vikings would be wise to limit their turnovers against this defense.

Special Teams

Like several other recent Vikings opponents, the Packers have an extremely aggressive return game that the Vikings will need to keep an eye on.

Green Bay’s return men

Player Punt returns (Rank) Punt return yards (Rank) Fair catches (Rank) Punt return TDs (Rank) Yards per punt return (Rank) Kick returns (Rank) Kick return yards (Rank) Kick return TDs (Rank) Yards per kick return (Rank)
Player Punt returns (Rank) Punt return yards (Rank) Fair catches (Rank) Punt return TDs (Rank) Yards per punt return (Rank) Kick returns (Rank) Kick return yards (Rank) Kick return TDs (Rank) Yards per kick return (Rank)
Trevor Davis 19 (t-24) 214 (11) 17 (t-6) 0 (t-9) 11.3 (5) 25 (t-5) 601 (5) 0 (t-4) 24 (t-6)
Jeff Janis 0 0 0 0 0 2 (t-76) 28 (t-88) 0 (t-4) 14 (DNQ)

Trevor Davis has been Green Bay’s return man on both sides of the ball and been fairly good at what he’s been assigned to do. He’s tied for fifth in the most kick returns this season and he’s fifth in return yardage, so when he’s wanted to bring the ball out, he’s been allowed to do just that. Davis had three total returns against the Vikings in Week 6, a punt return (8 yards) and two kick returns (55 yards with a long of 29).

The best field position the Packers got off his kick returns was their own 27 on his 29-yard kick return and his eight-yard punt return was negated by a block in the back which put the Packers on their own 34 yard line. Davis also called for two fair catches on Quigley’s punts, so the Vikings actually did an excellent job of keeping him contained.

If you want to keep Green Bay’s return game quiet, doing what the Vikings did in Week 6 is exactly what you want to have happen.

Janis actually had one of his two returns this season in Week 6’s game against the Vikings, which he returned for 11 of his 28 return yards this season.

Kicking

Player 0-19 FGA/FGM 20-29 FGA/FGM 30-39 FGA/FGM 40-49 FGA/FGM 50+ FGA/FGM PAT's made
Player 0-19 FGA/FGM 20-29 FGA/FGM 30-39 FGA/FGM 40-49 FGA/FGM 50+ FGA/FGM PAT's made
Mason Crosby 0 8/8 2/4 3/3 1/3 33/35

Crosby has been his usual slightly above-average self. He’s missed two kicks and two PAT’s from between 30 and 39 yards and missed two of the three field goals he has attempted from beyond 50. The Packers really don’t trust his long-distance leg, as he’s just a 51% career kicker from beyond 50, so the Vikings shouldn’t have to worry much about Crosby being an issue if they stop Green Bay’s offense around the 35 yard line.

Punting

Player Punts (Rank) Punt yards (Rank) Longest punt (Rank) Average punt (Rank) Net punt length (Rank) Blocked punts (Rank) Punts inside the 20 (Rank) Touchbacks (Rank) Fair catches (Rank) Punts returned (Rank) Punt return yardage (Rank) Punt return avg. yards
Player Punts (Rank) Punt yards (Rank) Longest punt (Rank) Average punt (Rank) Net punt length (Rank) Blocked punts (Rank) Punts inside the 20 (Rank) Touchbacks (Rank) Fair catches (Rank) Punts returned (Rank) Punt return yardage (Rank) Punt return avg. yards
Justin Vogel 59 (t-22) 2655 (22) 62 (t-19) 45 (20) 42.6 (5) 0 (t-9) 17 (t-28) 1 (t-6) 21 (t-5) 25 (t-19) 122 (12) 4.9 (7)

Green Bay actually has a fairly good punt coverage team this season, which has allowed Vogel to rank fifth in net punt length, one of the few stats that are worth anything when analyzing how a punter is doing. Vogel has also benefited from his coverage team forcing 21 fair catches, which is tied for fifth-most in the NFL at the moment. He and their coverage teams are seventh-best in average return yards allowed, so there’s not much room to roam even when the punt is returned. The Vikings had just one return against him despite him punting six times in the game, and Sherels actually lost five yards on the return.

I’d assume the Vikings will be just taking fair catches against him, especially since they saw he was capable of shanking punts when the Vikings and Packers played each other in Week 6. Vogel’s longest punt against us was 56 yards, which was also the punt Sherels lost five yards returning on, but his shortest was a 26-yard shankapotomus put the Vikings at the GB 42-yard line. Unfortunately, the resulting drive was the drive McKinnon fumbled on, so it didn’t end up being a huge deal for the Packers, but he is still capable of these shorter punts.

Penalties

Green Bay penalties, pt. 1

Team Penalties For (Rank) Penalty Yardage For (Rank) Penalties Called Against (Rank) Penalty Yardage Against (Rank) Net Penalty Count (Rank) Net penalty yards (Rank) Pre-snap count (Rank) Declined (Rank) Offsetting (Rank) Total flags (Rank)
Team Penalties For (Rank) Penalty Yardage For (Rank) Penalties Called Against (Rank) Penalty Yardage Against (Rank) Net Penalty Count (Rank) Net penalty yards (Rank) Pre-snap count (Rank) Declined (Rank) Offsetting (Rank) Total flags (Rank)
Packers 87 (t-26) 760 (21) 82 (t-5) 642 (2) 5 (t-13) 118 (7) 38 (27) 17 (t-22) 4 (t-17) 103 (10)

Green Bay penalties, pt. 2

Year Delay of game (Rank) False start (Rank) Offensive holding (Rank) Offensive pass interference (Rank) Offsides (Rank) Defensive holding (Rank) Illegal contact (Rank) Defensive pass interference (Rank) Roughing the Passer (Rank) Unnecessary roughness (Rank) Other (Rank)
Year Delay of game (Rank) False start (Rank) Offensive holding (Rank) Offensive pass interference (Rank) Offsides (Rank) Defensive holding (Rank) Illegal contact (Rank) Defensive pass interference (Rank) Roughing the Passer (Rank) Unnecessary roughness (Rank) Other (Rank)
2017 4 (t-18) 12 (t-10) 7 (1) 3 (t-12) 7 (t-26) 5 (t-2) 1 (t-12) 4 (t-1) 1 (t-2) 5 (t-12) 33 (6)

When I instituted this section of the OAR, it started out against the Carolina Panthers, the most disciplined team in the NFL. Then we moved last week to the Cincinnati Bengals, who had taken 13 more penalties than they had drawn, which actually was upended by the fact the Vikings had one of, if not their most, penalized game of the season while the Bengals took only five penalties for 44 yards. This week we move back towards the Panthers side of things and a....uhm.....more disciplined team? (I write that with eyes rolling hard in my head, knowing that there’s literally a new term that’s been invented to give Green Bay deniability for the fact they’ve more or less legalized holding).

Anyway, gripes aside, this is a Packers team that avoids penalties very well. They also don’t draw penalties very much (at least this season) so that’s balanced things out. One thing that has caused them issues this season is staying disciplined at the offensive line; while they have only been called for 12 false starts this season, they have been called for seven offsides penalties and I’d assume several neutral zone infractions as well, judging by their 38 pre-snap penalties taken. So hard counts, especially with the number of backups that might be playing on their defense tomorrow evening, should be at least reasonably effective.

Conclusion

Injuries have broken Green Bay’s season. Losing their star quarterback for over half the season has meant the Packers have missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Now what they intend to do with their status as spoiler is up to them. Depending on how injuries shake out, the Vikings could either be playing against Clay Matthews and Damarious Randall or Ahmad Brooks and Josh Hawkins. Yeah, I personally know which I’d prefer to play against.

Anyway, while I don’t think this is as necessarily as clear-cut a choice as last week’s Bengals game was in favor of the Vikings, I do think the Vikings have a major advantage over the Packers: they have something to play for. While the 9.5 line might be a little much for some, I’ll take the over in my prediction. I was just five total points off of my prediction for last week’s game (Vikings 31, Bengals 9 was my prediction) so let’s see how I do in this one.

Vikings 28, Packers 14.