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Why the Vikings will win, why the Vikings will lose

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This game could go either way

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

Like many of you, I watched both the Packers and Bears Thursday Night season opener along with the Vikings beatdown of Atlanta on Sunday, and then I went and rewatched parts or all of both games.

I’m not a film breakdown guy, but I did notice some trends and highlights that give me reason to believe the Vikings will have a good day Sunday at Lambeau. I also noticed a couple things while watching the Vikings game that could lead to a long and miserable afternoon.

Why The Vikings will win:

All week long, all I’ve heard about is how good the Green Bay Packers defense is. They only gave up three points rawr rawr rawr, they only gave up 46 yards rushing rawr rawr rawr. Yes, both of those statements are true, but let’s peel back the onion a bit on those two statements and find out ‘why’.

Reason number 1: Mitchell Trubisky did not see the field and had a terrible game. I recounted it in this piece here, but if you look at some of the replays of last Thursday’s game, Mitch Trubisky missed wide open receivers literally all night long. We’ll look at just a few, but believe me, there is plenty more where these came from. Let’s look at our first example:

On this play, Chicago faces a third and four, and they are deep in their own territory. Trubisky, who had a clean pocket, seemed to throw to his first read all night, does so here. The result is an incompletion and a punt from the shadow of their own end zone. However, he had a secondary read, the running back, who slid out of the backfield and has separation from his defender past the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field. A quick dumpoff here, and it would be a first down and some breathing room.

Let’s look at another one. It’s third and long here, but the Bears had a shot to pick up the first down, if Trubisky comes off his first read. Again, he has a very clean pocket, and time to survey the field. The primary receiver is covered, but a quick glance to his left shows a secondary option wide open, right at the first down marker:

You can make a strong argument that a good throw gets the Bears a first down. But the epitome of Trubisky’s night was the near interception he threw. He had a receiver breaking open to his right, an option to run with a blocker in front of him, or:

A throw across his body to the left that should have been an easy pick. Here’s the entire play, where you can more clearly see the run option right before he releases the ball:

Trubisky consistently, on almost every play, chose the worst option available to him for the entire game. There were an enormous amount of opportunities for the Bears to move the football and get yards in chunks, but they didn’t, mostly because of Trubisky’s poor decision making.

Reason number 2: Bears head coach Matt Nagy called an awful game. When your quarterback is struggling, as Trubisky clearly was, he should have adjusted the game plan to try and help his quarterback. He didn’t, which was mystifying, because the Bears were either ahead or within one score of taking the lead or tying the game all night. Matt Nagy kept dialing up pass plays, and he ignored a potentially lethal running game. On the evening, the Bears only ran the ball 15 times, compared to 45 pass attempts. Add in the six QB sacks, the Bears called a pass play a staggering 51 times.

When you add those two factors up, I like Minnesota’s chances. Kirk Cousins does a good job of surveying the field and finding the open guy, the Vikings have fantastic receivers, and John DiFilippo is no longer calling plays. I don’t think Minnesota has the run heavy game like they did last week, but I don’t see them having such a pass heavy disparity the Bears had, either.

Why the Vikings will lose:

The offensive line play. To me it’s that simple. The Vikings defense matches up about as well as any defense does against the Packers, and I just don’t see Green Bay lighting it up. That means the Vikes can outscore the Packers if they can protect Kirk Cousins and execute their offense. Eric did a great ‘first date’ analogy and game preview earlier, so I don’t want to get too repetitive here. The Vikings offensive line set the tone for the Falcons game early, opening holes for Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, and they did a good job protecting Kirk Cousins when he did drop back to pass:

If you extrapolate that out to a more typical 30 pass attempts as opposed to 10, that becomes nine pressures, which is middle of the road. It’s not elite, but it’s far from terrible, and more than enough for Cousins to be able to read the field and find an open receiver.

That said, there are other sites that have calculated the pressure rate at 50 percent:

The bottom line is that although Cousins did have a clean pocket more often than not, both Garrett Bradbury and Pat Elflein struggled at times in week one. Elflein is injured, and although he’s back at practice today, it’s not yet certain if he’ll play. If he can’t go, Dakota Dozier will start in place of him, which means you would have a rookie center and a backup guard trying to block Kenny Clark.

Hmmm:

If Cousins faces heat up the middle like that on a regular basis Sunday, he’s going to get pummeled, and the offense will have a hard time getting untracked. If that happens, it’s probably going to lead to more than one turnover (they had two fumbles), and Minnesota will have a hard time overcoming that.