Green Bay Packers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
NFL Week 2
Date/Time: Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 8:30pm ET
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB -2/MINN +2
Over/Under Total: 47
With only sixteen games on the NFL regular season schedule, every week is a big one. That said, there are bigger games than others. Primetime contests have the pomp and circumstance that comes with being the only game on TV and division rivalries have the kind of history and ill-will that produce hard fought games. The Green Bay Packers head to Minnesota to face the Vikings on Sunday Night Football so you have those big game element baked into this one and this just happens to be the opening of the Vikings brand new stadium. Do you think that might add a little intrigue to the proceedings? We have what looks to be a massively entertaining game on tap, so let’s take a look at the Vikes v. the Pack.
Each of these teams are coming off playoff berths last year so a close line for this game is no surprise and the Packers are 2-point favorites in the early betting. The Vikings were NFC North Champions in 2015 but the loss of Teddy Bridgewater has taken much of the shine off Minnesota’s prospects to repeat. Before Bridgewater’s injury, the preseason line for this game was Minnesota -2 to a pick’em so the online betting sites did like the Vikings chances to open their stadium with a win. For what it is worth, the Packers are now scheduled to be favorites in every single game this season so the modest 2-point line still signals this as a very tough game for Green Bay. Minnesota enters the week 5-1 against the spread in their last six division contests and 8-2 ATS in the last ten against opponents with a winning record. Green Bay is 6-1 ATS in their last seven game on the road and 6-2 against the spread in their last eight overall. The Vikings have always enjoyed a solid home field advantage with a 20-8 ATS record dating back to 2012 and that includes games at the Metrodome and TCF. We will see what kind of advantage they get in their new place.
These teams split their meetings in 2015, each winning in the other’s building. Neither game was very pretty with both defenses playing well. Adrian Peterson was held to just 112 total rushing yards between both games and Minnesota was held to 241 total yards in the game they won. Green Bay moved the ball in the October contest but was not efficient and had to settle for five field goals as a part of a 30-13 win. The bottom line is that these teams know each other well and we should probably expect another grinder of a game Sunday night. Field position, penalties and turnovers often loom larger in these rivalry tilts so the more polished team is going to benefit.
Green Bay is fresh off a nice 27-23 in Jacksonville to open the season. It wasn’t a vintage effort for the green-and-gold but they were able to get Jordy Nelson back and Eddie Lacy looked healthy in running the ball even his overall build is still very large. I think it will take a few weeks to get fully back up to speed but Aaron Rodgers has all his weapons in the right spots again and that makes the Packers offense a top-5 unit in terms of talent and potential. The Packers defense was strong against the Jaguars run game, recorded three sacks and snagged an interception to do their part. Blake Bortles had the Jags driving to potentially take the lead but the secondary held its ground and forced a turnover on downs to end the game. Sam Shields is the best cornerback for the Packers and his outlook for the game is in question as he is still in the concussion protocol. His absence from this one would be a big deal, even though Minnesota’s passing game is average at best. LB Jayrone Elliott and S Chris Banjo are also questionable, possibly hurting Green Bay’s defensive depth.
The Vikings went out and traded for Sam Bradford in the wake of losing their starting quarterback but it was back-up Shaun Hill under center in week one and it looks like that will be the case again. Hill led Minnesota into Tennessee and came out with a 25-16 win as he threw for 226 and did not turn the ball over. The running game was bottled up but the Minnesota defense was masterful in shutting down the Titans and scored twice off turnovers to get the game ball. Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph had some good chemistry with Hill so there is some hope that the passing game will be reliable but the Vikings did have to settle for six field goal attempts. Blair Walsh had an interesting day in converting four of those six chances but Minnesota will probably have to be more efficient once they cross midfield in order to win this one. The Vikings have some good weapons on special teams with Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels handling returns, maybe they can set-up a few short field scenarios against the average special teams units for the Pack.
The big intangible here is just how much of a boost is Minnesota going to get from the crowd as they open the new stadium. I have been in the Metrodome for this rivalry before and the noise was nearly disorienting when that place got to full volume. Green Bay is one of the teams that could silence the Dome in a hurry but quieting this crowd will be difficult on a Sunday night showcase. Rodgers and Mike McCarthy were critical of the slow start in the Jacksonville so I’d expect a premium to be placed on offensive execution early by Green Bay. The Vikings defense did allow Marcus Mariota to throw for 271 yards, which was the fourth highest total of his career, presenting a weak spot for Rodgers to exploit.
Minnesota on defense is able to go toe-to-toe with Green Bay and I think Eddie Lacy will have minimal success early. That is going to put the ball in the hands of the passing game which is a net positive for the Packers in any scenario. I give the Vikings a fair chance to get 20 points on the board but they will not be able to rely on Green Bay providing them with turnovers the way that Tennessee did. This is going to be a close one through the half but Green Bay is going to prove to be too much as the game wears on. Look for Randall Cobb to have a good game as he can lineup all over the field with Nelson back in the fold and the Packers will put up another 27-30 points to outpace the Vikings. It will be a fun one to watch but Green Bay sends the hometown fans home on the wrong side of a 27-19 decision.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Green Bay
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