Green Bay Packers (6-3 SU, 5-4 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (7-2 SU, 8-1 ATS)
NFL Week 11
Date/Time: November 22nd/4:25pm EST
Where: TCF Bank Stadium
by Evergreen, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB +1/MINN -1
Over/Under Total: 45
It is nearly Thanksgiving and the NFL starts to move into a different part of the schedule, a part that starts to mean more as division races heat up while the weather cools down. One pivotal matchup this weekend takes place in Minnesota as the Green Bay Packers face off against the Vikings. For most of the last two decades, it has been Green Bay that has entered this NFC North matchup as the division leader and favorite but that is not the case this time around with Minnesota playing well and the Pack riding a three game losing streak. It is also interesting to note that for many years the Packers took advantage of being a better outdoor team and often got the best of dome-dependent Vikes but those roles appear reversed now with Minnesota taking up temporary residence at TCF Stadium.
Even though the struggles of the Packers have been in full view over the last few weeks, it is odd to see the online betting sites listing the Vikings as one point favorites, but that is the case. There are outlets that still have this game listed as a pickem and 45 seems the most common over/under total. Green Bay is riding a four game ATS losing streak while Minnesota is 5-1 against the spread in their last six division games. The home team is 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings between these teams.
So, what exactly is going so wrong in Green Bay? Plenty of discussion has been had on that topic but listen long enough and you will hear just about everything that can go wrong. The offensive line cant run block or pass protect and the receivers arent good enough to get open against man coverage. The defense allows too many yards to both the pass and the rush. Even the cafeteria and laundry staff is underperforming. Im not sure if those last two are true but it remains clear that Green Bay is a team in disarray. The most damning statistical evidence for the Packers comes in that they are no better than 21st in any yardage allowed category. Teams that cant get off the field do not succeed in the NFL these days and the pressure that has been put on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense has been too much to bear. During the Packers 6-0 start, Rodgers connected with his wide receivers on 70% of his passes. During the 0-3 skid, that number has dropped to 48% as opposing defenses have pinned A-Rod in the pocket and manned-up against the Packers receivers. To this point, there have been no answers to correct this issue and the Green Bay run attack has been unable to take up the slack as well. The talent that went 6-0 is still there, but now the Green Bay coaching staff must find a way to crack a new code now that the book is out on how to handle Rodgers.
Minnesotas season has gone quite a bit differently in that they are beating most pre-season expectations and they are doing so without any smoke and mirrors. It has been a predictably run-first offense behind Adrian Peterson and there has been just enough passing game success to get the necessary points on the board. Teddy Bridgewater has morphed into a game manager has his mere seven touchdown throws suggests but he makes that one key play when needed and the emergence of Stefon Diggs helps keep the opposing defense honest. There have been some clunky wins for the Vikings, including three-point victories over Chicago and St. Louis but they are fresh off a 30-14 win at Oakland where it appeared they played some of their best football of the year.
Outside of using Peterson to chew up yards and the clock, Minnesota relies on a stout defense as the largest part of the winning equation. There is not a lot of star-power or flashy play on that side of the ball, but the Vikings simply make you work for everything and enter the week 2nd in points allowed, giving up just 17.1 per contest. They are top-10 in passing and total yards allowed and are 16th in rushing yards given up so there is no soft spot to attack. If you do run the ball against them, you are likely playing right into their hands as Minnesota prefers that clock to be running and your offense to see as few plays as possible.
Given the injuries and ineffectiveness of Eddie Lacy, it has been almost a necessity for Green Bay to hand everything over to the passing game. Rodgers has played well from a statistical perspective as he has a 21/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 103.4 QB rating but the efficiency has gone south and it has spelled doom in the last three weeks. Last week saw lowly Detroit win in Lambeau even as the Lions did everything they could to lose including missed PATs and muffed onside kick recoveries. A shanked 52-yard field goal attempt ultimately did in the Packers last Sunday but lost in that was an overall offensive effort that appeared incapable of beating most any NFL defense. The playmakers are there in name for the Packers but Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and the rest simply havent made the plays.
Green Bay is bottom-8 in run stopping and they will get a big dose of the leagues best rushing offense. Minnesota profiles very much like Carolina does and that game against the Panthers did not go well for the Packers two weeks ago. Minnesota is healthy, confident and owns all the momentum going into this game and if they play the way they have been, they should win. That hasnt been the case since a couple of games when Brett Favre was wearing purple. The Packers are 8-1-1 straight up against the Vikings in the last ten so the recent history gives Green Bay a leg up but this was just a 24-21 Packer win in Minnesota last year and I think the Vikings smell blood in the water with this version of the Packers. This should be a great game as both teams have so much to gain with a win but I think it is Minnesota with the better look right now. Even if you bet this one in the dark, I think you would feel pretty good about taking a 7-2 home team that can run the ball and plays good defense. It doesnt feel exactly right based on recent years but Minnesota gets the win this weekend, 24-20.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Minnesota
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