Minnesota Vikings (10-5 SU, 12-3 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (10-5 SU, 9-6 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date/Time: Sunday, January 3/8:30pm ET
Where: Lambeau Field
by Evergreen, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MINN +3/GB -3
Over/Under Total: 46
With just one regular season week left in the NFL season, there arent too many items left to be decided but given that all teams are playing a division foe, the items that will be settled this weekend will be that much more fun to watch. The Green Bay Packers welcome the Minnesota Vikings to venerable Lambeau Field this Sunday for a game that will decide the NFC North champion. Both squads are in the playoffs no matter what but the winner gets the division crown and a home playoff game while the loser travels next week as a Wildcard. There is a scenario that will have these teams square off again next week, adding another layer to this rivalry that is about to kickoff for the 111th time.
Both teams enter the week at 10-5 but Minnesota is the team with the momentum. Green Bay is getting the standard 3-point home favorite tag from the online betting sites and this game is a chance for the Vikings to prove it as the Packers have only lost 1-of-12 against Minnesota since 2010. As 1-point favorites in Week 11, Green Bay bounced Minnesota, 30-13, and have won seven of the last ten against the spread at home in this series. The Vikes have played well in-conference lately, running up an 8-2 ATS record in their last ten against the NFC but are just 1-5 ATS in their last six games at Lambeau.
This week has a lot of parallels to the Week 11 tilt as Minnesota again enters looking like the better team and Green Bay again stumbling after a bad loss. The Pack was able to right the ship against a Vikings team that appeared not ready for primetime. Green Bays defense, which had been underperforming during an 0-3 spurt, suddenly came alive and sacked Teddy Bridgewater six times. Eddie Lacy had one of his best games of the season and Minnesota was hit for 110 yards on 8 penalties making the game a cut-and-dried beatdown. Minnesota then went on to lose to both Seattle and Arizona but dominated Chicago and the New York Giants in the last two weeks, scoring 87 combined points in those victories. Green Bay has gone 3-2 since the first meeting but needed a Hail Mary to beat the Lions and most recently was drubbed 38-8 by Arizona so Minnesota looks like the team on the right track as the playoffs loom.
The Vikings are pretty much an open book when it comes to offense. Adrian Peterson remains their best option to move the ball and he should be able to find some room against the 21st ranked run defense of the Packers. Green Bay held AP to 45 yards in the first meeting this season but that had more to do with gameflow than anything else and Minnesota knows that the run game is their best chance to topple the Packers in Lambeau. Bridgewater has been mostly a game-manager this season, throwing for just 14 scores to this point, but he does complete nearly 66% of his passes and has played well during the last month. There arent many playmaking options in the passing game but Stefon Diggs will need to be accounted for as he can burn a defense and Kyle Rudolph (5 TDs) faces a good matchup against a Green Bay defense that struggles to cover the middle of the field.
Green Bay continued its statistical decline on offense as they never found the groove in Arizona and enter the week as the 26th ranked pass offense. That ranking seems incomprehensible considering the talent level of Aaron Rodgers but there is no hiding that the Packers offense is dealing with major issues. There are injuries at nearly every spot on the offensive line and that has put Rodgers under the gun on too many occasions. An underperforming run game and lack of a wide receiver that can stretch the field has made for a bad recipe and it seems far-fetched that Mike McCarthy will suddenly find the answer leading up to this contest. Green Bay should also go run-first as Eddie Lacy does appear to be running with some success and that scheme would attack the softest spot of what is a solid Minnesota defense. There are five Vikings that have at least four sacks so a better week of pass protection will be necessary if Green Bay wants to avoid something like the nine sacks they swallowed against the Cardinals.
Even though both of these teams are playoff bound, it appears that neither is a serious threat to be relevant for much longer than next weekend. Minnesota showed some fight and that they could hang with teams like Seattle and Arizona but they ultimately lost those games and Green Bay represents a similar mountain to climb even though the Packers have serious limitations. Green Bay has just three wins against 2015 playoff teams, including the one against Minnesota, and has lost to Detroit and Chicago along the way so both teams have gotten to the 10-win mark by beating some lesser opponents. This game is clearly a tight one on paper and the teams appear pretty evenly matched but I do think that Green Bay has the experience edge and still has the playmaker edge even though their offense is leaking major oil.
I look for Green Bay to lean on the home fans to spur them on to playing a better game than what we have seen recently. There is too much on the line for the Pack to come up with a truly empty effort and it really does seem like Minnesota is not quite ready to take down their neighbors in their building. Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews will put the pressure on Bridgewater and Rodgers will be able to put enough points on the board to stay ahead of whatever Adrian Peterson can do with his legs. I dont think it will be an easy game but Rodgers seems sufficiently ticked-off and that has routinely led to him playing well, especially at home and especially against division opponents. If Minnesota needed this game to get in the playoffs, I would look at this a bit differently but the Vikes are in and while they will be ramped up to take on a hated rival, I think they will throttle back a bit if they get down and quickly accept a fate they are used to seeing. This one just means more for the Packers and three points at Lambeau is not too much to worry about. Green Bay 26 Minnesota 19
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Green Bay
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