NFL 2019 (Week 16): Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 16): Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

The NFC North title is up for grabs on Monday night. Minnesota clinched a playoff spot when the Rams lost on Saturday but the team’s only chance of surpassing Green Bay for division supremacy is a win in this game coupled with another Packers loss in Week 17. On the plus side, the Vikings are undefeated at home. Unfortunately, they may be without the services of do-everything running back Dalvin Cook, who suffered a shoulder injury against the Chargers last weekend. Green Bay, meanwhile, is in line for a first-round bye as the second-seed, but the top seed is out of their grasp. All-World quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been playing, well, down to earth this season, failing to crack 250-plus passing yards since Week 8. The Packers’ defense and running game have carried the load in that time, though, and rookie coach Matt LeFleur has to be pleased with how his team has played in the absence of Rodgers’ usual greatness. Speaking of defense and running offense, the Minnesota Vikings prefer that method of winning games, and who can blame them? Danielle Hunter and Anthony Harris rank third in the NFL in sacks and interceptions, respectively, while Dalvin Cook is third in rushing touchdowns. Can the Vikings withstand Cook’s absence to stay undefeated in Minneapolis?

Packers: Rodgers and left tackle David Bakhtiari were named to the Pro Bowl, but much of the team’s success this season has been thanks to running back Aaron Jones and edge rushers Preston and Za’Darius Smith. Jones and the Smiths are Pro Bowl alternates, and yet many on the national level dismiss the Packers’ legitimacy as title contenders. At 11-3 and second in the NFC, how could that be? Frankly, all three of the team’s losses were regrettable. The Eagles and Chargers are not better than Green Bay on paper, but they stole wins all the same. The third loss did come against a quality opponent in San Francisco, yet the outcome was a 37-8 embarrassment. The team remains confident internally, but two big road wins to close the season could help quell any remaining concerns outside of the team facility.

Vikings: Minnesota is actually favored to win this game (by 5.5 points at the time of this writing), and Kirk Cousins is a big reason why. Cousins’ completion percentage, yards, touchdowns, and passer rating this season all exceed the numbers put up by Rodgers, a surefire Hall-of-Famer. And, to borrow a phrase from college football, the Vikings have “better losses” than the Packers do. All four losses have come on the road, three of them were to division leaders Green Bay, Kansas City, and Seattle, and the fourth was an early season division game against Chicago (who was 3-1 at the time). Minnesota can avenge two of those losses to close the season, which would not only win them the NFC North but also secure a home playoff game. To overcome the loss of their best offensive threat, expect offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to feature Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The duo compare favorably to any team’s receivers in the entire league, and if they can find gaps in Green Bay’s talented secondary, Minnesota could be in for a big day.

Prediction: Cook’s injury leaves the Vikings unable to establish the run, and Green Bay tees off on Cousins.

Green Bay Packers 20, Minnesota Vikings 10

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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