Border Battle 2016: Vikings-Packers

The game that Vikings (and Packer) fans have had circled on their calendars since the day the schedules were released is now just days away.  U.S. Bank Stadium will be opening its doors for the first installment of many border battle matchups to be played at the Vikings’ state of the art new stadium. Sunday will mark a new chapter in the long and bitter rivalry that has turned the Minnesota-Wisconsin border into battle lines.  Here are some keys to victory for both sides of the rivalry.

Green Bay Packers

The key to victory for the Packers is to win battles at the line of scrimmage in order to let Aaron Rodgers go through his reads or buy time and improvise as he’s prone to do so well.  So much of the Packers offense is about timing, and when the timing is thrown off mistakes are made.  That’s exactly what happened in week 17 of last season when the Vikings battled the Packers at Lambeau with the NFC North Division Title at stake.  The Vikings kept the pressure on Rodgers throughout the game and forced him to throw a costly interception late to clinch the Vikings victory.  Unfortunately, Rodgers isn’t the only one the Vikings have to watch out for.

Eddie Lacy has had an up and down career since being drafted back in 2013.  Questions about his weight were the focal point throughout the 2016 season as the reason for his drop off in production.  By all accounts this season, Lacy appears to be back in playing shape and ready to wreak havoc on opposing defenses once again.  That means the Vikings defense needs to be prepared as Lacy is one tough player to bring down. Add in the fact that Lacy has always saved his best performances for games against the Vikings makes Lacy an extremely important factor in leading the Packers to a win.

Minnesota Vikings

While a starting quarterback has yet to be announced, it’s fairly safe to say that newly acquired Sam Bradford will get the nod.  In order for him to be successful in this offense, the Vikings offensive line will need to give him the same sort of pass protection that Shaun Hill had in Tennessee last week.  Like Hill, Bradford has very limited mobility and thrives inside of the pocket.  If the the offensive line gives him the same sort of protection and allows him to be comfortable inside the pocket, Bradford can pick this defense apart like a surgeon. If he is unable to stay upright, it could be a very long day for this offense.

Not only will Bradford reap the benefits of a good offensive-line showing, Adrian Peterson can blow this game wide open if the line can create some holes for him to run through.  Last week, the offensive-line struggled to create running room for Peterson as the Titans stacked the box.  This week, the Packers will be faced with an ultimatum of either stacking the box and making Bradford beat you with his arm, or defend against both and run the risk of Peterson trampling the defense all day.

The Vikings offense will need to be sharp in this matchup, but the real pressure will be on the defense to stop the aerial and ground attack of the Packers.  In order to do this, the Vikings will lean on their defensive line to keep Rodgers under duress and force him to be off his game.  When the Packers run the ball, the Vikings defense will need to gang-tackle Lacy as he is one of the toughest in the NFL to bring down without help.  This is a tall-order for any defense, but one that the Vikings are more than equipped to accomplish.

Final Prediction: 28-24, Vikings

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