The final game of the 2015 NFL season features NFC North Division rivals Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. Both have identical 10-5 records, both are in the post season, and both have performed well against the spread. This season the Vikings are 12-3-0 against the spread and 5-1-0 when underdogs. The Packers are 9-6-0 versus the spread and 8-5-0 when favored.
The past 10 games between the two clubs have seen the Packers win seven, the Vikings two, and the teams have tied once. The last time these two teams met, which was November 22, Green Bay won 30-13. The Pack is favored at -3.5 and the over/under is presently at 45.5. It started at 48.5
Interesting to note that in their last five games both teams are 3-2 and both played Arizona with Green Bay losing to the Cardinals 38-8 and Minnesota losing 23-20. Both clubs also recently played the Bears. The Vikings beat Chicago 38-17, while the Pack lost to them 17-13.
The Vikings are coming off of two straight wins. In both games they held their opponents, the Bears and Giants, to 17 points. Green Bay’s last game was their loss to Arizona. The week prior, the Packers beat Oakland 30-20.
Questions and Matchup
Minnesota’s strength on offense is their running game, while Green Bay’s is their pass attack. There are three big questions going into this game for the Vikings and three major considerations for the Packers. Both teams share the first of these questions.
The big thing for both to ponder is how important is it for them to win the division? Both clubs are going to the playoffs, one as division winner and the other as wild card. Neither will secure a bye if they win, as Arizona and Carolina have already qualified for such with their respective 13-2 and 14-1 records. Whoever wins this game gets home field advantage for the first round. That may certainly be worth something to both teams.
The two other concerns for Minnesota involve Adrian Peterson and the Viking pass rush. Peterson, who has gained 1400-plus yards, averaged 4.6 YPC, and scored 10 TDs, is hurting. He’s got ankle and shoulder problems and is questionable. Resting him for the playoffs makes sense. By the way, he did not practice on Wednesday. If the Vikings have to win by depending entirely upon the passing of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has been sacked 41 times and offered up 8 interceptions while tossing 14 touchdowns, they will have a tough time doing so.
That is unless the Viking pass rush, which includes DE Everson Griffin (8.5 Sacks), DE Danielle Hunter (6.0 Sacks), DE Brian Robison (5.0 Sacks), and DT Tom Johnson (5.0 Sacks), can pressure Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has been sacked 41 times, which means he is vulnerable. At the same time, the Viking defense excels at forcing fumbles and creating turnovers.
One big question for the Pack involves their ability to establish a solid running game. Primary running back, Eddie Lacy, is questionable. James Starks has done a decent job manning the post, but together he and Lacy have fumbled seven times losing four. The Vikings have recovered 80% of the fumbles they have forced. That’s an important stat.
The other question for Green Bay concerns their group of sack experts. In his 14th season, Julius Peppers (9.5 Sacks) continues to be a massive force on the field. The Packers have made 40 sacks this season. Can they get to Bridgewater? The answer should be “yes.”
If Peterson plays, we feel that the Vikings have a decided advantage. But even if he does not, the Minnesota defense will be problematic for Green Bay. But the Purple’s D can’t win this game on its own. They need some offense that includes significant contributions from Peterson.
The Packers favored by 3.5 certainly looks fairly solid. This is true especially because both of these teams have to play in the first week of the post season. It’s doubtful they’ll put any extra stress on their injured players. At 45.5, we’re taking the under.