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Packers-Vikings Preview: A look at Minnesota by the numbers

Posted by linchao in Sports on October 26th, 2018

Last week the Green Bay Packers were able to defeat the Chicago Bears with quick passes designed to put pressure on the Chicago defensive backs while negating the pass rush. It’s not going to be that easy this week against the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota’s defensive front is every bit as good as Chicago’s Womens Blake Martinez Jersey , even with Khalil Mack, and their secondary, led by corner Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith, is much better. While the Bears had a bevy of weak spots to exploit, the Vikings don’t make it easy, coming off a 2017 campaign in which their pass defense ranked 4th overall by DVOA. They make things especially difficult in the short passing game, where they were the best team against pass-catching running backs and the second-best team against tight ends. Part of that success is also due to the coverage skills that linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr possess, as they are as good in coverage as they are providing pass rush or run support. The Vikings were the seventh-best team last year against slot receivers, and ranked in the top ten against opposing number one and number two receivers. They were, simply, great (outside of one game against Philadelphia).The Vikings faced the 49ers in week one, and San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed less than 50% of his passes while throwing three interceptions. It was an ugly performance from the 49ers, who lost receiver Marquise Goodwin to an injury early and were unable to compensate. They responded by running the ball far too much (23 carries for 84 yards) and put themselves in dangerous positions. Garoppolo was also atypically inaccurate, and at least two of his interceptions were the result of bad ball placement. The 49ers did have some success throwing to tight end George Kittle and throwing deep against Trae Waynes, but generally speaking the Vikings were their typical dominant selves. To move the ball, Rodgers likely will need to attack the nickel and dime corners and safety Andrew Sendejo. While the efforts of Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb were sufficient against the Bears, the Packers will probably need one of the rookies to step up in this game.Additional Note: Terrance Newman retired to become a coach for the Vikings before the season started. Newman was up there in age for a player, but it’s worth noting that even in limited action last season, he was outstanding, leading the secondary in success against targets and still providing stout run support. Trae Waynes has improved steadily and he’s certainly not bad, but losing Newman on the field may hurt more than many realize.Cousins and BallhawksThe Vikings were outstanding on offense last season, with Case Keenum leading quarterbacks in DVOA and Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen putting up outstanding efforts at wide receiver. That said, while the Vikings are unassailable on defense, there are some issues on offense.The offensive line in recent years has been bad, and that held true in the opener against the 49ers, when Dalvin Cook was held in check as a runner and Kirk Cousins was sacked three times. Last season, Keenum was also one of the best quarterbacks in football against pressure with a rare positive 6.8% DVOA. Even if that is a bit of a fluke and Keenum starts to struggle under pressure this year with Denver, that doesn’t change the fact that it happened, and it also doesn’t change the fact that it’s very unlikely to happen with Cousins, who has never been better than -54.5% DVOA in his career against pressure. The offensive line and Cousins make for a questionable duo, but that’s exacerbated by Cousins’ struggles near the goal line. He’s a good quarterback, but he’s best in the vertical game, hitting big strikes to his receivers. Thielen and Diggs are great at this, but if you can stop either one short of the end zone, the calculus changes. Cousins struggles mightily fitting balls into tight windows, and he can be picked off in small spaces. The fact that the Minnesota line isn’t going to overpower anyone to create rushing touchdowns adds further pressure. The Packers’ secondary is still largely unknown, and I’m sure it has its weak points that smart teams will exploit Womens Geronimo Allison Jersey , but Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson have shown themselves to be ballhawks in their brief careers, and don’t be surprised to see Cousins throw a pick or two, especially as he approaches the goal line.The Packers should have no issues stopping the run, so this game will likely depend on preventing big scoring plays and forcing Cousins to beat then with the short game. It will, somewhat ironically, require a “Dom Capers” style gameplan. If they can execute and pressure the new Minnesota signal caller, they have a good shot to win.Of course, if Aaron Rodgers or Davante Adams misses the game, they will probably get destroyed.Football Outsiders: Top-half finish is a good goal for Mike Pettine’s Packers defense Although there were some notable free agent signings and draft picks affecting the Green Bay Packers’ offense his offseason, the biggest changes to the team’s roster — and its coaching staff — came on the defensive side of the football. Brian Gutekunst brought an old friend back in the secondary, then spent his first three draft picks on defense in an effort to rebuild a unit that had gradually slipped from great to average to awful over Dom Capers’ tenure.Now, with Mike Pettine at the helm, fans’ expectations are much different for this group in 2018. But are they reasonable? We asked Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders what he thinks the Packers’ defense will look like this season as a result of these changes.Be sure to check out the 2018 Football Outsiders Almanac for more insights into the Packers and the rest of the NFL.APC: With new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, several significant additions (Muhammad Wilkerson, Jaire Alexander, etc.), and some noteworthy departures (Morgan Burnett), what do you expect from the Packers defense in 2018?Scott referenced the Packers’ use of high draft capital in the secondary, and that is absolutely true; Pettine will have plenty of talent to mold this year. Indeed, every one of the Packers’ draft picks at defensive back over the past two years has specific athletic abilities to salivate over. Josh Jackson showed excellent lateral quickness and explosiveness at the Combine this year and improved his 40 time into the high 4.4s at his Pro Day; Jaire Alexander ran a 4.38 in Indy and had even better agility times than Jackson. Josh Jones has 4.41 speed, absurd for a 6-foot-1, 220-pound player, and Kevin King had one of the best overall Combines by a cornerback in recent memory.Yes, the success of the secondary will be based largely on how that athleticism translates onto the football field; however, Scott echoes APC’s stance that the defensive line should be this team’s strength. With two Pro Bowlers (Wilkerson and Daniels) and one soon-to-be Pro Bowler (Clark) manning the three-man line, that is as impressive a group as can be. Clark posted 4.5 sacks last year, all of which came in the season’s final five games. Daniels posted five sacks of his own, and Wilkerson is two years removed from a 12-sack season in New York.As for Pettine himself, the Jerry Hughes callback provides an exciting precedent. In three years with the Colts, Hughes recorded five sacks. Both Hughes and Pettine arrived in Buffalo in 2013, and Hughes posted ten sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. Pettine also did great things with Cleveland’s Paul Kruger in 2014, when Kruger increased his sack numbers from 4.5 the year before to 11. Clearly, Pettine has shown an ability to motivate and develop veteran pass-rushers, and if he can do the same with Nick Perry — even on a lesser scale — that bodes poorly for opposing quarterbacks.As Scott notes, an elite defense isn’t necessary for the Packers to be a contender, at least not with Aaron Rodgers under center and throwing to an elite wide receiver. Remember that the two most recent NFC Championship appearances that the Packers made were made with defenses ranked 20th in DVOA (2016) and 16th (2014). As long as the offense does not regress to 2015 levels — which was the result of a multitude of injuries to the receiving corps — climbing into the 10-14 range should be more than enough to give the Packers a real shot at a deep playoff run.

 

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