The stakes are high for the final Monday Night Football game of the year between the Packers and Vikings. The Packers won the first meeting between these two teams, 21-16, but that was all the way back in Week 2. The Packers hold a one-game lead over the Vikings in the NFC North, but the Vikings can clinch a playoff berth win a win on Monday. The Packers can clinch the NFC North title with a win.
In the first meeting between these two teams, the Packers jumped out to a 14-0 lead and were up 21-0 in the second quarter before the Vikings began to claw back. Despite losing that first matchup, the Vikings outgained the Packers 421 yards to 335 yards. They also killed the Packers in yards per play at 7.0 to 4.9. The game was sealed late on an ill-advised Kirk Cousins interception in the endzone.
Packers Offense vs. Vikings Defense
Despite the reputation of Aaron Rodgers, and the incredible season running back Aaron Jones is having, the Packers have not been too impressive when looking at yards per game. By that measure, Green Bay ranks all the way down at #21 in the league. This stat is misleading though, as the Packers rank #6 when looking at the most advanced statistic, offensive DVOA.
Green Bay has actually been more impressive when they run the ball, ranking #4 overall in rushing success. They don’t lag too far behind when passing though, ranking #8, and many of those stats were accumulated without their #1 wide receiver Davante Adams. A week ago against the Bears, Adams showed up in a big way, hauling in 7 receptions for 103 yards and a key TD on fourth down.
Aaron Jones and Jamaal Adams share the backfield duties, but Jones is the clear lead back. The last time Jones faced Minnesota he ran for 116 yards on 23 carries and added a touchdown. It was one of his 14 total touchdowns on the year, which is tied for first in the league. Jones is averaging 4.4 yards per carry on the season, while Williams is averaging 4.2 yards with 427 total.
As good as the Packers offense has been though, the Vikings are well-equipped to handle them on defense. Minnesota ranks #8 overall per defensive DVOA, ranking 8th against the pass and 4th against the run.
As far as injuries go, both the Packers offense and the Vikings defense should be at full capacity on Monday night.
Vikings Offense vs. Packers Defense
Where the Vikings will not be at full capacity is on offense. Dalvin Cook is nursing a chest injury and is not expected to play in this game. Making matters worse, backup Alexander Mattison may also not be able to suit up on Monday. He has been a non-participant in practice with an ankle injury and would force the Vikings to go down to third-stringer Mike Boone.
The loss of Cook would be somewhat mitigated if Mattison were able to play, as Mattison is averaging more yards per carry than Cook. But missing both players is a huge blow to the Minnesota game plan. The Vikings are #3 in the league in rushing attempts per game at 31, but do they really want to give the ball to Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah 31 times on Monday night? I highly doubt it.
Luckily for the Vikings, wide receiver Adam Thielen finally returned from his groin injury last week, although he didn’t do much with three receptions for 27 yards. If the Vikings are going to have success on Monday night they will need big performances from Stephon Diggs and Adam Thielen. While both receivers are capable of huge games, the problem is that if they don’t have an effective running game, the Packers edge rushers become that much more dangerous.
In the offseason the Packers made two clutch moves adding “the Smith brothers,” Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. Together the Smith brothers have combined for 21.5 sacks, with 10 coming from Za’Darius and 11.5 coming from Preston. If the Vikings are forced to drop back and pass the majority of the game, the brothers Smith are going to tee off on Cousins.
When it comes to special teams, the Packers have the edge, ranking #10 per DVOA while the Vikings rank #15. Both teams are right at league average in kickoffs, and the Vikings are the better punting team. But when it comes to field goals and extra points, the Packers rank 3rd in the league at 9.1 points above average, 5.4 points better than the Vikings. The Vikings are also the worst punt return team in the league at 5.8 points below average.
The Spread and Total
The look-ahead line on this game was Vikings -4 and despite both teams winning last week, the number reopened at Vikings -4.5. Even more surprising is the subsequent move up to Vikings -5.5 despite the news that Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison may both miss the game.
The public can’t understand why the Vikings are favored by this many points, as 66% of the bets are on the Packers. However, the sharp play appears to be the Vikings as just 55% of the money wagered on the spread has been on the Packers. Personally, this line makes no sense to me, despite Minnesota being at home with the slightly better roster.
The total opened at 46 points and has been bet up across the board. Nearly every shop is showing 47, a key number, while there are a couple rogue 47.5’s available. You can definitely see how this game could turn into a shootout. But divisional unders have been a strong play late in the season, and prime time unders have also been a profitable play in 2019.
By Kyle Johansen