Minnesota Vikings (7-8) vs. Green Bay Packers (12-3)
Date: Sunday, January 2, 2022
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Venue: Lambeau Field
It’s been an up and down season for the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings sit one game below .500 and outside of the NFC playoff picture with two weeks to go. One of the ups for Minnesota was a 34-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Week 11. They’ll need to replicate that performance in the frigid temperatures of Lambeau Field on Sunday night if they have any hope of making the postseason.
A victory doesn’t guarantee the Vikings a playoff position, as they’ll also need help from a few teams over the next couple of weeks. All they can do is prepare for the Packers, something they did quite well in Week 11. Kirk Cousins is unavailable for the Vikings, meaning we should expect an amended game plan in what will be one of the coldest games of the year.
Kirk Cousins threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns on 35 pass attempts in their first win over Green Bay, representing 55.6% of their offensive plays. It was an unexpected result against one of the best pass defenses in the league. The Packers have allowed the 10th-fewest pass yards per game this season, with opponents struggling even more so over their recent outings. Green Bay has limited their past three opponents to an average of 203.3 yards per game, with no opponent gaining more than 211 yards through the air. With Sean Mannion expected to make the third start of his career, the Packers will get a steady dose of Dalvin Cook.
The Vikings sit in the top half of the league, running the ball 42.3% of the time, a rating that will likely move up after Sunday’s game. In four of his past five games, Cook has toted the ball 22 times or more, going north of 86 rushing yards in all four contests. Included in that sample is Cook’s Week 11 game against the Packers, in which he ran for 86 yards on 22 carries. Green Bay struggled to contain the run last week, allowing Nick Chubb to go off for 126 yards, giving up 219 rushing yards altogether against the Cleveland Browns. That brought their three-game average up to 166.3 yards and is another indicator that Cook should impress in Week 17. We’re taking over on Cook’s 78.5 rushing yard proposition.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have also have weaknesses that they can expose on the Vikings. Minnesota’s pass defense has been among the worst in the league this season, giving up the sixth-most passing yards per game. Last week against the Browns was the first time that Rodgers didn’t throw for at least 268 yards in six weeks. Davante Adams has shown that he’s an all-world talent all season, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the receiving prop that we’re keying in on. Valdes-Scantling missed last week while on the COVID-19 list but has been drawing a larger percentage of targets from Rodgers. The former fifth-round pick has 31 targets over his previous four games, getting at least seven looks in three of the four games. We’re betting he goes over 35.5 receiving yards against the Vikes.
Cold weather may influence how these teams prepare for their NFC North showdown, but the market may have overreacted to its impact on the outcome. The Vikings have struggled to contain the pass all season, while recent outcomes indicate that the Packers’ run defense is lacking. That should lead to a free-flowing game that makes it over 42.5 points.
All NFL game predictions and picks are courtesy of SportsGrid