Down by a 2-0 score late in the first half on Monday night and watching Sam Bradford struggle to move, things certainly did not look good for a Vikings team coming off a home loss to the Lions. However, Case Keenum replaced Bradford late in the first half, got points on the board before halftime, and combined with another big-time performance from the team's defense, led the team to an important 20-17 win, helping the Vikings stay just a game behind today's opponent, the Green Bay Packers, in the race for the NFC North division crown.
Bradford was held out of practice all three days this week as he tried to battle back from a knee injury suffered during the week one win over the Saints, so Keenum once again will take the reins and try to win his third game of the season. Things won't be made any easier for him due to Stefon Diggs' groin injury, which will keep him out of today's game. However, the team did add Michael Floyd back to the mix on Monday night after he completed his four-game suspension, so his role is expected to be elevated today in Diggs' absence.
Green Bay's defense is 9th in the NFL against the pass but just 22nd against the run, so that face combined with the loss of Minnesota's top wideout, and the desire of the Vikings to control the clock and keep Aaron Rodgers and Co. on the sideline, could put an emphasis on the running game. Jerick McKinnon had one of his best nights of his career on Monday, going for 146 yards rushing and receiving, including a 58-yard touchdown run. He, along with Latavius Murray, are again expected to split carries.
On the injury front, the Packers will be without S Morgan Burnett (hamstring) and LB Joe Thomas (ankle). Rookie CB Kevin King is doubtful with a concussion, as is LB Ahmad Brooks (back).
Rodgers has once again been arguably the top player in the NFL this season, having thrown 13 touchdowns to just three interceptions. His brilliance was on full display late in Sunday's win over the Cowboys, as he had another one of his signature game-winning drives, going 75 yards in 9 plays, with the end result being a Davante Adams touchdown. Head Coach Mike Zimmer spent most of his Wednesday press conference this week signing Rodgers' praises, and for good reason.
This will be the seventh meeting between Rodgers and the Vikings since Zimmer arrived to Minnesota, with the Packers having won four of the six meetings so far. The teams have split the season series the past two years, and over those six games, Rodgers has averaged only 238 yards passing per game. It's virtually impossible to put Rodgers on a clunker of a game at any point, but the Vikings' defense has held its own compared to their counterparts around the league when going against the future Hall of Famer.
Minnesota's defense was a little bit banged up coming out of Monday's win, but everyone was a full participant in Friday's practice outside of S Andrew Sendejo, who was limited with a groin injury that marked him as questionable on the final injury report. We'll find out at 10:30 whether he's able to play today or not, but his absence would sting against such an elite offense.
The Packers' ground game got going last week, with rookie Aaron Jones going for 125 yards on just 19 carries. That was in the absence of starting RB Ty Montgomery, who practiced in full this week and will rejoin the mix. The Vikings' run defense has been great all season, so stopping that duo and forcing Rodgers into unfavorable down and distances could go a long way towards emerging with a win.
Green Bay's 4-1 start has been even more impressive when you factor in that they've been dealing with injuries to key pieces on the offensive line. T Bryan Bulaga, who has missed much of the season dealing with an ankle injury, started last week and should be good to go for Sunday. Fellow T David Bakhtiari, who has an hamstring injury and like Bulaga was limited in practice all week, might miss the start, which would be a key loss.
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