By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings continue their preparation for the future Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
After already playing in Chicago and Detroit, the Vikings will no longer play a road game against a divisional opponent this season.
The Vikings (2-8) are coming off a collapsing blowout road loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Packers enter the contest with a 5-5 record, which is good for third in the NFC North Division. They have lost three straight, including two at home. Each of the last two games have been decided by the same 27-13 score.
They are 0-3 since losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone, which includes the game he was injured.
Packers on Offense
The Packers have struggled without Rodgers. Seneca Wallace replaced Rodgers in Week 8 and started Week 9 before suffering an injury himself. Scott Tolzien is now in charge of the Packers offense. Under Tolzien, the Packers have amassed 790 and 26 points in the last two weeks.
The Packers started pounding the ground game more just weeks prior to Rodgers’ injury with Eddie Lacy. He was successful, but is finding it hard to find room with 230 yards on 57 carries (4.04 yards per carry) since the Rodgers injury. The numbers dropped to 100 yards on 38 carries (2.6 yards per carry) in the last two games.
Without Rodgers, the Packers have become a run-first offense. The unit, however, has struggled to adjust to life without one of the league’s elite signal callers.
Packers on Defense
The Packers 3-4 base defensive scheme has been exposed over the last two games without Rodgers running the offense.
Green Bay ranks 13th against the run with 103.8 yards allowed per game and 21st against the pass with 247.1 yards allowed per game.
Their pass rush is going well with 31 sacks (which is in the top 10 in the league), but they are tied for last in interceptions (four) and tied for 20th in fumble recoveries (five). Only five teams have fewer total takeaways than the Packers.
Packers Players to Watch
Running back Eddie Lacy: The 5-foot-11-inch, 230-pound second round draft pick is getting the Adrian Peterson treatment. With Rodgers out, teams have been loading box daring Wallace and Tolzien to beat them. Neither quarterback nor running back has found success. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Packers faced nearly 58 percent of offensive snaps against seven or more defenders in the box – 25.5 percent of total offensive snaps against a loaded box in the previous eight games. Lacy is the focal point of the Packers offense without Rodgers in the lineup.
Defensive end Mike Daniels: The 6-foot, 300-pound second-year veteran leads the Packers with 4.5 sacks. He is quietly becoming one of the better interior pass rushers in the NFL.
The Vikings-Packers rivalry has hit a snag this week with both teams heading in the wrong direction. The Packers still have playoff aspirations, but need to figure out how to win without Rodgers or get the signal caller back quickly. The Vikings are in rebuilding mode again. The team that can control the clock and make the most of scoring opportunities will win the game.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.