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Vikings-Packers: 6 things you can count on

Can the Vikings build off Monday's win over the 49ers?
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The Minnesota Vikings are riding a high after defeating the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night and will now travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday's game could have major ramifications as Minnesota is currently in the final playoff spot in the NFC but also has some interesting decisions to make at the trade deadline.

It's unpredictable any time the Vikings and the Packers get together but here are five things you can count on.

1. Another banged-up opponent

The Vikings experienced a little bit of luck on Monday night as Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams sat out due to injuries. That luck should continue as the Packers are dealing with several injuries on the defensive side of the ball.

Cornerback Jaire Alexander (back) and linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (ankle) are both listed as questionable for Sunday's game and cornerback Eric Stokes (hamstring) and safety Darnell Savage (calf) were placed on injured reserve this week.

With tight end Luke Musgrave and offensive lineman Josh Myers also listed as questionable, the Packers will not be at full strength and could provide a massive advantage for the Vikings.

2. The Packers leaning on the running game

Packer fans were ready to build a Jordan Love statue after he threw six touchdowns in the first two games but things have fallen apart as Love has tossed seven interceptions over his last four games.

A big reason for this is the volume of the Packers' passing game. In the first two games, Love averaged 26 attempts and posted a 118.7 passer rating. In the last four games, Love has averaged 35 attempts and the Packers have lost three of those four games.

Conventional wisdom says that the Packers should establish the run to take some of the burden off of Love's shoulders but that has been easier said than done. Aaron Jones has been dealing with a hamstring injury since the opening week of the season and A.J. Dillon is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry despite holding the starting job for most of the season.

Put it together and the Packers have been held under 20 points in four straight games for the first time since 2005 and may need to re-think their strategy coming into a tilt with the Vikings.

3. Plenty of blitzes from Brian Flores

Another weakness of Love's game has been his performance against the blitz. According to Pro Football Focus, Love currently ranks 31st in qualified quarterbacks with a 53.6 percent completion percentage against the blitz this season. Although his 92.7 passer rating ranks 15th, it's also a small sample size as his 29.2 percent blitz rate is 24th among qualifiers.

Those numbers are sure to go up against the Vikings as Brian Flores has sent extra pressure on a league-high 56.4 percent of defensive snaps according to Pro Football Reference.

While that rate has backfired at times, it has created generally positive results unless the Vikings have been facing Justin Herbert or Patrick Mahomes. With Love falling well short of that threshold, the Vikings should have success stopping the Packers on Sunday.

4. Another big game for Kirk Cousins

Cousins turned in one of his best games as a Viking on Monday night, throwing for 378 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the win over the 49ers. While that line could have been flipped upside down if Charvarius Ward came down with an interception just before halftime, it could mean positive results for Cousins in Green Bay.

The Packers represent a matchup that's in Cousins's wheelhouse. Green Bay is the first in a stretch where the Vikings will face five of six opponents that are currently under .500 and Minnesota will play three straight games in the noon timeslot.

Mix in a Packer secondary that is missing several key members and this should be a matchup that Cousins picks apart.

5. The offensive line continues to come together

For the first time in a decade, the Vikings have a competent offensive line. The unit ranked seventh in PFF's offensive line rankings ahead of Week 8 and is continuing to show improvement even as Dalton Risner was swapped out for Ezra Cleveland.

The big turning point came on Monday night where the Vikings allowed just a 31.3 percent pressure rate against the 49ers. In previous games, teams had allowed a 41.1 percent pressure rate and the improvement allowed Cousins to work with a clean pocket all night long.

But more impressive has been the improvement on the interior. Ed Ingram has allowed just four pressures over the past two games and Garrett Bradbury is the only offensive lineman in the NFL to have not allowed a sack with a minimum of 100 pass-blocking snaps.

Even if Cleveland returns from his foot injury, the Vikings' offensive line is trending in the right direction and should continue to do so against the Packers.

6. The Vikings climbing back to .500

Monday's win was impressive but it doesn't come without its concern. After playing their best game of the year, it's curious to wonder if the Vikings set a bar they won't be able to reach. It was just two weeks ago when trade speculation ran wild for a 2-4 team but now the Vikings feel like a legitimate contender in a wide-open NFC.

If you want some optimism, consider that the 49ers opened last season at 3-4 before rattling off 12 straight wins to reach the NFC Championship Game. While that roster was markedly better than what the Vikings are rolling out now, they have a similar schedule that could help Minnesota go on a run.

Heading to a desperate division rival on a short week adds an interesting wrinkle to this matchup but the Vikings should be equipped to handle their business. If they pick up a win, it should enable the front office to stand pat at Tuesday's trade deadline or potentially add a piece to make a run in the second half of the season.

Prediction: Vikings 21, Packers 17