Who has the edge in Thursday night's matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers? Don Banks makes his pick.
• Last week: 6-7; Season: 36-25 (.590).
• Best pick in Week 4: Houston 23, Buffalo 16 (actual score Houston 23-17).
• Worst pick: Washington 27, N.Y. Giants 20 (actual score Giants 45-14).
So much for the notion that the Vikings' running game was Adrian Peterson left, Adrian Peterson right and Adrian Peterson up the middle. Minnesota put a new twist on its All Day rushing attack in Week 4, ceaselessly pounding away at Atlanta on the ground to the tune of 241 yards and four touchdowns on 44 carries. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata gave Vikings fans a glimpse of what life might be like in the team’s post-Peterson era, and it’s not the nightmare everyone probably feared.
Ditto on the starting quarterback front, where calm, cool rookie Teddy Bridgewater played like he has been there, done that in making his first career start. As it turns out, no Matt Cassel and no Peterson won’t equate to no season left to play for in Minnesota. On the contrary, the Vikings offense exhibited impressive balance and potency, and that’s without the dangerous Cordarrelle Patterson being fully utilized against the previously high-flying Falcons.
Green Bay’s defense still looks alarmingly soft, and what’s up with Clay Matthews running out of bounds on his return of that Jay Cutler interception last Sunday in Chicago? (You’d never catch J.J. Watt pulling that kind of move.) The Packers D is surrendering 176 rushing yards per game, so Minnesota’s gameplan should be heavily ground-oriented, especially with rain in the forecast and Bridgewater looking likely to sit out due to the ankle sprain he suffered late against Atlanta. Backup quarterback Christian Ponder is no Joe Webb, so the Vikings have that much going for them.
But if the Packers can build a healthy lead with a passing game that finally looked like Aaron Rodgers was running it on Sunday in Chicago, Minnesota may be forced to throw in order to keep up, and that's advantage Green Bay. When he was the Bengals' defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer had success frustrating Rodgers, so expect a four-quarter game for the first time in this year’s blowout-heavy Thursday night NFL schedule. But the Lambeau Field crowd will be there when Green Bay needs it, and the Packers will move to 8-1-1 in the past 10 games against their NFC North rivals.