GREEN BAY, Wis. – How on earth are the Green Bay Packers 11-3 with a chance to win the NFC North Division championship on Monday night in Minnesota?
Two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers is merely 10th in passer rating, a figure built on his 24 touchdowns vs. two interceptions but weighed down by ranking 18th in completion percentage and 15th in yards per attempt.
Rodgers has only one legit target in the passing game. There’s a chance his second and third receivers on Monday night could be Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow, a pair of players who entered the season as undrafted free agents.
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On the other side of the ball, Green Bay is 23rd in total defense, 24th vs. the run and 22nd vs. the pass.
Combine the pop-gun offense and leaky defense, and the Packers have been outgained by 34.6 yards per game – the ninth-worst figure in the league. The eight teams worse than Green Bay all have at least nine losses.
Here’s what Vikings coach Mike Zimmer sees:
“First of all, they’ve got good players,” he said during a conference call. “Second of all, they don’t turn the ball over and they get turnovers. They play good in the red zone on both sides of the ball. They don’t commit a lot of penalties so they don’t ever beat themselves. Then, they got good players.”
While Minnesota has the more efficient quarterback, the better group of receivers, the more productive tight end and the stronger defense – all those things add up to Minnesota ranking ninth with plus-33.7 yards per game – the Packers and Vikings are mirror images in terms of Zimmer’s comment.
Turnovers: Green Bay is second in giveaways (nine) and seventh in takeaways (23) to rank second overall at plus-14. Minnesota is eighth in giveaways (16) and fourth in takeaways (27) to rank fourth overall at plus-11.
Red zone: The Packers’ red-zone touchdown rate of 68.9 percent is second in the NFL. Minnesota is fourth at 66.0 percent. Defensively, the Vikings are fourth (47.5 percent) and the Packers are fifth (48.9 percent).
Penalties: According to NFLPenalties.com, Green Bay has been guilty of 88 penalties, the eighth-fewest in the league. Minnesota has been flagged 90 times, the 10th-fewest. Green Bay’s 657 penalty yards are the third-fewest in the NFL.