Game Overview ::
- Both offenses will have new looks to them, as the Packers adjust to life without Davante Adams and the Vikings implement a new, more aggressive scheme.
- A battle of wills, with the Vikings forging a new, aggressive mentality, while the Packers continue to bleed the clock and slow games down.
- Both defenses should be more vulnerable on the ground, which plays into the philosophy of the Packers offense at this time perfectly.
- We should expect a very competitive game throughout, with the potential for a low scoring battle, but a specific scenario which could turn this into the game of the week.
How Minnesota Will Try To Win ::
After an eight year stint of mostly successful and competitive football with Mike Zimmer as their head coach, the Vikings let him go at the conclusion of the 2021 season as they try to get over the hump of disappointing finishes. Their new coach is 36-year-old Kevin O’Connell, the man who was the offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champion LA Rams last season. O’Connell joins a growing list of young, offensive minded coaches that are sweeping the league, and his arrival brings with it a lot of excitement about what the Vikings and their elite personnel can do with an aggressive coach of his nature, rather than the “defense and ball control” mindset that Zimmer imposed on the organization.
The Vikings did not play their starters this preseason and, as always, preseason play calling and schemes are pretty vanilla, so it is hard to point to specific things on film or in box scores to define their approach. However, from training camp reports, beat writers, O’Connell’s history and the Vikings’ personnel we can paint a pretty clear picture of what to expect this season:
- First of all, Justin Jefferson appears primed for the “Cooper Kupp role,” which is not just a wide receiver, but rather an offensive centerpiece that is schemed around and found ways to force the ball to. Videos from camp and reports from beat writers showed Jefferson running routes from the backfield and being used in a variety of creative ways to get him the ball downfield, with advantageous matchups and in scoring zones.
- Next, we look in the backfield. Dalvin Cook is still one of the most talented backs in the league and O’Connell comes from a Rams system that has historically relied on one bell cow running back to carry the load, only occasionally being spelled for breaks. This philosophy is very similar to what we’ve seen from the Vikings in recent years, with the caveat being that Cook has been rumored to be used in more creative ways, including even being split out wide on occasion. That should open the door for Cook to get the ball in space more often and for elite backup RB Alexander Mattison to be on the field with Cook.
- From a pace of play perspective, the Vikings ranked a middling 17th in the league in situation-neutral pace of play in 2021, while the Rams played at a blistering pace to rank fourth in the same category. The Rams also ranked fourth in the league in average depth of target and called pass plays at a higher situation-neutral rate than the Vikings last season.
Putting that all together, we can expect a much more aggressive and fast paced offense (specifically early in games, where the Vikings were previously very conservative and usually had to be “pulled out of their shell” by game script) than we have seen from the Vikings in recent years. We can also expect a large portion of their offense to funnel through their two all-pro skill players, albeit in a variety of creative ways.
It is worth noting that the Green Bay defense faced O’Connell’s Rams last season at Lambeau in November, a game in which the Packers controlled most of the way and won 36-28. It should be noted, however, that game was played outdoors in the cold Wisconsin weather late in the season. This game will be played in good conditions, at home, early in the season before injury issues become prevalent.
The biggest obstacle for this new look Minnesota offense in its debut will be a ferocious Green Bay defense that performed well last season and has now added more firepower through the draft, free agency and the return of some key players from injury. The Vikings have at best, a middle of the pack offensive line, while the Packers have a pair of high end edge rushers in Rashaan Gary and Preston Smith, along with all-pro DT Kenny Clark who routinely collapses pockets from the interior. This, along with a loaded secondary led by the return of Jaire Alexander – the highest paid cornerback in the NFL – makes the Packers defense anything but a cakewalk, particularly through the air.
The Packers run defense ranked 28th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric last year and was clearly the easier way to attack this defense. We should expect the Vikings to exploit this area when possible, but not to shrivel up as they would in the past when trying to “establish the run.” I would expect in this Week 1 matchup with a division rival at home, that the Vikings will look to find ways to be aggressive and send a message that things are changing. While running may be the “easiest path,” this is a matchup of strength on strength as the Vikings offense is now primed to attack rather than be pulled along for the ride. Sometimes teams will abandon ship on their philosophies as the season drags along, but at full strength in a high leverage game in front of their home crowd I would expect O’Connell to have an attacking mindset.
By Alex88 >>
- Per Sharp Football Stats, GB’s offense moved at the slowest pace of play (31.3 seconds)
- MIN’s offense was 10th fastest (27.9), and their new head coach, Kevin O’Connell, is fresh off a Super Bowl win for LAR as their Offensive Coordinator (LAR was 9th in pace of play at 27.8)
- Rodgers’s DK game log vs. MIN in his back-to-back MVP seasons: 33.8 // 23.5 // 36.5 // 20.3
- His 22.3 DK ppg last season ranked 7th
- Notable scores of: 26.8 // 29.3 // 32.64 // 36.5
- $7,000 Week 1 DK salary is the 5th highest
- MIN ranked 28th in DK ppg allowed to QBs (20.5)
- Three QBs scored 30+ pts vs. MIN
GB Passing Attack
- The departure of Davante Adams leaves 28.5% of the team target share available
- Adams YPRR / catch percentage in his past three seasons as the primary weapon (2019-2021): 2.33/66.9% // 2.96/78.8% // 2.82/74.1%
- Filling the void are Allen Lazard ($5,600), Christian Watson ($5,100), Sammy Watkins ($4,700), & Randall Cobb ($3,400)
- Lazard’s YPRR / catch percentage the past three seasons: 1.62/68.6% // 1.74/73.3% // 1.19/67.8%
- He hit 20+ DK pts twice last season
- Rookie second-round pick Watson’s YPRR / catch percentage in his final college season: 4.28/67.2%
- Since his 49.8 DK pt explosion in Week 1 of 2019, Watkins has hit 20 DK pts just once
- 32 year old Cobb scored 15+ DK pts three times last year
- MIN ranked dead last in DK ppg allowed to WRs (44.6)
- Notable scores: Lazard 19.2 // Cooper Kupp 24.3 // Darnell Mooney 27.6 // Adams 33.6
- TE Robert Tonyan ($3,900) is uncertain to play
- His stat line in his last game vs. MIN: 5/7-79
- Backup Josiah Deguara ($2,900) scored 11.7 & 3.1 DK pts vs. MIN last season
- MIN ranked 10th in DK ppg allowed to TEs
- Only five TEs cracked double digit DK pts vs. MIN last season, and none hit 15
GB Rushing Attack
- Aaron Jones ($6,700) and AJ Dillon ($5,300) only played in one game without Davante Adams last season
- Snaps/rushes/targets/touches/redzone touches: Jones 48/15/11/22/5 // Dillon 29/16/0/16/4
- Snap share for the whole season: Jones 51.8% // Dillon 42.7%
- Average targets: Jones 4.3 // Dillon 2.2
- Jones scored 20+ DK pts four times, including a 40+ pt effort
- Dillon scored 20+ DK pts three times
- MIN ranked 23rd in DK ppg allowed to RBs
- Notable opposing RB scores: Dillon 22.3 // Sony Michel 23.5 // Najee Harris 25.4 // Elijah Mitchell 30.8
- Cousins ($6,100) finished 5th in PFF passing rank last year
- Last season, he averaged 20.4 DK ppg
- Since 2019, his only 20+ DK pt scores vs. GB have come at home (22.8 & 28.2)
- PFF ranks the GB secondary as 4th best in the league
- Last season, they finished 25th in DK ppg allowed to opposing QBs (19.14)
- Notable opposing scores: Matthew Stafford 27 // Cousins 28.2 // Jameis Winston 29.6 // Tyler Huntley 35.9
MIN Passing Attack
- Snap share: Justin Jefferson (88.9%) // Tyler Conklin 81% // Adam Thielen 73% // K.J. Osborn 67.8%
- Target share: Jefferson 27.6% // Thielen 15.7% // Conklin 14.4% // Osborn 13.6%
- Red zone target share: Jefferson 30% // Thielen 19% // Conklin 19% // Osborn 10%
- Jefferson ($7,800) ranked 3rd in PFF passing grade, 5th in YPC, & 4th in YPRR
- His 20.5 DK ppg ranked 4th
- His notable DK scores: 25.1 // 25.9 // 29.8 // 38.6 // 40.2 (vs. GB)
- Thielen ($5,400) scored 20+ DK pts four times: 22.2 (vs. GB) // 23.2 // 30.2 // 32.8
- Osborn ($4,900) scored 25+ DK pts four times: 17.3 // 17.8 // 19.8 // 20.1
- GB ranked 9th in DK ppg allowed to opposing WRs (34)
- Just two WRs cracked 20+ DK pts: Kalif Raymond 24.4 // Amon-Ra St. Brown 29.1 (both in a meaningless Week 18)
- Conklin played last season in relief of injured Irv Smith ($3,400), but he is now a member of NYJ
- Smith’s notable DK scores in his 2020 campaign: 15 // 16.3 // 23.3
- GB ranked 22nd in DK ppg allowed to TEs (13.4)
- Notable opposing TE scores: Brock Wright 13.1 // Gerald Everett 14.3 // Mark Andrews 38.6
- Cook ($7,900) was tied for 5th in YPC and finished 2nd in breakaway percentage
- He averaged 3.8 targets per game
- His 17.6 DK ppg ranked 9th
- The previous two years, he averaged 26 & 22.1 DK ppg
- Notable scores last season: 22.5 (vs. GB) // 25.3 // 38.2
- Alexander Mattison ($6,200) only sees meaningful work when Cook is hurt
- GB ranked 7th in DK ppg allowed to RBs (21.4)
- Notable opposing RB scores: Cook 22.5 // Nick Chubb 30.4