Minnesota Vikings (7-8, 8-7 ATS) at Green Bay Packers (12-3, 11-4), 8:20 p.m., SNF
Brolley’s Vikings Stats and Trends
Temperatures in Green Bay could be hovering in the single digits on Sunday night.
The Vikings beat the Packers 34-31 as four-point home underdogs in a game totaled at 46 points in Week 11.
Minnesota is 5-2 ATS in its last seven road games.
The Vikings are 5-1 ATS in their last six games.
Dalvin Cook will return to the lineup this week after a stay on the COVID list. He’s seen 20+ touches in his last five full games with four touchdowns in that span, but he’s posted just 3/19 receiving since he returned from his shoulder injury in Weeks 14-15 after posting 3+ catches in four straight games in Weeks 9-12. Cook posted 22/86/1 rushing and 3/29 receiving as the bellcow back when these teams met in late November.
Kirk Cousins has fallen below 18 FP in his last three games with Adam Thielen (IR) out or hindered after Kirkie topped that mark in eight of his first 12 games. Cousins did complete 71.0% of his passes for 8.3 YPA in their loss to the Vikings, but he threw for just one TD after tossing for multiple scores in his previous seven contests. Kirkie completed 24/35 passes for 341 yards (a season-high 9.7 YPA) and three TDs when these teams squared off back in Week 11.
Justin Jefferson is on an absolute heater since he saw just nine combined targets in Weeks 8-9. He’s scored 13+ FP in eight straight games and he’s seen 9+ targets in seven consecutive contests. Jefferson exploded for his best game of the season when these teams met in Week 11, as he recorded 8/169/2 receiving on 10 targets.
Adam Thielen tried to play through his high-ankle injury in Week 16, but he was in and mostly out of the lineup in their loss to the Rams — he ended up having season-ending ankle surgery this week. K.J. Osborn stepped up behind him and finished with 5/68/1 receiving on seven targets (18% share) for 17.8 FP. Osborn has now posted 14+ FP in three of the four games since Thielen initially suffered the injury in Week 13. Thielen ripped the Packers for 8/82/1 receiving and Osborn had just a 19-yard catch on four targets when these teams met in late November.
Tyler Conklin took on a bigger role in the passing game with Thielen ailing last week, posting 4/44 receiving on five targets (13% share) in defeat. Conklin caught all three of his targets for 35 yards when these teams met in Week 11. Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham combined for 6/79/1 receiving in this matchup last week.
Brolley’s Packers Stats and Trends
The Packers control their own destiny in the NFC. They need to win their final two games to lock up a bye and homefield advantage for the second straight year since the NFL went to a 14-team playoff system.
Green Bay is 6-1 ATS in its last seven home games.
The Packers are 4-1 toward overs in their last five games.
Aaron Rodgers has been the best player in the league since he fractured his toe, posting 19+ FP and multiple TD passes in five straight games. His five-game streak with 265+ passing yards came to an end last week as he averaged just 5.9 YPA on his way to 202/3 passing against the Browns. Rodgers completed 23/33 passes for 385 yards and four TDs in Green Bay’s loss to the Vikings in Week 11.
Davante Adams hung 10/114/2 receiving on the Browns last week, which gives him five games with 30+ FP this season. He’s now posted 6+ catches in eight straight games and in 12-of-14 contests this season, and he’s reached 14+ FP in six consecutive contests. Adams posted 7/115/2 receiving on eight targets against the Vikings in Week 11.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling missed last week with COVID, but he led the Packers in receiving with 5/98/1 receiving on seven targets (23% share) in Green Bay’s victory over the Ravens in Week 15. MVS led the Packers in targets in three out of his last four games, and he’s produced 20+ FP in two of those games. Allen Lazard will slide back into the #3 WR spot after posting 2/45/1 receiving on five targets with MVS out of the lineup in Week 16, which gives him 13+ FP in two of his last three games. With Lazard out of the lineup, MVS finished with 4/123/1 receiving on 10 targets against Minnesota in late November.
Aaron Jones has held a small advantage in this backfield the last two weeks with 15+ touches and 56% of the snaps or better. He finished with 12/66 rushing and 5/21 receiving on six targets against the Browns. Meanwhile, A.J. Dillon has taken a bit of a backseat with a combined 16/63/1 rushing and 4/28 receiving in the last two weeks. This week’s bitter temperatures and a potential positive game script — the Packers are 6.5-point home favorites — could lead to a little more work for Dillon. With Jones out of the lineup, Dillon finished with 11/53 rushing and 6/44 receiving against the Vikings back in Week 11.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.2 (16th)
Plays per game: 63.0 (18th)
Pass: 57.6% (23rd) | Run: 42.4% (10th)
Pace: 29.5 (30th)
Plays per game: 63.3 (15th)
Pass: 60.3% (15th) | Run: 39.7% (18th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
Well, this game looked like a hot SNF fantasy championship finale before Kirk Cousins landed on the COVID list. We’ll get Sean Mannion under center now and he’ll be tasked with keeping the Vikings playoff hopes alive. (I’m sorry, John). With Cousins out, the Packers have moved from -6.5 to -13.5 point favorites and the total has dropped from 48 to 43. There is still some room for that over/under to sink further. With Mannion under center, I’ll bet the Vikings play as conservatively as possible offensively – which will further drag the pace of this game down.
The Packers are absolutely rolling offensively because Aaron Rodgers is arguably playing better now than he did at any point last year in his MVP run. Over the last five weeks, Rodgers’ numbers are absolutely ridiculous as he’s completing 70.6% of his throws, has a 125.3 passer rating, is averaging 8.4 YPA, and has 16 TDs to 0 INTs. The Packers have been ball hogs as of late largely because Rodgers is playing at a wizardry level. Coupled with the third-slowest pace, the Packers are impossible to get off the field right now and are No. 1 in time-of-possession per drive (3:20) by a mile.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
When Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams clashed with the Vikings in Week 11, they connected on seven occasions, advanced the ball 115 yards, placed 14 points on the board, and combined for 70/61 FPs.
That 34-31 loss to the Vikings began a five-game stretch where Mr. Rodgers has averaged 28.4/26.6 FPG. And investors can be comforted by the fact that Bashaud Breeland, recently released and scooped up by Arizona, accounted for permitting only 4/46/0 of Rodgers’ accumulated total in Week 11.
If you value my opinion, Sean Manniob is drawing this start solely due to his understanding of the playbook. Justin Jefferson’s comments following the loss to the Rams in Week 16 that the Vikings must be aggressive on offense Sunday night are completely nullified without Kirk Cousins. We can expect to see one of the least aggressive offensive approaches of the ‘21 season. Not to mention the fact that JJ will deal with the cover skills from Rasul Douglas on around half of his routes.
Douglas – my current selection for Comeback Player of the Year – has held his coverage to 0.81 YPCS (11th-fewest), 0.21 FP/CS (16th-fewest), a 50.0 TPR (second-lowest), and the 13th-lowest rate of 20-plus completions. Over the last three weeks, he has crushed the hopes of his coverage responsibilities with 0.36 YPCS, 0.13 FP/CS, and a 48.5 TPR. K.J. Osborn will not have it any easier with ‘21 first-rounder Eric Stokes in coverage.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
One of this summer’s most prominent “anti-COVID-vax” voices, Kirk Cousins managed to avoid the virus all season long… until now. After testing positive on Friday (and, to Cousins’ credit, he self-reported symptoms), he will miss a game that is essential for the Vikings to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
So they’ll turn to Sean Mannion — fresh off the COVID list himself — who doesn’t have a touchdown pass since being drafted in 2015.
A source said that backup QB Sean Mannion is expected to come off the COVID-19 reserve list and start for the #Vikings on Sunday night at Green Bay with Kirk Cousins out.— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) December 31, 2021
What exactly does this say about rookie QB Kellen Mond, by the way?
Mike Zimmer said there "really wasn't" any consideration given to starting Kellen Mond on Sunday. Zimmer said Sean Mannion "earned this opportunity."— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) December 31, 2021
While Mannion is obviously a downgrade from Cousins, I can’t imagine you’ll have the luxury to bench Justin Jefferson in a game in which the Vikings are now two-touchdown underdogs. The Packers may focus extra attention on him and force Mannion to go anywhere else to beat them, but Jefferson is the kind of transcendent receiver who helps a career backup QB. (It does not appear the Packers will play top CB Jaire Alexander this week as they look to ramp him up from a serious shoulder injury.)
Here’s Scott Barrett from the XFP Report on Jefferson:
“After a Week 9 loss against the Ravens, Vikings OC Klint Kubiak said Justin Jefferson was “deserving of more targets.” And, well, Kubiak has been true to his word.
Up to that point, Jefferson averaged just 9.1 targets and 15.6 XFP/G. Since then, those numbers are up 36% and 50% (respectively).
Over this span, Jefferson averages 173.3 air yards (most), 12.4 targets (2nd-most), 23.5 XFP/G (most), 117.0 YPG (most), and 23.3 FPG (3rd-most).
This week, Jefferson gets a Packers defense he demolished in Week 11, when he caught 8 of 10 targets for 169 yards and 2 scores.”
Meanwhile, the Vikings just put WR Adam Thielen (ankle) on IR. That opens the door for KJ Osborn to step in.
K.J. Osborn finishes in games Adam Thielen has A) missed or B) been limited with an in-game injury:— Dwain McFarland (@dwainmcfarland) December 28, 2021
WR21, WR17, WR64, WR15
Of course, those performances came with Kirkie at QB, which makes Osborn a lot less likely to come through as anything more than a longshot WR3. In all, it feels like this is going to be a game in which the Vikings give RB Dalvin Cook — off the COVID list himself — as many touches as he can handle as long as the game is competitive.
With the Packers two-TD favorites now, it wouldn’t be surprising to see QB Aaron Rodgers throw to build the Packers’ lead, and then the Packers use AJ Dillon in frigid Green Bay temperatures to close things out — Aaron Jones (knee) tweaked his injury late last week and might not be 100%.