Vikings vs Packers – NFL Pick for December 23rd
Just a week ago this rematch between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers was set up to be a pretty big deal. Aaron Rodgers had been activated from injured reserve and with a win in Carolina, he and the Packers would be out for blood at home against the hated Vikings.
Things didn’t unfold as planned, however. A-Rod wasn’t quite himself in his return against the Panthers, Green Bay fell to 7-7 and a Falcons win on Monday Night Football ended their playoff hopes.
That sent Rodgers back to injured reserve, nullifying the revenge factor. Green Bay now has nothing but pride to play for and it’s back to being the Brett Hundley show on offense.
It gets even worse for the Packers. Top wide receiver Davante Adams (Hundley’s favorite target) has been ruled out for week 16 due to a concussion, while Minnesota still has plenty to play for with the NFC’s #1 seed still up for grabs.
Needless to say, bettors shouldn’t be shocked over the movement of this game’s line, which started at a heated -1.5 at Bovada, but now comes into the weekend at -9.
That might even be a bit generous for the green and gold, who have no real incentive going into Saturday night’s NFC North tilt.
My initial gut instinct here is to bet hard on the Vikings to cover. I’m looking for ammunition to back the Packers, but I don’t think I’ll find any.
The only thing that could work in Green Bay’s favor is the brutal cold expected for kickoff. This is a night game in Green Bay and the temperature is expected to be below freezing. A game in the single digits , and it’s fair to wonder if that will be a big deal.
Honestly, I doubt it. The cold hasn’t drastically impacted Packers’ opponents in years and it’s again just going to come down to which team is better and executes when it matters the most.
That was Minnesota back in week six. Aaron Rodgers only lasted four pass attempts in that game, but the Vikings still played the better game and took an easy 23-10 win at home.
A huge reason for that was Minnesota’s dominant defense. The Vikings obviously got to A-Rod early, but they later rattled Brett Hundley, who tossed three picks in the loss.
This game gave way to Case Keenum’s career revival, too. The career backup did enough to get the win, but this contest sparked his confidence and he only got better as the season wore on.
The same can’t exactly be said for Hundley, who has had his moments, but has struggled mightily at home for some reason. Looking back on his four starts at Lambeau, Hundley has gone 1-3 and has put up 0 passing scores against 6 total turnovers.
Hundley seems to thrive on the road, while he’s now back at home this week against a defense he struggled mightily against. On top of that, he’s without Adams, who he’s targeted relentlessly throughout the year.
Relegated to a regressing Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, it’s likely Hundley has a hard time moving the ball. The weather may dictate a run-oriented offense to begin with, while Green Bay’s rushing attack may not be able to generate consistent production against the NFL’s #2 run defense.
Even if Green Bay opts to throw the ball, Hundley still has trouble ahead of him, as Minnesota also ranks #3 against the pass. No matter which way you look at it, the Packers are in trouble as an offensive unit this week and that may have been the case even if Rodgers and Adams were on hand.
On the flip-side, the Vikings have a mouth watering matchup. Green Bay has been an opportunistic defense at times, but the wind has been taken out of their sails with Rodgers being deactivated and this matchup looks bad for them on paper.
Keenum can shred the league’s 24th-ranked pass defense. Adam Thielen has destroyed Green Bay’s secondary in the past, while the Packers really aren’t equipped to contain Kyle Rudolph, Stefon Diggs or Jerick McKinnon out of the backfield, either.
It’s not any better on the ground, as Latavius Murray has emerged as a bit of a beast for the Vikes, who own the NFL’s 9th best rushing offense. He’ll get a very winnable date against Green Bay’s run defense (20th), which has been gashed routinely in recent weeks, most notably by Peyton Barber, Isaiah Crowell and Christian McCaffrey.
Green Bay could come out with a sense of pride on their home field, but the novelty of that should wear off quickly. From a matchup perspective, the Vikings are the easy call here. They also simply have more talent to work with at the moment and also have a lot to play for.
Locking up that #1 seed would give them home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and with Philly losing Carson Wentz for the year, that could ultimately be massive for them.
Bettors may be in for a sweat initially just because it’s a road divisional contest, but Minnesota will pull away and win this one easily. The -9 spread doesn’t look so bad with Rodgers and Adams out and I think Minnesota wins and covers.