Oh, what could have been.
Two weeks ago, this would have been a pivotal NFC playoff matchup with newly returned Aaron Rodgers leading the Pack back into the postseason conversation. After a disappointing loss against the Panthers, a loss that ultimately eliminated the Packers from the playoffs, Saturday’s primetime tilt is just a stepping stone for the Vikings to claim the top seed in the NFC playoffs.
Without the playoffs, Rodgers was rightfully banished to injured reserve. Without Rodgers, the Packers are an eight-point home underdog for this contest. It’s back to Brett Hundley for this contest, after the UCLA product went 3-4 as a starter earlier this season.
To give Hundely some credit, all four of his losses were to teams in the playoff picture. He struggled in games against Detroit and Baltimore, but played a surprisingly competitive game against New Orleans and Pittsburgh.
For the Vikings, it’s about keeping to the formula and staying healthy. The two-headed running attack of Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon have been excellent since Dalvin Cook’s injury, and the pair are again primed for a solid outing.
The biggest story for the Vikings offense has been Case Keenum, and he should have a fine outing against a soft Packers front. The Packers are allowing nearly 24 points per game, and are in the bottom half of nearly all defensive categories. Adam Thielen has only one TD in his last four games, but can match his career high with a TD catch tonight. In their previous meeting, Thielen lit up the Packers secondary with nine catches for 96 yards.
The only major injury on the Vikings offense has been Kyle Rudolph, and he’s been taken off the injury report for Saturday. The productive tight end was hobbled by an ankle injury last week, but still found the endzone for the eighth TD catch. Rudolph is one away from a career high in TD catches, and eclipsed last season’s TD total on 28 fewer catches.
The OddsShark computer is projecting a 29.4-14.4 Vikings victory. That would cover the spread, and would go over the projected total of 40.5 points. That’s a solid projection for a fairly predictable game, with the Vikings defense being a little more lenient on the road to push the total over. The Vikings still have something to play for, and while the Packers can surely get up for a rivalry, they don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with a Vikings offense that has been churning along all season.
Heavy’s Pick: Vikings 31 Packers 16. Vikings Cover -8 Spread. Over on the Point Total.