Vikings Starting Linebacker ‘Likely Out’ for Primetime vs. Packers

Nick Vigil

Getty Nick Vigil landed on the Vikings' COVID-19 reserve list and is "likely out" against the Packers, per The Athletic's Chad Graff.

The Minnesota Vikings defense took a severe hit Thursday with starting weakside linebacker Nick Vigil landing on the COVID-19 reserve list, per a team release.

Due to the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, Vigil is “likely out” entering a must-win primetime border battle with the Green Bay Packers.

“The Vikings added LB Nick Vigil to the COVID/Reserve list, meaning he’s likely out for Sunday’s game against the Packers,” The Athletic’s Chad Graff reported.

Vigil has started in 11 of 15 games this season, tallying 78 combined tackles, four tackles for a loss, and a pick-six in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals. He’s proven to be a versatile piece to the defense, taking over as outside linebacker for Pro Bowler Anthony Barr, who missed five games due to a knee injury.

With Sunday’s game anticipated to be one of the coldest game’s ever at Lambeau Field, both teams are likely to commit to a ground battle. Vigil’s consistency as a tackler on the weakside has allowed Barr and Eric Kendricks to roam free — a luxury the defense may not be afforded in Week 17.

“Nick has been kind of my security blanket,” co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer said, per Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson.

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Next Man Up

Blake Lynch

GettyVikings second-year linebacker Blake Lynch is likely to take Vigil’s place in the starting lineup.

Undrafted, second-year linebacker Blake Lynch is the likely fill-in for the veteran Vigil.

After starting in the Vikings’ 2020 season finale against the Detroit Lions, Lynch has become a regular rotational player in the defense this season.

Lynch started in five games and has played in all but one game this season. He played all 72 defensive snaps in Barr’s place in Week 13 — a sign he’s earned the defense’s trust while Vigil stayed at weakside linebacker. He’ll likely assume Vigil’s weakside role with Barr back in the starting lineup.

Lynch has been one of the most reliable tacklers for the Vikings, ranking third on the team with an 87.1 Pro Football Focus (PFF) tackling grade. He hasn’t missed a tackle yet in his career, tallying 29 solo tackles and 45 combined tackles across 18 games.

Troy Dye, a 2020 fourth-round pick, remains the primary backup at middle linebacker behind Kendricks, while third-round rookie Chazz Surratt backs up both Barr and Lynch. He’s yet to play a single snap on defense this season but made noise in the preseason along with Dye.

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Debunking Packers Cold-Weather Acumen

The Packers have maintained they’re built for cold-weather games approaching Sunday’s potentially historic conditions.

“According to Pete Petoniak of Green Bay television station WLUK, the temperature for the 7:20 p.m. kickoff will be about 7 with a wind chill around minus-10. It will only get colder as the night progresses,” Packers Central reported.

Only four games in the past decade played in temperatures below 8 degrees Fahrenheit at Lambeau Field.

In a recent press conference, Aaron Rodgers welcomed the cold, saying “the colder the better.” However, the three-time MVP quarterback has shown to be only middle-tier in frigid conditions.

“Rodgers is 3-3 when it’s 14 or colder. He’s won his last three starts under those circumstances,” Packers Central’s Bill Huber wrote. “His passer ratings in those games were 87.0, 125.2 and 78.2, respectively.”

Rodgers has been much more pedestrian when the weather gets cold.

While the Vikings’ Week 11 34-31 win over the Packers was more of a shootout between Kirk Cousins and Rodgers, Minnesota should commit itself to dominate on the ground.

The Packers surrender the second-most yards per rushing attempt (4.8) in the NFL entering Sunday’s matchup. The Vikings will have to keep Green Bay honest in the passing game with Adam Thielen out for the season after undergoing ankle surgery on Tuesday.

If they can, Dalvin Cook, returning from a stint on the COVID-19 reserve list, could recapture a 226-yard, four-touchdown performance he had at Lambeau Field last year.

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