By Andrew Kahn
The Teddy Bridgewater Era began in Minnesota on Sunday, with the rookie quarterback completing 19 of 30 passes for 317 yards and rushing for a 13-yard score in a Minnesota blowout win. Vikings fans hope he holds on to the job for many productive years. Green Bay also enters this game at 2-2, as the offense has Jekyll and Hyded through the first four weeks. Will this contest between NFC North rivals be the first competitive Thursday night game of the season? Find out at 8:25 ET on CBS.
When Minnesota has the ball:
Minnesota’s 558 yards against Atlanta on Sunday were the fourth-highest total in franchise history. Bridgewater was calm and efficient, but it was the running game that did the most damage. The third-round pick out of Georgia Southern made the most of his first real opportunity on Sunday, rushing for 135 yards on 18 carries. Matt Asiata scored three times on the ground as the Vikings piled up 241 rushing yards on 5.5 per carry. Bridgewater targeted Jarius Wright more than twice as often as any other receiver, but don’t forget veteran Greg Jennings or Cordarrelle Patterson, always capable of a big play.
Minnesota’s strength—at least last week—will face a Green Bay defense that is the worst in the NFL against the run, allowing 176 yards per game, nearly 20 more than the second-worst. Turnovers are a great equalizer though, and while Bridgewater was poised in his first start, he’s still a rookie. If the Packers can force him to make a mistake or two, it could be the difference. And keep in mind that this is a short week, especially harmful for someone still learning the nuances of the playbook and nursing a sprained ankle.
When Green Bay has the ball:
Unlike Minnesota, the Packers haven’t been able to run the ball. Also unlike Minnesota, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers. There was a lot of talk in the offseason about how the Pack would be more balanced offensively this season after the emergence of Eddie Lacy in the second half of last season. Injuries to the offensive line have prevented that goal from becoming reality, at least through four games. With the run game unable to crack 80 yards as a unit (Lacy’s high is 48), everything has fallen on Rodgers’ capable shoulders. In Green Bay’s two wins, he’s thrown for 346 and 302 yards and a combined seven touchdowns; in the two losses, he’s thrown for 189 and 162 and just two scores. Expect a performance closer to the good stuff on Thursday, even against an improving Minnesota defense.
After struggling to field a defense that adequately complemented their stellar ball-controlling rushing attack, the Vikings have not allowed a 300-yard passer this season. That’s saying something considering they’ve faced Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Tom Brady. Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway sat out last game and is doubtful for Thursday.
Prediction: Green Bay 31, Minnesota 20
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about the NFL and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.
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