The Green Bay Packers are heading into one of the most important games of the 2019 season. As it stands the Packers lead the NFC North with a record of 11-3, but the Vikings are a close second at 10-4. The Packers have some cushion heading into the game with having beat the Vikings week 2 and only needing to win one of their two final games to win the NFC North. Having that cushion is comforting for fans, but the Packers would clinch the number two seed in the NFC and the first round bye that comes with it if they can win out this season.
With such an important game between two division rivals, the Packers will be looking for players to step up with dominant performances. Here are the 5 players to watch Monday night vs the Vikings:
Alexander has been the Packers’ number one corner this season. Each game he goes head to head with opposing teams’ top receivers and has played well in his sophomore season. Week two against the Vikings, Alexander covered Vikings’ receiver Adam Thielen on 81.5% of his snaps and only allowed 4 catches for 49 yards. With Thielen coming back from injury and Stefon Diggs playing at such a high level, fans should be curious to see which receiver Alexander lines up across this time around.
Thielen is always a threat whenever he is on the field, but Diggs is playing the best football of his career this season. Through 14 games he has more yards (1,073) than he had all of last season. The most impressive part of his success is that he did this while having 42 less receptions than last season and increasing his yards per reception from 10.0 to 17.9. Fans should hope to see an Alexander vs Diggs matchup this week.
For the first time in Aaron Rodgers’ career he is not the most dominant Aaron on the team. Aaron Jones has been unstoppable this season. He currently is tied with Christian McCaffrey for most rushing touchdowns with 14 and second behind Christian McCaffrey for total touchdowns with 17. Jones has been the most consistent offensive weapon on the Packers and has given the Packers a threatening run game for the first time since a skinny Eddie Lacy.
Heading into the week 16 matchup against the Vikings, the Packers will look to solidify the run-game early. Getting Jones going early will allow the Packers to capitalize off play-action and beat down a tough Vikings defense. During the three games the Packers lost this season, Jones averaged 29.7 yards and .33 rushing touchdowns per game, but on the 11 games they won he averaged 67.4 yards and 1.2 rushing touchdowns per game. Jones is a crucial part of the Packers’ offense.
The Vikings have been a force on defense led by Danielle Hunter. They currently are 7th in rushing yards allowed this season with 1,386 and 1st in rushing touchdowns allowed with only 5 all season. The battle of Aaron Jones and the Vikings defense could be the deciding factor of this game.
King has played a vital role on the Packers’ defense this season. He is the number two corner next to Alexander and has had his healthiest season as a Packer in his young three-year career. If I was asked to describe King’s season for the Packers so far I would use inconsistent. He has had six games this season where he held his receivers to 40 yards or less, but he has also had three games this year where he has given up over 100 yards to his receivers this season.
In the first meeting with the Vikings, King was primarily on Stefon Diggs who had two catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. With how dominant Diggs has been this season, I would not be surprised if King spends most of the game defending Adam Thielen. Regardless of who King is on it will be a tough day. The Vikings have arguably the best WR duo in the NFL, and if King doesn’t bring his A game, it will be a long day for the Packers.
Wide Receiver not Named Davante Adams:
Okay, I’m cheating here. I debated to choose MVS, Lazard, or even Kumerow, but the Packers’ receiving corp has been unpredictable all season. MVS has been MIA for most of the season. He has not had over three receptions since their week four loss to the Eagles. Kumerow has made big plays for the Packers like his touchdown at the end of the first half against the Raiders or his 49-yard catch against the Bears, but he has been inconsistent.
The receiver that has been the most intriguing is Allen Lazard. Rodgers has shown his trust in Lazard since his coming out party week 6 against the Lions. He has been targeted 30 times (MVS only has 14) since that game and has made the most of those opportunities. He has emerged as the number two option behind Adams, and the Packers will expect him to step up as the playoffs approach.
Smith has been a leader for the Packers’ defense all season. He is second on the team with 10 sacks and has 30 QB hits this season. He is a threat to opposing offenses whenever he steps on the field. Offenses know and are well aware of this because he has faced the most double teams in the entire NFL. The Vikings are fourth in sacks allowed with only 23 all season. The Vikings did not allow Smith to record a single sack in their first matchup in week two.
The Packers will need Smith to get in the backfield and disrupt Cousins’ rhythm to have the best chance of winning. He is heading into this game with having 0 sacks in the last three games, and you can bet he is looking to change that this week. Pro-Bowl snub, 0 sacks in three games, and a rival opponent, Smith has all the motivation he needs to come into this game and dominate.