The Minnesota Vikings play their only prime time game of 2014 in a Week 5 Thursday night contest at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. The two division rivals complete their season series in Week 12 at TCF Bank Stadium.
2013 Record: 8-7-1 (First in the NFC South)
2013 Offensive Statistics: 26.1 points per game, 400.3 total offensive yards per game, 133.5 rushing yards per game, 266.8 passing yards per game, 22 turnovers
2013 Defensive Statistics: 26.8 points allowed per game, 372.3 total offensive yards allowed per game, 125.0 rushing yards allowed per game, 247.3 passing yards allowed per game, 24 turnovers forced, 45 sacks
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy (ninth season in Green Bay)
Key Returning Offensive Players: OT David Bakhtiari, OL Don Barclay, OT Bryan Bulaga, WR Randall Cobb, FB John Kuhn, RB Eddie Lacy, G T.J. Lang, WR Jordy Nelson, TE Andrew Quarless, QB Aaron Rodgers, G Josh Sitton, RB James Starks,
Key Returning Defensive Players: S Morgan Burnett, CB Jarrett Bush, DT Mike Daniels, LB A.J. Hawk, CB Casey Hayward, CB Davon House, CB Micah Hyde, LB Brad Jones, DE Datone Jones, LB Jamari Lattimore, LB Clay Matthews, DE/LB Mike Neal, LB Nick Perry, DT B.J. Raji, CB Sam Shields, CB Tramon Williams, DE Jerel Worthy
Free Agent Additions: DT Letroy Guion, RB Michael Hill, DE Julius Peppers
Draft Picks: Round 1, Pick 21 - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama; Round 2, Pick 53 - Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State; Round 3, Pick 85 - Khyri Thornton, DT, Southern Mississippi; Round 3, Pick 98 - Richard Rodgers, TE, California; Round 4, Pick 121 - Carl Bradford, LB, Arizona State; Round 5, Pick 161 - Corey Linsley, C, Ohio State; Round 5, Pick 176 - Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin; Round 6, Pick 197 - Demetri Goodson, CB, Baylor; Round 7, Pick 236 - Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State
Outlook: The Packers lucked into a division title last season because of injuries to the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions being the Lions and the Vikings being just really bad. It isn’t going to happen again in 2014.
The Vikings’ biggest rival suffered injuries of their own that kept them from running away with the division. The loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers proved just how valuable he is to the team.
The Packers were a mess without him. They went 6-3 with him as a starter, including a loss in the game he was injured on their first offensive series. Without him they went 2-4-1 while going through four quarterbacks trying to replace him. None could overly effectively.
They also found that their defense still wasn’t very good. Clay Matthews can rush the passer, when healthy, but that is that for reliably consistent play. The secondary was shaky and the run defense was awful.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a great first round pick that will solidify the safety spot opposite Morgan Burnett and Julius Peppers may provide the pass rush opposite Matthews they have been looking for since drafting the former USC standout.
The Packers are going to be the favorites to win the division again, but it won’t be given to them like it was in 2013.