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By CHRIS HAVEL
Meantime, undefeated Vikings look like they’re serious about retaining NFC North title
The Minnesota Vikings’ thorough dismantling of the New York Giants on Monday Night Football made a couple of things quite clear.
First, that the Vikings (4-0) are a serious threat to claim a second straight NFC North title despite season-ending injuries to Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson and Matt Kalil.
Second, it’s likely that the totally humiliated Giants (2-2) are going to come into Lambeau Field with a vengeance.
Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense made them look that bad.
After thwarting Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in a 17-14 victory in Week 2, the Vikings’ defense hammered away on the Panthers’ Cam Newton in a 22-10 win. Then it did likewise to the Giants’ Eli Manning on Monday night.
That’s three weeks of dominance against three top quarterbacks.
The Vikings’ defense has allowed just 50 points through four games, including Monday night’s 24-10 victory over the Giants. Minnesota also leads the NFL in turnover margin (plus-10) and features one of the league’s most formidable defenses.
“I think they like to compete,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said after Monday night’s game. “I think they like to go out there and prove to everybody that they can be talked about with other good teams in this league.”
The Packers, who won’t see the Vikings again until Christmas Eve, have plenty of time to get their offense humming by then.
However, they will see the Giants on Sunday night at Lambeau Field. Rest assured, Eli Manning and company will be focused after the butt-kicking they got from the Vikings.
The fact that the Giants committed two turnovers which the Vikings parlayed into 10 points sealed their fate.
Whether the Packers’ defense can smother receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard to the degree Minnesota did remains to be seen.
Beckham Jr. finished with a career-low three catches for 23 yards while being smothered by corner Xavier Rhodes. It didn’t take long for Beckham Jr.’s emotions to get the better of him. He was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty and clearly was taken out of his game by Rhodes.
Furthermore, the Vikings limited Eli Manning to just 25 of 45 for 261 yards and an interception. Expect Manning to come out throwing against the Packers’ secondary, especially if cornerback Sam Shields is still out with a concussion.
If the Packers’ defense can’t pressure Manning the way the Vikings’ defense did, this could be a shootout on Sunday night.
Aaron Rodgers is coming off a bye week which was preceded by a four-touchdown pass performance against Detroit. The Giants’ defensive secondary is so depleted by injuries that several receivers had to line up on defense during practice.
The Giants started Andrew Adams – fresh off their practice squad – at safety against Minnesota in place of Nat Berhe. Trevin wade started at cornerback for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and was beaten badly by ex-Packers receiver Charles Johnson on receptions of 30 and 40 yards.
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams have a terrific opportunity to build off the victory over the Lions.
It’ll be interesting to see how Packers head coach Mike McCarthy deals with the absence of tight end Jared Cook.
Granted, Cook wasn’t much of a factor through three weeks, but he will be needed if the Packers are going to go deep in the playoffs.
I’m also curious to see how much McCarthy balances run-pass against a Giants’ defense that has a depleted secondary. It might be tempting to throw, throw and throw some more.
However, the Packers’ offense is at its best when Eddie Lacy is banging away between Rodgers’ lasers to receivers.
Richard Rodgers is going to have to embrace a greater role, and fullback Aaron Ripkowski’s return to health is critical for the running game to grow legs.
The Packers need this win to get to 3-1 after the season’s first quarter. It would set them up nicely as they enter the next two home games against the Cowboys and Bears.
Green Bay should take care of the Giants if Rodgers can pick apart New York’s depleted secondary.
If not, this game could come down to the fourth quarter.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.