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Sep 12, 2018
Sep 12, 2018

NFL Week 2 preview: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

The importance of Aaron Rodgers

Why team news could be crucial

What do the stats suggest?

NFL Week 2 preview: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

After a thrilling opening week of NFL action, there are now another 16 games for bettors to analyse with the Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers the highlight game. Looking for value in the NFL Week 2 odds? Read on to inform your NFL Week 2 predictions.

Postseason ever present for eight consecutive seasons prior to 2017’s injury plagued 7-9 disappointment, Green Bay host their main divisional rivals, as well as strong contenders overall in the NFC, when the Minnesota Vikings arrive at Lambeau Field this weekend.

NFL Week 2 predictions: The importance of Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is back under centre for the Packers, but he’s now in his mid- thirties and injuries and a lack of offensive roster talent hardly suggest that a return to winning games and postseason football is a given.

Rodgers was on course for a typically elite season before injury struck, albeit slightly below the peak numbers he was posting earlier in his impressive career. He remains one of the few quarterbacks who can single handedly win a game, even in adversity.

Few teams can survive intact if they lose their starting quarterback to injury, but Green Bay’s drop off during Rodgers’ enforced absence was particularly stark.

They were around a nine wins team with Rodgers on the field and he gained nearly an extra yard per attempt more than the sides he faced gave up through the air. 

But with his elite performances diluted by substandard backups, the Pack’s projected number of season wins fell to around six. 

Their final total of seven actual wins owed something to their favourable record in close matches, winning five such matches and losing just two (that may not fall as kindly this season).

NFL Week 2 odds: Why team news could be crucial

More worryingly for Green Bay’s long term prospects, injury again deprived them of Rodgers’ talent for part of their astonishing comeback win in Week 1 over their bitter rivals, the Chicago Bears.

Rodgers, hampered by a knee injury that is yet to be fully assessed, turned a negative into a positive with quick release passes, putting up 21 fourth quarter points and a single point victory.

A follow up game against the divisional rivals who curtailed his 2017 awaits on Sunday. At the time of writing, Rodgers has been cleared to return for this week’s game but is yet to be cleared to start. The impact his involvement (or lack of) will have on the game will be crucial to any bet that is placed.

NFL Week 2 predictions: What do the stats odds suggest?

Defensively in 2017, Green Bay was below average overall and their glaring weakness was defending the pass.

Twenty-eight teams fared better than the Packers, who allowed a full yard per passing attempt further than the average expectation of opposing teams. A ground game that was above average, but only marginally, couldn’t stem the points scoring allowed. 

Opponents had their points scoring elevated by nearly four points per game when they took on Green Bay’s generous defensive unit in 2017. 

In Rodgers’ absence, Minnesota would be double digit favourites, but even if we project based on Green Bay’s 2017 performance with Rodgers on the field, the Vikings still have a narrow one point edge.

This weekend’s opponents, the Minnesota Vikings also came away from Week 1 with a win, hosting and beating the San Francisco 49er’s.

A 13-3 record in 2017 easily took the NFC North title and there was little to suggest that record was anything but deserved. Double-digit wins often come with a sprinkling of unsustainable good fortune, but the Vikings also had impressive underlying numbers to back up their final standing.

Minnesota’s points scoring and conceding equated to a Pythagorean of 11.7 wins, just shy of their actual 13. They didn’t rely too much on a positive turnover differential, gaining five more than they gave up and the three narrow wins were nearly balanced by two such losses.

It’s important to note that the Vikings have cut ties with last season’s post season quarterback, Case Keenum, and have now opted for Kirk Cousins instead. Cousins produced similar figures to Keenum, when playing for an average Washington Redskins team that oscillated between narrowly winning and losing seasons during his last three years as the team’s quarterback.

Last season, Minnesota threw for half a yard more than the defences they faced usually allowed per play, but their running efficiency was slightly below par, averaging a couple of tenths of a yard less than average per attempt.

They were a top six passing team, but only 20th best in the NFL when keeping the ball on the ground. That translated into a scoring rate that was two points per game greater than the sides they faced typically conceded. 

Defensively the Vikings made a step up from 2016, when they were good, but only top ten, to vie with Jacksonville as the NFL’s best defensive unit. The stats show how difficult it was to score against them; they allowed seven fewer points per game than the offences they faced scored on average. 

Rock solid against both the pass and the run, opponents passed for a yard per play shorter against Minnesota compared to how they fared against the rest of the league and their rushing output was reduced by half a yard per carry. 

NFL Week 2 odds: Where is the value?

Sunday’s game will inevitably contain a degree of uncertainty, given that Rodgers left the field for part of Sunday’s Week 1 game against Chicago. His postgame comments, while affirming his intention to face Minnesota, suggested that the injury is not minor.

In Rodgers’ absence, Minnesota would be double digit favourites, but even if we project based on Green Bay’s 2017 performance with Rodgers on the field, the Vikings still have a narrow one point edge, even at Lambeau. 

Matchups suggest that Minnesota’s strong passing defense gives them their best chance of curtailing Rodgers passing, whilst enjoying success themselves via the aerial route and the Vikings are taken to score a narrow victory, possibly as underdogs in a game where around 45 points seem likely.

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