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The Green Bay Packers have taken an early lead against the Buffalo Bills Kentrell Brice Jersey , getting some excellent play from their defense in the early going. The Packers lead 6-0 on Jimmy Graham’s first regular season touchdown from Aaron Rodgers.The Bills got the ball first, but the Packers were able to force three-and-outs on each of Buffalo’s first two series. On the Packers’ second drive, Rodgers hit a wide-open Ty Montgomery for a 43-yard gain. Montgomery, lined up in the backfield, ran a wheel route and got open with a little help from a mini-pick by Davante Adams. Three plays later, Rodgers found Graham in the flat, with Geronimo Allison running a slant on the same side and picking off Graham’s defender. Graham easily walked into the end zone for the short touchdown:Mason Crosby hit the right upright on the ensuing point-after attempt, however, leaving the Packers with just a 6-0 lead.Rodgers is 4 for 6 so far for 63 yards and the one touchdown. Stay tuned with the game in our game thread here.NFC North 2018 Previews: Minnesota Vikings by the numbers Green Bay Packers fans like to laugh at the Minnesota Vikings and their lone championship, but even though the franchise has been shut out of the big game more than just about anyone else, it’s worth noting they are consistently the rival most likely to cause trouble for Green Bay. Rick Spielman took over the front office in 2012 after a disastrous 3-13 season and immediately turned things around. Replacing Leslie Frazier with the defensive-minded Mike Zimmer was a big first step, in conjunction with taking a very scientific approach to player acquisition and team construction. Few front offices would be deft enough to deal with a severe injury to an up-and-coming quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), pull off a trade for an above average replacement (Sam Bradford), and when he was lost the following year, coax a great offensive season out of Case Keenum. Perhaps most impressively, they resisted the urge to overpay any of these people.The Vikings are, unsurprisingly, led by their defense, but few teams have managed to create the balance the Vikings enjoy. Most of their core stars are young and signed through at least 2020. They are one of the most well-run franchises in the NFL, and should be Super Bowl contenders for the foreseeable future.OffenseThe Vikings have a dominant defense and I basically have nothing bad to say about it, so let’s start with the offense, which has more questions than you may expect. On paper, this all looks pretty great. Running back Dalvin Cook will return from a torn ACL, and in the four games he did manage to play last year he was quite good. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry while contributing in the passing game. Most would agree that Kirk Cousins is an overall upgrade on Case Keenum, while Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are among the best receivers in football, and likely the top duo. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is fine.Last season, the Vikings were excellent as Keenum, of all people, led the league in DVOA. The run game struggled a bit with the loss of Cook, but overall they were the 5th best offense in football. That’s a great accomplishment for a team that was highly successful last season http://www.packersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-david-bakhtiari-jersey , eventually running into the Philly buzzsaw, but the Vikings are very likely to come back to the pack, and back behind the Pack of offense this season.The Cousins ConundrumEven if Cousins were to be a top five quarterback, the odds of replicating Keenum’s season from a year before would still be remote. Keenum, due to talented receivers and a highly intelligent coaching staff, played well above his true talent level and produced a sensational season. Keenum was especially deadly in the red zone, where Minnesota as a whole ranked 2nd in passing DVOA, 70.1% above average. Only Philadelphia was better, which should tell you just how important Red Zone passing is. The Rams were 3rd, New England 4th. Last June I wrote a piece about this very thing, as Aaron Rodgers is one of the best all time at passing in the red zone, and in goal-to-go situations. It is one of the key things the separates him from average quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins, for all of his attributes, sticks out just as much as Rodgers, but not how you’d like it:Cousins doesn’t have great arm-strength, and as windows start to tighten near the end zone, he becomes less effective in a hurry. He wasn’t the quite as bad last season, but Washington still ranked 18th in passing DVOA in the red zone, and they fell to 23rd in goal-to-go situations. Cousins throws an accurate deep ball and, for a team that realizes his limitations, he can be an effective player. If Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray can power the ball in in goal-to-go situations, it won’t matter as much if Cousins struggles. The problem is that replacing passing with running, even in near the end zone, isn’t efficient, and even a good offense will lose something without the threat of a pass. The fact is that Cousins is likely to be worse than Keenum in general, just because Keenum was so good a year ago, but he’s also likely to be worse in this very specific way. It’s a hidden weakness of Cousins that can really derail an offense, and Minnesota has to deal with it.What About Diggs and ThielenDiggs and Thielen are great, and they are much of what made Keenum so good. The problem is that the Vikings have a big depth problem behind them. Laquon Treadwell has been a total bust so far, and while Kendall Wright is a decent backup http://www.packersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-kevin-king-jersey , that’s all he is. They haven’t spent a high pick on receiver since Treadwell, and Stacy Coley hasn’t really impressed yet either. The fact is that the Vikings are paper thin behind their big two, and because Cousins will be so reliant on his weapons for production, an injury to either would be devastating. They’re also working with a new offensive coordinator with John DeFilippo taking over for Pat Shurmur, and while DeFilippo may be just fine, change isn’t always good for an offense — especially an offense that was clicking nicely thank you very much. The Vikings are likely to field an above average offense, and maybe even a top 10 unit, but there’s now some ceiling based on their choice of quarterback, and a pretty low floor based on lack of depth.DefenseThe defense, on the other hand, is outstanding, and weaknesses are few and far between. The Vikings may have gotten lit up by the Eagles in the playoffs, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. The Eagles are one of the smartest teams in the league, and they figured out everyone last year. Mike Zimmer knows how to put a defense together, and he has the talent to execute, with Shelden Richardson (late of Seattle) joining Everson Griffen, run-stuffer Linval Joseph, and Danielle Hunter to form a truly outstanding line. Quarterback-injurer Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are both above average, and the secondary outside of Tre Waynes is one of the best in the league and is as deep as it is good. Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith make life easier on even the weaker players, and the secondary ranked in the top 10 in DVOA guarding every receiver category except the slot, where they were 15th. They are bringing back every core player from that defense, and most of the truly important pieces are under contract for the next three years. The Minnesota defense is well-constructed and smartly run. They are likely to be a thorn in the side of the Packers and every other North team for years to come, and beating them will take the kind of creativity that you really only get out of Philly and New England. OverallThe Vikings’ defense will keep them in almost any game, and automatically gives them a solid eight-win base, but there are some cracks in the offense, and I expect them to take a fair step back. If Cousins is his normal self they’ll likely be an 11-12 win team, but if anything goes wrong and if they wind up kicking more field goals than they score touchdowns, they may find themselves in a very competitive NFC wild card chase.

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