If you like stats, then you gotta hate the Minnesota Vikings because nothing about their stats makes any sense.
Well, that's not entirely true. You only have to take one look at their stats sheet to know why the Vikings are 1-5: They've been outscored 97-29 in the second half of games, and 47-16 at crunch time, the fourth quarter. If ever there was a formula for not winning, being clobbered in the second half is it.
It's everything else about their stats this season that doesn't make any sense. For example:
The Vikings have similarly clobbered their opponents in the first half of games, 92-45. So how does a team that's leading 92-45 at halftime lose the second half 97-29? That doesn't make any sense.
A team with a star running back, maybe the best running back in the game, figures to pound away with that guy in the second half and protect that big halftime lead by running the ball and dominating time of possession, right? Yeah, but the Vikings have the sixth-worst time of possession in the league, which just doesn't add up for a team with the lead and a running back the caliber of Adrian Peterson.
It's gotta be turnovers, right? Turnovers explain everything, but not in this case because the Vikings are tied for the sixth-best turnover differential in the league with a plus-four. Huh?
OK, so let's go through this again: A team with the league's No. 3 running game, a plus-four turnover differential and a 92-45 halftime lead has one of the league's worst time of possession averages and records. Well, they must be getting clobbered through the air, which they are.
That's easy: no pass-rush.
Wrong, the Vikings' Jared Allen leads the league with 9.5 sacks and the team's other defensive end, Brian Robison, is tied for 13th in the league with 4.5 sacks. If a pass-rush is as important to pass-defense as it's believed to be, then something else has to be the problem.
It is, and that's why Coach Leslie Frazier is making the move to rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. The Vikings are next to last in the league in pass-offense and that'll usually get a quarterback benched, especially when he's a veteran quarterback signed to keep the position warm until the team's first-round pick is ready to go. Ready or not, that time is now.
Can Ponder make the difference? The answer to that question will likely decide the outcome of Sunday's game. If the Vikings hold true to form and get an early lead, they have the running back to pound away at the Packers and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, but only if Ponder can improve the Vikings' 27th-ranked third-down efficiency.
Pound, pound, covert; that's the formula the Vikings haven't been able to maintain in the second half of games, and they hope Ponder will correct that flaw.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Vikings.
1. Stop Peterson—It all begins with him.
2. Get an early lead—Even though that hasn't been the formula for beating the Vikings, it has been the Packers' formula for winning.
3. Rush a rookie—It's how you increase the speed of the game and pressure on his decision-making.
4. Attack through the air—The Vikings are fourth against the run and 24th against the pass. Vikings win a battle of running games; Packers win a battle of passing games.
5. Block the ends—Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga have big jobs ahead of them. They'll be protecting the most important property in the league from two of the game's greatest hazards.
6. Focus—The crowd noise can be disruptive.
7. Feel the bye week—Nothing feels better coming off a win, or feels worse coming off a loss.
8. Play 60 minutes—A half of football might work against the Rams, but it won't work against most opponents.
9. Sneak a look at the scoreboard—This is a late game. A couple of important early games are worth a look.
10. Wave to the fans—There should be a lot of them in green and gold. Additional coverage - Oct. 20