Jordy Nelson

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Vikings shut out Packers 16-0, keep eye on 1st-round bye

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Case Keenum stopped one last time before heading up the tunnel at Lambeau Field, clapping his hands above his head while Minnesota Vikings fans chanted “Skol! Skol!”

The Vikings’ defense felt right at home Saturday night in Titletown.

A 16-0 victory over the injury-depleted Green Bay Packers gave Minnesota its first shutout in nearly a quarter-century and kept the NFC North champions in the hunt for a first-round playoff bye.

Stefon Diggs caught a 4-yard pass from Case Keenum just inside the back line of the end zone in the first quarter for the only touchdown. The Vikings (12-3) have already clinched the NFC North and can secure a bye if Carolina loses or ties on Sunday against Tampa Bay.

“Defense played absolutely incredible today, and we did enough. It doesn’t matter how, it matters how many,” Keenum said.

The Vikings forced an incompletion into the end zone on fourth-and-4 from the 14 early in the fourth quarter to turn away the Packers’ last best effort to cross the goal line. Safety Harrison Smith ended another Green Bay drive with an interception at the Minnesota 5 late in the second quarter.

Minnesota left frigid Lambeau Field with its first shutout since a 13-0 win over Detroit on Dec. 5, 1993. It was the first shutout over the Packers (7-8) since Nov. 14, 1971.

The defense has “played pretty good all year long … Proof will be in the pudding here in a couple weeks,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, referring to the playoffs.

The Packers managed to hold a 239-236 edge in total yards. They were still shut out twice in a season for the first time since 2006.

“I never felt more defeated, more embarrassed by a performance. Yeah, we had opportunities, and we didn’t connect when we did,” receiver Randall Cobb said.

In its defense, the team fielded a lineup that often looked like one that coach Mike McCarthy would send out for a game late in the preseason. The Packers have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Starting outside linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) missed the game, along with cornerback Damarious Randall (hamstring).

Brett Hundley was 17 of 40 for 130 yards with two interceptions in taking over at quarterback again for Aaron Rodgers, who returned to injured reserve this week after missing seven games earlier in the year with a collarbone injury.

The Packers didn’t have leading receiver Davante Adams, who is in the concussion protocol, then lost wideout Jordy Nelson and tight end Richard Rodgers to shoulder injuries in the first half.

“Injuries are unfortunate. We had a lot of opportunities tonight. We didn’t make the plays,” coach Mike McCarthy said.

The hard turf at chilly Lambeau didn’t help either, with some players having trouble with footing early in the game. Unable to connect on medium-to-long range passes, the Packers’ best plays came when Hundley broke free for big gains on the run .

Not enough against the Vikings’ stingy defense.

FROZEN TUNDRA

Fans bundled up in parkas, huddled under blankets and sipped on free hot chocolate to stay warm. Purple-clad Minnesota backers celebrated in the stands on a night in which temperatures hovered in the single digits.

Diggs finished with five catches for 60 yards. Keenum was 14 of 25 for 139 yards.

“I’m not sure we played our best game tonight … We left some things out there offensively,” Zimmer said.

THE LAST TIME

The Packers were also shut out this season 23-0 by the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 19.

HOME DOESN’T HELP

Hundley finished the season having thrown no touchdowns and seven interceptions in six games at Lambeau, with the Packers going 2-4 in that span.

INJURY REPORT

Vikings: The team said that LG Nick Easton will have surgery after breaking his right ankle in the first quarter. … LS Kevin McDermott (shoulder) left late in the second quarter, with backup TE David Morgan taking over snapping duties.

Packers: RT Jason Spriggs was carted off the field with what appeared to be a left injury on the first play from scrimmage. Justin McCray, who was starting at right guard for Jahri Evans (knee), slid over to tackle with Lucas Patrick taking over at guard. … Besides Rodgers and Nelson, RB Aaron Jones (knee) also didn’t return after getting hurt in the first half.

“We battled … I hope everybody walks out of here with their heads held high,” Hundley said.

UP NEXT

Vikings: Finish regular season at home against the Chicago Bears on New Year’s Eve.

Packers: Wrap up year with a visit to the Detroit Lions, also on New Year’s Eve.

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Packers underdogs, Patriots big favorites among NFL Divisional Round odds

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Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers thrive as a road underdog in the postseason, but the Dallas Cowboys figure to be healthier and more rested for their showdown on Sunday.

The Cowboys are listed as 4.5-point favorites on the NFL point spreads against the Packers with a 52-point total in their NFC Divisional Round matchup slated for AT&T Stadium on Sunday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Dallas is 1-3 straight-up and 0-4 against the spread in its last four divisional round games, but are also riding a seven-win streak at home where they are 5-2 against the spread.

With Rodgers against Cowboys rookie QB Dak Prescott, the Packers have an edge in experience, and Rodgers’ savvy is reflected in a 6-1 ATS record in their last seven playoff games as an underdog. The Packers, offensively, are almost completely reliant on the passing attack and may have to adapt without WR Jordy Nelson (collapsed lung, ribs).

With the combo of Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys might be able to dictate the pace to a Packers defense that is lacking in pass coverage.

The Atlanta Falcons are listed as 4.5-point favorites against the Seattle Seahawks with a 51.5-point total in the NFC tilt on Saturday. While the Falcons are 1-5 SU and 0-6 ATS in their last six playoff games, the dual threat of WR Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel means Seahawks CB Richard Sherman will only be able to nullify one receiving threat.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will not be facing a statistically-imposing Falcons pass rush, but during their wild card game the Seahawks’ much-maligned offensive line had issues with the Detroit Lions’ garden-variety front four.

The New England Patriots are 16-point favorites against the Houston Texans with a 44.5-point total in the AFC matchup on Saturday. The Patriots, who are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games as a favorite of at least 14 points, won 27-0 in the teams’ regular-season game when third-string QB Jacoby Brissett was playing instead of Tom Brady.

New England also enters the week as the favorites on the odds to win Super Bowl 51, and has a 34.5 percent chance to win the championship according to PredictionMachine.com.

The Kansas City Chiefs are a slim two-point favorite against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 44.5-point total in Sunday’s AFC betting matchup. The Steelers, with RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown together in the playoffs for the first time, will be trying to break a cycle of being 0-5 SU and 0-4-1 ATS in their last five games on the road after consecutive home games.

Kansas City, 11-2 SU in their last 13 home games, is a changed team since their 29-point road defeat in Pittsburgh in Week 5, with WR Tyreek Hill becoming a touchdown threat to complement QB Alex Smith and TE Travis Kelce.

In the last four years the favored team has only lost SU twice in the Divisional Round (14-2 SU). In the last three years the visiting team is 7-3-2 ATS in the Divisional Round.

Sunday wild-card matchups: Giants, Dolphins seek underdog payouts

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The anticipated Arctic chill could be more foe than friend of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, if their postseason track record at Lambeau Field is any indication. The Packers are listed as 4.5-point favorites against the Giants in the NFC wild-card matchup slated for Sunday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

While Green Bay is 7-2 straight-up in their last nine home outings against teams with winning records, they are also only 2-6 against the spread in their last eight playoff games as home favorites.

The Giants, who are 11-5 SU and 8-6-2 ATS, have had protracted offensive struggles over the last month, although QB Eli Manning typically gets it together for the playoffs. Wide receiver Odell Beckham should also be good for a big play, or three, against a Packers defense that allows an NFL-worst 8.1 yards per pass.

The cold weather might mandate more use of the running game, which might bode poorly for the Giants since their offensive line struggles to control the line of scrimmage.

The Packers, who are 10-6 SU and 8-7-1 ATS, have a big X-factor with Rodgers’ ability to keep plays alive with his scrambling. While the Giants’ pass coverage is the most improved area of their team this season, it’s going to be tough to completely stymie Rodgers and the quartet of Jordy Nelson, Geromino Allison, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams.

For all their explosiveness, the Packers do have issues with dropped passes and failed red-zone visits. Cleaning that up would go a long way to preventing an upset.

Led by DE Olivier Vernon, the Giants are stout against the run. Green Bay also has an unimpressive running game.

With the weather and two pass-dependent offenses, it could be a low-scoring game. In fact, the total has gone under in five of the Giants’ last six games in the playoffs. The total has gone under in 10 of the Packers’ last 14 games at home.

In the day’s AFC wild-card matchup, the Pittsburgh Steelers are listed as 10-point favorites against the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins, 10-6 SU and 9-6-1 ATS, are counting on backup QB and first-time playoff starter Matt Moore, whose efficiency declines markedly when he faces pressure. While RB Jay Ajayi went off for 204 yards when the teams played in south Florida in October, the Dolphins stand to encounter frigid weather and a firmer Steelers run defense.

While WR Kenny Stills and slot WR Jarvis Landry are a tough combo, Miami might be hard-pressed to extend their trend of being 13-4 ATS in their last 17 games as a double-digit underdog.

The Steelers, who are 11-5 SU and  9-6-1 ATS and have far better odds to win Super Bowl 51, have the triplets – QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown – together in the playoffs for the first time.

Roethlisberger was injured in that October defeat in Miami, but this time it is the Dolphins defense that is nicked up, with top CB Byron Maxwell (ankle) struggling to get healthy by game time. Strong safety Bacarri Rambo (undisclosed) is also doubtful.

The total has gone over in three of the Dolphins’ last four games against the Steelers.  The total has gone over in 22 of the Steelers’ last 28 games in January. The favored team is 3-7-2 ATS in the last three years in wild card games. Wild card games are 3-12-1 over/under in the last four years.