(WFRV) – The next week could be key for the Packers. In seven days they head west to take on San Francisco in a rematch of last January’s NFC Championship Game. Before they get there Green Bay will face Minnesota team seemingly desperate for a win.
On Thursday, head coach Matt LaFleur was asked if they were already looking ahead and planning for the 49ers game given the short week.
LaFleur knows how important games are against division rivals, though. Especially against an underperforming Minnesota squad that has played plenty of close, and important, games against the Packers in recent years.
“We are solely focused on the Minnesota Vikings. This is a good football team. I don’t care what the record says. all you have to do is look at the last couple of performances And the Tennessee Titans, and Seattle. Two games that they had so if we look any further than that we are going to be in trouble,” said LaFleur.
In recent weeks Minnesota has been without one of their top weapons on offense, running back Dalvin Cook.
Cook has missed the last two games due to a groin injury, but appears to be close to a return against Green Bay after practicing for the second straight day. Prior to his injury Cook rushed for 181 against Tennessee, and 130 yards against Houston. He even had 65 yards in the Seahawks game before leaving the game with a groin injury.
So, having that weapon back for the Vikings could be a key in Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field.
“I mean you’ve just got to rally to the ball, and make sure those guys don’t get going. You’ve got to stop them early before they get comfortable, and they get hot and find a rhythm,” said linebacker Preston Smith.
Building on Texans performance
Outside linebacker Preston Smith is coming off perhaps his best game of the season, and not just in terms of what you see in the box score. Smith helped put pressure on Deshaun Watson in the passing game, and came up with a big fourth down stop late in the game to help seal the win.
Much of this season Smith has been dropping into coverage, and spent less time in the opponent’s backfield. That’s just part Smith fitting into his role within the defense right now, though.
“You know each week I do whatever is asked of me. Execute it to the best of my ability. To you guys it may feel like I’m not as productive, but in a lot of other ways I’m productive other than rushing the quarterback. I do what the defense asks me so I execute my assignment and create success for the defense,” said Smith.
There is some good news on the injury front on Thursday. Left Tackle David Bakhtiari practiced for the second straight day after missing last week’s game with a chest injury. Meanwhile wide receiver Allen Lazard was on the field for his second straight practice as he works his way back from core muscle surgery. Lazard is currently on injured reserve, but appears to be getting closer to a return.
Now to the bad news.
Running back Aaron Jones sat out for the second day this week, and so did cornerback Kevin King. Head coach Matt LaFleur said King had a setback late last week resulting in him missing the Texans game. After missing two straight practices King may be trending in the wrong direction when it comes to his availability this week.
Kicker Mason Crosby was also at Thursday’s practice, but did not take part. LaFleur said the personnel department always has someone “waiting in the wings” in case Crosby is unable to play on Sunday.