Is the Packers' defense really better than the Vikings'?

How do the two units stack up?
Publish date:
Everson Griffen

With the Bears and Lions falling back to earth, it appears the NFC North is gearing up to be a two-team race between the Vikings and Packers, just as the football gods intended it to be.

After wasting the prime years of Aaron Rodgers the past few seasons, Green Bay's savvy fan-driven ownership went out and spent big money on free agents to boost their defense. Not to mention two first-round picks on linebacker Rashan Gary and safety Darnell Savage last spring.

There's no doubt it's made a difference, but is it better than Mike Zimmer's defense? Let's take a look.

Vikings defensive ranks through 10 games

  • Points against: 182 (18.2 per game), 5th 
  • Yards allowed: 3,331 (333.1 per game), 13th 
  • Turnovers forced: 15, 11th
  • Passing yards: 2,419 (241.0 per game), 18th 
  • Passing touchdowns: 18, 25th 
  • Interceptions: 9, 5th
  • Rushing yards: 912 (91.2 per game) 7th 
  • Rushing touchdowns: 2, 1st
  • Sacks: 29, 7th
  • Third down conversion: 38%, 15th

Packers defensive ranks through 10 games

  • Points against: 205 (20.5 per game) 12th 
  • Total yards: 3,847 (384.7 per game), 28th
  • Turnovers forced: 16, 7th
  • Passing yards: 2578 (257.8), 23rd 
  • Passing touchdowns: 12, 9th 
  • Interceptions: 9, 5th
  • Rushing yards: 1,269 (126.9 per game), 25th 
  • Rushing touchdowns: 11, 26th
  • Sacks: 25, 13th
  • Third down conversion: 47%, 19th

So just looking at traditional statistics, the only things the Packers are better at than the Vikings is at creating turnovers (by one) and passing touchdowns allowed. That's it.

Green Bay deserves credit because they're allowing a ton of yards but their bend-don't-break philosophy is working out considering they're only allowing the 12th-most points.

Green Bay also has a far better red-zone defense, as opposing quarterbacks really struggle inside the 20-yard line.

  • Packers opposing passer rating in the red zone: 62.2
  • Vikings opposing passer rating in the red zone: 96.8

From 30,000 feet, the Vikings still appear to have the better defense as as a whole. However, it's the teams and opposing quarterbacks that have had success against the Vikings that's concerning.

For starters, two of the Vikings' three losses have come against backup quarterbacks in Chase Daniel and Matt Moore. 

  • Daniel in Week 4: 22-30, 195 yards, 1 TD, 101.4 passer rating
  • Moore in Week 9: 25-35, 275 yards, 1 TD, 103.9 passer rating

Meanwhile, the Packers have pretty much taken care of anyone and everyone they've faced. Their only blemishes are to Carson Wentz in Week 4 (113.2 passer rating) and Phillip Rivers in Week 9 (108.3 passer rating), and both of those guys are better than the average gunslinger.

If you're a Vikings fan, yes you can still brag to your Packer friends that your defense isn't as good as Zimmer's. But proceed with caution going into future seasons, as the Vikings cornerbacks are being exposed more and more each week and if you can't stop the pass in today's NFL, your shots of being a Super Bowl contender are slim to none.

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