The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers are primed for their 116th meeting, and once again, there is no shortage of storylines.
With questions swirling around Aaron Rodgers’ knee all week, it looks like one of the league’s top talents will play through pain, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who reported that Rodgers does not have ligament damage but may take two months to properly heal.
Will Rodgers’ lack of mobility influence the Vikings’ defensive gameplan? That’s one of the major talking points surrounding today’s matchup.
MINNESOTA’S DEFENSE vs GREEN BAY’S OFFENSE
The Vikings haven’t ordinarily blitzed Rodgers much, instead electing to rush four and cover closely. It might make sense, though, to show Rodgers some extra pressure early to test his ability to scramble. The risk, of course, is Rodgers cutting apart the secondary with quick passes. “The guy’s incredible,” head coach Mike Zimmer said this week. “He makes every throw, gets the ball out quick, sees pressure.”
The last time Rodgers faced the Vikings at Lambeau Field, he went 28 of 38 for 347 yards and four touchdowns as Minnesota’s corners allegedly went rogue. He is 6-2 lifetime at home against Minnesota — 7-2 if you include a playoff win. Injured or not, the Vikings will have to respect him unless he proves he’s not himself. An early lead for Minnesota would help to unleash more pressure.
It’s unclear who will go up against Randall Cobb in the slot as Mackensie Alexander likely returns from an ankle injury. Mike Hughes played well in his debut but still made some mistakes, according to his head coach. Alexander, however, has been exposed at times in the past by good quarterbacks. Oh, don’t forget about Jayron Kearse, who played 22 snaps in Minnesota’s “big nickel” package. This will be the spot to watch as the afternoon goes on.
Expect the defensive line rotation to continue on a muggy, 82-degree day in Green Bay. Zimmer said he wasn’t a big fan of the wholesale line change against San Francisco, but the Vikings may swap out one or two at a time. Keep an eye out for Jaleel Johnson, as well. He played a good chunk of snaps in the red zone against the 49ers.
Minnesota’s ability to get pressure with their front four may dictate the outcome.
MINNESOTA’S OFFENSE vs GREEN BAY’S DEFENSE
The Packers largely held Chicago in check last Sunday night, especially in the second half, but Green Bay’s rush defense surrendered 5.4 yards per carry to the tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Minnesota struggled running the ball last week with Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray combining for 3.3 yards per carry. Something’s got to give in Green Bay today. Minnesota got an additional week of practice with Brett Jones, who is set to start again at center in place of the recovering Pat Elflein. The continuity could lead to some blocking improvements.
Kirk Cousins ended last Sunday’s game on a low note, but his performance in the middle of the game was nearly flawless as he threw a pair of touchdown with no picks. His last regular season game at Lambeau Field? Nearly perfect: 21 of 30, 375 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions.
The Vikings would certainly like to see more chemistry between Cousins and their receivers. When targeting Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell last week, Cousins completed just 50 percent of his passes. Cook turned out to be one of his favorite targets with six receptions.
Green Bay will play three cornerbacks in their first or second seasons, which may play to the Vikings advantage. Alternatively, it could be a coming-out party for Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson if they’re able to affect Minnesota’s offensive rhythm.
The Vikings are more talented, but Aaron Rodgers evens the playing field. Minnesota’s defense has struggled outdoors, too, allowing totals of 26, 30, 31 and 38 last year.
It feels like this one comes down to the wire, and might be higher scoring than people think. In the end, the more talented team will prevail.
Minnesota 27, Green Bay 26