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This Week’s Vikings Opponent — Green Bay Packers


Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers fumbles the ball as he is hit by Minnesota Vikings’ D.J. Wonnum during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The Packers and the Vikings have a storied rivalry. Minnesota came into the league as an expansion team and, therefore, struggled at the beginning. Of course, they started their NFL journey right during Vince Lombardi’s reign. The Vikings lost their first six matchups in the first three years of existence. In year four, in 1964, the Vikings finally split the series with Green Bay.

Between 1966 and 1979, Minnesota never lost both annual games against the Packers. Bud Grants Vikings of the 1970s managed to have a record against the divisional rival of 15-4-1. In the 80s, however, the purple team just won five of 19 games.

In the last three decades, the Packers always had elite quarterback play, while the Vikings’ passers were shaky at best. Since Brett Favre became a Packer in 1992, the Packers lead the series 26-32-1. Overall, the record is 55-63-3 in favor of the Packers.

Brett Favre is the biggest name that played for both teams. The gunslinger played for the Packers from 1992 to 2007. He joined the Vikings in 2009 and led the team to a run that ended in the NFC Championship Game.

How Are the Vikings Progressing with 23 Days to Green Bay Game?
Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings just recently signed two Packers to their roster. Za’Darius Smith, the star pass rusher, and Chandon Sullivan, the nickel cornerback. Both departed from Green Bay and became Vikings in the offseason.

Packers Offseason Moves

The biggest offseason move was the gigantic extension of Aaron Rodgers. Outside of that, the Packers lost a few key pieces in the offseason. Davante Adams is the best receiver in the NFL for most analysts. Even his peers, like Justin Jefferson, agreed with that. However, Adams won’t play for Green Bay anymore, as he teamed up with his college QB Derek Carr in Las Vegas.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) pulls down a first down reception against Minnesota Vikings defensive back Kris Boyd. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK

Aaron Rodgers didn’t just lose his top target but also his WR2. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the deep threat, signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The next significant loss was Za’Darius Smith. He’ll form an elite pass-rushing duo with Danielle Hunter in Minnesota.

General manager Brian Gutekunst replaced Smith with players on the roster. Rashan Gary took a big step forward in the injury-related absence of Smith last year. In addition to that, the Packers have Preston Smith on the roster. They should be fine at the pass-rushing position.

The wideouts, meanwhile, are a big problem. Green Bay tried to replace the top two wideouts with second-round pick Christian Watson, fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs, and free agent signing Sammy Watkins.

Watson missed most of training camp and the preseason. He came out of North Dakota State University and was a raw prospect. The expectations are that he needs some time to develop. He could be available in Week 1, but his role is still uncertain at this point.

Romeo Doubs turned some heads in training camp and the preseason. The rookie made some rookie mistakes. Like the name says, that’s a common thing. However, it’s still unclear if Rodgers fully trusts Doubs to be a top target in the season opener. The Vikings won’t get that answer until the game is played.

Nov 19, 2018; Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters (22) defends Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Watkins was a dynamic receiver during the first years of his career but declined. He’s currently a candidate for 500 receiving yards and, at best, a handful of scores. That can and will help the Packers, but he won’t replace Adams.

The pecking order in the Packers wideout room is up in the air. Allen Lazard could also be a big factor. The veteran wideout has earned the trust of Rodgers in many battles in recent years, but it’s unclear if he possesses the skills to be a lead receiver for a contending team.

The two top draft picks were teammates of Vikings’ first-rounder Lewis Cine at Georgia. Linebacker Quay Walker is expected to start next to former Golden Gopher De’Vondre Campbell. Rookie linebackers, especially in their first game, are a possible target for offenses. While Walker could be really good, a few mental errors and rookie mistakes are certainly possible.

Defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt, meanwhile, still needs some time to get up to speed and might be limited to some rotational work.

Injury Update

A multitude of injuries caused problems down the stretch in the 2021 season. Rodgers had to play without his two elite offensive linemen, David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. Both are still recovering from torn ACLs.

Green Bay Packers offensive guard Elgton Jenkins (74) provides pass protection while blocking Chicago Bears linebacker Isaiah Irving. © Mark Hoffman, Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal S, Packers News via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

The two star blockers returned to practice in the last couple of weeks but exclusively worked on individual drills. Jenkins’ availability for the season opener is in jeopardy. Bakhtiari, meanwhile, is expected to be ready to be on the field in Week 1.

Robert Tonyan, one of Rodgers’ favorite targets, the tight end would be a huge upgrade on offense. He also is returning from a torn ACL suffered last season. He’s also questionable to face the Vikings.

Kicker Mason Crosby and safety Darnell Savage are back and are expected to play in Week 1. Just like Jaire Alexander. The star cornerback missed most of 2021 but is back to full strength.

How Do They Play?

Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones
Oct 18, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) greets quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There hasn’t been a meaningful snap played, so this is somewhat speculative. However, offenses with Aaron Rodgers at the helm are always efficient. He doesn’t turn the ball over and makes defenses pay for the smallest mistakes. In addition, the Packers have two strong running backs, Aaron Jones, a smaller but extremely shifty back, and big bowling ball A.J. Dillon. The offense could go more through the two backs than in recent years.

The defense struggled to stop the run. Rookie Quay Walker could be a factor at that. Overall, the defense is expected to be one of the better groups in the NFL. The three cornerbacks, Alexander, Stokes, and Douglas, are probably the best trio of cornerbacks in the league. Safeties Amos and Savage are one of the better duos as well. This will be a fun matchup to watch the Vikings’ elite wideouts against the Packers’ elite cornerbacks.

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

The two pass rushers, Gary and Smith, will challenge Vikings tackles Darrisaw and O’Neill. In the middle of the front, the Packers have Kenny Clark. He has been a problem for the Vikings’ interior line for years.

The special teams unit was a huge problem for the Packers in 2021. It ultimately cost them the trip to the NFC Championship game because the 49ers blocked a punt and returned it for a score. Green Bay fired the special teams’ coordinator and replaced him with former Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt

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