With fans in attendance, the Minnesota Vikings have never played against the Green Bay Packers at home in the first game of a season. It’ll be a first-of-its-kind party for the masses.
In 2020, the Packers dropped the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium to start the season, but it was the beginning of the NFL’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and no fans were present.
The pattern changes this September as Minnesota hosts Green Bay. The game will be sold-out, and a small bit of Vikings history will unfold. It also happens to be the most important Week 1 game for the Vikings since 2016.
U.S Bank Stadium opened for business that year, and the Vikings defeated the Packers to introduce the building in style. That was the last-most-important Week 1 game for Minnesota. Since then, these are the Week 1 contests and results:
- 2017 = Vikings def. Saints (29-19)
- 2018 = Vikings def. 49ers (24-16)
- 2019 = Vikings def. Falcons (28-12)
- 2020 = Packers def. Vikings (43-34)
- 2021 = Bengals def. Vikings (27-24, OT)
Ask yourself — did any of those games come with the implications or hype that are on the way for Week 1 of 2022?
Here’s why this Week 1 matchup is so vital.
It’s the Packers
An explanation is unlikely required, but this is the primary foe, for God’s sake.
Whenever the Vikings and Packers hook up, fans’ interest is piqued. It’s just supersized when it’s Week 1 because fans of both organizations will have craved football for eight months. Last year, the teams split the season series as the Vikings dramatically knocked off the Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium on a field goal by Greg Joseph. A month and a half later, Kirk Cousins contracted COVID, and Minnesota looked like imbeciles at Lambeau Field without him.
The game will kickoff in the 3:25 pm CST slot, so the showdown even nibbles at a little bit of primetime. Minnesota’s primary rival is Green Bay, making this matchup intrinsically intriguing and vital — Week 1 or otherwise.
Opening Salvo for Kevin O’Connell
How about some trial by fire for a first-year, 37-year-old head coach?
That’s the prognosis for Kevin O’Connell on September 11th. He’s never experienced the Vikings-Packers rivalry. Or, if he has, he’s been a non-invested spectator. O’Connell drew a for-all-the-marbles game as his virgin voyage as the Vikings skipper. NFL schedule makers have a sense of humor.
By the time the Vikings and Packers kick off, seven months of hype and honeymoon will surround O’Connell. He’s the youthful voice of newness, laced with an offense-first philosophy coveted by fans since the Mike Zimmer era went southward. There’s one hiccup for O’Connell — soon, he’ll have to go out and coach.
Consider the old political adage. After a candidate wins an election, often the “joke” is: Now it’s time to govern — as if the fun part is over. This can be applied to O’Connell or any first-year coach.
O’Connell just has the unusual responsibility of hosting the team’s main rival — right out of the gate.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).