Packers at Vikings countdown: Looking for revenge against a division rival
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will look to spoil the Minnesota Vikings’ regular-season debut at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday night in Minneapolis.
They will have to contend with Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense to do so.
The Vikings defense scored two second-half touchdowns in the team’s 25-16 win over the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday. The unit forced three turnovers and yielded just 64 total rushing yards to the Titans, helping the team overcome a 10-0 halftime deficit.
Green Bay has fared well against the Vikings under head coach Mike McCarthy, compiling a 14-5-1 regular-season record against them since he took over in 2006. The Packers have won 10 of their past 12 games against Minnesota, but they lost their last meeting 20-13 in January, a defeat which gave the Vikings the NFC North title, ending Green Bay’s four-year run atop the division.
Here’s a closer look at Sunday’s matchup:
3 THINGS TO WATCH
— Who will start at quarterback for the Vikings? Minnesota lost starter Teddy Bridgewater for the season when he sustained a severe knee injury during practice on Aug. 30. The team traded a pair of draft picks, including its 2017 first-round pick, to the Philadelphia Eagles for former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, but Minnesota opted to start backup Shaun Hill in the opener. Hill completed 18 of 33 passes for 236 yards against the Titans, throwing no touchdowns or interceptions. Zimmer has not yet named a starter for Sunday’s game, but all signs point to Bradford.
"I don’t know if I will this week or not because it started leaking," Zimmer said Wednesday. "Usually I like to inform the team of everything that’s going on here and what I’m thinking, but I was a little disappointed that some of the things go out."
McCarthy said he expects Bradford to get the start.
— How will Jordy Nelson fare in Week 2? The Packers top wide receiver played in his first game in more than a year last Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars and caught the first of Aaron Rodgers’ two touchdown passes. He finished the game with six catches for 32 yards in his first meaningful action since the 2014 NFC Championship.
"It feels great having Jordy back," Rodgers said after the game. "He does so many things well out there. He had a great second and third reaction on the TD catch."
— Can Packers find the end zone vs. the Vikings? Minnesota yielded the fifth-fewest points in the NFL last season and was strong last week against Tennessee. Green Bay managed just 13 points and 74 rushing yards in their loss to the Vikings last season, though the team passed for 274 yards. The Packers have scored 20-plus points vs. the Vikings in 18 of their 20 regular-season meetings since 2006, averaging 28.1 points per game against them over that stretch. Rodgers has thrown for 4,267 yards and 35 touchdowns with just five interceptions against Minnesota, though Vikings held him to a sub-90 passer rating in both matchups last year.
"He’s as good as there is," Zimmer said of Rodgers. "He amazes me with the things he does, the things he sees. Not just with his athletic ability. I’m talking about his intelligence and the way he sees everything. Then you add his athletic ability and his competitiveness. I mean, this guy is unbelievable. I kind of wish he was in a different division."
2 THINGS TO REMEMBER
— Minnesota’s defense may be good at forcing turnovers, but the Packers have had nine games since the beginning of last season in which they have not turned the ball over, the most in the NFL. That included a turnover-free game Nov. 22 of last season vs. the Vikings, a 30-13 win. Green Bay has just four turnovers in its past eight regular-season games against the Vikings.
— Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is looking to get back on track after a disappointing start to the season. The 31-year-old Peterson rushed for 31 yards on 19 carries in Week 1, tying for his lowest total for a season-opener in his career. The three-time rushing champion has eight 100-yard games in his career vs. Green Bay but none since 2013.
"The fact of the matter is it’s going to start with giving the ball to Adrian Peterson," McCarthy said of the Minnesota offense. "Every time we play the Vikings, that’s the focal point of our defense."
1 KEY MATCHUP
Aaron Rodgers vs. the Vikings defense
Rodgers has had success against this unit before, but the Vikings defense showed its merit in the win over Tennessee. The team did allow Tennessee to pass for 252 yards and two touchdowns last week without top cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who will be out again Sunday. Second-year cornerback Trae Waynes filled in for Rhodes and was shaky at points, so expect Rodgers to try and exploit his outside matchups.
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