The season that we weren’t sure would happen opens up this week and the Vikings start of the campaign with an intense rivalry game. Without any preseason games to use as a gauge, I can only go on what I know from history. Aaron Rodgers has had a successful career against the Vikings, amassing over 5,400 passing yards and 43 TDs in 23 career games. The team has changed its offensive approach under Matt LaFleur by putting more emphasis on its running game. Aaron Jones rushed for over 1,000 yards and 16 TDs in 2019, including 270 yards in his two games against the Vikings. The Pack also had a much improved defense in 2019 finishing in the top ten in points allowed, up from 22nd in 2018. The Smiths, Za’Darius and Preston, combined for 25.5 sacks leading the charge on a defense that went from a liability to a major asset.
The Vikings were 10-6 in 2019 and finished 8th in points scored while finishing 5th in points allowed. The defense underwent several off-season changes as Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse, Stephen Weatherly and Andrew Sendejo have all left for other teams. They hope to replace these losses with draftees Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney at the cornerback spots and recently-acquired, Yannick Ngakoue, to complement Danielle Hunter at the other defensive end position. The offense lost dynamic playmaker, Stefon Diggs, in a trade with the Bills. They hope to fill the gap left by Diggs’ departure with 2020 first round pick, Justin Jefferson, along with an increased role for 2019 7th round pick, Bisi Johnson. Also look for Irv Smith, Jr. to play a larger role in the passing game at tight end. The ground attack is led by Dalvin Cook, who has something to prove in his contract year. Cook has yet to play a full season injury free and saw his production fall off in his final four games of 2019. Alexander Mattison is a bruising running back who can spell Cook and Mike Boone provides the Vikings with excellent depth at the position. Field general, Kirk Cousins, signed a two-year extension in the off-season and is hoping to continue his strong performance as a Viking. Since joining Minnesota Kirk has thrown for over 7,900 yards with 56 TDs and a completion ration of just under 70%.
The opener is being played at U.S. Bank Stadium, normally a huge benefit for the Vikings. With no fans in the seats this advantage falls off. While Green Bay did little to improve in the off-season, this is still a 13-3 team from 2019 that won the division. The Vikings, meanwhile, amassed their 10 wins over inferior opponents and struggled against the better ones. With so many new players on the roster and unproven talent at the cornerback spots, it could be a long day for the Vikings. The kids will be tested early by a future Hall of Fame QB. It will be up to the front seven to pressure Rodgers and to do something they failed to do in 2019: stop Aaron Jones. This one will come down to ball control. If Cook can find some holes and set up the play action passing game, the Vikings can win a close one. Without it, I can see the Packers winning comfortably with a huge game from Rodgers.
Should be a fun one to start the season. Let’s Skol!