Big stage set for Packers, Vikings
Second in a 13-part series on the teams the Green Bay Packers will face in the 2016 regular season.
The schedule makers got this one right.
A Sunday night game between two bitter NFC North rivals is the perfect setting for the christening of U.S. Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings' new home in downtown Minneapolis that cost more than $1 billion to build. The Green Bay Packers will visit the Vikings on Sept. 18 for their second regular-season game, a rematch of last season’s de facto NFC North title game.
There will be some revenge motivation for the Packers. They lost to the Vikings at Lambeau Field in last season’s finale, snapping their streak of four straight NFC North titles.
If their Week 2 meeting has no shortage of compelling storylines, it’s their rematch later in 2016 that could be most important. The Packers host the Vikings on Christmas Eve, a Saturday game at Lambeau Field. With a little snow, it will be the perfect setting for what could be a critical divisional game with potential playoff implications.
So, kudos to those in the league office who scheduled this season’s rendition of Packers vs. Vikings. Even if the Packers will have four straight weeks on the road before their home opener — counting the final two preseason games — their two matchups with the Vikings could not be better.
Here are three things to know about the Packers’ division rival.
» That pit in their gut: The Vikings entered this offseason knowing exactly how the Packers felt a year ago. Even if their wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks lacked the same stakes as the Packers' collapse in the NFC title game two years ago, the sting was similar. It looked like the Vikings had a home playoff win wrapped up with 25 seconds left as kicker Blair Walsh lined up for a 27-yard field goal, a gimme if ever there was one. Instead, Walsh pushed his kick wide left, and the Seahawks had another improbable postseason win. No, it wasn’t as big as their NFC title triumph over the Packers. The Seahawks lost in the divisional round a week later to the Carolina Panthers. But that stinging, sickening pit in the Vikings’ gut lingered through Green Bay last offseason. These two enemies can empathize with each other very well.
» How long will All Day last? A year ago, you could not read about the Vikings without seeing a contentious relationship between the team and star running back Adrian Peterson. The seven-time All-Pro and former MVP was unhappy after missing 15 games in 2014 because of his suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. His contract was restructured last offseason, Peterson was a first-team All-Pro in 2015, and all is well as the 31-year-old running back enters the season. Right? Actually, according to an ESPN report, the question has arisen of how much longer Peterson plans to play. Whether or not retirement is something Peterson will consider in the next year or two, he plays a position that does not lend itself to longevity. If the Vikings want Peterson to lead them to a Super Bowl, it might have to be this year.
» A whole new (Teddy) Ballgame: After steady progression early in his career, the Vikings would like to see quarterback Teddy Bridgewater ascend into the upper echelon of league quarterbacks in 2016. Whether or not he has that kind of talent remains to be seen, but it should be easier for him this fall than in the past. The Vikings used their first draft pick (No. 23 overall) to select Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell, whom many considered the draft’s top wideout. The Vikings hope Treadwell joins receiver Stefon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph to provide three solid targets for Bridgewater, who could use more weapons in the passing game.
Packers schedule glimpse
Sept. 18 at Minnesota, 7:30 p.m., NBC
Week before: at Jaguars, Sept. 11
Week after: Home opener vs. Lions, Sept. 25
On the horizon: Bye
Dec. 24 vs. Vikings, noon, Fox
Week before: at Bears, Dec. 18
Week after: at Detroit, Jan. 1
On the horizon: The postseason
Coach: Mike Zimmer (18-14, third season).
2015 record: 11-5, first NFC North.
Scoring offense: 22.8 points per game (16th in NFL).
Total offense: 321.2 yards per game (29th).
Scoring defense: 18.9 points allowed per game (5th).
Total defense: 344.2 yards allowed per game (13th).
Series: Packers lead 58-49-2 (1-1 postseason).
Last meeting: With a battered offensive line, the Packers lost to the Vikings 20-13 on Jan. 3 at Lambeau Field in the game that decided last season’s NFC North race. The Packers had left guard Josh Sitton playing left tackle, replacing injured David Bakhtiari. Sitton struggled, as any guard would being handed the assignment of premier pass blocker on the offensive line. Everson Griffen had two sacks, forcing Aaron Rodgers to fumble once in a scoop-and-score that was the difference. The Packers won their first matchup last season 30-13 at Minnesota.
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