Packers vs. Vikings preview: Predictions, 5 things to watch
TEAMS: Green Bay Packers (1-0) vs. Minnesota Vikings (1-0).
WHEN: Noon Sunday.
WHERE: Lambeau Field.
TV: Fox, with Kevin Burkhardt (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analysis), Pam Oliver (sideline).
RADIO: AM-620 in Milwaukee, FM-101.1 in Green Bay; Packers Radio Network.
SERIES: Packers lead, 60-53-2.
LINE: Vikings -3.
WEATHER: Partly cloudy, high of 77.
COACHES: Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (132-78-1) vs. Vikings' Mike Zimmer (41-27)
LIVE GAME BLOG: Join Tom Silverstein for analysis and lively discussion
5 THINGS TO WATCH
MODIFIED ROLE: One surprise in the season opener was how much more nose tackle Kenny Clark and end Muhammad Wilkerson played than defensive tackle Mike Daniels. The final snap totals were Clark 54, Wilkerson 43, and Daniels 33. It’s possible defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery wanted to ease Daniels back in after he missed a good portion of training camp with a thigh injury, but the interesting part is that Daniels played on only eight of the 17 third downs. You would think that if they were going to limit his snaps, they’d at least play him more in passing situations. Instead, he played 14 snaps on first down and 11 on second down. Daniels had a sack and three pressures, which might inspire the coaches to use him more on third down against the Vikings. Minnesota had a lot of trouble blocking San Francisco DT Brentson Buckner and it will be worth keeping an eye on how many snaps Daniels gets.
CAPTAIN KIRK: In the last two meetings against the Packers, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has completed 50 of 76 passes for 704 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions for a 113.05 passer rating. In the first of those meetings, a 35-18 Packers wild-card playoff victory at Washington in January of 2016, he was sacked six times. The following season he hit 21 of 30 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-24 regular-season Washington rout. The Packers can’t let Cousins stand in the pocket all day as he did in the ’16 victory because he’ll tear them apart. “He’s definitely a guy you have to give different looks to throughout the game to get him off the spot and try to keep him off balance,” cornerback Tramon Williams said.
DOUGHERTY: Jimmy Graham lets his play do his talking
FAMILIAR FOE: The chess match between Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo should be entertaining. The two first crossed paths when they were on Rex Ryan’s New York Jets staff. In his second year coaching the Cleveland Browns, Pettine hired DeFilippo to be his offensive coordinator. The staff got fired the following year and DeFilippo wound up coaching quarterbacks for Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. His two years there exposed him to West Coast principles, a no-huddle attack and a go-for-broke mentality. “I think he’s done a real nice job incorporating a lot of the elements from the Philadelphia offense,” Pettine said. “You can see it in what the Vikings are doing, and it’s only enhanced what I thought was a pretty good system back in 2015.”
THE RIVALRY: All the attention paid to Aaron Rodgers’ knee injury has swept aside any discussion of Rodgers playing against linebacker Anthony Barr for the first time since Barr broke the quarterback’s right collarbone last year with a hard, legal tackle at U.S. Bank Stadium. Barr and Rodgers got into a shouting match as Rodgers was leaving the field. Rodgers is not the kind of guy to forgive and forget, and he’d probably love the chance to show up Barr on Sunday. But his questionable status and limited mobility should he play would overshadow any thoughts of showing up the Vikings linebacker.
CLIMATE CONTROL: The Vikings haven’t visited the Packers as early as September since Rodgers’ first start in 2008. Since then, four of the games have been played in December/January, three in November and two in October (not counting playoffs). Not since 2014 have the Vikings been able to leave their winter gear at home. The kickoff temperatures of the last three games at Lambeau Field have been 10, 37 and 24 degrees. The forecast for Sunday kickoff is partly cloudy and a high of 79 degrees. Weather will not be a factor.
Regardless of whether Aaron Rodgers can play, the Minnesota Vikings are a better team right now. They have a better defense and they have just as many offensive threats, if not more. Rodgers can tip the scales the Packers’ direction, but it’s not going to happen Sunday. The Vikings are still the best team in the NFC and they’ll prove it. Vikings 27, Packers 17
If Aaron Rodgers plays he’ll keep the Packers in the game, but he’ll be hobbled and the Vikings have had a week to plan for that. The guess here is Kirk Cousins will put up enough points to get Minnesota an early jump in the NFC North race. Vikings 24, Packers 20
The Vikings might be the best team in the NFC. They’re certainly one of the most talented. Even with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, they’re a formidable opponent. Rodgers clearly won’t be healthy Sunday, and he also won’t be playing the Chicago Bears. Beating an unproven Bears team on one leg is one thing. To beat the Vikings on one leg would be something entirely different. Vikings 27, Packers 21
Aaron Rodgers may indeed run out of the tunnel Sunday, but if he does he will be limited physically to an unknown degree. Can he carry the offense for four quarters? Can the Packers' run game get going? Is DeShone Kizer ready to win if he has to play? Who knows. What is known is that Minnesota defense, which has allowed 20 points or more just four times in its last 17 regular-season games. Vikings 20, Packers 10
The Packers used a quick-hitting passing offense to rally past the Bears after Aaron Rodgers' mobility was restricted by a knee injury. The Vikings will be prepared for it, and Davante Adams' shoulder injury won't help matters. Explosive running back Aaron Jones might have played a big role here but he'll be finishing up his two-game suspension. Vikings 24, Packers 20