Border Battle: Packers meet Vikings to open 2020 season

Packers

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – APRIL 08: An exterior view of U.S. Bank Stadium prior to the 2019 NCAA men’s Final Four National Championship game between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Texas Tech Red Raiders at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

For the first time in the Packers-Vikings storied rivalry, the teams will open an NFL season on Minnesota soil.

Since 1961, when the Vikings franchise entered the league, the border rivals have met six times in regular-season openers—all in Green Bay.  Each team has won three times.

–  Packers 34, Vikings 7 at City Stadium.  Sept. 16, 1962.

Second-year franchise was no match for defending NFL Champions in Green Bay and arguably the best Packers team in franchise history with 13-1 record.

–  Vikings 32, Packers 17 at Lambeau Field.  Sept. 15, 1974.

Bud Grant’s team went 12-2 in the 1973 regular season and lost to Miami, 14-7, in Super Bowl VIII.  They entered the 1974 season on a mission.

–  Vikings 23, Packers 20 in OT at Lambeau Field.  Sept. 6, 1992.

    Kicker Fuad Reveiz was the hero with three field goals, including a 25-yard game-winner, to spoil Mike Holmgren’s head coaching debut at home.

–  Packers 16, Vikings 10 at Lambeau Field.  Sept. 4, 1994.

With Brett Favre at quarterback, Green Bay avenged the 1992 overtime loss with a hard-fought triumph in a game they led 13-0 at halftime.

–  Vikings 30, Packers 25 at Lambeau Field.  Sept 7, 2003.

   Minnesota ruined the baptism of newly renovated Lambeau Field, racing out to a 20-3 first-half lead behind two Daunte Culpepper touchdown passes. 

–  Packers 24, Vikings 19 at Lambeau Field.  Sept. 8, 2008.

A successful debut for Aaron Rodgers, who took over the starting reins with Favre trade to Jets.  Will Blackmon’s 76-yard TD punt return was a key play in the win.

Sunday’s game at U.S. Bank Stadium is destined to go down in Packers-Vikings’ franchise lore for having no fans due to COVID-19 restrictions—an obvious advantage for the visiting Packers.

Aaron Rodgers likes how the Green Bay Packers are entering this season and division opener, after winning the NFC North with a 13-3 record and reaching the NFC Championship game.

Despite a 14-4 overall mark, a thorough beatdown by the 49ers in the title game in San Francisco and not selecting a wideout in a receiver-rich draft to enrich their offensive arsenal have soured Green Bay chances to be a serious Super Bowl contenders in the minds of some national pundits.

“We’re flying under the radar,” Rodgers told the Wisconsin media this week with a smile.

Rodgers has fashioned an impressive abbreviated training camp after finding his “center” in offseason reflection while quarantined in California.  He said he has also critically studied game film of himself and implemented tips gleaned in camp to hone his game as he enters his 16th NFL season.

The Packers drafted raw talent Jordan Love in the first round, grooming the rookie to one day succeed the 36-year-old Rodgers.  While that selection surprised Rodgers a bit, the veteran quarterback is focused on the present and helping the Packers go one step beyond their 2019 finish:  the Super Bowl in Tampa in February.

The first step begins on the road with Minnesota, a playoff team last season that also has aspirations of a deeper playoff run.

Mike Zimmer’s Vikings have a revamped secondary and lost several key weapons including receiver Stefon Diggs and defensive end Everson Griffen.  The offense features plenty of firepower with a running game spearheaded by Dalvin Cook and a passing attack led by Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen, along with first-round draft choice Justin Jefferson.

For Green Bay, a major focus of improvement must come from a run defense that surrendered 285 yards in the NFC Championship loss and the development of a young receivers corps (MVS, EQ) behind star Davante Adams.  The right tackle position is not set yet due to injuries, but free-agent Rick Wagner was signed to bolster the line with the departure of Bryan Bulaga.

The Packers defense features one of the league’s best secondaries, and Christian Kirksey—if healthy—is expected to be an upgrade at the middle linebacker spot for the departed Blake Martinez.  The Smither Brothers (Za’Darius and Preston) form one of the NFL’s most talented pass-rushing duos and Kenny Clark anchors a defensive line that will be tested early and often in Minnesota by Cook.

Below are 2020 division winners and playoff predictions, along with Week 1 NFL picks. 

NFC North:  Packers 10-6

NFC South:  Saints 11-5

NFC East:     Cowboys 11-5

NFC West:   49ers 12-4

Wild Cards:  Eagles (10-6), Bucs (9-6), Falcons (9-6)

AFC North:  Ravens 12-4

AFC South:  Colts 10-6

AFC East:     Patriots 11-5

AFC West:   Chiefs 13-3

Wild Cards:  Steelers (10-6), Bills (9-6), Titans (9-6)

NFC Champion:  Saints

AFC Champion:  Ravens

Super Bowl Champions:  Ravens over Saints

NFL Week 1 Picks

Chiefs

Falcons

Ravens

Bills

Panthers

Lions

Colts

Packers

Patriots

Eagles

Chargers

Saints

49ers

Cowboys

Steelers

Titans

Green Bay catches a huge break with no fans in U.S. Bank Stadium.  Rodgers takes full advantage off play-action as the team that runs the ball the best prevails.

Packers 23, Vikings 20

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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