(WFRV) – Few could have seen this scenario unfolding at Lambeau Field Sunday.
The 5-1 Packers and the 1-5 Vikings, rivals expected to be locked in a heated dual for the NFL North title this season, are worlds apart.
Green Bay has lived up to its preseason hype as a NFC title contender, while Minnesota is a pretender, coming out of a bye week with only a triumph over lowly Houston in the win column.
Of course, the Packers are heavy favorites in the 12 noon game Sunday. But games are not won on paper and the Vikings would love to pull off the upset of their border rival on their home field.
“I don’t care what their record says,” Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur said. “This is a damn good football team.”
Under LaFleur, the Packers have fashioned a perfect 8-0 record against NFC North foes in the past year.
Six weeks ago, in an eerily fan-less U.S. Bank Stadium, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams torched a young and inexperienced Minnesota secondary in a 43-34 victory.
Adams had a career day with a franchise record-tying 14 receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns, while Rodgers threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns.
Minnesota had no answer for covering Adams and put virtually no pressure on Rodgers in a quiet environment, negating a huge advantage the Vikings normally enjoy in their home stadium.
There will be no fans at Lambeau Field, and Minnesota will no doubt employ different strategies against the duo this time.
The Vikings are backed in a corner, literally, going into the rematch.
Three of their four top cornerbacks—Cameron Dantzler (COVID-19 reserve), Holton Hill (foot), Mike Hughes (neck), and Chris Jones (still in coronavirus protocol)—will or may miss Sunday’s contest. Hill and Hughes were ruled out in the team’s injury report on Friday afternoon.
Both team’s top running backs—Aaron Jones and Dalvin Cook—are also coming off injuries.
Cook is listed as questionable with a groin injury, while Jones was listed as “out” Friday on Green Bay’s long injury report. Listed as questionable were David Bakhtiari (chest), Mason Crosby (calf, back), Tyler Ervin (wrist), Raven Green (oblique), Tyler Lancaster (shoulder), John Lovett (knee), and Darnell Savage (quad).
Quarterback Kirk Cousins has struggled, throwing 10 interceptions—four more than he did in the entire 2019 season. He is a major reason Minnesota possesses the worst turnover ratio in the NFL at minus-7.
“I look forward to this stretch up ahead of trying to play at such a level that it’s a much different story as we finish the season than how we started,” Cousins said this week.
It’s also a key stretch for the Packers.
Green Bay faces a division rival Sunday and the team then flies to the West Coast to take on the 49ers Thursday night—a five-day period that may well define the second quarter of their 2020 season.
“You look at them on paper and you look at some of the playmakers that they have,” said Adams, who may be strategically moved in multiple receiving positions/formations to avoid double coverage. “They’ve got a really good, solid team still. So you can’t disrespect them. You’ve got to go out there and treat them just like they were when they were at the top of their game.”
Week 8 Picks
Records in rival games don’t mean much, but differences at quarterback and in secondary are too much for depleted Minnesota to overcome.
Packers 31, Vikings 21