Following their emotional victory last week over the Chicago Bears, the (1-0) Green Bay Packers are back home at Lambeau Field to take on another NFC North rival, last year’s divisional champions, the (1-0) Minnesota Vikings (1pm ET Sunday).
As Green Bay continues to celebrate their 100th anniversary, it is clear one of the Packers’ goals is to regain their hold on the NFC North, a division they won nine times since 2000. More than that, the Packers just want to make it back to the playoffs after missing out last year for the first time since 2008. There would be no better anniversary present than a Super Bowl Championship, which would be the team’s fifth overall. In addition to Super Bowl titles, the Packers won 11 NFL championships prior to the merger.
Then there are the Vikings. Minnesota has won the NFC North just four times since 2001, with two of these coming in the last three seasons. The Vikings have been rising and have become not just the class of the NFC North, but one of the best teams in the entire NFL. Their hold on the division looks strong, especially after beating the Packers in both of their regular season meetings last year.
2018 is a new year and both the Vikings and Packers have seen some personnel changes. This changes the dynamic on the field but what doesn’t change is the will to win. What also doesn’t change is the long held rivalry between these two NFC powerhouses, a rivalry that much like last week when the Packers took on the Bears, will be on display on Sunday afternoon.
Kurt Cousins Leads Minnesota to a Win in his Debut with the Team
One of the biggest offseason moves made by the Vikings, and really by any team in the NFL, was when Minnesota signed free agent quarterback Kurt Cousins to a three-year contract.
Considered by many to be the top quarterback of the class, Cousins spent the past six years with the team that drafted him, the Washington Redskins. A starter from 2015-17, Cousins showed his worth with three straight seasons of 4,000-plus yards and 25+ touchdowns. With Minnesota’s quarterback situation in flux over the past few years, despite strong performances from guys like Case Keenum and Sam Bradford, the need for a franchise signal caller was strong. There’s no doubt that the Vikings were thinking about the Packers and how they have Aaron Rodgers, as one of the motivations to having a quarterback who can compete among the best in the league.
In his first outing, Cousins played well. He completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 95.1. Stefon Diggs, now in his fifth year in the NFL, led the way among receivers with three receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has established himself as one of the better tight ends in the league, when healthy, scored the other touchdown on his one reception of the game.
Cousins anchoring the Minnesota offense is going to make things interesting as the rivalry between these two teams heats up. The first battle in the war takes place this Sunday as Cousins will be paired up against one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Aaron Rodgers. Well, that is, if he actually plays.
Aaron Rodgers: Can Superman do it Again?
Packers fans are fond of saying that their quarterback, who is now the highest paid player in the league, is a “bad, bad man.” Last week, Rodgers proved he might be a bad, bad man, but he’s also Superman. Now in his 15th season in the NFL, the veteran quarterback managed to outdo himself in terms of the limits of what is humanly possible.
In Green Bay’s opening game against the Bears, Rodgers was sacked by Roy Robertson-Harris with about six minutes left in the second quarter. He grabbed his knee and Packers’ fans collectively held their breaths. What happened next was not something that they wanted to see as the medical cart came out and Rodgers was helped onto it, unable to leave the field under his own power. Flashbacks of last year’s woes returned to fans minds as Rodgers missing nine games last year. It was the reason Green Bay missed the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade. As the Bears began to run the score up, these woes only greatened.
The second quarter ticked down into the half, as Rodgers’ was listed as questionable to return. The third quarter began and making his way onto the field alongside the first team offense was Rodgers, slight limp and all. He played nearly a half of a football game on one leg, putting as little pressure as possible on the injured knee. But as Rodgers said in an interview after the game, the doctor told him he couldn’t make the injury worse by playing. At that point, it was clear Rodgers was not going to miss another minute of play.
Not only did Rodgers return, but he returned to lead the Packers to a stunning 24-23 victory. It was perhaps the greatest and no doubt gutsiest performance in Rodgers’ illustrious career. Already a legend among Packers and NFL fans alike, Rodgers’ added to that last week. However, a repeat performance may not be in the cards as head coach Mike McCarthy has told the media that it’s no certainty that Rodgers plays this Sunday.
If Rodgers’ track record is any indication, it will be very hard to keep him off the field. However, if there is a chance the injury will worsen, McCarthy will want to keep his star out of one game, as opposed to a scenario where he could miss many. Not to mention, last year, Rodgers’ shoulder injury happened in the team’s week six game against Minnesota.
Our Betting Preview’s Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers Picks and Predictions
The Packers without Rodgers are an entirely different team, as was witnessed last week and last seasons. Green Bay went just 3-6, with two wins coming in overtime against the lowly Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, post Rodgers injury. If he doesn’t play or is in any way hampered by the knee, it could be a long day for the Packers against their rivals. If he does play however, look for this game to possibly be the highlight of the NFL schedule for the week.
At the time of writing none of the best offshore USA sportsbooks have posted a betting line for this NFL game, due to the uncertainty of Rodgers’ status. So this preview will give two Minnesota Vikings vs Green Bay Packers predictions and picks, depending on if Rodgers plays or not:
- If Rodgers plays, pick Green Bay to win. If he doesn’t, Minnesota will likely be road favorites and would be our betting prediction to land this game.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.