Week 1 of the NFL season is finally here! Kicking off today at 4:25 EST, the Green Bay Packers will head to U.S. Bank Stadium to face one of their biggest rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers have remained very short favorites in this game, being favored by 1.5 points according to FanDuel. This projects the Packers-Vikings rivalry game to be one of the closest of the week 1 slate. Will the game actually be close, or will it be domination by the Green Bay Packers?
Although the Packers suffered a huge loss in the offseason losing the best receiver in the NFL in Davante Adams, most would agree that it is fair to say the Packers have a better overall roster on-paper than the Minnesota Vikings; so why is this game projected to be so close? Well, one interesting statistic to keep in mind is Aaron Rodgers’ record at U.S. Bank Stadium. Rodgers boasts a respectable 14-10-1 record in his career as a starter against Minnesota, however, Rodgers is only 2-4 when playing the Vikings in the hostile U.S. Bank Stadium. Although home field advantage will be in favor of the Vikings, there are definitely factors that favor the Packers. Obviously when you have the back-to-back MVP and one of the greatest quarterbacks ever in Aaron Rodgers, you’re going to have a quarterback advantage over almost every team in the NFL.
Although most would agree that Rodgers is miles above Kirk Cousins, Cousins has been more than serviceable as a Viking. In 2021, Cousins was top 10 in both passing yards and passing touchdowns, with 4,221 yards and 33 touchdowns. The season was enough for the Vikings to give the 33 year old quarterback a 1 year extension. Cousins can be a very hot and cold quarterback, and it will be interesting to see how he performs with weapons like Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson at the helm. It should also be noted that the Vikings will roll with a new head coach in former Rams’ offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. I like what O’Connell brings to the table for Minnesota as he was great in designing the offense for the reigning Super Bowl champions. However, it is clear that the Packers have the advantage in coaching with Matt Lafleur, who boasts an impressive 39-10 regular season record as head coach of the Packers.
We know the Vikings have weapons on their offense, but what about the Packers who just lost their WR1? Someone on the Packers’ offense is going to have to emerge as a WR1, whether it is veteran receiver Allen Lazard, rookie Christian Watson, preseason standout Romeo Doubs, or even someone like Sammy Watkins. However, it will likely not be Lazard week 1, as he is doubtful to play with an ankle injury he sustained in practice. While the Packers’ questionable receiving corps still develops, the Packers still have an impressive running back duo in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, and the running game could be huge for the Packers behind an offensive line that should be getting star players back in David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. Not to mention that Dillon and Jones are both great receiving backs. Moving on to the defensive side of the ball, I expect the Packers’ defense to shut down Minnesota. There is no doubt that the Packers’ defense is one of the most talented groups in the NFL, it is just a matter of executing.
The Vikings may have a top 5 wide receiver in the NFL in Justin Jefferson, but the Packers themselves have an elite secondary consisting of Jaire Alexander, who just got a 4-year $84 million contract making him the highest paid corner in NFL history, breakout corner Rasul Douglas who himself also received an extension, and sophomore year corner Eric Stokes who performed well given the circumstances his rookie year. On top of this, for the first time in years the Packers have an all-pro inside linebacker in De’vondre Campbell, and they spent a premium 1st round pick on the speedy linebacker Quay Walker out of Georgia. Speaking of Georgia players, the Packers also spent a 1st round pick on Devonte Wyatt, the defensive tackle from Georgia. Wyatt will pair up with all-pro Kenny Clark next to him, with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith lining up on the edges. This defensive line will get to face the offensive line of the Vikings, a below average group. Overall, the Packers defense seems crazy talented compared to that of the Vikings. However, the Vikings do have a decent amount of talent on the roster, an example being the former Packer Za’Darius Smith, a former pro-bowler who is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL if healthy. The Vikings also focused on defense in the 2022 NFL draft, where they selected safety Lewis Cine as well as cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., two prospects I loved coming out of Georgia and Clemson. However, these guys are not expected to show out day 1, and have to be developed.
With that being said, it is time for a prediction. This game feels like it is an absolute tossup, and it would not be a surprise for either team to come out on top.
Give me the Packers to win in a close, low-scoring game, 20-17.