Welcome to Boom or Bust, a weekly segment where I predict which NFC North players will flourish and which will flounder. In a week one matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, the reigning NFC North champions roster is filled with boom or bust candidates. Below are my pick to boom, and more importantly, my pick to bust:
Boom: Sammy Watkins
For some odd reason, Week 1 Sammy Watkins is seemingly a different player than Weeks 2-18 Sammy Watkins. In the past three seasons, Watkins has recorded his season-high in receiving yards in the first game of the year. This includes an absurd 9 reception, 196 yard, 3 touchdown performance in Week 1 of 2019. Maybe Watkins brings more energy or is better prepared than his opponents in Week 1, but whatever it is, it has resulted in unbelievable production. With pass catchers Allen Lazard, Christian Watson, and Robert Tonyan all questionable to play against the Vikings due to injuries, Watkins and Randall Cobb remain as the only other established receivers for Aaron Rodgers. While the Vikings have had some recent success against the Packers, Rodgers has posted many exceptional games against Minnesota. In their two meetings last season, Rodgers totalled 673 yards, 6 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Against a young secondary, Rodgers may once again torch the Vikings defense. Although the Packers’ receiving core has been in question all offseason, Rodgers should be able to elevate the unit like he has in the past. With Rodgers’ success against the Vikings and Watkins stepping into a big role, expect for the Week 1 Sammy Watkins trend to continue.
Bust: Rasul Douglas
The Packers may have the most complete defensive unit in the NFL, but they could certainly be challenged on Sunday. Justin Jefferson has quickly jumped into the conversation of being the best receiver in the league. With the Vikings bringing in former Los Angeles Rams Offensive Coordinator Kevin O’Connell as their head coach, Jefferson could reach another level in 2022. Jefferson has expressed his excitement in being placed in a role similar to that of Cooper Kupp, who was unstoppable for the Rams out of the slot last season. If Jefferson sees more creative usage to begin the season, the Packers’ secondary will have a handful. With the loss of Chandon Sullivan in the offseason, the Packers’ slot cornerback position remains in question. They have three outstanding options in Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas, but none have ever primarily played in the slot. With Alexander and Stokes the designated starters, it is likely they will be the boundary corners, leaving Douglas in the slot. If he lines up across from Jefferson regularly, it could be a long day for him. Alexander, an All-Pro cornerback, and Stokes, a top second-year player, could shut down the outside, leaving plenty of targets in Douglas’ direction. When the Packers went to U.S. Bank Stadium in 2021, Jefferson went ballistic with 168 yards and 2 touchdowns. This performance will be difficult to repeat, but the same dominance is possible.