The Green Bay Packers walked out of Solider Field last Thursday night with a 10-3 win over the reigning NFC North champions in the first game of the NFL’s 100th season, a testament to their much-improved defense.
Three days later, the Minnesota Vikings saw its offense score all 28 of its points in the first three quarters, holding back Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons and claiming 28-12 victory in their home opener.
Those two facets — the Packers’ defense and the Vikings’ offense — will take center stage at noon C.T. Sunday when the teams clash at Lambeau Field in a matchup that could go a long way in proving which is the better candidate to dethrone the Chicago Bears.
The Packers are 2.5-point favorites to win with an over-under of 43.5, according to Odds Shark, as bettors remain mostly split on a margin that has hardly fluctuated. Green Bay has not lost a home opener since the 2012 season.
Here’s some more background on the teams along with stats and advice on which of these NFC North rivals is worth backing in Week 2.
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Vikings vs. Packers: NFC North Rivals Put Up Big Numbers
A great exemplification of the Packers-Vikings rivalry can be picked out of last season. The two teams went to overtime and ended up tying, 29-29, during their September matchup at Lambeau Field. Both sides scored and scored often, but neither team left as the definite winner — though, an argument could be made the Vikings were the better team in 2018 with them beating the Packers in Minnesota later in the season.
The NFC North rivals tend to put up big numbers against each other at Lambeau, as their matchup has generated more than 50 overall points in six of the last 10 games at the venue dating to the 2010 regular season — and including their 2012 playoff game. The Packers alone have scored at least 23 points in 11 of their last 13 home games against the Vikings.
The two also have a tendency to play games close, as 22 of their last 33 matchups — including both games last season — were decided by seven points or fewer.
One of the biggest questions on the Packers’ end of things comes in a place the franchise hasn’t needed to worry much about over the last few decades: on offense. Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers and company looked shaky in debuting first-year coach Matt LaFleur‘s new offensive system against the Bears. Instead, the defense took the reins and clamped down on Chicago’s offense, limiting the Bears to a single field goal and picking off Mitchell Trubisky in the end zone late in the second half.
How much Rodgers — who sat the entire preseason — and the Packers offense can improve between weeks could ultimately determine the fate of the game. So, too, could Green Bay’s ability to stop Minnesota’s dynamic running back, Dalvin Cook, who rushed 21 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns during Week 1.
If the Vikings rusher struggles to get going, it will fall on Kirk Cousins to keep the Vikings from falling apart. He was steady completing eight of 10 passes during Week 1 for 98 yards and a touchdown, but the key for him will be maintaining that efficiency when throwing closer to 20 or 30 times. Not as tall of a task when Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are among his targets.
Vikings vs. Packers: Pick & Prediction
Count on Rodgers to keep his word from Thursday’s postgame when he promised he and the Packers offense would be better in the future. The home crowd will provide an additional boost to help get them back on track, while the stadium could likely be a constant roar if the game sticks to the series’ high-scoring pattern.
Aaron Jones faces another challenge against a Minnesota defense that last week limited Devonta Freeman to just 19 yards on eight carries, but a stronger presence than his meek 39-yard game against the Bears would only help Rodgers open up the passing game.
The Vikings won’t go down without a fight, determined to show they can excel in all three phases for consecutive weeks and make a genuine push for the NFC North crown.
Still, it is hard to doubt a Packers squad in front of their first regular-season Lambeau crowd of the year.
Take the Packers to win and cover, upping their playoff odds in the process.
Pick: Packers -2.5
Over-under: Over 43.5
Prediction: Packers 27, Vikings 24