It’s a big night in Minneapolis on Sunday in Week 2 of the NFL season as the Minnesota Vikings not only face the blood-rival Green Bay Packers but do so in the first game that counts in the team’s new U.S. Bank Stadium. The winner has an early leg up in the NFC North. The Packers are slight road favourites on Sports Interaction NFL odds.
Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
Point spread: Packers -2.5
Date: Sunday, Sept. 18, 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay opened the season with hard-fought 27-23 win at a rising Jacksonville team on a very hot and humid day in Florida. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the preseason betting favourite to win a third NFL MVP Award and he got off to a good start, throwing for two scores and rushing for one. The best thing to take from that game for Packers fans was the return of top receiver Jordy Nelson. The Green Bay offense struggled last year after Nelson suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. He looked 100 percent on Sunday with six catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.
The Packers’ defense wasn’t great against the pass vs. the Jaguars, allowing Blake Bortles to throw for 320 yards, but the run defense was strong. As a team, Jacksonville had 48 yards on 26 carries (1.8 yards per carry) and the Packers were credited with six tackles for loss on running plays. That’s a key heading into a game against the Vikings and arguably the NFL’s best running back in Adrian Peterson.
There was one injury to note for the Packers and that was to top cornerback Sam Shields as he’s now in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He missed four games because of a concussion late last season. Second-year cornerback Quinten Rollins, who was benched earlier in the game, filled in for the injured Shields for the remainder of Sunday’s matchup vs. the Jags.
It’s not often you are going to win an NFL game without scoring an offensive touchdown, but the Vikings did so in Week 1 in a 25-16 victory at Tennessee. Linebacker Eric Kendricks had a 77-yard interception return for a 12-10 third-quarter lead, and end Danielle Hunter returned a fumble 24 yards for a score and a 22-10 fourth-quarter advantage. Blair Walsh had four field goals.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer didn’t reveal before that game whether he would start Shaun Hill or newly-acquired Sam Bradford at QB vs. the Titans, but he went with Hill. Not a shock as Hill was Teddy Bridgewater‘s backup before Bridgewater suffered a season-ending injury in training camp. Thus Hill knew the offense much better than Bradford did. Hill was just OK vs. Tennessee, completing 18-for-33 for 236 yards. The Titans did bottle up Peterson as he was held to 31 yards on 19 carries.
Zimmer again is saying he won’t reveal his QB until game time this week, but I believe it will be Bradford. He is better able to spread the field with his arm strength than Hill is. The offense needs a kick-start as including playoffs the Vikings have failed to score an offensive touchdown in their last 145 minutes and 32 seconds of game play. The defense has three scores over that span.
The Vikings lobbied the NFL for a marquee opponent to open the new stadium and might want to be careful what they wish for. The Packers will be looking for payback after a 20-13 loss at Lambeau Field in Week 17 last year gave the Vikings the NFC North title, ending Green Bay’s four-year reign atop the division. Peterson rushed for 67 yards and a TD in the game and the Vikings had a defensive touchdown. Rodgers threw for 291 yards with a touchdown and pick.
Minnesota is +300 on NFL odds to repeat as division champion.
Packers vs. Vikings Prediction
The Minnesota players surely will be fired up in the new stadium, but when two teams are close in talent, as these are, you should take the better quarterback. And that’s clearly Rodgers, whether it’s Hill or Bradford under center for Minnesota. The Pack have covered six of their past seven road games. Go under the total. It’s 9-2 in the Vikings’ past 11 vs. the NFC North.