The Vikings and Packers will meet up for the 118th time this Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Even though Green Bay holds the all-time series lead at 60-54-3, they haven't beaten Minnesota since Week 16 of the 2016 season, or in other words they're winless in their last four matchups against the Vikings.
For the most part, Mike Zimmer has found ways to slow down Aaron Rodgers with his vaunted defense and this week's recipe for success will be no different.
In the past six games started by Rodgers, the Packers have just one win against Zimmer.
- 2015 Week 17 at Green Bay: Vikings 20, Packers 13
- 2016 Week 2 at Minnesota: Vikings 17, Packers 14
- 2016 Week 16 at Green Bay: Packers 38, Vikings 25
- 2017 Week 6 at Minnesota: Vikings 23, Packers 10
- 2018 Week 2 at Green Bay: Vikings 29, Packers 29 (tie)
- 2018 Week 11 at Minnesota, Vikings 24, Packers 17
What's probably more amazing is the Vikings have had a different quarterback in all of those victories, Teddy Bridgewater in 2015, Sam Bradford in 2016, Case Keenum in 2017 and Kirk Cousins in 2018.
It's a little far fetched to say Minnesota's quarterback play was irrelevant but clearly it's been the defense that's been the key reason for the wins over the cheeseheads.
For more context, Rodgers' game stats in those losses are striking:
- 2015: 28-of-44, 291 yards, 1 TD, 2 turnovers, 5 sacks, 80.8 passer rating
- 2016: 20-of-36, 213, 1 TD, 2 turnovers, 5 sacks, 70.7 passer rating
- 2017: 2-of-4, 18 yards, aka Rodgers walked into a Barr
- 2018: 17-of-28, 198 yards, 1 TD, 4 sacks, 94.6 passer rating
So in those four losses, Rodgers had more turnovers than touchdowns but an equally important takeaway is that he was sacked 14 times and was hit so hard by Anthony Barr that it ruined his 2017 season and the NFL made a rule about it only to have Green Bay fans whine when Clay Matthews did the same thing to Kirk Cousins in Week 2 last season. But I digress...
In the end, the Vikings' pass rush will once again hold the key to slowing Rodgers down and the Vikings have a bevy of players that can get after the quarterback.
It starts on the defensive line with Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. We all know how good Hunter has been since entering the league in 2015 (41 sacks), but last week's win over the Falcons featured Griffen looking more like the Pro Bowler he was in 2017.
Then there's Barr, fresh off a new five-year contract extension and it seems he'll be rushing quarterbacks more frequently this season than in previous years. The linebacker had a sack, tackle for a loss and two QB hits on Matt Ryan in Week 1.
With so many weapons at his disposal, Zimmer likes to get creative with his defense and it wouldn't be surprising to see safety Harrison Smith get after Rodgers via a blitz a time or two on Sunday.
The Chicago Bears, who also have one of the best defenses in the league, were able to bring Rodgers down five times last week. If Christian Ponder, or sorry, Mitch Trubisky, wasn't playing QB for the Bears, Chicago probably wins that game.
It's highly unlikely Cousins will only pass the ball 10 times like he did in Week 1, but if Minnesota's defense pressures Rodgers like they have in the past and like Chicago did in Week 1, they should be in line for a win.
There's just too many playmakers – Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph – for the offense to stay quiet on Sunday, no matter how confident Green Bay is after holding the Bears to three points.