Matthew Coller is a published author and football writer who covers the Vikings. He also writes a weekly Vikings column for Bring Me The News, in addition to hosting a livestream on the Bring Me The News YouTube and Facebook pages every Tuesday. You can find more of his work at Purple Insider.
We get it, Vikings fans, you hate Aaron Rodgers.
You despise his face. You’re sickened by his arrogance. You think he’s phony and egotistical. You’d rather stick your tongue to a light pole in January than compliment his haircut. You’re super jealous that he’s so great.
Anyway, during Aaron Rodgers’s time in Green Bay, he’s gone 134-64-1 in the regular season and has won at least one playoff game in seven of his 14 seasons as a starter. Not to mention that ring and back-to-back NFC Championship game appearances in the last two years. Since 2008, the Minnesota Vikings have a winning percentage that’s a shade over .500 and have three seasons in which they have won a single playoff game. They haven’t won multiple postseason contests in the same year since 1987.
Let’s be honest: Rodgers could have yelled, “I own you,” at Vikings fans, just like he did at Soldier Field to the Bears’ faithful.
But he hasn’t completely owned the Vikings in head-to-head matchups in recent years. And for a quarterback who currently ranks as one of the 15 most valuable players in NFL history by Pro-Football Reference’s Approximate Value metric, that’s worth mentioning. Since 2015, when the Vikings’ defense really started to become Mike Zimmer’s defense, Rodgers has won five, lost four and tied once (not counting the 2017 game in which he was knocked out in the first quarter by Anthony Barr).
There have been some doozies along the way. In 2015, Zimmer’s up-and-coming club stifled Rodgers at Lambeau to secure the division. In 2016, A-Rog put the final nail in Minnesota’s coffin with a 347-yard, four-touchdown afternoon on Christmas Eve. The next year, he was on late night television complaining about Barr’s hit.
In 2018, there was the tie. Oh man, the tie. Fans walked out of Lambeau like they’d seen the ghost of Bart Starr walk out of the surrounding fields and push Daniel Carlson’s game-winning field goal(s) wide. That was some kind of battle. Kirk Cousins threw for 425 yards and we were all ready to declare John DeFilippo The Next McVay.
The 2019 games were soul sucking for Vikings fans. A late-game interception from Cousins ruined a possible three-score comeback and then the Week 16 game at US Bank Stadium was so bad that ownership released a statement shortly after declaring they wouldn’t be firing Zimmer (though they didn’t declare they wouldn’t consider trading him to Dallas, just sayin’.)
Last year was weird. Rodgers demolished a team in Week 1 that resembled the Zimmer Vikings like I resemble Wilt Chamberlain. And then when you thought the Vikings’ season was over in Week 8, a win against the Packers with you and your friends playing defensive back gave the Vikings new life.
Now here we are again with the Packers plowing through drama like it’s a light dusting of snow and the Vikings getting out the shovels and yelling, “dig up!” A win for the Vikings on Sunday afternoon at US Bank Stadium would put them in position to clomp over the sorry bottom feeders in the NFC and get on a roll with the lighter part of the schedule coming up. A loss and, well, we might be getting another one of those statements from ownership.
This is the NFL for you: Falling to 4-6 wouldn’t end the season but it would put to bed the idea that the Vikings can actually compete with anybody. Improving to 5-5 with bad teams at the bottom and flawed teams at the top would make you think they could play with anybody, anywhere, any time.
And this pivotal game comes in what feels like Round 95 of Rodgers vs. Zimmer. At some points in their time on the Vikings/Packers marquee, they have each been at the height of their powers. At other points, they’ve been fighting to stick around. This time, they’re both having good years but far from perfect. Zimmer’s defense is missing Danielle Hunter and any kind of shutdown corner. Rodgers is 8-1 but he’s hardly been as impressive as his MVP 2020 campaign.
Zimmer is going to dial up blitzes and mix coverages like Christmas isn’t coming and Rodgers will make several throws over the 60-minute span that make you wonder how in the world this guy was the follow up to Brett Favre and not, say, Jason Campbell (picked one spot behind Rodgers).
It’ll probably be close because it’s usually close. The only times the Vikings have beaten the Packers by more than one score since Zimmer came to Minnesota was when Brett Hundley threw the majority of passes.
So, hey, this one’s worth the price. Enjoy it now because 2021 might be the last year of Zimmer vs. Rodgers title bouts. With Rodgers’ general disposition, he could very well force his way out of Green Bay and play the role of QB/GM for the Broncos next year. Or he could join Joe Rogan’s podcast network and become a medical researcher. It’s hard to know if he will come back to Green Bay after last offseason’s drama.
With Zimmer, ah, do we need to say it? If the Vikings don’t put the pedal down here soon, the chances of an organizational change of direction is possible.
The fight for every yard between Zimmer’s defenses and Rodgers have provided a lotta memorable moments over the years. If this one turns the season around for the Vikings, it could go down as an all-timer, whether it’s the last battle between Zimmer/Rodgers or not.