Aaron Rodgers and the defending NFC North champion Packers open the season on the road against the Vikings
The Packers have historically been strong to start the season — they haven't lost a season opener since 2014. As for the Vikings, they've won each of their last four openers, with the last three coming at home. Both of these teams represented the division in last year's playoffs.
Expect another grinder of a game between these teams as the battle for NFC North supremacy begins now. We could be in store for yet another "Black and Blue" division classic.
Green Bay at Minnesota
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 13 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Packers +3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. All about the quarterbacks
Since Kirk Cousins joined the Vikings in 2018, he's gone head-to-head with Aaron Rodgers four times. Rodgers owns a 2-1-1 advantage in those games. Against the Pack during this stretch, Cousins has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,119 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions, but he's also taken 10 sacks. And in that same period of time, Rodgers has completed 67 percent of his throws against the Vikes for 904 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, and has posted passer ratings of 68.3, 101.2, 94.0, and 97.4 in those games.
Much has been made about the fact that Rodgers will turn 37 this year, especially since the Packers selected Jordan Love with their first-round pick back in April. But Rodgers still has the strong arm and accuracy, and he continues to guide this offense with ease. He's still a formidable opponent in this league. The Vikings are also fully invested in having Cousins under center for years to come.
He signed with the team two years ago on a fully guaranteed, $84 million deal. And this past March, the team gave him a two-year extension worth $66 million. These quarterbacks will have the majority of the spotlight on Sunday.
2. The best pass rush wins the game
These were two of the better defensive teams in the NFL last season. The Vikings were fifth in sacks (48), while the Packers weren't too far behind at 11th (41). This year the Vikings will be without Linval Joseph (Chargers), and Everson Griffin (Dallas), who decided to take their talents elsewhere. They'll also be without Danielle Hunter and rookie Kenny Willekes, who are both on injured reserve. The Vikings will be relying on 2017 Pro Bowler Yannick Ngakoue (37.5 career sacks) for the bulk of their pass rush for the time being.
The Packers were the eighth-best scoring defense (19.6 ppg) last season, and they return multiple players from that group. Their "hybrid" defense can attack in a multitude of ways, and they'll be looking to exploit the flaws of a Vikings' offensive line that's given up 68 sacks over the last two seasons.
3. Home-field advantage
Since U.S. Bank Stadium opened in 2016, the Vikings have posted a 3-1 home record against the Packers. Overall, Minnesota is 5-4-1 against Green Bay since 2015. They've also gone 7-5 against the NFC North as a whole in their new home. It'll be interesting to see what home-field advantage will look like with little or no fans in the stands.
This will be an exciting game to watch. Both teams have the firepower on offense, but the Packers have the edge on defense. That defense will find a way to pressure Cousins and rattle his cage a little bit. In the end, the Packers win a tight one in the Twin Cities.
Prediction: Packers 27, Vikings 24
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.