Assuming Aaron Rodgers plays, he will make enough throws to keep the Packers close, even if he is not as mobile as usual. But the front four of the Vikings will get enough pressure to slow the Packers offense down and preserve the Vikings’ third Lambeau Field victory in four years.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Cousins-Rodgers, NFC North’s latest duel
Rodgers practiced Saturday for the first time all week because of a sprained left knee. If he plays, he will match up with Kirk Cousins in the Vikings quarterback’s first NFC North game. It’s Cousins’ first chance to endear himself to the Vikings faithful with a win at Lambeau.
Young corners put to the test
Mackensie Alexander figures to return from an ankle injury, rookie Mike Hughes could play at nickel, and the Packers will use three corners in their first or second seasons. Both teams have made big investments in their secondaries; both will see those investments tested.
Browns’ 2015 brain trust squares off
Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo first called NFL plays in 2015, when Mike Pettine made him the Browns offensive coordinator. Now that Pettine is Packers defensive coordinator, he will see if he can outscheme his former colleague.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Packers offensive line vs. Vikings defensive line
The Vikings got two sacks and eight quarterback hits from their front four last week against San Francisco, while Khalil Mack bedeviled the Packers offensive line. Especially if Rodgers can’t move much — or if it’s DeShone Kizer trying to diagnose the Vikings defense — the Packers will have their hands full trying to deal with Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Sheldon Richardson and Danielle Hunter.
Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes vs. Packers WR Davante Adams
The Vikings had Rhodes shadowing Adams last year, and he will likely be lined up on Green Bay’s best receiver again Sunday. Adams was listed as questionable because of a shoulder injury, but if he plays, he should have a physical matchup with Rhodes.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
352 Cousins’ average yards per game in his two career matchups against the Packers. He completed 29 of 46 passes for 329 yards in an NFC wild-card playoff loss after the 2015 season and threw for 375 yards and three scores in a Sunday night win in November 2016.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF…
They can run the ball effectively against the Packers front, keep Cousins in manageable down-and-distance situations and let their front four control the game while the Packers offense is on the field.
THE PACKERS WILL WIN IF…
Rodgers has one of his games when even the Vikings’ best defensive schemes aren’t enough to stop him, and the Green Bay defense can generate enough pressure to force Cousins into his first turnover in a Vikings uniform.
Goessling’s Prediction: Vikings, 24-20
Win Probability 55 percent