The Vikings' decision to give Kirk Cousins big money in 2018 — his three-year, $84 million deal at the time was the most guaranteed money ever given to a quarterback — was in direct response to the success the Packers have had with Aaron Rodgers under center.

The Vikings had an frustrating time trying to find a franchise quarterback who could keep up with Green Bay's two-time NFL MVP, and they felt like Cousins could finally stabilize that position.

So far, the numbers show that Cousins is holding up his end of the bargain.

Not only that, but the Packers had to step up to match the Vikings' money. After the Vikings gave Cousins his three-year, $84 million contract in March 2018 with all the money guaranteed, five months later the Packers responded by giving Rodgers a four-year extension worth $134 million, with more than $100 million of that guaranteed.

In the head-to-head matchups the two quarterbacks have played since Cousins' arrival here, each team has won once at home, and the first meeting last year at Lambeau Field ended in a 29-29 tie.

At the start of this season, Cousins and the Vikings got off to a horrible start at Green Bay in Week 2, rallied late and eventually lost 21-16 after Cousins threw an interception in the red zone in the fourth quarter.

The statistics of the quarterbacks in their head-to-head matchups since 2018 look like this:

Cousins has completed 78 of 118 passes (66.1%) for 997 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. Rodgers has completed 69 of 104 passes (66.3%) for 688 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

While Cousins has been the more dynamic passer, Rodgers has minimized his mistakes and that made a huge difference in Week 2.

And if you look at the numbers overall, they tell a similar season.

Since the start of the 2018 season, both QBs have started every game, 30 in all. Cousins has completed a higher percentage of passes (70.3% to 62.7%) with more touchdowns (55 to 49) and, by one game, a better overall record (18-11-1 to 17-12-1) than Rodgers. Cousins' passer rating of 104.3 also is higher than Rodgers' mark of 98.8.

The biggest stat in Rodgers favor is that he has thrown only four interceptions since 2018 while Cousins has thrown 15.

Still there has to be some question if Rodgers is the same quarterback he has been in the past. Over the past four games he has averaged only 186.3 passing yards per game. But Green Bay is 3-1 in that span.

Playoff atmosphere

It seems more than likely that this Vikings-Packers game on "Monday Night Football" will have a playoff-like atmosphere.

As usual, the game is sold out and the ticket brokers in town are saying it's the highest-priced home game of the season for people looking to scalp tickets.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said this club is moving in the right direction heading into its final two games.

"I like this team. I like how they're playing," he said. "We seem to find a different way to win — last 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, or if we lose one it's a close one and its right at the buzzer. I think we're 8-2 in the last 10, or something like that. I think the quarterback is playing really well. I think we're doing a good job scheming offensively. Defensively, we've played a little bit better the last couple of weeks. If we can ever get it to the point where I really feel good about it, we could do some damage."

Meanwhile, first-year Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur said Monday that while the Packers have clinched a spot in the postseason, their only goal is winning the division, which they can do simply by beating the Vikings on Monday or by winning at last-place Detroit in Week 17.

"It's a good accomplishment, that was not our goal though. Our goal is to win our division," he said. "That's still out there in front of us, there's still a lot of work left to be done. I think more than anything, when you think about the playoffs, and I don't even want to think about it right now, it's extremely important to us to try to get as many games as we can in our own stadium. The goal is, though, the division."

Finance reports show growth

As the only publicly owned team in the NFL, the Packers are the only club to release its financial reports, and earlier this year they noted they had earned a record $477.9 million in revenue.

The numbers included national revenue of $274.3 million, an $18.4 million increase from 2017.

That sum is given out equally to all clubs and comes from the NFL revenue sharing. It includes the national TV deals, along with road game revenue sharing and other NFL revenue streams.

As of February 2019, every team receives $255 million annually from NFL TV contracts. The regular Sunday TV contracts, which are held by Fox (NFC) and CBS (AFC), are signed through 2022, and there's no doubt that when the new deal is signed it will be an even bigger payday for the league.


• There was great news for Rick Spielman and the Vikings front office when the NFL announced the 2020 salary cap should go over $200 million after it was $188.2 million this season.

•The Vikings are tied for third in the NFL with 16 interceptions on defense, but the Packers have thrown the fewest interceptions in the league with only two all season. Can the Vikings defense force Aaron Rodgers to turn the ball over?

• The Vikings non-division games in 2020: home games with Atlanta, Carolina, Jacksonville, Tennessee and either the first- or second-place team in the NFC East, and road games with New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Houston, Indianapolis and the first- or second-place team in the NFC West. That means they could end up going to Seattle for the third year in a row.

• Pro Football Focus wrote that Vikings safety Anthony Harris is having one of the five best seasons in the league for players who will be free agents after the season. "Harris' playmaking ability in coverage has shined once again this season, with five picks and four pass breakups already on the year," they wrote.

• Oddsmakers have the Vikings at 25-1 to win the Super Bowl, trailing the Ravens, Patriots, Chiefs, Saints, 49ers, Seahawks and Packers.

Zeke Nnaji, the former Hopkins standout, is only a freshman but went into Saturday night leading No. 16 Arizona in scoring (15.9 points per game) and rebounding (7.6). He is a sure bet to go in the first round of the NBA draft next year, should he decide to go pro.

• Pro Football Focus put Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. on their first team All-America list. They wrote: "The leader in overall grade nearly all season long among safeties, Winfield made his own name for himself after following in his father's footsteps with sure tackling and an all-around fierce style of play."

Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. •