The Minnesota Vikings will open the 2022 season home versus the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon. Even with the top receiver gone from their team, the Packers are still the biggest favorites to win the NFC North title in 2022 but a lot have the as their closest competitor. Having said that, that’s not saying much as both teams have combined to win 13 of the last 15 division titles dating back to 2007 with the Packer winning 9 of the 13. They have also won 12 of the 16 division titles between the two teams since 2002. No matter which way the pendulum swings between them, this rivalry will usually bring out the best in both teams, and it should be a great one to open the season. Hopefully, it will be more so for the men in purple. Here are the top three keys to how they can get the W in week 1.
1. Get the offense going and get JJ started on his best season yet.
Most likely he’ll be matched up against Jaire Alexander and this is a great matchup with hopefully JJ coming out on top. Alexander is one of the top cornerbacks in the league and Jefferson is one of the top receivers in the league. Last season, Jefferson torched the Packers at home for eight receptions, 169 yards, and two touchdowns, with Minnesota winning by three despite Alexander being injured.
Justin Jefferson today in the Vikings win against Green Bay 🤩— Overtime (@overtime) November 21, 2021
Joins Randy Moss and Stefon Diggs as the only Vikings players with multiple 150 YARD | 2 TD games in last 30 seasons 🔥
(via @NFL, per @statmuse) pic.twitter.com/y6FOS2jYtw
Kirk needs time to do this. Right now, he has Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleaveland, Garrett Bradbury, rookie Ed Ingram and Brian O’Neill doing this. Ingram played extremely well in the preseason and his skill will hopefully allow the line to improve. Last season, the Vikings’ offensive line surrendered 30 sacks, which was the fifth-fewest in the NFL. However, the run game struggled to stack positive gains and prevent negative plays. The team’s rushing yards per game was 17th in the NFL and yards per run was 19th which is ridiculously shocking given that Cook is one of the league’s best running backs currently. The biggest question mark, at this point, is Bradbury in pass protection. However, if Darrisaw and Cleveland continue their growth, Bradbury’s pass protection issues slightly improve and Ingram keeps his hype elevated, this offensive line could be at the top of the league. Right now, on paper, it looks to be in the best shape it’s been in since the 2017 NFC championship game season.
2. Take advantage of Aaron Rodgers’s lack of dominant receivers.
Last year, he dominated the Vikings last season. In both games, he completed 52/71 passes in two games against them last season while throwing six touchdowns and zero interceptions. However, now Raiders receiver Devonte Adams had 18 receptions, and 3 touchdowns which constitute 35% of his throws, and half of the touchdowns both of which are the majority. Now Rodgers has to find another player to really throw to. The biggest though is 4th-year player, Allen Lazard, who got a total of 40 receptions last year for 513 yards and 8 touchdowns. Even though he was second in receiving yards for the Packers, he is not even close to Adams’s 123 receptions for 1553 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. After Lazard, the receiving core is filled up with inexperienced players such as Rookie Christian Watson or older players such as Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb.
Aaron Rodgers had a baffling amount of “scratch your head” throws on Sunday.— Daire Carragher (@DaireCarragher) September 14, 2021
No pressure. Tonyan is partially open. Could at least throw it back shoulder to Lazard here.
I’ve no idea what this is. pic.twitter.com/ZbdYzOljvY
However, Rodgers can make magic happen even with average players so the Vikings’ secondary will have to slow down the receivers. Last season, the pass defense allowed about 11.7 yards per completion and 29 touchdowns through the air. This season’s cornerback room has a lot more on-paper talent, but it depends a lot on how well Cameron Dantzler does in his third season. According to the Pioneer Press, Dantzler is up to 191 pounds and still might add more. He showed signs of being an excellent player as a rookie, starting 10 games and recording two interceptions, three tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Last season, Dantzler fell behind Bashaud Breeland but still started seven games, playing 685 snaps. In those games, he gave up fewer catches, yards, and touchdowns, doubled his total pass breakups, and cut his missed tackles in half. Hopefully, his numbers will improve this year with his increased weight.
On the other side of the lines, veteran Patrick Peterson will line up. He may not be the long-term solution but he is still playing somewhat decent. Last season, he allowed 64% of passes thrown his way to be completed for an average of 11.5 yards per completion. Though those numbers for Peterson are better than both 2019 and 2020, it still isn’t the best. The Vikings also drafted Andrew Booth Jr. to compete with Cameron Dantzler and Patrick Peterson. Booth mainly fell in the draft because of injury concerns. If he’s healthy, he’ll be able to help the team if he doesn’t make dumb plays like versus the Raiders in the preseason. Overall, the unit is seemingly improved from prior years but none of that is proven so hopefully, they can pull through.
3. Meet at the Quarterback 2.0
What can also help the DBs out is if the D-line is getting to the QB fast. It’s easier to defend players when they are only running routes for a few seconds. New defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. Donatell is looking to switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 with 3 defensive linemen, and 4 linebackers. This has ex-Packer, Za’Darius Smith, who hopefully will also play ridiculously well against his old team, lined up opposite Danielle Hunter.
Coach to Za’darius: “I think you should go to the Pro Bowl.”— Scottish Packers Fan (@ScotlandPackers) December 18, 2019
Za’darius Smith: “Pro Bowl? Who wants that? I want the Super Bowl.”
The words of a true baller. I love Z. pic.twitter.com/7QQbvy3GXF
Danielle Hunter launches Taylor Moton (5 year, $85 mil contract this offseason) into outer space. pic.twitter.com/hhqcW5cdCg— Matt Fries (@FriesFootball) October 20, 2021
Both of these men have been freaks on the defensive side of the ball, getting 13.5 sacks and 14.5 sacks, respectively, in their best years. While Hunter has been matched up with other good defensive ends, Smith is perhaps one of the best if not the best he has played with.
On top of that, they are supported by the other more true linebackers Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks. Then the line will be played by Jonathan Bullard, Dalvin Tomlinson newcomer Harrison Phillips. On the field, Phillips should fit in perfectly. Last year, Phillips played a career-high 473 snaps and logged career-highs in PFF grade (77.4) and run defense (79.8). He is quick off the ball and clogs running lanes really well. This line has a lot of talent that if they can meet at QB fast, any issues in the secondary shouldn’t be a concern.