Green Bay Packers (-2, 48) @ Minnesota Vikings
Time: 3:25 PM CST
Where: US Bank Stadium (dome), Minneapolis, MN
ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews, Tom Rinaldi
New Era in Minnesota
2022 ushers in the Kevin O’Connell era in the Twin Cities. The rookie head coach most recently served as Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator, working under head coach Sean McVay. This season also ushers in a new regime in the front office, as Kwesi Adofo-Mensah takes over the GM position previously held by Rick Spielman. Both hires suggest a shift to a more data-driven, offensive approach from Minnesota after eight seasons under defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer.
Vikings: Plenty of Weapons
The cupboard is not bare by any means on offense. Receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen compliment a strong running game led by Dalvin Cook. The question remains, can O’Connell get any more out of quarterback Kirk Cousins to take this offense to another level? That’s been the question for offensive coordinators in Minnesota for several years now. After signing Cousins to an extension keeping him in Minnesota through the 2023 season, the team seems committed to making that happen.
Vikings: Familiar Face on Pass Rush
Following the footsteps of many former Packers, Za’Darius Smith signed a free agent contract with the Vikings when his time was done in Green Bay. He joins Danielle Hunter in what should be a formidable pass rush for Minnesota. I expect the pass rush to be the strength of the Vikings defense. Veterans Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith return to lead the linebackers and secondary, respectively.
Packers: Out With the Old…
It was another interesting offseason in Green Bay. The Packers re-signed previously disgruntled quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a massive extension amidst rumors that he would be traded after the 2021 season. The team then dealt star receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders for a haul of draft picks in a puzzling turn of events. Additionally, vertical target Marquez Valdez-Scantling inked a free agent deal with Kansas City.
In With the New
To compensate for the departures at wide receiver, the team added veteran Sammy Watkins in free agency. Green Bay also traded up in the second round (ironically with Minnesota) to draft WR Christian Watson out of FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. 4th round pick Romeo Doubs has also turned heads early in the 2022 training camp and figures to crack the opening day lineup.
Lofty Expectations for Packers Defense
Green Bay invested heavily in their defense this offseason. GM Brian Gutekunst used both of his first round draft picks on defenders out of Georgia, in linebacker Quay Walker and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt. He also inked all-pros Jaire Alexander and De’Vondre Campbell to long-term deals. Edge rusher Rashan Gary has emerged as a vocal leader in camp and has generated some early buzz as a defensive player of the year candidate. On paper, this is the best Packers defense since 2010, when they last won the Super Bowl.
Packers-Vikings Betting Pick
I anticipate early season struggles for both offenses. For Rodgers and the Packers, I would temper expectations for Watson and Doubs early in the season. Typically, Rodgers takes time to build trust with his wideouts, particularly young ones. For the Vikings, despite their talent, I’m predicting growing pains due to a new system that may not be fully installed. Defensively, I have some questions about Minnesota’s secondary. However, I’m not sure Green Bay is ready to exploit it with their young receivers. Expect Green Bay to lean on their running game and short-intermediate passing game until Rodgers fully trusts his rookie wideouts in live action. Smith and Hunter will also be very hungry in this game for their own personal reasons. They could pin their ears back against a Packers offensive line that is still returning to full health. All in all, I think both defenses are ahead of the offenses at this point, and the total is too high.
The pick: Under 48