The Minnesota Vikings exacted dominance in a convincing week one home win over the San Francisco 49ers. Executing on both sides of the ball, they looked like the superior team, defended their turf and got off to a quick 1-0 start.
Those Super Bowl aspirations remain intact, while the Vikes prepare to take over the NFC North with a week two trip to Lambeau Field.
Green Bay wasn’t nearly as impressive in week one. The Chicago Bears man-handled them for three quarters, only to inevitably do a very Bears thing and choke away a 20-0 lead.
Part of that was the heroism of that annoying Aaron Rodgers guy. Actually, pretty much all of it was.
Regardless, the Packers again appear to be a one-man show and going into the second week of the season, they don’t look like safe bets to defend their home stadium.
Does that make Minnesota one of the safest NFL picks for week 2? Probably, but let’s go over four things that set them apart from the Packers before making a final call:
Green Bay’s Defense Still Isn’t Good
The Packers got better in one clear aspect on defense. They completely revamped their secondary and while they still inexplicably leave players open at the worst possible time, their tracking and play on the ball has improved quite a bit.
Improving slightly off of last year’s atrocious secondary doesn’t mean they’re good, though. In fact, a huge area of concern has to be their inability to contain on the outside as well as their propensity to arrive late to plays.
Vikings fans can take solace in the fact that Green Bay was facing a raw second-year passer who preferred to check down or bolt at the sign of pressure.
Green Bay won’t have it so easy in week two, when a much more polished Kirk Cousins goes to work with one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses.
I do think the Packers have better defensive coaching and will show clear improvement on that side of the ball by season’s end. For now, though, this is still an area of weakness.
Minnesota’s Defense is Elite
On the flip-side, Minnesota still boasts one of the very best defenses in all of football.
They are much better and more dominant at home, but last week’s dismantling of a solid Niners offensive system probably tells us all we need to know.
The #2 pass defense in 2017 remains as stacked as ever, while the Vikes still have the goods to both get after the quarterback and sniff out the run. From top to bottom, Minnesota should have a defensive answer for everything the green and gold try to throw at them.
Green Bay’s defense was trash a year ago and might be marginally better, at best. Minnesota’s defense was among the best in 2017 and added even more talent.
Suffice, to say, it could take another bag of tricks from A-Rod for the Packers to squeeze out another lucky win in week two.
Aaron Rodgers is Gimpy
That brings me to the biggest issue for the Packers; Rodgers won’t be healthy for this game.
At the time of this writing, the Packers have been quiet about their plans with their freshly paid star passer, but most signs suggest he’ll be out there.
I’m wondering if that’s actually going to be a good thing.
Minnesota fans know full well to prepare for Rodgers being at his best, but he was flat out hobbled in week one. He still pulled a rabbit or three out of his hat, but Minnesota has a more proven defense than Chicago.
Whether Rodgers plays or not, he won’t be 100% and that may mean he hands Minnesota a huge edge. On the road against a stiff rival, the Vikings will take it.
Who Will Win?
There is a certain level of acceptable fear anytime you have to go into Lambeau and face Aaron Rodgers. However, he isn’t going to be the same guy, Green Bay hasn’t been able to establish the run and their defense doesn’t promote much confidence.
Minnesota remains the better team across the board until the Packers prove otherwise.
I doubt they manage to do that with a hobbled quarterback under center this week and if Rodgers is a surprise inactive, Minnesota will get the bibs ready to feast on the walking disaster that is Deshone Kizer.
One way or another, the Vikes pull one out and start off at 2-0.
Pick: Minnesota Vikings 23, Green Bay Packers 20