The twice-annual Vikings-Packers rivalry takes the stage for the first time in 2017 this week, with the two clubs set to square off at U.S. Bank Stadium for a noon CT kickoff on Sunday. As always, this is a matchup not short on storylines. Here are five of them to keep in mind this week as these two division rivals prepare to tussle in a few days.
1. Vikings defense versus Aaron Rodgers as good a matchup as you'll find
When it comes to doing what they do, there aren't two who do it better than the Vikings playing defense and Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback. This is most certainly the marquee matchup of this week's game. Rodgers leads the NFL with 13 touchdowns and he ranks fifth in passer rating with a 104.1 mark and is completing 66.7% of his passes. The Vikings defense continues to stifle opponents and has been especially dominant on 3rd downs, ranking No. 1 in the NFL (25.5% conversion rate allowed). Aiding the Vikings defense is an improvement against the run, where they rank 10th in the NFL, and of course the home crowd this week will help. Rodgers was boosted last week by a productive running game (more on that in a moment) and it would be a big help for him this week to get starting left tackle David Bakhtiari back.
2. Aaron Jones, Jerick McKinnon jumpstart new-look running games
Both the Vikings and Packers won in Week 5 and both winning efforts were aided greatly by impressive running back performances. For the Vikings, it was veteran Jerick McKinnon, who rushed 16 times for r95 yards and a touchdown of the 58-yard variety. McKinnon's touchdown was part of a 14-point 3rd quarter for the Vikings at Soldier Field. McKinnon added six receptions for 51 yards to make him the Vikings most productive offensive player on the night. For the Packers, it was a rookie who paced the ground attack. Fifth-round pick Aaron Jones stepped in for the injured Ty Montgomery and the offense didn't miss a beat. Jones ran 125 yards and one score on 19 carries. His touchdown came late in the 2nd quarter and was a momentum boost for a Packers team that went on to score three unanswered times to take a lead early in the 4th quarter of a game that came down to the wire.
3. Vikings top WRs look to stay hot versus Packers secondary
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are both off to good starts in 2017. Diggs ranks fifth in the NFL with 395 receiving yards and Thielen ranks sixth with 392. Diggs torched the Green Bay secondary in last year's game at U.S. Bank Stadium, hauling in nine receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown. But it was Adam Thielen who gashed the Packers in Lambeau, totaling 202 yards and two touchdowns on 12 catches. The Vikings may have to go the way of Thielen once again this week because Diggs was in and out of Monday's game with an injury. It is also worth noting that tight end Kyle Rudolph, whether Diggs is in or out, should also be a factor. After seeing fewer targets than usual over the first weeks, Rudolph was targeted eight times on Monday night and came away with six catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Packers.
4. First place potentially on the line
Any one of Detroit, Green Bay or Minnesota can emerge from Week 6 atop the NFC North standings. Green Bay will hold its position there with a win at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings can take over top billing with a win and a Detroit loss in New Orleans. Or the Lions can claim top standing with a win and a Packers loss (they hold head-to-head tie breaker over Vikings). It's only Week 6, so holding first place in the division can only mean so much, but it's still the preferable place to sit coming off a stretch of three consecutive games against the division.
5. Depth to be tested for both Vikings, Packers
Football is a game of attrition and it's Week 6, which means the time has arrived where every team is dealing with injuries to key players and getting backups in place to fill the void. The Vikings and Packers are certainly no exception. The Vikings have already lost their starting quarterback and starting running back for multiple games; Sam Bradford's status is unknown and Dalvin Cook is out for the rest of 2017. Green Bay has been without Bakhtiari for four games and starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga for three games. Defensive end Mike Daniels has missed two games and receivers Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson have all missed time due to injuries. The status of everyone mentioned here, with the exception of Cook, is unknown for Sunday's game as of now.