Two of the best at what they do will face off today when Aaron Rodgers quarterbacks the Green Bay Packers offense against a Mike Zimmer-led Vikings defense. Rodgers will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the position and Zimmer is as well-respected a defensive mind as the League has seen over the last generation.
Each is known to excel at things others in their line of work find incredibly difficult to do at an average level. Rodgers has incredible arm strength yet can be pinpoint accurate. He can kill you from the pocket but is better, it seems, while on the move. Hard counts, illegal substitutions, last-second pre-snap adjustments…he can do it all and he does it all well. Zimmer is given credit for using the double A gap blitz, for developing cornerbacks and for taking castoffs and turning them into cornerstones.
Their lots in this NFL life have crossed paths before today. Six times Zimmer has led his Vikings defenses against Rodgers, and these two squared off twice while Zimmer was the Bengals defensive coordinator. In total, eight games between the two, and the numbers illustrate a war where each man has won his fair share of battles.
Zimmer has held Rodgers below his career averages in most major statistical categories, including completion percentage (60.7/65.3) and passer rating (93.3/104.1). Plus, Zimmer's defenses sack Rodgers more times per game (3.6) than the rest of the League (2.4). Rodgers, though, has won the NFC North twice while Zimmer has been in the division.
What's in store for the ninth chapter of this juicy Zimmer-Rodgers rivalry? We'll find out soon. What we already know, though, is it's a treat to be able to witness it first-hand.
Here are a few final thoughts from the week that was.
Both sides banged up
Everyone already knew the Vikings would be without Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook for today's game against Green Bay, but on Friday the Vikings also ruled out Stefon Diggs and Nick Easton while designating Andrew Sendejo as questionable. Green Bay will also be without starters, as safety Morgan Burnett and linebacker Joe Thomas were rule out, linebacker Ahmad Brooks and cornerback Kevin King were listed as doubtful and left tackle David Bakhtiari, offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, cornerback Davon House and running back Ty Montgomery were listed as questionable.
How will Green Bay handle running back situation
You can file this under the "It's a good problem to have" category, but it's a dilemma nonetheless. It sounds like Montgomery is going to be active for the Packers today after missing last week's game at Dallas with a ribs injury. With Montgomery out, the Packers turned to rookie Aaron Jones, who ran for 125 yards and a touchdown. So it'll be interesting to see if the Packers stick with the hot hand, Jones, and use Montgomery as a change-of-pace back or a depth back, or if they go back to Montgomery as their primary back and put Jones back on the bench.
Sendejo's status bears monitoring
Sendejo's inclusion or exclusion from the game today is significant for the Vikings. While the public has been looking for a Sendejo replacement for three years, all he's done is gone out and win the starting job each training camp and then gone on to play well and get better each year under Zimmer. One would have to figure that Zimmer can do more things with his defense, especially on 3rd downs, with Sendejo in the lineup. Also, having Sendejo out means Anthony Harris has to step in on defense, which means someone else has to step into Harris' special teams role. Suffice it to say, Sendejo's status has a domino effect on the Vikings in two phases of the game.
Stat of the week
Xavier Rhodes was targeted zero times in last Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears
For the first time in his professional career cornerback Xavier Rhodes was not targeted once. Rhodes did not draw a flag either, something he struggled with early in the season. Not being targeted naturally limited Rhodes' ability to make big plays, but it speaks to the high regard Chicago holds him in. He had been targeted 24 times in the first 4 games of the season, giving up 12 receptions for 126 yds.
Quote of the week
*"No. No, he is not my favorite one. There has been a lot of favorites, but they're not playing in the NFL anymore."
*-- Mike Zimmer on if Aaron Rodgers is his favorite quarterback for which to game plan
The favorites are the favorites because they didn't produce very well against Zimmer's teams and they probably didn't produce well against many other teams, which is why they are out of the League. But even though Rodgers is a handful to deal with and is perhaps the toughest quarterback to game plan, you just know there's a side of Zimmer that, privately, loves the challenge. It's probably the same for Rodgers on the other side, too. This is an ultra-competitive League filled with ultra-competitive coaches and players, and we'll two of the best at what they do when Zimmer and his defense take on Rodgers.
Illegal substitution – There are many ways Rodgers can beat you, and one of them is his ability to take advantage of free plays. Rodgers is good at catching teams in the middle of a substitution, when they have a 12th man on the field, and getting the ball snapped in time to cause a penalty and give the Packers a free play with no risk of turnover or loss of down because of the ensuing penalty. The hard count is another way Rodgers can get teams, but that shouldn't be an issue for the Vikings playing at home.
Mike Daniels – He lines up at defensive tackle in the Packers 3-4 defense but he's too often finishing up in the offensive backfield. Daniels has nine tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks against the Vikings in eight career games. He is stout at 6-0, 310 pounds, but he's also quick as a cat. This combination allows him to penetrate and disrupt plays before they can develop. He must be blocked if the Vikings are to move the ball down the field.
Jordy Nelson – He's the best receiver on the team playing the Vikings. That is ordinarily not a good omen for a receiver because Mike Zimmer and Xavier Rhodes have pretty much shut down the opposing team's best receiver week-in and week-out for more than a season. But Jordy Nelson has been a bit tougher to hold down. Last season, Nelson hauled in 14 receptions for 227 yards and three touchdowns in two games against the Vikings, and in his four games against Zimmer-led Vikings defenses Nelson has four touchdowns and averages 5.8 receptions and 90.3 receiving yards per game.
I want to pay some extra recognition to our offensive line. Five games in, they appear to be meshing together as well as we've seen in a long time. And take a close look at Jerick McKinnon's 58-yard touchdown run…are centers supposed to be throwing lead blocks for running back 20 yards downfield? Pat Elflein is proving to be smart and incredibly athletic! Think about it - Bradford, Keenum, Diggs and McKinnon have all put up some of the best game stats of their careers and they've all been in the League for several years. What's the common denominator? The offensive line. Keep up the good work Wobby!
-- Spenser Rahm Iowa
Well stated, Spenser. The Vikings have allowed nine sacks in five games and they are averaging 4.2 yards per carry. These numbers can be better, sure, but these numbers also represent marked improvement from a year ago, and this group is only five games into its first season playing together.
What are your thoughts on our WR3 spot? I had high expectation for Michael Floyd coming back and I still think he will make more of an impact moving forward, but Laquon Treadwell was out there much more than Floyd in the Chicago game. Do you think it's just a matter of time before they trade places? -- Jerry Provost
Possibly, but I also expect the Vikings to call on both Floyd and Treadwell for the remainder of the season. Just look at this week – Diggs isn't playing. That means another receiver is going to have opportunities to step up.
Wobby, you make the call is it duck duck goose or gray duck? I grew up in central Minnesota and learned the game as grey duck fifty plus years ago. Rudolph incorrectly called the play as "duck duck goose". He is from out of state. -- Jim Rumsey
Everyone can call it whatever they want to call it based on how it was taught to them. But let's just point out one thing here. Where do ducks live? They live on lakes. And what state is known as the state of 10,000 Lakes? Yea, Minnesota. So I think it's safe to say we are the authority on anything related to ducks, including the name of Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.
Another great showing by the defense to get a much needed win in Chicago, which hasn't happened much in recent years. Still seeing a number of missed tackles though due to not wrapping up. Hopefully Zimmer can break that habit during this week of practice. Very important game at home on Sunday against Green Bay. I'll be cheering from the stands at my first game at US Bank Stadium! Skol Vikes! -- Joe Glaser
Hey, we can't say any longer that wins don't happen at Soldier Field because the Vikings have now won two of their last three games in that building. Looks like the trend may be going in the Vikings direction now! Hope you enjoy your experience at U.S. Bank Stadium today!
National Television: FOX
Play-by-play: Thom Brennaman
Analyst: Troy Aikman
Sideline: Erin Andrews
National Radio: Westwood One Sports
Play-by-play: Adam Amin
Analyst: Bill Polian
Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130
Play-by-play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline: Greg Coleman, Ben Leber