One of the best chess matches of the entire NFL season will take place at noon (CT) Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
On one sideline, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and his defense will look to get the Vikings to 4-2. The unit will be up against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is regarded as one of the top players in the NFL.
Zimmer and Rodgers go head to head twice a year, and each took home a victory in 2015 and 2016.
Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com looked at last season's Week 2 matchup between the Vikings and Packers and looked at how Zimmer's defense was able to walk away with a 17-14 win.
Coller highlighted a play in which the Vikings appeared to be blitzing before the snap, which forced Rodgers to change the protection. But Zimmer ran a disguise as Minnesota actually dropped his defenders in coverage, eventually having seven players cover three receiving options.
Coller noted that having versatile players such as safety Harrison Smith and linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks allows Zimmer to get creative on defense.
The Vikings personnel allows them to run disguised coverages like this. Kendricks and Barr are both quick linebackers who can start at the line of scrimmage and still get outside to tackle running backs if needed, and Smith is one of the most dynamic players at his position. He's able to successfully cover 1-on-1, blitz or drop into a zone where he can use his exceptional instincts.
Coller also pointed out another well-disguised play by Minnesota's defense.
With Barr blitzing on the play, it appeared a wide receiver would be open in his coverage area. But Smith slyly stepped up from the secondary to fill the void and force an incomplete pass.
Rodgers completed 20 of 36 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the Week 2 meeting. He had a 70.7 passer rating.
Craig: Vikings must contend with Green Bay running game
For the past 10 seasons, Rodgers has been the constant in Green Bay's offense.
The Packers have used a variety of running backs, and may have found another contributor in Aaron Jones.
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune recently wrote that the Vikings will have to pay attention to Jones after his impressive pro debut last weekend.
With starter Ty Montgomery inactive because of broken ribs, the Packers went to Dallas and turned the 5-9, 208-pound Jones, who grew up in Texas, into someone for whom fantasy footballers would fistfight to acquire. With 19 carries for 125 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and one touchdown, Jones became the first Packers rookie to top 100 yards in his starting debut since Samkon Gado 12 years ago.
Craig noted that Green Bay used Jones early and often against the Cowboys, something that the Vikings and defensive end Everson Griffen also noticed.
In Dallas, the Packers didn't waste time using Jones to provide the balance they seek. On Green Bay's opening possession, Jones had two carries for 21 yards as the Packers marched 75 yards to their league-leading fourth touchdown on an opening drive.* *
On Green Bay's third possession, Jones showed good instincts, hands and body control on a 9-yard sideline catch on second-and-8. He finished that drive with a 7-yard TD run.* *
Afterward, Jones told reporters he actually ran the wrong route before running to an open area per Green Bay's rules for when Rodgers scrambles.
"I made up for it by playing fast," Jones said.
Fast player. Fast start.
"He looks good, he can hit the holes good, he's getting downhill," Griffen said. "No, we're not going to lose focus on this running game."