Road games present an additional challenge, and division games up the ante even more.
Heading to Green Bay is no different, but ask around the Vikings locker room, and many players will tell you they look forward to the atmosphere at Lambeau Field.
Stefon Diggs called Lambeau one of his favorite stadiums to play in.
“Not only because of the rivalry we have with Green Bay, but it’s definitely one of those stadiums that you get a little juiced to play in,” Diggs said. “It’s a different kind of place.”
Adam Thielen, who in December of 2016 racked up 12 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns at Lambeau, highlighted the tradition and history within the venue’s walls. But also enticing about the destination is the Border Battle itself.
“You come out that small little tunnel at the visitor’s locker room, and the fans are crazy there [in supporting] their team. It’s just a really fun place to play,” Thielen said. “[The Packers are] always good, so that’s another reason. When you play against good teams and teams that are consistently in the playoffs, those are the teams you want to play and play well against.”
The Vikings have won five of the past six matchups with the Packers and will look to add a third straight victory against the rival. The series has been close since Mike Zimmer took over as Minnesota’s head coach, however, with the two teams taking four wins apiece.
The Vikings are 2-2 in their past four outings at Lambeau. Diggs said it’s important to pull off the road win Sunday.
“It’s hard enough to get it [done] at home, so when you try to get it away, if you can get those games, it makes a huge difference,” Diggs emphasized.
This Sunday will mark the Vikings first time since 2014 playing at Lambeau earlier than December and their first September game there since 2008. Having met in Green Bay in late December or early January for the past three meetings, the teams are accustomed to playing on a sloppy field.
Players were asked if the offense or defense benefits more on a poor field, and they generally responded that it’s a disadvantage for both sides.
“You can have some slippage on both sides,” Diggs said before adding with a smile: “But our Coach just says, ‘That’s no excuse. Wear the right cleats. We don’t got time for no slipping.”
That fortunately shouldn’t be an issue for either team, as the forecast for kickoff Sunday is approximately 80 degrees warmer than the wind chill of zero when the Vikings defeated the Packers 16-0 late December last season.
“I think the fans love being in the cold and having that classic, Lambeau, December football,” Thielen said. “But us as players, we’d rather just be out there in the summer when the surface is good.”
Witzmann ‘all in’ for the Vikings
Bryan Witzmann’s parents were Vikings fans, but he was raised just across the border in Wisconsin among Packers fans.
Now, his first game with the Vikings will be a Border Battle between the two teams.
“I was kind of in the middle,” Witzmann told media members Wednesday. “It was a weird dynamic. Obviously, I’m all in for the Vikings right now.”
The Vikings signed Witzmann after he was released by the Chiefs, for whom he started 13 games in 2017. Having always been “connected to the Twin Cities,” the guard was thrilled to get the call and return the place he considers home.
“You never look too far ahead,” Witzmann said. “You just kind of keep your head down and keep on trucking. That’s kind of the Midwest mentality, I guess, but I never gave up, and I had a few snags in the road, but I’m here now.”
Witzmann was added to the roster after tackle Aviante Collins was moved to Injured Reserve with an elbow injury.
“It’s a very talented roster, so I’ll fit in wherever they need me,” Witzmann said. “I’m just going to work hard in practice and let it be where the coaches want to put me.”
For the Vikings: C Pat Elflein (ankle/shoulder) and DE Everson Griffen (toe) were limited. CB Trae Waynes (knee), CB Mackensie Alexander (ankle) and RB Roc Thomas (ankle) were full participants.
For the Packers: QB Aaron Rodgers (knee) and S Josh Jones (ankle) did not participate. LB Oren Burks (shoulder) and WR Davante Adams (shoulder) were limited participants.