There's nothing like the Border Battle.
The Vikings and Packers are set for another chapter of their rivalry at Lambeau Field, with kickoff at noon (CT) Sunday. Both teams enter at 1-0 after impressive Week 1 wins.
And while there has been plenty of coverage on the Purple this week, Vikings.com chatted with Packers reporter Wes Hodkiewicz for a glance at what the other side is thinking before Sunday's contest.
Here is the Week 2 edition of Opposing Viewpoint:
The defense looked especially good in Week 1 for the Packers. What have the new faces on that side of the ball brought to that unit?
Wes Hodkiewicz: Everything. The on-field production was obvious against the Bears. Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith combined for eight tackles, four QB hits and 2.5 sacks, while Adrian Amos made a critical interception late. Yet, I'd argue their presence in the locker room has been just as important. The Smiths haven't even been on the roster for six full months, but they've already injected some much-needed swagger into this defense. In my eight years covering this team on a full-time basis, I don't know if I've witnessed a post-game locker room quite like the one in Chicago. Guys were pretty jacked up. It's only one game but that probably was the start this defense needed to get its confidence up after weathering a litany of injuries last year. With the offense only scoring 10 points, it also showed the Packers could lean on their defense to beat a team many consider to be a contender in the NFC.
Aaron Rodgers looked impressive on Green Bay's lone touchdown drive Thursday night. How do you expect him to fare in the new offense under Matt LaFleur?
WH: I think LaFleur's scheme will complement Rodgers' skills perfectly in the long run. The challenge for Green Bay's offense right now is it's opening the season against two of the NFL's top defenses. What the Packers hope to achieve this year is taking some of the weight off Rodgers' shoulders with a more consistent run game and a variety of personnel. You'll probably see more tight ends Sunday and Rodgers lining up under center more than he did in the past. Rodgers expected a few "pebbles" in the road out of the gate, but the buy-in is there. There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm about what's possible in this scheme.
Speaking of LaFleur, how has he put his stamp on the organization so far in his first eight months at the helm?
WH: It started right out of the gate when LaFleur repainted the walls in the main hallway of team area in order to brighten what can be dull tapestry deep inside Lambeau Field. He also re-designed the position rooms, player lounge and added a basketball hoop in the main team meeting area. It's definitely a more welcoming environment today. Training-camp practices didn't go as long as they have in the past, either. The Packers placed more emphasis on competitive team periods and saved their walkthrough for later in the day. Music was a fixture at every practice to help keep players energized. The organization is also expected to unveil a few new bells and whistles with its game presentation on Sunday.
Is there a 1-on-1 matchup you're going to have your eye on Sunday?
WH: The chess match between Davante Adams and Xavier Rhodes. That's always my answer whenever these two teams meet. There's so much mutual respect between those two and each player is at the peak of his powers. The Packers will move Adams around quite a bit so seeing how Mike Zimmer chooses to defend him will be interesting. There was one particular play last week when the Bears had three defensive backs on him in one key situation. Nobody is sleeping on Adams anymore after his 111-catch season. As last week showed, Rhodes is as steady as shutdown cornerbacks come. Minnesota has a very diverse and talented defense but Rhodes is a cut above his peers at the position in the NFL.
We're approaching the 118th overall meeting between Minnesota and Green Bay, what makes the rivalry special to you?
WH: The passion. Every time the Vikings are next up on the schedule, there's more energy in the week leading up to the game than a typical home game. It's almost like a playoff game, in some ways. I'm sure you'll feel it on the field on Sunday with it being Green Bay's home opener. As historic and timeless as the Packers' rivalry is with the Bears, Green Bay really has been fighting tooth and nail with the Vikings for most of my lifetime for divisional supremacy. This year will be no different. While I'll never say there are must-win games in September, there are serious implications for whomever prevails Sunday and starts the year 2-0 in the NFC North. That makes a week like this so rich and compelling to cover.