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Final Thoughts: Renewal of Vikings-Packers Rivalry Has Ramifications

EAGAN, Minn. — A familiar foe awaits on Sunday.

Yes, it's time for the first of two regular-season Border Battles between the Vikings and Packers.

Minnesota and Green Bay will renew their rivalry in Week 11 and as usual, there is no love lost between the NFC North adversaries.

"You always want to beat these guys, and it always feels good to beat these guys," Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator Adam Zimmer said this week. "They don't like us, and we don't like them.

"My neighbors are Packers fans, and I don't want to go home with a loss," Zimmer added. "So it's a little different, just like any division game is really, but this one is maybe just a little amped up."

Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson added: "We know who's in town and we know that we gotta get this win, so we gotta come to play."

Yet as the rivalry resumes, there is also a bigger picture to look at, too.

Minnesota is 4-5 and coming off perhaps its best win of the season. Yet Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is keeping his team grounded as they get ready for Sunday.

"Yeah, [getting to .500] would be big," Mike Zimmer said. "We've played well enough to win some games that we haven't won, and so we're trying to catch up to where we hope to be.

"There is still a lot of time left," Zimmer added. "We've just got to keep grinding one week at a time, and like I told the guys today: 'If you're satisfied with what you did last week, you haven't done diddly-squat today.' "

Green Bay, meanwhile, is 8-2 and is comfortable atop the NFC North. The Packers also have a tiebreaker on the Cardinals to lead the entire conference.

A Vikings win would put the Vikings squarely in the NFC playoff race and set up a wild sprint in the final seven games.

But a Minnesota loss would mean a continued effort to climb out of the ongoing hole and a missed chance to make a statement to the rest of the league.

Here is what Eric Smith, Lindsey Young and Craig Peters of Vikings.com will be watching in Week 11:

Find success in the red zone | By @Eric\_L\_Smith

The Vikings need to punch it in when they see pay dirt.

Put another way: if Minnesota's offense gets in the red zone Sunday, the results need to be touchdowns and not field goals.

Overall, the Vikings have done fairly well in that regard, as the offense has scored 18 touchdowns in 27 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line. That success rate of 66.7 percent is tied for the seventh-best mark in the league.

Minnesota has been even better in goal-to-go situations, meaning the Vikings find themselves in a first-and-goal situation. Minnesota has an 81.3-percent success rate there (13 touchdowns on 16 tries), as that mark is tied for fourth in the league.

Yet even with the latter stat's strength, Mike Zimmer said Friday he wants the Vikings to be more efficient inside the 10-yard line, and for the team to find success running the ball in the tight area.

Zimmer said:

"I think, you know, in every situation, if you can run the ball in [the red zone], it makes it difficult for the defenses," Zimmer said. "We have not been as good inside the 5-yard line, so that's been a big emphasis for us this week, really on both sides of the ball."

If there's an area to potentially exploit a stout Packers defense, the red zone is it. Green Bay ranks third overall with 309.9 yards allowed per game, but the Packers are 29th in red-zone defense. Green Bay has allowed 19 touchdowns on the 26 trips opponents have made inside the 20.

Adam Thielen leads the Vikings with six scores in the red zone, with Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook (rushing) and Tyler Conklin each having three apiece.

Alexander Mattison, Kirk Cousins (rushing) and Chris Herndon each have one score in the critical area, which is also an area the Vikings will likely need to find success in if they want to get a win in Week 11.

"I don't care how we score the points," Zimmer said Friday, "as long as we score them."

Keep your foot on the gas | By @LindseyMNSports

An aggressive approach paid off last weekend for the Vikings, who defeated the Chargers 27-20 on the road.

Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak spoke to Twin Cities media members Thursday and reflected on the Vikings opting to go on fourth down late in last week's game – a successful conversion allowed Minnesota to keep possession and end the game in the Victory formation.

"We knew that we didn't want to give the ball back to those guys, and our players knew before that drive that we were going to be aggressive. That's something Coach Zimmer instills in us every week, our offensive staff, our offensive players. Our guys weren't surprised when we were going for it there. They were excited to accept the challenge."

Minnesota needs to keep its foot on the gas against Green Bay as it hopes to get back to .500 Sunday. Does this mean Zimmer will maintain a no-risk, no-reward mentality?

Adam Thielen emphasized that being aggressive with play calls instills even more confidence in the Vikings offense as a whole.

"[The coaches] trust that we can go make plays. They trust as an offense that we can convert on those fourth downs in crucial situations, right?" Thielen said. "We want to be aggressive because we know what we can do at the skill players and as an offense, honestly. We have a lot of confidence in what we can do. When we're aggressive it's exciting, but at the same time it makes you a little bit more attentive to detail because you know if [the coaches are] going to be aggressive, then you'd better be at your best to convert because those are huge plays in the game."

Defending Davante Adams | By @pcraigers

Will the Vikings defense or Packers Davante Adams prevail?

Adams totaled 21 receptions, 209 yards and five touchdowns against Minnesota last season.

According to NFL Media Research, he joined Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the only players in the Super Bowl era to record at least 20 catches and five receiving touchdowns against an opponent in one season. Rice had 21 and six against Atlanta in 1990.

The Vikings cut his catches from 14 to seven between Week 1 and 8. Adams' yardage also dropped from 156 on Kickoff Weekend at U.S. Bank Stadium to 53 on a windy day at Lambeau Field, but he caught all three of the Packers touchdowns in the teams' second meeting of 2020.

Adams will enter Sunday's game tied with Rice, Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings for the most receiving touchdowns against the Vikings (10 each).

And, in his past two trips to U.S. Bank Stadium, he's totaled 27 catches for 272 yards and two scores.

The Vikings secondary is poised to have Harrison Smith back after the safety missed the past two games on Reserve/COVID-19 list. Minnesota also might return cornerback Patrick Peterson.

At the time of this writing, Peterson remains on Injured Reserve/Designated for Return, but he said Thursday he feels "great" after missing the past three games with a hamstring injury suffered in Week 6 at Carolina.

Mike Zimmer said Friday that Peterson "had a good week." The Vikings were able to have Peterson practice this week to evaluate where he is at before making any kind of a roster move.

The head coach had been complimentary this week of the way Bashaud Breeland and Cameron Dantzler played at Los Angeles in Week 10. Breeland is questionable because of a groin injury; Dantzler has developed since making his first NFL start against Green Bay to open 2020.

No matter who or how it will be important for the Vikings to limit Adams' production.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Packers.

Notable Number: 29

As stated above, the Vikings are trying to get to .500 on the season.

But Minnesota can also get to .500 at home against Green Bay in the all-time series between the teams. The Vikings are currently 29-30 at home against the Packers since 1961.

Here is how Minnesota has fared at home in four different home venues against Green Bay:

Metropolitan Stadium: 10-11

The Metrodome: 16-15

University of Minnesota: 0-2

U.S. Bank Stadium: 3-2

Note: The Vikings did not host the Packers in 1982 due to a strike-shortened season.

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