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5 Vikings-Packers Storylines: Stark Difference at Home; Stingy Green Bay on Way

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings are returning to U.S. Bank Stadium for their first game there in three weeks and the only one until Dec. 9.

Minnesota (4-5) bounced back in Week 10 with a 27-20 victory against the Chargers in Los Angeles.

Green Bay (8-2) shut out Seattle 17-0 Sunday despite its top cornerback Jaire Alexander and one of the game's best edge rushers, Za'Darius Smith, among the Packers on Injured Reserve.

Despite missed opportunities in close games, the Vikings are in the mix of teams vying for a low seed in the playoffs but must first even their record.

The Packers are currently the No. 1 seed in the NFC via a head-to-head tiebreak over Arizona.

The 122nd Border Battle is a big one. A Minnesota win before two more road games puts the Vikings down 2.5 games in the NFC North. A loss, however, would give Green Bay a 4.5-game edge with seven games left for Minnesota and six for the Packers.

Vikings uniform combination: Purple jerseys and white pants

Look back at photos through the years featuring games between the Vikings and Packers.

Matchup to watch: Vikings cornerbacks versus Packers receiver Davante Adams

Adams has grown from a solid second-round pick in 2014 into a four-time Pro Bowler and 2020 All-Pro selection by The Associated Press.

While his touchdown pace (three in eight games played this season) is down from a year ago when he led the NFL with 18, Adams has a chance to set a new personal best for yardage (his previous record was 1,386 in 2018).

Adams is averaging 96.0 yards per game and has 864 in nine games played with seven to go. This is his sixth consecutive season with more than 850 yards.

Since 2016, Adams leads the NFL with 61 touchdown catches. He ranks third in receptions (523), fifth in yards (6,503) and fourth in number of games with 100 or more yards with 25 performances in that span.

In his past 12 road games, Adams has totaled 101 receptions for 1,378 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In 13 Border Battles, Adams has 75 receptions for 799 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's totaled 27 receptions for 272 yards and two scores in his past two games at U.S. Bank Stadium.

As for who will defend Adams, Patrick Peterson is eligible to come off Injured Reserve for the first time this week. Minnesota announced Wednesday that Peterson had been designated for return and would be participating in practice. The Vikings will have a window of up to three weeks in which they can evaluate Peterson before making a final decision.

Cameron Dantzler has been filling in opposite Bashaud Breeland. Dantzler and Breeland arguably both played their finest games of 2021 last week in L.A. when the Vikings limited Chargers QB Justin Herbert to 195 passing yards.

Dantzler started both games against the Packers last season, and Breeland was with Green Bay in 2018.

Here are five storylines of interest this week:

1. Home and away games

Vikings games have had split identities this season, depending on if they're at home or on the road.

The greatest sign of this is the scoreboard.

In five road games, Minnesota has averaged 29.8 points per game, and opponents have averaged 28.6. That means the teams have combined to score an average of 58.4 in those contests.

In four home games, Minnesota has averaged 14.4 per game, and opponents have averaged 13.6, for a total average of 28 points per contest.

Yes, the Vikings got a pick-six at Arizona from Nick Vigil and a kick-six from Kene Nwangwu at Baltimore, and yes, three roadies have gone to overtime — everyone's welcome for me not going to L.A., by the way — but there's been a completely different style of play.

2. Will aggressiveness continue?

The first item leads us into how aggressive the Vikings offense became as the Chargers game progressed. Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak called some shots, and quarterback Kirk Cousins took them.

Justin Jefferson helped make them right, hauling in multiple contested catches, and Cousins ripped a throw to Adam Thielen for a gain of 18 on a third-and-20 that enabled Head Coach Mike Zimmer to go for it on fourth-and-2 with a clinching run by Dalvin Cook.

Zimmer offered reinforcement to be aggressive throughout the game on a day when the defense was missing five starters. He's likely to continue as the Vikings go forward without Danielle Hunter for the rest of the year and Michael Pierce for at least two more games. The status of Anthony Barr (knee) and Peterson should become more clear.

Minnesota on Wednesday announced safety Harrison Smith has been activated from Reserve/COVID-19.

Even if Minnesota gets Barr, Peterson and Smith back as early as this week, Minnesota should keep in mind the rewards it reaped by being aggressive on offense.

Aggressiveness in other aspects — Zimmer was prepared to run his second fake punt in as many weeks after not running one since 2017 at Pittsburgh — can reinforce that mindset.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

3. How are the Packers doing it?

Simply put, with defense. Aside from what appears to be an anomaly in Week 1 (a 38-3 loss to Saints in Jacksonville), the Packers have allowed more than 22 points just once (Week 3 in a 30-28 win at San Francisco).

Six of 10 opponents have scored 17 or fewer, and four of the past five have been limited to 14 or fewer points.

It's an impressive run considering Alexander hasn't played since Week 4 and Smith suffered his injury in Week 1.

4. Facing Rodgers again

After leading the NFL in completion percentage (70.7), touchdown passes (48), touchdown percentage (9.1) and passer rating (121.5) on the way to winning NFL MVP honors in 2020, Rodgers' numbers this season have returned from orbital space.

They're still lofty, however, with a completion percentage of 66.4 and a passer rating of 101.9.

One negative uptick has been his interception rate is 1.4 percent after throwing four interceptions on 295 attempts so far. Rodgers led the NFL in the category the previous three seasons with rates of 0.3 percent in 2018, 0.7 percent in 2019 and 1.0 percent in 2020.

If he does make a rare mistake, the Vikings must capitalize and score off a takeaway.

This will be Rodgers' second game back since missing Week 9 at Kansas City while he was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

5. The returns

The Vikings have had multiple players on the Reserve/COVID-19 and Practice Squad Reserve/COVID-19 lists in the past couple of weeks. Garrett Bradbury and Dakota Dozier were able to return to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

Zimmer said Smith will practice Wednesday.

It will remain to be seen how fast players can return to full-go mode after missing time.