When it comes to the Vikings defense and the Packers offense, there's plenty of mutual respect.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers spoke to Twin Cities media members earlier this week via conference call, and the Pro Bowl passer had loads of praise for Minnesota's defense under Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
"You have one of the top nose tackles in the game in Linval [Joseph], and Sheldon [Richardson] has had a nice year and is playing really well at the 3-tech[nique]," said Rodgers, who added that Danielle Hunter has had a "fantastic" year thus far and that the Vikings benefit from the return of Everson Griffen, as well.
"You have a great defensive line that is able to play a number of snaps. They rotate some guys in, but those guys play the majority of the snaps," Rodgers said. "I think [Eric] Kendricks is an underrated player inside. He's stayed healthy and has played almost every snap of the season. He's a really talented guy … great at diagnosing and getting them lined up. He's done a good job in [Anthony Barr's] absence of making sure those other guys are locked in.
"Then you look at the back end, I think Harrison [Smith], for years, has been a top safety in the NFL and an All-Pro. He does so many things for them," Rodgers said. "He's a great blitzer, he's great in coverage, has great ball skills. Then you pair that with two really good corners. X (Xavier Rhodes) is probably one of the top guys in the league, and I think Trae [Waynes] has gotten better every year and has played really well."
Rodgers pointed out that with rookie Mike Hughes being out with an ACL injury, the Vikings have utilized Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse inside at nickel.
"You've got a big dude (Kearse) who can help with run support and cover, and you have a super-athletic, smaller, fast guy (Alexander), as well," Rodgers said.
Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, who had eight catches for 64 yards against the Vikings in Week 2, talked about the difficulty of being covered by Rhodes.
"He's a very big dude, real strong," Adams said, "and combined with speed, it makes it tough going against a guy like that. Long lever, he's got those long arms. He's been doing it at a high level for a long time, so it's going to be a good challenge."
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said that Minnesota's defense is an aggressive unit with "a tremendous front" and poses a challenge for offenses.
"I think Harrison Smith does a tremendous job with the pre-snap diagnosis, that they do a good job with the disguise and diagnosis, and they hold things to the last second. They have some playmaking ability to take chances and things like that, so they really test you schematically," McCarthy said. "It's a veteran group, so their anticipation and awareness is very high. This is an excellent defense."
Here are other highlights from the Packers talking about the Vikings this week:
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Packers.
McCarthy on Minnesota's offense
"They're doing a lot. You really look at their production, and they want to run the ball more … but you look at the pass game – they've put up some big numbers, and both of their receivers [Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen] are playing at an extremely high level. It's just like everything. We've got to focus on the matchup."
Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine on Thielen's success this season
"Well first of all, there's great chemistry there with him and [Kirk] Cousins. The guy, all he does is get open and catch every ball that's thrown near him. They do a good job.
"It causes some problems just how precise he is running his routes. He's not a one-dimensional receiver. He's not just an underneath guy. He's not just a possession guy. He'll beat you deep – you know, the deep overs, the double moves – but he has suddenness underneath, as well, that he can break a guy off. It takes an exceptional corner to be able to just shut him down, because he is a complete receiver."
Rodgers on Cousins
"I've always had a ton of respect for him and his game and the type of player he is. … Other than our interactions after the games, I haven't gotten the chance to spend a ton of time with him away from the field but he's a high-percentage thrower, he's opportunistic, he can make all the throws on the field, he's obviously played great against us, especially in the fourth quarter of that comeback. He's a premiere quarterback, and he's had a nice season for them."
Adams on the Vikings home crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium
"When you get a crowd like that, it kind of gets you going a little bit extra."
DT Kenny Clark on playing at U.S. Bank Stadium
"I love playing there; I love the atmosphere. You can just feel they hate us. The energy there, I love it. I've just had some good games there. Just playing hard, doing what I'm supposed to do and making plays."
CB Jaire Alexander on Thielen
"Dude's a beast. And he's real subtle. You wouldn't really expect that kind of performance, just the eye test, I guess, but you can never judge a book by its cover. The dude's a beast, he's ballin', and I'm looking forward to that matchup."
CB Tramon Williams on Packers and Vikings familiarity with each other
"You get into a situation where each team knows each other, so it really becomes about execution and who can make the plays that they need to make."