As sure as the rivalry is between Green Bay and Minnesota, another constant is the mutual respect between Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Zimmer joked during his press conference on Monday, "one of us needs to get out of the division, either him or me."
When Rodgers spoke with Green Bay media members this week, he waxed eloquently about Zimmer's defensive system and the job he's done just across the border.
"He's just a tactician on defense – very smart with the self-scout – and he's going to throw a number of different things at you," Rodgers said.
The veteran passer said that Minnesota's defense is as efficient with their disguise and "togetherness" as "the best Chicago Bears defense" that Rodgers has faced over his career.
He listed Pro Bowl defenders such as Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles "Peanut" Tillman in comparison to the Vikings current defenders.
"The way they would play together from the front to the back end is the same way – the continuity they have, the ability to disguise, the trust they have in each other," Rodgers said of the Vikings. "They can sit in a disguise until you make some sort of adjustment or check and then are able to get back to where they want to get to."
As is usual when Rodgers prepares to face Minnesota, he spoke highly of specific players he sees twice a season.
"[Danielle] Hunter has obviously progressed over the years and gone from kind of a speed guy to, he has all the moves, he's a fantastic pass rusher; Everson [Griffen] on the other side has gone from his younger days when he was running down on punt to, obviously the past five or six years, a legitimate outside pass rusher who gets it done every single year," Rodgers said. "You've got studs inside. You've got a couple fantastic linebackers; the backend has great experience, they play well together.
"You add all that together with one of the best coaches in the league in Coach Zimmer, who puts together a fantastic plan every week, and he stresses you in a number of different areas," Rodgers added.
Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur spoke with Twin Cities media members via conference call earlier this week and said he admires what Zimmer has built in Minnesota over the past six seasons.
"They're definitely a tough football team," LaFleur said. "You know you better buckle that chin strap up tight when you're playing the Minnesota Vikings."
Although Rodgers is plenty familiar with the Vikings defense, one element that has changed since the teams met in Week 2 is the cornerback rotation that Zimmer implemented against the Lions in Week 14 and against the Chargers in Week 15.
If Zimmer takes the same approach during Monday Night Football, Rodgers said the Packers will "be ready for all" of the Vikings corners.
"That's the beauty of cut-ups these days; they have a cut-up of every guy who's stepped on the field," Rodgers said. "We're on all that stuff, and we'll be ready for anybody we see outside."
Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, who generally has been matched up against Xavier Rhodes, also acknowledged the rotation but said he can't focus too much on which defender he'll see.
"They've had some other guys, more than in past years, rotating in back there [at cornerback]," Adams said. "I've noticed, but I think the way we approach things over here is that we worry about what we're doing, and the route we have is not necessarily predicated on who's out there. So for us, it doesn't really make a difference."
Here are other highlights from the Packers talking about the Vikings this week:
LaFleur on Vikings backup RBs:
"First of all, Dalvin Cook's one of the premier backs in this league, so you can never replace a guy like that. But I've had more exposure, especially with a lot of these cross-over games, with Mattison, and he is extremely impressive. I liked him coming out of Boise, and I did some research on him last year when he was coming out. He's a physical back, he runs hard, and then Boone comes in last week and did a great job filling in for Cook. I think they've got just really good-quality backs, really good depth at the position, where I don't think it really hurts them a whole bunch [if Dalvin is out]."
LaFleur on difference in Vikings offense since Week 2:
"You can tell they're more comfortable with what they're being asked to do. I think everything revolves around that run game. And I think Kirk, I've got a long history with Kirk – I coached him for two years in Washington – and I have always known that he's a really, really good player. I feel like he's one of the best quarterbacks in the game. And he's shown it this year. He's been super consistent, been really good with the ball, not turning it over, just making the throws that we used to see all the time in practice and when he played for us in Washington."
View practice images from the Vikings practice on Dec. 19 at TCO Performance Center.
Rodgers, Adams & RB Aaron Jones on playing at U.S. Bank Stadium:
Rodgers: "We're due [to win there]. We've won at Minnesota over the years. We've won at two different stadiums. It would be nice to make it three."
Jones: "I've played in louder. You definitely hear the noise, but it doesn't really affect me."
Adams: "It gets pretty loud in there. I think they don't get quite enough credit for loud it gets in that stadium. They feed off that energy, just like any team. You've gotta put yourself in a good position early. … We put ourselves in a good position early, take the crowd out of it, I think it'll start to feel a little more like a home game. … Obviously they've done great at home this year, and it would be a good time to go in there and change that."
Adams on Minnesota's defense:
"I feel like it's varied over the years; it's changed a little bit. They have their Rolodex, what we like to call it when guys roll out a bunch of different coverages and keep you on your toes. They've also got a bunch of different ways of getting to different things with their disguise. … It's a great scheme [where you] don't know if it's going to be empty, if it's going to single-high or two-high safety. The way that they've done that over the past years, it makes it tough on the wideouts."