The Minnesota Vikings have a shiny new stadium to call home, and they'll be playing their first regular season game at U.S. Bank Stadium under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football. They'll meet a familiar foe in the Green Bay Packers, in a game that could have early implications for the NFC North title race.
The Vikings went into training camp with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, having built a young, talented team that won the division last season. Unfortunately, they lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a devastating knee injury in training camp. Scrambling for a Plan B, Minnesota made a shocking move right before the regular season, sending a first- and fourth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire Sam Bradford.
With Bradford cramming the playbook on short notice, Shaun Hill got the start in Week 1. He was less than impressive and Adrian Peterson got shut down by the Tennessee Titans. Fortunately, Minnesota still has a great defense that stepped up in a big way -- Eric Kendricks scored a pick-six and Danielle Hunter returned a fumble for a touchdown, which was enough for the Vikings to get a 25-10 win despite scoring zero offensive touchdowns.
Head coach Mike Zimmer refuses to tip his hand as to who Minnesota's starting quarterback will be this week. Bradford got first-team reps in practice this week so he seems to have the slight edge, but the Vikings won't say either way. Zimmer seems intent on making the Packers game-plan for both Bradford and Hill, although neither quarterback will likely be asked to do much more than hand the ball to Peterson.
The kicking game remains a slight concern for Minnesota. Blair Walsh, who infamously shanked a chip-shot field goal in the Wild Card round, missed two more attempts last week. However, he nailed four other kicks and the 12 points were a much-needed boon for an offense that struggled moving the ball.
The defense will have a much tougher test against Aaron Rodgers and company this week. Rodgers was workmanlike in Week 1, throwing for 199 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 27-23 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jordy Nelson made his long-awaited comeback from a torn ACL, and while he looked rusty he still produced, grabbing six catches for 32 yards and finding the end zone. The Rodgers-Nelson connection looks as strong as ever once again.
These teams last met in Week 17 of last season, with the NFC North title on the line. Once again, Minnesota's defense stepped up, with Captain Munnerlyn scoring a pick-six that made the difference in the Vikings' 20-13 win. This time, the Vikings will have a much smaller margin for error -- whether it's Bradford or Hill under center, they need to get Peterson going if they hope to stay in the playoff race this year. Whoever gets the win Sunday night will have a good head start in the division race at this early juncture of the season.
How to watch
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya