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Minnesota managed to win without Teddy Bridgewater in Week 1. Now the big questions for the Vikings is, can they be similarly successful against NFC North rival Green Bay when the two teams meet in a Sunday Night Football showdown?
The Vikings handled Tennessee last week without their young starting quarterback, thanks in part to a stout defensive effort that put 14 points on the board off Titan turnovers. They can’t count on a similar strategy against the Packers; Green Bay allowed only 59 points as a result of offensive miscues last fall, good for 12th in the league.
Instead, Minnesota will have to turn to either Shaun Hill or Sam Bradford to gain an early edge on its path to repeating as NFC North champions. Bradford earned the bulk of the week’s first-team snaps in practice leading up to Sunday’s game, and the former Rams and Eagles quarterback seems a safe bet to start for the third different team of his career. If he falters, the Vikings will turn to Hill. The 36-year-old threw for 236 yards and protected the ball well against Tennessee in Week 1, but he also failed to lead his team to the end zone.
Minnesota’s platoon of retread quarterbacks will have a much more difficult task at hand against Green Bay. The Packers squeaked by a surprisingly game Jacksonville team in a 27-23 road win. Despite having wide receiver Jordy Nelson back from injury, Aaron Rodgers was limited to just 199 passing yards by a recharged Jaguars defense. The veteran quarterback still found the end zone three times — twice through the air and once on the ground — but it was a sub-optimal performance from a team considered by many as a preseason Super Bowl favorite.
He’ll try to get back to his yardage-harvesting ways against a Mike Zimmer defense that’s been increasingly effective against the two-time MVP. While the Vikings coach is just 1-3 against the Packers, Minnesota is trending upwards when it comes to stopping Green Bay’s star player. Rodgers torched the Vikes to a passer rating of 138.7 the first time these teams met. That stat has dropped each time these teams have played since, falling to a Nick Foles-esque 80.8 in Minnesota’s 20-13 division-clinching win in Lambeau last winter.
Now, Rodgers will have to face a tough Minnesota defense with plenty to play for. Sunday’s game isn’t just a pivotal showdown between the NFC North’s top teams; it’s also the first-ever regular season game at the beautiful U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings are back indoors after two seasons in the harrowing Northwoods winters at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. The team already has two preseason games in the books at its bird-unfriendly confines, but the true test of how loud the new home can get will come when Rodgers strides to the line in third-and-long situations on Sunday night.
You can catch this game online using NBC Sports’ live streaming website. Verizon customers can also access the game on mobile devices via the NFL’s official app.
How to Watch Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
When: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn.
Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya