The Vikings have paired a raucous crowd with a violent pass rush to create one of the NFL’s best home-field advantages at U.S. Bank Stadium. They won’t have the former Sunday, and they’ll have to work to recreate the latter without Danielle Hunter on the field. The Vikings are 2½-point favorites, but in something resembling a neutral environment, the Packers might have a slight edge.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Cardboard cutouts to attend border battle
The Vikings’ first two home games will be without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of asking fans to rattle Aaron Rodgers with earsplitting noise, the Vikings will rely on a recorded soundtrack that can’t be played above 75 decibels and showcase cardboard cutouts that fans can purchase for $150 apiece.
Without Hunter, Vikings tweak line again
Defensive end Danielle Hunter will miss at least three games with what’s believed to be a neck injury, and nose tackle Michael Pierce opted out. That means Ifeadi Odenigbo likely winds up at right end, with Yannick Ngakoue starting in Hunter’s spot at left end.
New corners get Rodgers first
The Vikings’ belief they can break in a group of raw cornerbacks without a preseason and win in 2020 will be put to the test right away: Rodgers will get his chance to test the young corners in the kind of tranquillity Packers quarterbacks could only dream about in Minnesota.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings’ interior line vs. Packers DT Kenny Clark
The Vikings changed the middle of their line again this offseason, installing Dakota Dozier as their left guard while moving Pat Elflein to the right side. The two guards will have to work well with center Garrett Bradbury against Clark, who gave the Vikings plenty of trouble in two games last season and got a new four-year, $70 million deal this summer.
Vikings DE Ifeadi Odenigbo vs. Packers LT David Bakhtiari
Odenigbo seemed likely to replace Everson Griffen at right end until the Vikings traded for Ngakoue. With Hunter out because of injury, Odenigbo said he’s been practicing on the right side this week. That’d put him in line to face Bakhtiari, one of the game’s top left tackles, in his first start at right end.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
5-1The Vikings’ record in home openers under Mike Zimmer. Their only loss came in 2014, when they lost 30-7 to the Patriots in the first of 15 games Adrian Peterson would miss that season.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF …
Their line protects quarterback Kirk Cousins against a Packers pass rush that seemed primarily interested in taking away his bootleg throws during a Week 2 game at Lambeau Field last season, while their cornerbacks avoid coverage busts against a quarterback who still has the ability to make things happen on broken plays.
THE PACKERS WILL WIN IF …
They can put enough pressure on Cousins to mitigate whatever damage running back Dalvin Cook does, wear down the Vikings’ front to open room for Aaron Jones and coax a few big plays out of Rodgers’ matchup with the young Vikings secondary.
Prediction: Packers 26, Vikings 24
Win Probability 50%