The Minnesota Vikings went 0-2 against the Green Bay Packers in 2019, but both teams ended up making the playoffs.
For better or worse, this is quite a different Vikings team. Minnesota has undergone a retooling of its roster this offseason, which led to mass departures in free agency and a plethora of new players coming in.
Many of those new players are inexperienced, which means they will get a big initial test against a Packers team that was 13-3 a season ago.
The Vikings need a lot to go right in order to topple their divisional opponent on Sunday. Here are six players on Minnesota who may have to step up:
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – AUGUST 24: Olabisi Johnson #81 of the Minnesota Vikings catches the ball in the end zone on a two point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter of the preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Johnson was ruled out of bounds on the play. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
The second-year player may have just played his way into the wide receiver two role after a good training camp. If that’s the case, Johnson will need to be a good target for Kirk Cousins on Sunday, or else the Green Bay secondary can hone in on Adam Thielen.
Dec 29, 2019; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo (95) celebrates his fumble recovery with teammates during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Maybe the most obvious choice, Ifeadi Odenigbo will have to fill the production void that Danielle Hunter leaves behind due to injury. Odenigbo had seven sacks in limited snaps last season, playing mostly as a defensive end in passing situations.
However, he was the presumptive starter until the Vikings made a trade for Yannick Ngakoue. Now, Odenigbo has a chance to prove that he’s ready for a big role, and he can take pressure off the young Vikings corners in the process.
Aug 18, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes (21) defends Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (12) during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Speaking of young Vikings corners, Mike Hughes finds himself as one of the more solidified players at cornerback. Growing pains are to be expected among rookies, so it becomes imperative that Hughes has a good day to counteract that. He can play in the slot and out wide for the Vikings. The team will need him to be good in coverage in order to prevent the Packers from thriving through the air.
Aug 18, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Dakota Dozier (78) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Dozier started four games for the Vikings in 2019, but none of which were against the Packers. Green Bay has a menacing front seven that gave Minnesota all kinds of problems the last time these two met.
Dozier gets quite a welcome to his bigger role this year, in the form of a great Packers defense. Garrett Bradbury, Pat Elflein and him will have to slow down the Packers’ Za’Darius Smith, Kenny Clark and others in order to make sure the Vikings offense is able to function.
Aug 18, 2020; Eagan, Minnesota, United States; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) hands the ball off to running back Dalvin Cook (33) at training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Last time the Packers and Vikings played, Dalvin Cook was out and it showed in the running game.
Minnesota rushed for 57 yards, scoring just 10 points. Cook is one of the biggest sources of production for the Vikings offense. That will have to be the case for the team to hold onto a lead against Green Bay. It also takes pressure off the Vikings offensive line by using less pass protection, which the team struggled with against the Packers.
Sep 22, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (93) during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-403194 ORIG FILE ID: 20190922_szo_bc9_0103.JPG
Stephen will have to bring a strong presence on the interior of the defensive line. The Vikings see him as a player who commands blockers, opening up holes for linebackers, as opposed to the kind of defensive tackle who creates pressure and registers tackles for loss. Stephen might have to do a little bit of both Sunday, because whichever starter opposite to him at defensive tackle will be inexperienced in a big role.
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