Dave Schroeder’s ‘Fast 5 Pack Facts’: Packers at Vikings
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - As the Green Bay Packers get set to start a new season on the road against the rival Minnesota Vikings, it’s time to get ready for kickoff with Dave Schroeder’s ‘Fast 5 Pack Facts.’
#1 Divisional Dominance needed: It may seem obvious that winning head-to-head against your rivals is important. But what isn’t as obvious is the extent to which dominance is needed. History shows that simply holding your own in the division isn’t good enough to win the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers has led the Packers to 6 NFC North titles in his 12 years as a starter. But only one of those crowns was won without going 5-1 or 6-0 within the division. And 10 of the last 11 NFC North champs have gone 5-1 or better in the division to come out on top. The Packers, of course, went 6-0 in the division last year.
#2 Rodgers' accuracy returns: Aaron Rodgers is coming off two of the worst completion percentage seasons of his career, but has certainly looked sharp in training camp. The 2-time MVP credits his comfort in #Year 2 of Matt LaFleur’s scheme. But he also says he has taken a critical look at his film from the last few years and compared it to his film from MVP seasons to find areas to improve. Beyond that, Rodgers has looked super-relaxed in camp, comfortable in his own skin and not feeling pressure with the team drafting QB Jordan Love in the 1st round. Rodgers said he used the pandemic time off to work on himself, and came back to camp loving himself more, which has allowed him to love his teammates more.
#3 Aaron Jones' encore: Last year RB Aaron Jones scored two 4th-quarter touchdowns to lift the Packers to their first-ever win at U.S. Bank Stadium. It helped cap a season in which Jones led the league in touchdowns scored, finding the end zone 19 times in the regular season before adding 4 more in the playoffs. Jones rushed for 1,084 yards and was also Green Bay’s 2nd-leading receiver with 474 yards.
But even if Jones is twice as good this year, it will still be hard for him to match last year’s gaudy stats. In light of that, I asked Jones this week what goals he is focusing on as carries/targets/reps are outside of his control. Jones said his first goal is to win the Super Bowl with his teammates. Beyond that, he wants to be better in pass protection, turn more 5-yard carries into explosive gains with broken tackles, and wants to catch every single ball thrown his way this season.
#4 Underdogs?: The Packers went 13-3 last year in the 2nd-most successful regular season of Aaron Rodgers' career. You just wouldn’t know it by watching the national prognosticators. Half the pickers have the Packers missing the playoffs entirely despite an expanded playoff field with 7 teams per conference getting.
Aaron Rodgers is relishing the chance to fly under the radar, happy to see the 49ers-Bucs-Saints-Cowboys-Seahawks and others steal the headlines. And the Smith Sack Exchange (which notched 25.5 sacks last year) told me they don’t feel any more respected this year than last season when they entered the year as relative unknowns on the national stage. Both are NFL Top 100 players now, but the Smiths were not included in an NFL Top 10 list of best pass rushing duos.
#5 2nd receiver: With free agent acquisition Devin Funchess opting out during the COVID-19 pandemic, the WR situation looks almost identical to last season. Green Bay basically ran it back despite no one emerging behind Davante Adams as a legitimate threat last season. But Adams is not worried in the least. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has turned in his most consistent and impressive camp. Both Rodgers and LaFleur have talked about how MVS has set the bar higher. They say great expectations for MVS’ performance should be the new normal. And Allen Lazard has done nothing but improve in confidence coming off a solid showing last year. Fan favorite Jake Kumerow may be gone, but if MVS and Lazard take a step, Green Bay could be in a much better place in the passing game this year.
Prediction: Packers 19, Vikings 18
Cover 2 returns tonight at 10:35 for the best Packers postgame coverage in the business. Also be sure to tune in to Action 2 News at 5:30 and 10:00 pm for highlights and reports from Minneapolis.
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