Week 2 Preview: 5 Things to Know Against Vikings
The Packers and Vikings square off in Lambeau Field this Sunday, the second-straight season the two teams meet to kickoff Green Bay’s home schedule.
Last week, I reported that the Packers have won 84 percent of games where Aaron Rodgers’ passer rating was higher than his opponents, and just 26 percent of the time when Rodgers had a lower passer rating than his opponents. Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky finished with a lower passer rating than Rodgers, and the Packers won, 10-3.
What kinds of nuggets have I uncovered this week? Let’s take a look:
Recent struggles against winning teams
Both Minnesota and Green Bay failed to make the playoffs in 2018, the first time both teams missed the postseason in twelve years. In 2006, both the Packers and Vikings had first-year head coaches in Mike McCarthy and Brad Childress. One reason why neither team made the postseason in 2018 was their inability to win against the league’s top teams. Both the Vikings and Packers have lost their last five games against teams who finished the season with a winning record:
FOX’s Chris Myers will call the play-by-play for Sunday’s game for the seventh time since Aaron Rodgers took over as the Packers’ starting quarterback. Green Bay had won all four games Myers had called prior to last season, but the versatile FOX broadcaster was the voice of 2018’s two most disappointing losses: Week 13 against the Cardinals and Week 15 against the Bears. This will be Myers’ first Packers game against a divisional opponent under Aaron Rodgers, too.
The impact of the mini bye week
One of our favorite supporters Rudi tweeted us a question this week. He asked how teams who play on the road Thursday fare the following week, specifically when they’re at home. Does the extra rest benefit them?
In 2018, the answer was a surprising no. Between the opening Thursday night game and Thanksgiving, the NFL played 17 games on Thursday night last season. Of the 17 teams who played on the road Thursday, only eight played at home the next week. Of those eight teams, just three won. All three of those wins came against teams who would finish 2018 with a losing record, too.
The news doesn’t get any better for Packers fans, however. Just four road teams won on Thursday night last season. All four then proceeded to lose the next week. Here’s what happened:
Week 6: Philadelphia handled a fading Giants team on Thursday night, winning easily in New York, 34-13. The win took the Eagles into a tie for first place in the NFC East and evened their record at 3-3. The following week, the Eagles hosted the Panthers as Philadelphia fans watched Cam Newton erase a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter and toss a touchdown pass with 1:22 left to win, 21-17.
Week 7: Denver ended a four-game losing streak with a 45-10 blowout on the road against the Arizona Cardinals. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they faced a red-hot Chiefs team in Week 8 at home. Kansas City led by just two at halftime, but ten Broncos penalties sunk Denver’s upset hopes. The Chiefs won 30-23, their seventh win in eight games.
Week 12: Against a stout Lions defense on Thanksgiving and without Mitch Trubisky, the Bears defense dominated. Chicago intercepted Matthew Stafford twice in the fourth quarter in a 23-16 win to move to 8-3 on the season. The hapless Giants ended the Bears’ five-game winning streak the following Sunday, however. New York blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead, but they kicked a field goal on the opening possession of overtime and stopped backup quarterback Chase Daniel on the ensuing drive to win, 30-27.
Week 15: The Chargers scored a game-tying touchdown with eight seconds left, but went for two instead of kicking an extra point to likely send the game to overtime. Los Angeles converted in front of a stunned Arrowhead Stadium. The win moved the Chargers into a tie for first-place in the AFC West with the Chiefs, but their momentum was ended the following week at home. The Ravens, led by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, upset the Chargers 22-10.
If we narrow our focus to just Thursday night games in Week 1, however, a trend appears. Since 2013, the six teams who played on the road Thursday to start the season played at home in Week 2. All six teams won, too:
2018 Falcons: Won, 31-24 vs. Panthers
2017 Chiefs: Won, 27-20 vs. Eagles
2016 Panthers: Won, 46-27 vs. 49ers
2015 Steelers: Won, 43-18 vs. 49ers
2014 Packers: Won, 31-24 vs. Jets
2013 Ravens: Won, 14-6 vs. Browns
It’s not terribly surprising that these teams all won their respective home openers. The NFL typically schedules a quality opponent for the defending Super Bowl champion to play on Thursday night, so these teams were all expected to be good. The 2013 Ravens and 2017 Chiefs both won on the road in Week 1, too.
Home debuts for new head coaches
New head coach Matt LaFleur will make his regular season debut with the Packers on Sunday. Four of the past five Packers head coaches lost their opening game at Lambeau Field:
Mike McCarthy, 2006: Lost, 26-0 vs. Bears
Mike Sherman, 2000: Lost, 20-16 vs. Jets
Ray Rhodes, 1999: Won, 28-24 vs. Raiders
Mike Holmgren, 1992: Lost, 23-20 (OT) vs. Vikings
Lindy Infante, 1988: Lost, 34-7 vs. Rams
LaFleur’s Packers will play the Vikings, just as Holmgren’s 1992 Packers did. In that game, starting quarterback Don Majkowski struggled down the stretch and the Vikings iced the game with a strong rushing attack in the fourth quarter and in overtime. Two weeks later, Majkowski would go down with an ankle injury and Brett Favre would permanently take over at quarterback.
Aaron Rodgers + Lambeau Field + Vikings = Success
There must be something different about the Vikings and Lambeau Field for the Packers star quarterback. Since the Vikings hired Mike Zimmer before the 2014 season, Rodgers has a 110.1 passer rating against Minnesota at home. Both his passer rating and completion percentage against the Vikings at home are higher than his marks against all other teams, too.