What to Watch in Packers vs Vikings: Time for Green Bay’s Defense to Shine

Five things to watch as the Packers get their 2022 season underway in Minnesota.

Another season of Green Bay Packers football is finally here.

The Packers travel to Minnesota on Sunday looking to kick off the 2022 campaign with victory over the team likely representing their strongest competition in the NFC North. Here are five things I’ll be keeping a close eye on in Packers vs Vikings.

Can the Packers defense live up to the billing?

The hype train that is the Packers defense has picked up steam all off-season, and now Joe Barry’s unit will get its first chance to show out on Sunday. On paper, the defense looks strong at all levels, and that will need to translate into reality if Green Bay are to shut down Minnesota’s offensive stars.

Green Bay’s stout and deep defensive line will look to take advantage of Minnesota’s offensive line, which was suspect a year ago and ranks 24th in PFF’s o-line rankings entering 2022. If the Packers can own the trenches on defense, they can stop Dalvin from Cooking (I’m sorry).

In last year’s matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium, Justin Jefferson ran riot, but with Jaire Alexander back on the field and Eric Stokes settling into his sophomore NFL season, the Packers stand a much better chance of limiting Jefferson and the rest of the Vikings receivers this time around.

Who’s playing tackle for the Packers?

David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins will be designated as “questionable” for Sunday’s game, leaving Green Bay’s offensive line up in the air for the opener.

If 69 and 74 are able to go, you have to feel pretty good about the Packers’ chances of protecting Aaron Rodgers from Danielle Hunter and the revenge-seeking Za’Darius Smith (yawn). It would also significantly help Green Bay’s prospects of opening up holes in the run game, something they struggled with in 2021.

If it’s Yosh Nijman and Royce Newman at tackle on Sunday, the task of moving the ball on offense becomes much more challenging.

Unscouted looks

The Vikings will be rolling out a new offense in Kevin O’Connell’s first game as head coach, and the Packers defense is the guinea pig.

Green Bay will be seeing plays no one else has, although it will no doubt help the defense’s preparation that O’Connell is a Sean McVay disciple, having served as offensive co-ordinator under him in L.A. just as Matt LaFleur did.

How well the Packers defense adjusts during the game to what they’re seeing from the Vikings will go a long way to deciding the game.

What does the 2022 Green Bay Packers offense look like?

Clearly, the Packers offense is going to be different this year given the absence of Davante Adams, but what exactly will it look like and how effective can it be?

Allen Lazard’s “doubtful” game status adds another layer to the uncertainty. Rodgers has frequently referred to him as “wide receiver one”. On a positive note, having Robert Tonyan back in the line-up should provide Rodgers with a much-needed security blanket.

It will be fascinating to see how much 12 trusts his relatively unfamiliar receivers like Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs in the season opener, and how the rookies in particular fare in their first NFL regular season game in a hostile environment.

It feels reasonable to expect a more run-heavy Packers attack than we have seen in recent years, and Green Bay’s ability to run the ball effectively will be a huge factor in how successful the offense is on Sunday.

Are special teams competent?

As much as I’d prefer to simply cover my eyes every time Green Bay’s special teams steps onto the field instead, I’ll be keenly watching Rich Bisaccia’s units to see if the new co-ordinator has been able to work his magic.

In the return game, the Packers face an immediate test in Jalen Reagor, who already has a return touchdown against the Packers on his resume. If Green Bay gets out of Minnesota without giving up a disastrous, game-changing play on special teams, we’ll call it a positive first step.

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @Marko7LW

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Comments (38)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
wildbill's picture

September 10, 2022 at 03:18 pm

Very surprised we did not elevate a RB for this game. I know our two are healthy but an injury would put us in a bad position at RB as Rodgers isn’t really a true RB as I’m sure he can run some gadget plays, but have much doubt about his pass blocking

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PhantomII's picture

September 10, 2022 at 06:01 pm

ML has learned nothing from losing a starting RB and quickly abandoning the run game in 2 playoffs. Maybe he's gonna use Deguara and Rodgers to some degree...I don't like it one bit. If ML is truly running out both RB's at a time in the game plan...That is the primary flaw in it. Need Goodson/Hill and Taylor in the mix if he runs out 2-RB's.

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jont's picture

September 10, 2022 at 03:27 pm

As high as expectations are for the defense, I don't expect mid-season form on opening day. It would nice, but a solid, strong performance to hold the vikes under 16-17 points would be good. Its early and the vikes have a couple of guys who can break one at any time so, yeah, under 17 would be good.

It would also throw a little cold water on the vikes' fans who think they've got the new greatest show on turf and remind them they're playing for a wildcard spot at best.

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dobber's picture

September 10, 2022 at 04:11 pm

Can the Packers prevent big plays by Cook and Jefferson?
Can the Packers exploit MN's weak secondary?
Can the Packers jump on the Vikes early and make Cousins play catch-up in an offense he hasn't run under live fire?

Are the Packers full of dookie? Demovsky...
"...several other key players are expected to suit up for the Packers. Among those are offensive lineman David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. The former made it clear earlier this week that he expects to be recovered from the torn ACL which essentially cost him all of last season. The latter, meanwhile, should man the right tackle spot with Bakhtiari back, giving the Packers a formidable bookend tandem."

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Tundraboy's picture

September 10, 2022 at 09:33 pm

"Can the Packers jump on the Vikes early and make Cousins play catch-up in an offense he hasn't run under live fire?"

I love that angle!. Hopefully ML is strategizing.

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Since'61's picture

September 10, 2022 at 10:00 pm

Well Dobber here we are again ready for another season. I'm looking forward to reading your comments as we go through the season. Stay safe and Cheers!!
Thanks, Since '61

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 10, 2022 at 04:32 pm

A lot will depend on whether DBak/EJ will be starting or not. Hunter and Z. Smith will cause big problems for the O-line if not. Another big thing will be how the Packers defense actually looks. It’s been hyped a lot, but now it’s time for them to prove it. Ultimately, I think the Packers lose a close one to the Vikings, mainly because there’s no film for the Packers to prepare for on the Vikings and the passing game may sputter a bit trying to figure things out post-Adams. I think they will get everything sorted out nicely by about weeks 5-7, but I see the game being 24-27, Vikings.

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Coldworld's picture

September 10, 2022 at 04:57 pm

I’m fine with Nijman at left. But if Jenkins isn’t back, I do not like that right side at all. I’d definitely look at having an extra pass protector active to spell our RBs or protect against the advent of injury. We will need to run at their rushers probably.

Overall, I just want to see us come out looking like we have a plan and are ready. If Lazard is out, who will be active? I could see Winfree elevated to block possibly.

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dobber's picture

September 10, 2022 at 05:29 pm

Report: Winfree active for tomorrow.

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Swisch's picture

September 10, 2022 at 07:08 pm

If Lazard is out, Winfree is the most experienced of the receivers in the Packers offense outside of Cobb, who to me is limited due to age (although I'm still rooting for Cobb to defy time and make a significant contribution).
So, I like Winfree to catch five or more passes tomorrow for more than 50 yards, and a touchdown. It's his time to shine, and I'm rooting for him big time.

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vin0770's picture

September 10, 2022 at 04:55 pm

“Hope ST are competent”…what a sad indictment. Too bad it’s so spot on 😢

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HawkPacker's picture

September 11, 2022 at 06:19 am

ST looked terrible in preseason but I am hopeful that the ST coach was just testing what we might have and trying to put the best 11 on the field for ST play when the regular season starts.

They have mostly new people on ST's now outside of the kicker and possibly the return man so I am expecting them to be adequate. They should get better as the season progresses if minimal injuries occur.

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NickPerry's picture

September 10, 2022 at 06:07 pm

This defense is legit and has at least played together in this system for a full season. NONE of the Viking's offensive skill position players including Cousins have played this preseason. They also haven't seen a defense with this much speed. The Vikings Defense CAN NOT replicate the speed of the Packer's defense as they prepared this week. I predict a shit-load of turnovers by the Viking offense and 10 to 13 points MAX!

Well, I've been praying and hoping all week EJ and DB will be back. We don't need to even discuss what they'll mean to this offense, ESPECIALLY earlier in the season. The Viking CBs are pretty slow so I'd expect a few deep shots and also some balls where they just want to get the ball in Doubs and Watson's hands and see if they can break a big one with their speed.

I expect HUGE games from both Jones and Dillon, bigger yet if Jenkins is back. It may take a minute to get going, but I think Dillon is going to eat.

I'm very curious to see how Mason Crosby looks. Hopefully, he can boom it into the endzone, preferably OUT of the endzone, and he's only asked to kick about 6 or 7 extra points.

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Since'61's picture

September 10, 2022 at 09:59 pm

I'm right here with you Nick. Here we go again through another season. I'm looking forward to reading your comments as we go through the season. Stay safe. Thanks, Since '61

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NickPerry's picture

September 11, 2022 at 04:59 am

Hi Since'61... Yup, here we go again...Let's hope this season turns out the way we hope it will. We've been here since our days on Jersey Al's original site years ago now.

GO PACK GO!

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NickPerry's picture

September 11, 2022 at 04:59 am

Hi Since'61... Yup, here we go again...Let's hope this season turns out the way we hope it will. We've been here since our days on Jersey Al's original site years ago now.

GO PACK GO!

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HawkPacker's picture

September 11, 2022 at 06:22 am

I am somewhat of a newbe on this site but been a packer fan for a long time.....mid sixties or so. I also look forward to both your comments NP and those of Since'61 as well as a few others at Cheesehead TV. Let the season begin!

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splitpea1's picture

September 10, 2022 at 06:42 pm

If we can get those two men in the picture to meet at or near Cousins a few times, it's going to make a world of difference for our secondary. The Vikings are a bit suspect at pass pro, so we'd certainly like to slow the run game down on early downs.

Offense: Might be a bit of a grind unless our OL really plays lights out. Rodgers is going to have to trust somebody besides Cobb, Jones, and AJ. It'll be interesting to see who picks up the slack in Lazard's absence--Winfree? Tonyan? I'm especially interested in red zone play selection and whose numbers are called.

Already expecting instant gratification on special teams? Come on, you ought to know better (but I hope you're right)....There's a lot of changes on these units; keep repeating the "they're a work in progress" mantra and eventually we'll get there.

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Swisch's picture

September 10, 2022 at 07:14 pm

I'm hoping the special teams are at least adequate for the first half of the season, and then that all the emphasis on these units under Rich Bisaccia will start to show in positive plays for the second half.

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splitpea1's picture

September 10, 2022 at 07:53 pm

I'm hoping the kick coverage will improve a lot sooner, as Ford and Leavitt earned roster spots for a specific reason.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 11, 2022 at 08:42 am

The Vikings have great returners. My hope is that ST’s are, at least, average.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 10, 2022 at 11:37 pm

Tonyan and Doubs

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Charvid's picture

September 10, 2022 at 07:22 pm

While Dillon may eat, ya know who’s going to absolutely Feast? Rashon Gary is going to feast! That OL is consistently weak. Darrisaw is adequate but the rest is weak as ever! RG is going to wreck that OL!

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PatrickGB's picture

September 11, 2022 at 08:38 am

And I think that the interior of the defensive line will do well. The push from the inside will be brutal! And I expect some coverage sacks too.

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Since'61's picture

September 10, 2022 at 08:14 pm

Hype season is over. Time to show up and play and make it count.

I think this Packers team is an SB contender. I'm predicting a 12-5 season and possibly as good as 14-3. For me anything less than an SB appearance will be a disappointment.

Disclaimer: They need to remain relatively healthy to achieve my predictions. If they do it is going to be a special season.

My top 5 things to watch in tomorrow's game;
1. Rashan Gary - I'd like to see him get off to a quick start on what I expect to be a season where he becomes a dominant force on the Packers defense. I'm expecting him to be a game wrecker this season.
2. 2 RB sets - looking for a dominant running game this season especially when we get Bak and EJ back at 100%.
3. Strong DL play from our entire DL, not just Clark.
4. Great secondary play - with our CBs we should be able to shut down our opponents receiving threats.
5. Aaron Rodgers - I always look forward to watching Rodgers play. Can he maintain his MVP level of play for a 3rd consecutive season?

Tomorrow - Packers 24 - Vikings 13. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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Fubared's picture

September 10, 2022 at 09:17 pm

It's show time. We will know a lot more about talent or lack of after tomorrow. I have quest on linebacking and pass d.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 10, 2022 at 09:45 pm

I wish they could watch at least the end of the 1st and 2nd halves of last year's final game to recapture that gut wrenching empty feeling before tomorrow's kickoff.

4 quarters tomorrow, start to finish. I want to see the real Packers this year's season opener. Now more than ever.

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Since'61's picture

September 10, 2022 at 09:56 pm

Here we go again Tundra. Another season. Looking forward to reading your comments as we go through the season. Stay safe. Thanks, Since '61

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Tundraboy's picture

September 11, 2022 at 03:22 am

Yes sir. Going to be a fun ride. Looking forward to being here with you and all the great insights. Hope we are all smiling tomorrow night.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

September 10, 2022 at 11:17 pm

"If the Packers can own the trenches on defense, they can stop Dalvin from Cooking (I’m sorry)."
No, you're not... you're definitely not sorry. I could hear your guffaw all the way across the globe.

😁😁😁

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

September 10, 2022 at 11:23 pm

The Packers will trounce the Vikings.

After that, I wonder how many "experts" wll say that it is because the Vikings have a totally new coaching room!

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PatrickGB's picture

September 11, 2022 at 08:36 am

Or the same could be said IF the Vikings win.

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Cartwright's picture

September 11, 2022 at 03:15 am

The opening day game last year was so bad it broke a record in futility that needs to be avenged. Hope the players remember that egg they laid and win big. GPG

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PatrickGB's picture

September 11, 2022 at 07:50 am

With both our starting tackles out and no #1WR I believe that it’s up to the defense to keep the game close. I read that the Vikings expect to pick on Quay and hope that Jefferson gets open. I think that the defense will make that hard for them. It’s our offense that I worry about.

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Bure9620's picture

September 11, 2022 at 08:07 am

Run the ball....Z is not a great run defender. 3rd and long, would be a long day

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PatrickGB's picture

September 11, 2022 at 08:33 am

I agree. The backups at tackle will have to run block a lot. Keep it up and eventually things will open up.

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Bure9620's picture

September 11, 2022 at 08:05 am

Royce Newman at right tackle is a bit terrifying.....Hopefully they give him help.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 11, 2022 at 08:34 am

Mercedies will be busy.

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