In any other year, opening a brand-new stadium against a bitter rival would easily be the overriding storyline for the Minnesota Vikings. However, the first game at the state-of-the-art facility known as U.S. Bank Stadium is being overshadowed by the question of whether recently acquired Sam Bradford or Shaun Hill will start at quarterback Sunday against the visiting Green Bay Packers.
Bradford, acquired for first- and fourth-round draft picks after Teddy Bridgewater was injured at the end of the preseason, took the majority of snaps in practice Thursday and is expected to get the nod. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, however, told reporters he will not reveal the starter and might not disclose the decision to the team until Sunday. Packers coach Mike McCarthy is getting his team ready for both quarterbacks, although he made a point to mention that neither signal-caller is the key to Minnesota’s offense. “The fact of the matter is it’s going to start with giving the ball to (running back) Adrian Peterson,” McCarthy said. “Every time we play the Vikings, that’s the focal point of our defense.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE HISTORY: The point spread for this NFC North rivalry game opened with the visiting Green Bay Packers as 2-point road favorites. Throughout the week the spread has gone back-and-forth between 2 and 2.5. The current line is 2 but keep a close eye on this one as the day progresses.
The total opened at 44.5 and had been steadily coming down all week. The current Over/Under number is 43.
Check out the complete line history here.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Green Bay (-5) – Minnesota (-2) + home field (-3) = Pick
KEY INJURIES (for full injury report visit matchup page):
Packers – WR T. Davis (Probable Sunday, shoulder), S C. Banjo (Doubful Sunday, hamstring), LB J. Elliott (Doubful Sunday, hamstring), CB S. Shields (Doubtful Sunday, concussion), CB J. Hawkins (Out Sunday, hamstring), DT M. Pennel (Out Sunday, suspension), CB D. Goodson (Out Sunday, suspension).
Vikings – C N. Easton (Probable Sunday, ankle), RB J. McKinnon (Probable Sunday, foot), WR C. Johnson (Probable Sunday, quadricep), LB E. Kendricks (Probable Sunday, ankle), RB A. Peterson (Probable Sunday, ankle), T M. Kalil (Questionable Sunday, hip), DT S. Floyd (Out Sunday, knee).
WEATHER REPORT: There will be partly cloudy skies and perfect September weather Sunday night in Minneapolis. However, there could be a hurricane sweeping through the area and it wouldn’t matter at the brand new U.S. Bank Stadium. It’s a dome so no weather worries for this game.
WHAT SHARPS SAY: “Green Bay escaped Jacksonville with a win last Sunday. The Packers’ offense was held in check by the Jaguars’ defense, and now they’ll face one of the best defenses in the NFL. Minnesota’s defense was terrific in shutting down the Titans last week. Reports indicate Sam Bradford will start at quarterback, so expect a conservative game plan by the Vikings on Sunday night.” – Covers Expert Steve Merril.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “Wiseguys are all over Minnesota in this one. We have twice as many tickets on Green Bay, but the money handle favors the Vikings at nearly a 2-to-1 clip. Very big position by the sharp players so we’ll be rooting for the road squad.” – Scott Cooley of BookMaker.eu.
Since the Packers don’t have official sideline cheerleaders we’ll just go with this.
ABOUT THE PACKERS (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS, 1-0 O/U): There are no issues under center for Green Bay with two-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers, who threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another in last week’s 27-23 victory at Jacksonville. While Rodgers has at least two touchdown passes in 11 of the past 13 meetings against the Vikings, he couldn’t beat them at home in the regular-season finale that gave Minnesota the NFC North title last season. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who missed the entire 2015 season after tearing a knee ligament, had a relatively quite debut with six catches for 32 yards. The Packers held the Jaguars to 48 yards rushing but were burned for 320 yards through the air.
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS, 1-0 O/U): Minnesota was rescued by its defense in its 25-16 win at Tennessee, with Hill throwing for 233 yards on 18-of-33 and Peterson managing only 31 yards rushing on 19 carries. A 77-yard interception return and 24-yard fumble return for touchdowns sparked a run of 25 unanswered points for the Vikings after they were held off the scoreboard in the first half, further fueling speculation that Bradford will get the start Sunday. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs was the lone offensive performance of note in the game, hauling in seven catches for 103 yards, while Minnesota’s defense recorded a pair of sacks after tying for seventh in the league last season with 43.
* Packers are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 road games.
* Vikings are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games following a straight up win.
* Under is 8-1 in Packers’ last 9 games following a straight up win.
* Under is 10-1 in Vikings’ last 11 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Underdog is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is supporting the road favorite Packers at a rate of 74 percent and the Over is picking up the majority of the totals wagers on Covers with 59 percent. Check out full consensus data here.