and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer have a lengthy history facing each other.
As well as a strong respect for each other’s abilities.
“Either me or him have to get out of this division at some point,” Zimmer said on Thursday.
“It’s too hard to go against him. He’s too damn good,” Zimmer said.
Including a 2013 game at Cincinnati, when Zimmer was the Bengals’ defensive coordinator, Monday night’s game in Minneapolis will be Rodgers’ 12th game against a Zimmer-coached defense. Rodgers is 5-5-1 in those games.
“Tell him to retire” was Rodgers’ retort at his locker following Thursday’s practice.
The Packers (11-3) can clinch the NFC North Division title with a victory. The Vikings (10-4) can clinch a playoff berth and stay in the division race with a victory.
As Associated Press suggested, Zimmer’s defense, as usual, will present a big challenge for Rodgers and Co. Minnesota enters this week’s games ranked sixth with 18.5 points
allowed per game. At home, where the Vikings are 6-0 this season and 3-0 against Green Bay since U.S. Bank Stadium opened in 2016, they’re allowing just 14.2 points per game.
It will be a familiar group across from Rodgers. Defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen will be looking to sack Rodgers, linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr will be making plays all over the field, and safety Harrison Smith will be roaming the secondary. The cornerbacks will be different, though. While Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes are longtime starters, Zimmer has been rotating Mackensie Alexander, Mike Hughes and Holton Hill into the action. Regardless, Zimmer’s defense remains as stingy as ever.
“He’s just a tactician on defense,” Rodgers said. “He’s very smart with the self-scout, and he’s going to throw a number of different things at you. They’re as good with their disguise and their togetherness as the best Chicago Bears defenses that I faced over my time when they were rolling with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and Peanut Tillman and Tim Jennings and all the guys they had up front rushing.
“Just the way they would play together from the front to the back end is the same way, the continuity they have, the ability to disguise, the trust they have in each other. They can sit in a disguise until you make some sort of adjustment or check, and then be able to get back to where they want to get to, and make it really difficult on offenses.”
In some ways, Rodgers has had as many answers as any quarterback against Zimmer. In 10 starts against the Zimmer-led Vikings, Rodgers has thrown 17 touchdowns vs. two interceptions with a 99.8 passer rating. Wins have been harder to come by. Green Bay’s 21-16 victory at Lambeau Field in Week 2 gave Rodgers a 5-4-1 mark. It marked the fifth consecutive start against Zimmer in which he did not throw an interception, but he has only one 300-yard game.
“Offensively, they look very similar to the first time we played,” Zimmer said. “They give you maybe a few more personnel groups or things like that. I think they’re running the ball really well. I think Aaron Jones
has helped. You know, Rodgers, I have the utmost respect for him. He’s a terrific player. He’s extremely smart. He can make all the throws. His scrambling ability is. ... Everything that he does is really difficult.
"Either me or him have to get out of this division at some point.”
Zimmer might want to steel himself for this one.
As ESPN's Mike Clay noted this week, Davante Adams
has a really good matchup.
Per Clay, Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes has only shadowed three times this season, and one of those was in Week 2 against Adams. Rhodes also shadowed Adams during three of four meetings during the 2017-18 seasons. Rhodes went down with an injury on Sunday, but he's been cleared to play Monday night.
So we should expect him to travel with Adams in a critical NFC North showdown.
Clay added, "That shouldn't deter you from firing up a player who has had a ton of success in this matchup."
Adams posted a 7-106-0 receiving line on nine targets in Week 2, 8-64-1 and 5-69-1 lines on 20 total targets last season, and a 5-54-1 line on nine targets in the 2017 meeting. Rhodes has struggled, and the Minnesota defense has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers over the past eight weeks, including the second-most to perimeter receivers this season and over the past eight weeks.
The limiting factor?
As ESPN's Matthew Berry pointed out, the Packers are just 18th in pass attempts per game since Week 9, as they have leaned on the running game much more this season to the detriment of Rodgers' fantasy stock.
Should be an interesting battle. ...
Also worth noting. ... Aaron Jones
has an NFL-leading 14 rushing TDs and is Rodgers' second-favorite target (45 catches) this season behind Adams (63 catches). ...
On the injury front. ... The Packers have ruled out only one player for Monday’s game: Offensive lineman Yosh Nijman. The third-string tackle, who has appeared in no games this season, has an elbow/triceps issue that popped up during the week.
Defensive lineman Dean Lowry is questionable with an ankle injury. No other Packers player received a designation for Monday.
Tight end Jimmy Graham
was limited all week in practice with wrist and groin injuries, but he’ll play.
Graham was held to one reception for 0 yards on four targets against the Bears on Sunday. As Clay notes, Graham now has fewer than five catches in 13 of 14 games this season and hasn't scored a touchdown in seven consecutive games. Graham also has 20 or fewer receiving yards in eight games, including three of his past four. He hasn't played more than 52 percent of Green Bay's offensive snaps since Week 10.
Safe to say he shouldn't be forced into lineups.