3 keys to a Vikings win against the Packers

The Minnesota Vikings will open their 2020 season at home, albeit with no fans inside U.S. Bank Stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions, against their division rival Sunday afternoon.

Kickoff against the Green Bay Packers is set for noon. Here are three keys to a Vikings victory.

1. Keep the Packers’ defensive line guessing

A staple of the Mike Zimmer era, no matter who his offensive coordinator has been, is to pound the ball with the run game. That won’t change in 2020, especially with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak who has churned out 1,000 running backs throughout his coaching career.

The Vikings signed Dalvin Cook to a five-year extension on Saturday and he’ll continue to be a focal point of the offense. He’s one of the best dual-threat backs in the NFL with his ability to run the ball and catch the ball out of the backfield.

The one thing you don’t want to be in 2020 is predictable. That’s why the Vikings need to execute play-action passes and also mix in the screen game against a very aggressive Packers front seven.

"When you can threaten defense multiple ways, they have to honor that," Vikings center Garrett Bradbury said on Friday following practice. "If we’re running the ball really well, the play-action is going to be set-up well. If we’re throwing the ball really well and those d-lineman are really trying to get after the quarterback, then the screen game opens up. that’s why you really want to be balanced."

Bradbury will be lined up opposite Packers Pro Bowl nose tackle Kenny Clark, who’s one of the premiere run-stoppers in the league.

"He’s got a high motor," Bradbury said about Clark. "He can defend the run and rush the passer. They have some competitors on their side and we have some on our side."

Vikings sign Dalvin Cook to 5-year extension

2. Stop the run

Once upon a time, the game plan against the Green Bay Packers centered around Aaron Rodgers, but last season the Packers suddenly became a run-first team.

Running back Aaron Jones led the NFL with 16 rushing touchdowns and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. He gashed the Vikings for 270 yards and three touchdowns in two games last season.

"He’s a complete back. He can do it all," Vikings co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer said about Jones leading into the game. "He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can bounce the ball to the perimeter. He can run it inside. He’s a really impressive running back. The whole defense, including the secondary, needs to support the run against him."

To help keep Jones fresh, the Packers also added A.J. Dillon in the 2nd round of the draft.

3. Find a consistent #2 target for Kirk Cousins

With the departure of Stefon Diggs in the offseason, the Vikings are in need of a number-two target behind Adam Thielen.

The Vikings will likely get a lot of production from first-round pick Justin Jefferson throughout the season, but without a preseason to truly prove himself, you can’t put too much pressure on him in his NFL debut.

The guy who could make a splash in the opener against Green Bay is Bisi Johnson. A 7th-round pick last season, Johnson caught 31 balls for 294 and 3 touchdowns in his rookie campaign.

"I would say the game has definitely slowed down for me a lot, as far as understanding the playbook," Johnson said during training camp. "Being confident in my route running and things like that. It’s just easier to go out there and just play football, really.”