After Week 3 of the season, the Vikings were two games behind the Packers in the NFC North. Since then, they've won three of their last four while Green Bay has lost three straight, including a 19-17 defeat in Denver last Sunday that raised more concerns about the Packers' offense in Jordan Love's first year as the starting quarterback. With a win on Sunday, the Vikings could head into the trade deadline at 4-4, alive in the playoff race with a chance to get Justin Jefferson back soon.
Here's a look at the key matchups and story lines for Sunday:
THE BIGGEST STORY LINE
Rivalry pivots as passers change: In their first meeting with Aaron Rodgers in 2008, the Vikings lost a Monday night opener, giving Rodgers his first win as the Packers' starter. The Packers will have neither Rodgers nor Brett Favre on the field against the Vikings for just the third time since 1992. The Packers were optimistic about Love's potential when they traded Rodgers to the Jets this summer, but the 24-year-old Love has thrown six interceptions during the Packers' three-game losing streak. Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, is coming off a 378-yard performance in the Vikings' win on Monday night; he's searching for just his second win at Lambeau Field as the Vikings' starter.
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Alexander's status could be key for Addison: The Vikings have kept a close eye on the injury status of Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander this week, as the Pro Bowler tries to return from a back injury that's had the team's medical staff being cautious with him. He is listed as questionable for Sunday, and if he does play in the game, he could have a pivotal matchup with rookie Jordan Addison, who's coming off his first 100-yard and two-touchdown game last week. If the Packers are without Alexander, practice squad addition Corey Ballantine or rookie Carrington Valentine could be charged with covering Addison.
Packers' front presents problems: Green Bay defensive tackle Kenny Clark has been a difficult matchup for Vikings center Garrett Bradbury throughout his career, and Clark could be a significant factor in the game again on Sunday. Edge rusher Rashan Gary, who missed the second game between the Vikings and Packers last year after tearing his ACL, has 4½ sacks so far this season. He'll line up mostly at left outside linebacker, where he'll be Brian O'Neill's primary responsibility. The Packers defense has also been tough to crack near the goal line, allowing only 10 red-zone touchdowns on 22 attempts (45.5%). Their ability to hold opponents to field goals has helped them keep games close.
VIKINGS DEFENSE VS. PACKERS OFFENSE
Vikings try to cross up another young QB: The Vikings' three wins this season are against quarterbacks (Bryce Young, Justin Fields and Brock Purdy) who are in their first, third and second seasons, respectively. Next up is Love, who's been well-protected this season but has struggled against pressure when he's faced it. According to Pro Football Focus, Love's 47.2 passer rating under pressure is 30th in the league, just above Young's 47.0 rating. Expect Brian Flores to throw plenty of different looks at Love to see what he can decipher in real time.
After McCaffrey, Vikings get Jones-Dillon combo: The Packers have the 30th-ranked run game in the NFL, with an offensive line that ranks 29th in the league in ESPN's Run Block Win Rate metric. Green Bay ran for a season-high 137 yards on 29 attempts last week, with A.J. Dillon getting 15 carries while Aaron Jones continues to work back from a hamstring injury. Jones might be the Packers' most effective offensive weapon; he might also be their most confounding, given his hamstring injury and the Packers' tendency to limit his carries even when he's healthy. After scoring 40 touchdowns from 2019-21, he has a more modest nine in his last 20 games.
Out: Brian Asamoah II (ankle)
Questionable: G Ezra Cleveland (foot), RB Kene Nwangu (illness), WR Jalen Nailor (hamstring)
The Packers are dealing with a raft of injuries, which isn't necessarily new for them. But they are trying to find an offensive identity, which is a problem they've rarely faced in the past 30 years. The Vikings are coming off a short week, but they're the healthier team and they're riding on a wave of confidence after their win over the 49ers last week. They're 1-3-1 in their last five trips to Lambeau, but Aaron Rodgers isn't walking through that door. If the Packers get off to their customary slow start and force Love to drop back against Flores' blitzes in an attempt to catch up, the Vikings could catch their rivals at an opportune time. Prediction: Vikings 20, Packers 16