GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings are coming off the type of victory that could change the course of their season.
It’s the type of win the Green Bay Packers could desperately use right now.
The Vikings (3-4) will try to build off the momentum of a Monday night triumph over the San Francisco 49ers and the Packers (2-4) will attempt to snap a three-game skid when these two NFC North foes face off Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Although these teams have combined to win 11 of the last 12 NFC North titles, both are below .500 this season. The Vikings at least have given themselves reason for hope by winning their last two games and handing San Francisco just its second loss of the season.
“You understand that what you do in the prior weeks means nothing moving forward,” Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “Every week you’ve got to bring the same energy, the same chip on your shoulder.”
“These guys aren’t afraid of a challenge, and right now we have a challenge,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “And I think going through some adversity, as long as you come out the other side of it, can be a positive thing if channeled and harnessed the right way and if you respond the right way. And so, that’s the expectation I have for our football team.”
While the Packers try to respond to adversity, the Vikings must prove they can handle their recent prosperity and earn a third straight win.
“We’ve got to show we’re a mature football team that after this can get right back to work and get the next one,” Cousins said after the 49ers game.
FINALLY HOME AGAIN
Sunday will mark the Packers’ first home game in over a month. They haven’t played at Lambeau Field since a 34-20 loss to the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions on Sept. 28.
Green Bay followed the Lions game with a 17-13 loss at Las Vegas, then had a week off before falling 19-17 at Denver.
The absence of Jefferson has elevated the role for rookie Jordan Addison and the other wide receivers, but tight end T.J. Hockenson has become an even more vital target for Cousins. He had season highs in targets (12), receptions (11) and yards (86) against the 49ers and also provided valuable blocking assistance at times.
During Addison’s 60-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter, Hockenson had to handle Bosa one-on-one to give Cousins enough time to throw it.
“He played a really, really strong game and quite honestly, that’s what I expect out of T.J. with what he’s done ever since he got here,” O’Connell said.
The Packers have emphasized the importance of handling the Vikings’ frequent blitzes. Minnesota has blitzed the most often of any NFL defense, according to Sportradar.
“I haven’t really faced a defense like Minnesota the way they run it,” Packers quarterback Jordan Love said. “It’s something you’ve got to have a good plan for it going into it.”
Green Bay’s offensive line has done a better job of pass protection than run blocking this season. The Packers didn’t allow a sack against the Broncos.
The Packers have been outscored 63-6 in the first half of their last four game and haven’t scored a first-half touchdown in any of them. Green Bay ranks last in the league in first-half points per game (4.3) but leads the NFL in second-half points per game (17.3).
Minnesota struggles to take care of the football, while Green Bay has had trouble forcing turnovers.
The Vikings have committed 14 turnovers this season to match the Cleveland Browns for the second-highest total of any team, behind only Las Vegas (15). The Packers have just five takeaways to match the lowest output for any team.
AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell contributed to this report.