The Green Bay Packers start their quest for a 14th NFL Championship this Sunday when they take on their division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be making his 13th consecutive opening day start for the Pack; he made his first in 2008 against the same team he will be playing on Sunday. Rodgers has played with a lot of different players throughout his excellent career, including different coaches, schemes, injuries and circumstances – the whole nine. With that said, I got curious.
How has Rodgers played on opening days in his career and what should we expect to see from him on Sunday? I break it down here:
Aaron Rodgers Stats & Game Results on Opening Day in his Career:
2008: 18-22, 178 Yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 89.4 QBR – Packers 24 vs. Vikings 19
2009: 17-28, 184 Yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 29.1 QBR – Packers 21 vs. Bears 15
2010: 19-31, 188 Yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 82.4 QBR – Packers 27 at Eagles 20
2011: 27-35, 312 Yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 89.1 QBR – Packers 42 vs Saints 34
2012: 30-44, 303 Yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 56.5 QBR – 49ers 30 at Packers 22
2013: 21-37, 333 Yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 72.5 QBR – 49ers 34 vs Packers 28
2014: 23-33, 189 Yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 44.3 QBR – Seahawks 36 vs Packers 16
2015: 18-23, 189 Yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 84.7 QBR – Packers 31 at Bears 23
2016: 20-34, 199 Yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 83.2 QBR – Packers 27 at Jaguars 23
2017: 28-42, 311 Yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 69.3 QBR – Packers 17 vs Seahawks 9
2018: 20-30, 286 Yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 52.6 QBR – Packers 24 vs Bears 23
2019: 18-30, 203 Yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 37.9 QBR – Packers 10 at Bears 3
I added up and divided all of Rodgers’ stats on opening day and came up with averages on what we would expect to see, based on his track record of past games. Here’s what I found:
2020 (Projection): 22-32, 240 Yards, 2 TD, 0.5 INT, 65.9 QBR, Packers 24 (Avg)
A quick note: I am arguably one of the worst sports betters of all time, so you would be wise to disregard any opinions or advice I have on gambling. With that said, and knowing the averages of the Packers and Rodgers’ performances on opening day, some interesting lines for the game:
Packers Total Points: Over/Under 21.5
Rodgers Total Passing Completions: Over/Under 24.5
Rodgers Total Passing Yards: Over/Under 273
In Rodgers’ 12 career opening day starts to date, his teams have a 9-3 record. The Packers have won 5 consecutive opening day games dating back to 2015. Rodgers is 5-0 in his career against division opponents on opening day, including 1-0 vs. the Vikings. The game the Packers won against the Vikes was all the way back in 2008; when a young Aaron Rodgers was making the first NFL start of his career. Below is a short highlight video of the game if you wanted a quick blast to the past.
NFL Opening Day 2020 brings a new set of players, coaches, challenges and certainly, circumstances. Most teams will have no fans in the crowd while a few teams have a limited number on capacity. The Minnesota Vikings are one of the many franchises that will start the season with zero fans in attendance. This should serve as an advantage to the Packers.
Throughout his career, Rodgers has dealt with the enormous roar and hostility of the Metrodome and U.S. Bank Stadium. On Sunday, the Vikings will pipe in artificial crowd noise while the Packers are on offense but it will be nowhere in the vicinity of matching the realness, rawness, and energy of a real crowd. In his career, Rodgers is 14-8-1 (including playoffs) in games he started against the Vikings and has a career record of 6-6 in games played in Minnesota.
This is year 2 of Matt LaFleur and his offensive system. In 2019, it was clear that there was a learning curve for the entire offense and even later in the season, we still saw moments of miscommunication and confusion by different players for Green Bay. With that being said, they still managed to go 13-3. Rodgers started all 16 games, passed for more than 4,000 Yards and tossed 26 Touchdowns compared to 4 interceptions. The biggest difference to me coming into Year 2 of LaFleur’s system outside of the increased comfort level are the players that Rodgers is prepared to rely on.
I can say with confidence that Rodgers trusts both Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. I know some people may disagree but I’m telling you right now, Lazard is the real deal. Obviously, Adams is the bigger threat as he’s proven himself to be one of the top wide receivers in the NFL but with Lazard, Rodgers has found a good, reliable and ascending player that he trusts. In the pivotal week 16, monday night football game last year on the road in Minnesota, Allen Lazard had 9 targets; finishing with a stat line of 5 receptions for 45 yards.
At surface level, that may not seem like much but if you’ve paid any attention to the Packers since 2015, you understand some of the dry spells of production and frustrations they’ve gone through at Wide Receiver. Lazard was (basically) a rookie last year and he didn’t even play until Week 6. He finished the regular season with 35 catches for 477 yards and 3 touchdowns, in 11 games played. Project last years stats to a 16 game season and it looks like:
51 Receptions, 694 Yards, 4 TD’s
^And keep in mind, that was last year. He’s had a whole off-season to recover, work on his game, improve his mindset and continue to grind. He’s going to be a good player in Green Bay for a long time and I think the comfort level that he provides Rodgers will inevitably elevate 12’s play.
We should see this come into the fold first-hand on Sunday in Minnesota. The Vikings experienced major turnover in their secondary this offseason and lost their top 3 Cornerbacks. 3rd year player and former 1st round pick Mike Hughes is slated to be the Vikings CB1. He may be capable to the challenge; only time will tell but this is by far the biggest opportunity for Hughes in his career. The other starting CB for the Vikings is another 3rd year player, Undrafted CB Holton Hill. Like Hughes, Hill will be tested heavily this season and will have the responsibility of covering teams’ top Wide Receivers.
I think we will see Rodgers challenge these young corners whenever the opportunity presents itself, based on down and distance situations and coverage alignments. Although the Vikings are in the midst of a transition period at CB, they have two of the best Safeties in the league in Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith. Both players are smart and make plays. I don’t expect an uber aggressive approach from Rodgers slinging the ball downfield, understanding how good the Vikings safeties are.
With that being said, speedy wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling is healthy and should see a good amount of snaps on Sunday. I expect him to get at least one or two deep ball opportunities, as he did last season against the Bears in Week 1. Training camp reports have been positive for the 3rd year wide receiver, including comments about improved route running with his short and intermediate game. I’m very curious to see how involved MVS will be on Sunday.
Overall, I do think the Packers will look to work a lot of short and medium routes, similar to what they did in Week 16 of last year. It’ll be nice to have MVS on the field to run vertical and stretch the field. I think you’ll see a confident and decisive Aaron Rodgers on Sunday but for the most part, I don’t think it’ll be bombs away. He knows what he has in RB’s Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, two players he can really trust in the passing game. He had a lot of praise for Jamaal and his improvement through out the off season, and he shared his thoughts on Tuesday on the Pat McAfee show.
— Pat McAfee Show Quotes (@Patmcafeequotes) September 10, 2020
Pass Protection wise, I think the Packers should hold up OK against the Vikings on Sunday. The lack of crowd noise will benefit the Packers offensive line, allowing them to get off the snap of the football a millisecond quicker than usual. Additionally, one of the Vikings best players, Defensive End and tremendous pass rusher Danielle Hunter was recently put on IR, so he is out.
The Vikings did however trade for dynamic pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, former Jacksonville Jaguar. Ngakoue definitely will be a handful for the Packers on Sunday but thankfully, they return 4 out of 5 starting offensive lineman this season. Rodgers will have to keep a keen eye on where Ngakoue lines up on every snap this Sunday.
With two wide receivers he can count on, strong running backs in the passing game and a good offensive line, I think Rodgers will play well and play smart. I anticipate the game to be rather close and I believe Aaron is an excellent game manager; he plays situations well. Overall, I expect a spry, confident Quarterback and why wouldn’t I? He’s 9-3 on opening day in his career, with a 5-0 record against division opponents and 1-0 vs the Vikings. He’s also a Super Bowl Champion and a 2X MVP.
Packers 24 Vikings 21: The Road to Tampa starts Sunday.——————
Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a Packers guy. Alex\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.