Packers LB De’Vondre Campbell played at the University of Minnesota from 2013-15…Vikings LB Za’Darius Smith played for Green Bay for three seasons (2019-21) and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection…Vikings CB Chandon Sullivan played for the Packers from 2019-21…Packers defensive backs/passing game coordinator Jerry Gray coached the defensive backs in Minnesota from 2014-19…Packers inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti’s father, Tom, coached on the Vikings’ staff from 1996-99…Vikings assistant head coach Mike Pettine was the Packers’ defensive coordinator from 2018-20…Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell held the same position with Green Bay from 2000-03…Vikings tight ends/passing game coordinator Brian Angelichio served as the Packers’ tight ends coach from 2016-18…Vikings outside linebackers coach/pass rush specialist Mike Smith coached outside linebackers for Green Bay from 2019-21…Vikings assistant linebackers coach Sam Siefkes was born in Oconomowoc, Wis., and coached at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (2012-14), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2015) and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville (2016-17)…Vikings defensive backs coach Daronte Jones coached the same position at the University of Wisconsin in 2015…Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst attended high school at Robbinsdale Armstrong in Plymouth, Minn., and Totino-Grace in Fridley, Minn…Gutekunst’s father, John, served as the head coach at the University of Minnesota from 1985-91…Packers executive V.P./director of football operations Russ Ball served as senior football administrator for the Vikings from 1999-2000…Packers head coach Matt LaFleur was Vikings QB Kirk Cousins’ position coach in Washington for two seasons (2012-13)…LaFleur and Vikings wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell coached on the staff in Washington together in 2010-11…Cousins and Packers LB Preston Smith played together in Washington from 2015-17…Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia were both on the coaching staff in San Diego in 2012 when Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell was with the Chargers as a quarterback during the 2012 preseason…Kirk Olivadotti coached with O’Connell on the staff in Washington in 2017-18 and with Vikings offensive coordinator Wes Phillips in Washington from 2014-18…Packers player personnel executive Lee Gissendaner spent time on the Vikings’ practice squad in 1996.
I am not exactly what you would call an optimist in general, especially when it comes to Minnesota sports teams. I always have a feeling that the ‘other shoe’ will drop and, honestly, that feeling rarely turns out to be incorrect.
However, I think this year will be different for the Minnesota Vikings. Here are ten reasons to believe that this year will (finally) be (please, God) the Vikings’ year!
1. NO MORE MIKE ZIMMER
No more ‘culture of fear,’ as one Vikings linebacker put it, no more nepotism hires at the coordinator spots, no more antiquated offensive and defensive schemes. Ding, dong and all that.
2. KIRK COUSINS UNLEASHED
Kirk Cousins has been a perfectly acceptable, slightly above average quarterback since joining the Vikings in 2018. Will a forward-thinking offensive game plan and new emphasis on the passing game launch him into a higher tier of QBs? I think it will.
3. NFC NORTH HAS NEVER BEEN WEAKER
The Packers lost Devante Adams and replaced him with some generic replacements, the Bears are in a total rebuild and, as much as I love Dan Campbell, the Lions look toothless. The Vikings have a real chance to win five division games this year.
4. A HEALTHY DEFENSE TO GO WITH NEW 3-4 SCHEME
Having a healthy Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith line up alongside newcomers Harrison Phillips and ZaDarius Smith smells like a recipe for success. If the guys up front can put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks it will take the pressure off of the defensive backs, which may be the defense’s biggest weakness.
5. IT HAS TO HAPPEN SOMETIME, RIGHT?
I mean, this will be the Vikings’ 62nd season. At some point it has to be our turn, right? Right?
Vikings Assistant Head Coach Mike Pettine coached Sullivan as the Packers defensive coordinator and watched the youngster take ownership of the assignment.
“The nickel position isn’t something that had come natural to him before, but it made sense given our personnel and his skill set that he threw himself into it,” Pettine said. “He saw, ‘Hey, this is a role that I can carve out a niche for myself.’ And he’s not gonna let go of it.”
Added Sullivan: “It’s very challenging, but I love it. I found a home in it the past few years.”
The slot cornerback has become an increasingly important position over the past several years with offenses increasing their use of three or more wide receivers.
The evolution of offenses has been matched – by necessity – by the development of defenses that spend a lot less time in their base formation and a lot more in nickel (usually one fewer lineman or linebacker and an extra DB) or dime packages (six total DBs).
In Pettine’s mind, the nickel back essentially has become a starting position.
“The third corner … falls in the top 11, as far as importance, because he’s out there so much,” Pettine said.
In 2021, Sullivan played in 77 percent of Green Bay’s defensive snaps. The previous season? Seventy-one percent.
“It’s such an important position because offenses are doing a better job now of forcing the nickel, essentially, to play linebacker. Forcing them to be more involved in the run game. Whereas at outside corner, you’re kind of insulated from that a little bit,” Pettine said.
Sullivan has fully accepted that challenge.
“I see Chandon as a guy who understands it all. He knew that the run stuff was going to be important, and he really immersed himself in it and made sure he had a good understanding of it, knew where to be when he needed to be there,” Pettine said. “That guy kind of has to be a jack of all trades, but it’s such an important spot.
“It’s kind of an undervalued and underappreciated spot that I think is vital to every NFL defense,” Pettine added.
Titletown and the Green Bay Packers are kicking off the season by welcoming a new partner: Hy-Veethe employee-owned grocery store with a growing presence in Wisconsin.
Hy-Vee is teaming up with Titletown and the Packers for a variety of initiatives, including sharing the grocery store’s name with Titletown’s public plaza just west of Ridge Road, now officially named Hy-Vee Plaza.
“We’re pleased to welcome Hy-Vee to Titletown as our Plaza partner while they prepare to open their new store in Ashwaubenon and other locations throughout Wisconsin,” said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy. “Hy-Vee Plaza will be our gathering space at the heart of Titletown, hosting night markets in the summer, ice skating in the winter and daily activities year-round. Hy-Vee has an excellent reputation in the Midwest as a community-minded, customer-oriented business. We’re looking forward to having them in our area.”
Hy-Vee Plaza, as well as other spaces throughout Titletown, will welcome community members and fans for fall programming over the next several months, from fitness and exercise classes to live music, arts activities and family programming. Hy-Vee will also become a partner of the Packers this season. The two brands will be featured together in a variety of displays, including at Lambeau Field during gamedays and at Hy-Vee stores.
“As we continue to open more stores throughout Wisconsin, we know how important it is to show our support for the Packers,” said Hy-Vee President Jeremy Gosch. “This partnership provides a lot of opportunities for us to help fans celebrate their favorite team. Whether it be hosting a watch party in our store’s restaurant or offering a wide variety of tailgate snacks for those heading to the game, we look forward to cheering the Packers into the post-season.”
Details about Titletown’s upcoming activities are listed at titletown.com/events/calendar. Up-to-date information about activities and programming can also be found on Titletown’s social media platforms at facebook.com/TitletownGB, twitter.com/titletown and instagram.com/titletown. Titletown includes TitletownTech, The Turn, Bellin Health Titletown Sports Medicine & Orthopedics, Lodge Kohler, Hinterland Restaurant and Brewery, Associated Bank and the U.S. Venture Center. For more information, visit titletown.com.
Hy-Vee, Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating more than 285 retail stores across eight Midwestern states with sales of more than $12 billion annually. The supermarket chain is synonymous with quality, variety, convenience, healthy lifestyles, culinary expertise and superior customer service. Hy-Vee ranks in the Top 5 Most Trusted Brands and has been named one of America’s Top 3 favorite grocery stores. The company’s more than 80,000 employees provide “A Helpful Smile in Every Aisle” to customers every day. For additional information, visit www.hy-vee.com.
The Green Bay Packers will kick off their 2022 NFL season with a Minnesota Vikings Week 1 matchup on the road.
In the famous words of the late Kevin Greene “It is time!” The wait is over and the 2022 NFL season starts this week. For our Green Bay Packers the goal is simple, Super Bowl or bust. Anything less would be a failure on a team that’s all in again. But, of course, it is still one week at a time, and the opening game schedule has a division rival standing in the way of Packer Nation. Here is Know the Foe: Minnesota Vikings Week 1.
New Season Brings a New Staff
After an underwhelming 2021 where the Vikings went 8-9, things needed to change. Starting with new General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Minnesota also needed a new life coaching this squad. Out with defensive-minded Mike Zimmer and in with Super Bowl-winning Offensive Coordinator Kevin O’Connell coming over from the Rams. The big change will be O’Connell will want to push the ball and create big plays. The Rams were 2nd in the league and plays over 50 yards due to the play of quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp. The Vikings think they have the tools to run that kind of attack.
Offense Full of Playmakers
Minnesota will once again have Kirk Cousins under center. The veteran quarterback has put up solid numbers throughout his career but has been known to run hot and cold. Cousins does have quite the cast of weapons at his disposal. The wide receiver group is headed by stud Justin Jefferson. After a monster rookie campaign, Jefferson had an even better sophomore outing with 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns. The 6’1″ 195 lb. machine is out to prove he’s the best wide receiver in the game and don’t be surprised if he’s in the conversation in 2022.
Adam Thielen lines up on the other side and has been steady as they come. The 9-year pro especially knows how to find the end zone with 33 touchdowns over the last 3 seasons. K.J. Osborn had a breakout year in 2021 with 650 yards and 7 touchdowns. Osborne is built like a running back and excels in the slot. The new system will also try to get tight end Irv Smith in the mix. He missed last season but Minnesota drafted the talented Smith to be a vertical threat to soften the defense.
Whether the Vikings want to push the football downfield or not, running back Dalvin Cook cannot be taken lightly. Cook is one of the league’s premier backs and can make house calls at any time. Cook’s numbers were down some last season with 1,150 yards and 6 touchdowns but no running back can one cut and go as he does. With a great offensive line, the Vikings have all the tools to create a dangerous attack.
New Scheme on Defense
With a new Head Coach comes a new Defensive Coordinator and scheme. Long-time coach Ed Donatell arrives from Denver (Former Packer DC) along with his adaptable scheme. Donatell plans to run a 3-4 but has used a 4-3 base in the past.
Despite the new D, Minnesota will focus on getting after the QB. This offseason the Vikings added a familiar face in Za’Darius Smith. Smith missed all but 2 games last year in Green Bay but when healthy he’s a game wrecker. Smith is a slippery pass rusher who can move around the defense and has a plethora of moves. Also, the great #99 Danielle Hunter is the other edge, and again when healthy, is a handful. Hunter is one of the most overlooked past rushers in the league. When he’s on the field his speed off the edge is elite. Their backups are D.J. Wonnum who had 8 sacks last season and 2nd year Patrick Jones. Both are fine and limited roles but Minnesota will rely on the health of Hunter and Smith.
Inside is the run-stuffing Dalvin Tomlinson whose most significant role is arguably keeping linebacker, Eric Kendricks, clean. Wherever the football is, you will find #54. The 30-year-old Kendricks shows no signs of slowing down in his 9th NFL campaign.
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The strength of this defense continues up the middle to the secondary. Future Hall of Famer Harrison Smith is a longtime leader of this franchise. After 11 seasons, this vet is still rock solid. He is technically sound and a master at disguising coverage. Next to him will be a dual role of two young players. Second-year pro Camryn Bynum and 1st-round pick Lewis Cine will try to learn on the fly from Smith. Both are athletic and physical specimens.
Again in 2022, the Packers may want to try and get favorable matchups against the Vikings cornerbacks. Patrick Peterson is not the guy from years past and Cam Dantzler has struggled as a pro. Rookie Andrew Booth has all the athletic tools but is still a rookie that will be forced into action. Green Bay also has a good scouting report on their former slot Chandon Sullivan. Look for the Packers to test this group and work some double moves in crossing routes on Sunday.
Thank you for reading Know the Foe: Minnesota Vikings Week 1. Be sure to check out all of the great NFL content available on Full Press Coverage.
The Green Bay Packers have won this division each of the last four seasons. They’re the only team in the NFC North with a proven quarterback, and a recent history that includes a good deal of winning. Once Brett Favre took over as starting quarterback in 1992, the Packers’ decade-plus as an irrelevant franchise ended and they reasserted their place as one of the best franchises in the NFL.
They have been a perennial playoff team for most of the last 30 years and have run roughshod over their division foes. The Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — for those who still remember the NFC Central — have had their moments but this division has mostly belonged to the Packers since Fox became one of the NFL’s main television partners.
With no Davante Adams this season, and Aaron Rodgers partaking in psychedelics at nearly 40 years old, the Packers are still the clear favorites. When Rodgers shouted “I own you” to the Soldier Field crowd, the message was just as relevant to the people on the Michigan/Canada border, and in the communities surrounding those 10,000 lakes in Minnesota.
There’s a strong defense and running game supporting Rodgers and the Packers’ reshaped receiving corps. They should walk to a fourth-consecutive NFC North championship, unless a young quarterback decides that it’s his time to shine.
Surprise alternate outcome: The Chicago Bears’ offensive line isn’t as bad as you think
That Cleveland Browns Week 3 game was awful last year. The Bears lost by 20, and it looked like the offense was fishing with pool noodles the entire afternoon. They managed to gain just 48 yards of total offense and put six points on the board that day. That game, and the Week 7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, were disasters that made those who watched the Bears believe that the offensive line was ruining Justin Fields.
However, the unit was not nearly as bad as it looked in those two horror-flick-worthy performances. Per ESPN stats, the Bears’ offensive line was ranked 11th in run-block win rate and sixth in pass-block win rate. Pro Football Focus ranked the Bears’ offensive line at No. 22, and the first sentence in their explanation was: “There were games this season in which the Chicago offensive line couldn’t block anybody, but overall it wasn’t as bad as those low moments.
The word out of Bears camp is that Fields is much improved this year and he showed it in the preseason, especially in the final game against the Browns. Changes were made to the Chicago offensive line with Lucas Patrick at center — there’s a good chance that he will start Week 1 even after the thumb injury — also Teven Jenkins was moved inside to right guard and rookie Braxton Jones will start at left tackle. This group doesn’t have to be the best in the NFL but if it shows improvement from last season, Fields could look on Sundays like the player he was on Saturdays in 2019 and 2020 for Ohio State. If he gets enough support to play like that, the 2018 No. 2 overall high school player in America could be in line for a Patrick Mahomes/Lamar Jackson type of Year 2, and that could vault the Bears to the top of the NFC North.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Season 10 of my NFL picks.
When I started making picks in 2013, things were different. Tom Brady was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, the Bengals were coming off a division title and the 49ers were on the cusp of getting rid of a quarterback who had just led them to an NFC title game. Wait, did I say things were different? Because I guess I meant that things are actually still exactly the same.
The only difference between now and then is that we now know there are psychedelic drugs in South America that can help you win MVP (thanks to Aaron Rodgers for that knowledge). You can judge Rodgers all you want for taking ayahuasca, but I’m not going to judge him for going on a South American drug bender and that’s mainly because I’ve done some of my best work after doing weird things in South America.
Rodgers might have reached a higher level of spiritual consciousness this offseason, but I do not think he’ll be reaching the highest level in of the NFL, AKA I will not be picking his team to win the Super Bowl this year.
So who am I going to pick?
That’s a great question and you. If you click over, you’ll see my final record predictions for all 32 teams plus who I’m picking to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. If the game was being played in the astral realm, I’d pick the Packers to win it all, but it’s not, it’s being played in Phoenix.
Anyway, before we get to the Week 1 picks, I have good news for the nine of you who emailed in and demanded to CBS that I do more this season. Not only will I be writing this weekly picks column, but I’ll also be podcasting a lot this year. As a matter of fact, you should go ahead and circle every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on your calendar from now until February, because that’s when I’ll be joining Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson on the Pick Six Podcast (Click here to check it out). If that’s still not enough of me, I’ll also be joining CBS Sports HQ every Tuesday morning (8:45 a.m. ET) from now until February to talk about my weekly picks, so remember to set your alarm and be sure to bookmark this link so you can watch online.
Alright, I think that’s enough self-promotion for now, let’s get to the picks.
NFL Week 1 picks
Buffalo at L.A. Rams
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
I’ve spent the past month reading about Matthew Stafford’s ailing elbow and after doing some research, I think I finally know why it’s hurting: It’s definitely his Super Bowl ring. Sure, I’m not a doctor and I know nothing about medicine, but it has to be the ring. I mean, have you seen that thing?
The Rams got their rings in July and based on what I’ve seen of the ring, it appears to weigh as much as a large cat and I’m 98% sure it’s worth more than my car.
Your arm would be also be hurting if you tried to wear that ring.
As last season’s Super Bowl winner, the Rams are hosting the opener this year and hosting has been a huge advantage over the years. The reigning champion has been hosting the Thursday opener since 2004 and in that time, they’ve gone 14-2. Not to mention, Sean McVay is one of the best opening day coaches in NFL history. The Rams coach is 5-0 all-time in Week 1 games and his teams have won those games by an average of 16.6 points.
Of course, the Rams were favored in their five other openers under McVay, but they won’t be favored in this one. If you want to beat the Rams it helps to have a mobile quarterback (check), a defense that can force turnovers (the Bills forced the third-most in the NFL last season) and a pass-rusher who can get after the quarterback.
The Bills didn’t exactly have that third thing last season, but they’re hoping that Von Miller will be able to fill that role in 2022. If you start sacking Stafford, the Rams offense starts to fall apart and that’s why Miller could be a huge factor on Thursday night. The Rams went 9-1 in games where Stafford was sacked zero or one time last season, but just 3-4 in games where he was sacked two or more times.
This is practically a home game for Miller, who will be playing this third straight game at SoFi under three different circumstances. He played for the home team in the NFC title game, he played at a “neutral” site in the Super Bowl and he’ll be on the visiting team for the opener. From now on, if Miller is playing a game at SoFi Stadium I’m just going to assume that his team is going to win.
The pick: Bills 34-27 over Rams
Cleveland at Carolina
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
I don’t normally put a lot of stock into revenge games, but I’m completely buying the revenge angle in this game. I mean, when it comes to Baker Mayfield, I haven’t seen anyone this desperate to get revenge since Inigo Montoya went after the six-fingered man in “The Princess Bride.”
I have no idea what Baker Mayfield did this offseason, but my guess is that he spent the past eight weeks sitting in a dark room watching film on the Browns so that he’ll be able to destroy them. He might also have snuck in a viewing or two of “The Princess Bride,” but I can’t say for sure.
Although the Panthers weren’t a great team last year, they actually have a pretty stacked roster. Not only is Christian McCaffrey finally healthy, but they upgraded at two key positions on the offensive line with the additions of Bradley Bozeman (center) and Austin Corbett (guard).
I will admit that I thought briefly about picking the Browns in this game, but then I remembered that they haven’t won a regular season opener SINCE 2004! In the 17 seasons since then, they’ve gone 0-16-1 in openers. (To put this in perspective, every other NFL team has won at least FIVE openers in that span). Basically, I feel like it’s in my best interest to keep picking against the Browns in every opener they play for the rest of time.
The pick: Panthers 19-16 over Browns
New England at Miami
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
I never thought I’d say this about Bill Belichick, but I have no idea what he’s doing anymore. Instead of naming an offensive coordinator to replace Josh McDaniels, Belichick has decided to leave the position open this season. Belichick is always vague about his plans and he’s been even more vague this offseason, which I didn’t even think was possible.
Apparently, Belichick’s plan is to rely on several assistants, including Joe Judge and Matt Patricia. Now, I’m not sure if Belichick was watching the last time those two guys coached, but if he was, then he would know that Judge and Patricia are the last guys you want to put in charge of anything. At least, that’s what Giants and Lions fans have told me.
That being said, what if they’re not actually in charge of anything because Belichick is really the one in charge of everything? My theory is that the Patriots are now a one-man coaching staff and that everyone else is just on the sideline for show. It’s Belichick vs. everyone in 2022.
Belichick has been changing everything this year and that even includes the Patriots’ travel plans for Week 1.
Instead of flying to Miami the day before the game, the Patriots are flying down a full FIVE days before the game so they can get acclimated to the heat and humidity. The Patriots are 2-7 in their past nine trips to Miami and I’m not sure spending five nights on South Beach is going to fix their problems. The last time I spent five nights on South Beach, I think I was only sober for one of them. Also, I saw a shirtless Ed Orgeron and let me just tell you that if the Patriots see a shirtless Ed Orgeron, it’s not going to help anyone play better.
Now that I’ve second-guessed everything Belichick is doing this offseason from his coaching decisions to his travel plans, there’s a 100% chance it will blow up in my face if I pick against him, so I’m not going to pick against him. I think the Dolphins offense will eventually be good, but I think it struggles in Mike McDaniels’ first game as head coach.
The pick: Patriots 20-17 over Dolphins
Kansas City at Arizona
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Kansas City Chiefs
Tom Brady skipped 11 days of training camp and Aaron Rodgers went on a South American bender, and yet, somehow, it might be Kyler Murray who had the weirdest offseason of any NFL quarterback. In case you haven’t noticed, Murray seems to have a somewhat dysfunctional relationship with the Cardinals. At this point, it’s basically the Kim Kardashian-Pete Davidson relationship of the NFL world: Everything might seem like it’s going well, but I’m just not sure it’s going to last.
Back in February, Murray deleted the Cardinals from his Instagram and if you’ve ever been deleted from someone’s Instagram then you already know that the only way to get that person back is to give them $230.5 million, so that’s what the Cardinals did.
So the money clearly fixed the relationship, right? Wrong.
The Cardinals decided to include a homework clause in Murray’s new contract and let me just say that no one likes homework or homework clauses.
The clause was eventually taken out of his contract, but the problem for Murray is that the Cardinals wouldn’t have asked for one if they didn’t think he needed it. I think what I’m trying to say here is that I’ve already spent more time writing this pick than Kyler has spent studying film for this game.
The relationship between Murray and the Cardinals feels like it’s at the tipping point and a few ugly losses to start the season could lead to a full implosion and those losses might actually happen. With the Chiefs, Raiders and Rams in the first three weeks of the season, the Cardinals could be in three shootouts to start the year and they won’t have DeAndre Hopkins for any of those games.
Not only do the Cardinals have to deal with all of this, but they also have to play against Patrick Mahomes, who has never lost a regular-season opener. In four seasons as the Chiefs’ starter, he’s 4-0 in Week 1 and the Chiefs have scored an average of 36.25 points in those games. I would predict Kansas City to score 36.25 points on Sunday, but I’m told that’s not mathematically possible in the NFL, so I’ll go with 37.
The pick: Chiefs 37-27 over Cardinals
Green Bay at Minnesota
4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
Green Bay Packers
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to be an MVP-caliber quarterback in the NFL, I have some good news for you: Aaron Rodgers revealed the secret this offseason.
Apparently, all you have to do is have a psychedelic experience in South America. Rodgers did that this offseason and as far as I know, he is now the only NFL QB who has obtained omnipresent, super-galactic oneness.
If Rodgers says it works, it clearly works, because he’s won two straight MVPs. Also, this would explain why Kirk Cousins has never won an MVP. I mean, if we had to rank every NFL quarterback on the possibility that they would go on a South American psychedelic bender at some point in their life, Kirk Cousins would rank dead last.
Although Cousins didn’t do any psychedelics this offseason, I actually think he’s going to be good this year. For one, he finally has a head coach who doesn’t hate his guts, which seems like a positive step forward for him.
Also, Cousins will be in charge of a high-powered offense that includes Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook. Although I’m picking the Packers to get to the Super Bowl out of the NFC this year, I’m NOT picking them to win this game and that’s because I think it’s going to take a week or two for them to adjust to life without Davante Adams.
The pick: Vikings 26-23 over Packers
Tampa Bay at Dallas
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Cowboys might want to think about complaining to someone at the NFL about how the schedule gets made, because this is the second straight year that they’ve had to open the season against Tom Brady, which is pretty much a nightmare situation for them. The problem for the Cowboys is that they’ve NEVER beaten Tom Brady.
In six career games, not only is Brady 6-0 against Dallas, but he’s thrown for 1,733 yards, along with 14 touchdowns. If Brady averaged those numbers over the course of a 17-game season, that would equal out to 4,910 yards and 40 touchdowns. Basically, the Cowboys have no idea how to stop Brady, and I don’t think that’s going to change Sunday. Yes, Brady did take 11 days off in the middle of training camp, but I’m guessing he made plans to do that as soon as he saw that he was playing the Cowboys in Week 1. To be honest, I’m somewhat surprised he didn’t skip all of training camp just to make a point about how easy it is for him to beat the Cowboys.
These two teams are basically a mirror version of each other: I was going to mention the Cowboys offensive line woes before making my pick, but the Buccaneers also have offensive line woes. I was going to mention that the Buccaneers have a key receiver coming off an ACL injury (Chris Godwin), but the Cowboys also have a key receiver coming off an ACL injury (Michael Gallup), so this all comes down to Brady.
Tom Brady is 45, he spent six weeks in retirement, he skipped 11 days of practice, he spent half his offseason tweeting out underwear ads and I’m not actually sure if he’s gotten any practice in over the past month, but it doesn’t matter because he’s playing the Cowboys and Brady doesn’t lose to the Cowboys.
The pick: Buccaneers 30-27 over Cowboys
NFL Week 1 picks: All the rest
Saints 24-17 over Falcons
49ers 27-17 over Bears
Bengals 23-20 over Steelers
Eagles 31-24 over Lions
Ravens 30-20 over Jets
Commanders 23-16 over Jaguars
Colts 24-16 over Texans
Titans 20-13 over Giants
Chargers 30-20 over Raiders
Broncos 31-17 over Seahawks
Best pick: If you just read through these picks while thinking, “Wow, I wish I could read this guy every day,” you’re in luck, because you can! I also write the daily NFL newsletter here at CBSSports.com and you can subscribe by clicking here and entering your email address. By the way, this is usually the part where I brag to you about my best pick from the preceding week, but since there weren’t any regular-season games last week, that means there’s no best pick for this section.
Worst pick: Although I’ll have plenty of “worst picks” for this section starting next week, I have nothing for you this week. Actually, wait, yes I do. Since this is the worst pick section, this is the perfect time to tell you that I am apparently the worst waffle picker in the history of parenting. Every morning, we lay out my daughter’s waffles and I’m supposed to pick the one she wants to eat and I am somehow O-FOR-ETERNITY in this game. I pick out a waffle and she says “nope” and this goes on and on and until she gets so bored of the game that she just picks out her own waffle.
If I actually started taking bets on this, I would lose all my money. Basically, I need to hit on my NFL bets so I can fund my waffle gambling.
Final 2021 picks record (including playoffs)
Straight-up: 183-101-1 (.644) (Ranked second overall at CBSSports.com)
Against the spread: 147-135-3 (.521)
You can find John Breech on Facebook or Twitter and if he’s not doing one of those things, he’s probably watching “The Princess Bride” while researching how to beat a toddler at waffle gambling.
The Packers have the substantial benefit of playing in the NFC North, and it’s very possible that when this season is all wrapped up, their record, currently projected at 11-6 by DraftKings, won’t look that out of the ordinary.
That said, the Packers’ offseason was a hallucinogenic trip of bizarre occurrences, and a repeat of their elite performance from 2021 is anything but guaranteed. While most analysts are bullish on their prospects, Green Bay is going to need an immediate impact from several rookies, some injury luck, and a complete turnaround on special teams.
No unit has experienced more turnover than the offense. Even the ever-reliable Aaron Rodgers spent much of the offseason in either contract drama, or what can only be described as “Aaron Rodgers drama.” On the contract front, Aaron teased retirement before agreeing to a three-year, $150.8 million extension, with an odd structure that costs the Packers more the longer he plays.
Rodgers also has a new girlfriend — who, to be clear, does not identify as a witch — named Blu of Earth, and admitted to experimenting with ayahuasca, a strong, hallucinogenic tea, on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast. Rodgers has been flirting with alternative, unscientific medicine since the revelation that he was not vaccinated last year, and is apparently now fully committed. While Rodgers should be free to do whatever he wants in his spare time, his distrust of conventional medicine did cost Green Bay a win last year when he missed the Kansas City game with Covid, and while Dock Ellis once famously threw a perfect game on LSD, that experience is probably not the best model for a modern quarterback.
More importantly, the Packers enter 2022 without Davante Adams, who chose to join his college quarterback Derek Carr with the Raiders. Adams is one of the league’s best receivers, and received a league-high share of his team’s overall targets last year. The Packers not only lacked an heir apparent at the receiver position, but they also lost deep threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling to Kansas City, making their only real holdovers Allen Lazard and an aging Randall Cobb. Replacing Adams’ production is essentially impossible, and while they did bring in the perpetually disappointing Sammy Watkins as a free agent from Kansas City, they will mostly be hoping for quick development from second-rounder Christian Watsonand fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs, who was the talk of Packers training camp and the preseason. Green Bay decided not to add a tight end this offseason, relying on the return of Robert Tonyan from a torn ACL to boost the position.
The offensive line suffered nearly as much turnover as the receivers group. Green Bay is fortunate that budding star Elgton Jenkins is already off the PUP list after suffering a torn ACL last year. Jenkins can play any position on the line, and his presence helps mitigate injuries along the line. That said, the Packers are still suffering greatly from one injury, that being David Bakhtiari, who suffered a torn ACL of his own two seasons ago, and has suffered from complications during his rehab making his return anything but certain. Bakhtiari did come off the PUP list and returned to practice on Sunday, Aug. 21, but whether he’ll be ready come Week 1 is still up in the air.
The lingering injuries and the departure of center/guard Lucas Patrick to the Bears may open up a spot for rookie fourth-rounder Zach Tom, who was impressive in camp this year. If nothing else, Tom and fellow rookie Sean Rhyan should bring much-needed depth, as injuries to the offensive line undercut the offense against the 49ers in the playoffs last year.
Between the receivers and the line, the passing game received a complete makeover in the offseason, and while Rodgers brings a certain stable floor, the ceiling on this team is anyone’s guess.
The defense suffered one major loss, as Za’Darius Smith crossed the border to join the Vikings (along with slot corner Chandon Sullivan), but the development of Rashan Gary into one of the league’s premiere pass rushers filled this void last season, and should do so again in 2022. While the team did add fifth-round rookie JJ Enagbare to back up Gary and Preston Smith on the edge, the Packers also spent premium draft capital on the interior, selecting the Georgia duo of Quay Walker (linebacker) and Devonte Wyatt (defensive tackle). Green Bay has struggled against the run through most of the Rodgers era, and Walker and Wyatt, plus free agent defensive tackle Jarran Reed, should turn this weakness into a strength.
The only other major addition on defense comes in the form of cornerback Jaire Alexander, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury. The Packers replaced their star corner last year with Rasul Douglas, but the two of them have only played together once, in the playoff loss to San Francisco. With both now healthy, few teams can boast of such a significant upgrade in the secondary.
The 2021 Packers defense was only mediocre by advanced stats like DVOA and EPA, and they still lack depth at some key positions, but their starters are among the league’s elite, and there’s a good chance they finish in the top 10, if not better.
The other big factor in the Packers’ playoff loss last season was a complete breakdown of special teams, resulting in a critical blocked punt touchdown and a blocked field goal. Special teams gaffes plagued the Packers all year, manifesting in missed kicks, poor blocking, incompetent decisions on whether to field punts or kicks, and inexplicable fumbles.
As a result, special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton was let go, replaced by Rich Bisaccia, formerly of the Raiders, and coordinator of many a great special teams unit. Gone also is punter Corey Bojorquez, who started with a bang, but tailed off noticeably as the weather cooled. Bojorquez also seemed to struggle with holding, and the team decided to move on to the reliable if unexciting Pat O’Donnell, formerly of the Bears. Long snapper Steven Wirtel was also found to be part of the problem and was also released in favor of rookie Jack Coco.
The Packers ranked dead last in special teams last year per DVOA, and seemed to create at least one game-changing blunder per week. They’ve turned over nearly every major contributor responsible for their struggles and should be better for it.
While Matt LaFleur returns for his fourth season as head coach and primary offensive play caller, the rest of the staff was raided by competitors, and so there are a few new faces and important promotions that could have a major impact. Denver replaced former head coach Vic Fangio with Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, while the Bears snagged former quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy for their offensive coordinator position.
LaFleur chose to fill the OC role internally by promoting another highly sought-after assistant: Adam Stenavich. Stenavich has served as the teams’ offensive line coach since 2019, and over that time the Packers have consistently fielded one of the league’s elite units. Even when stalwarts like David Bakhtiari have missed time, the line has rarely missed a beat, and the Packers’ development process has been second-to-none.
Retaining Stenavich was an important part of the offseason, but given the turnover on the line, they risk taking a step back under new coordinator Luke Butkus. Stenavich will undoubtedly stay involved as it really is LaFleur’s offense to call, but some regression is likely.
Replacing Getsy is the familiar Tom Clements, who served in various roles, including quarterbacks coach, for the Packers from 2006 through 2016 and was instrumental in the development of Aaron Rodgers from raw prospect into all-time great. With Jordan Love entering his third season, Clements will be tasked with accelerating his development.
Finally, I touched on Rich Bisaccia earlier, but it’s hard to overstate just how large of an upgrade he is. The 2021 Packers were bad on special teams in the splashy ways that show up in highlight packages, but they also failed in executing the subtle fundamentals. They frequently failed to line up properly in blocking, returners would allow themselves to be strung out horizontally, and sloppy penalties were the norm. On the game-winning Robbie Gould field goal that sent Green Bay home in the playoffs last year, the Packers only had 10 men on the field. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting end to that season.
The overall impact
The Packers are still run by one of the league’s best offensive minds and one of the game’s best quarterbacks. They’ve built a talented defense, and managed to retain the most important contributors (aside from Davante Adams) from a year ago.
But there’s also reason for some skepticism given the massive turnover in the receiving corps and injuries to the offensive line. Rodgers will be working with a lot of new skill position players, and he is famously finicky about his pass catchers.
That said, some regression of offense is likely to be offset by an improvement on special teams and a fully loaded defense. The Packers did a nice job reloading for one of their last runs with Rodgers, but they’ll need some luck, and some quick development from the rookies, to bring home another championship.
Nov 7, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Camryn Bynum. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports.
The 2021 Minnesota Vikings finished 8-9, spurring a change at general manager and head coach. And the replacement general manager and head coach kept the core players mostly intact while still finding new starters — to the tune of 36%.
Indeed, the Vikings may not feel the same with Kevin O’Connell, but the “usual suspects” of Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, etc., return for the 2022 season.
The Vikings newcomers are primarily on defense, probably a byproduct of the team surrendering more points in the final two minutes of halves to opponents last year than any franchise in the last two decades. Minnesota’s defense needed a facelift, and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, along with Kevin O’Connell and Ed Donatell, provided one.
Compared to the last half of the 2021 season, these are the Vikings new starters:
- Jonathan Bullard or Ross Blacklock (DE)
- Camryn Bynum (S)
- Jordan Hicks (LB)
- Danielle Hunter (EDGE)
- Ed Ingram (RG)
- Harrison Phillips (NT)
- Irv Smith (TE)
- Za’Darius Smith (EDGE)
Of course, Hunter and Irv Smith aren’t new-new, but they did miss the second half of the 2021 campaign. Irv Smith missed the entire season.
There are 11 starters on each side of the ball, so the 8 ÷ 22 = 36.3%.
Quietly, Jonathan Bullard has emerged as a contender to start Week 1 against the Packers in “Armon Watts’ old spot.” Minnesota also traded for Ross Blacklock last week, presumably to start for Watts or to provide DL depth.
Camryn Bynum shined when afforded the opportunity as a rookie, filling in admirably for Harrison Smith versus the Baltimore Ravens and thereafter in spots. The Vikings drafted Lewis Cine in April to perhaps oust Bynum from the starting job, but that has not occurred yet.
Jordan Hicks found his way to Minnesota as a free agent from the Arizona Cardinals, where he played oodles of defensive snaps. He’s the “new Anthony Barr” for easy thinking and is as dependable as it gets as an off-ball linebacker.
Then, Danielle Hunter returns after missing 10 games in 2021, his second consecutive season battling serious injury. Turning 28 in October, Hunter hopes to reclaim his 2019 tyrannical form. And Hunter welcomes a new running mate from the Green Bay Packers, Za’Darius Smithwho’s already circled Week 1 as a revenge game.
Harrison Phillipsalso called Horrible Harrytakes over Michael Pierce’s job after Pierce’s two-year experiment in Minnesota flopped, mostly due to injury. Phillips was a fan favorite with the Buffalo Bills and could be poised to truly break out with the Vikings.
On offense, rookie Ed Ingram shanghaied the right guard job this summer, a development Vikings enthusiasts have dreamt about since Steve Hutchinson retired. Ingram won the job so definitively that Adofo-Mensah traded his competition, Jesse Davis, to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a menial draft pick last week.
Irv Smithlike Hunter, is back from injury and should be ready for Week 1. He’s on deck for a robust, oft-advertised “breakout” season in 2022, the fourth straight year folks [especially fantasy football brains] have predicted such a forecast
The Vikings are pegged by sportsbooks around a 9.5-win team in O’Connell’s first year, which would likely be enough for a playoff berth.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).
Aaron Rodgers had already established his first-ballot Hall of Fame credentials, but back-to-back NFL MVP awards certainly added to his legacy.
In the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Rodgers completed 69.8 percent of his passes for 8,414 yards, 85 touchdowns and only nine interceptions combined. During that span, 42 players threw more than nine interceptions.
In winning MVP back-to-back, Rodgers joined just four other players who did it: Hall of Famers Jim Brown (1957-58), Joe Montana (1989-90), Brett Favre (1995-97) and Peyton Manning (2003-04, 2008-09).
But winning three in a row? That’s another thing entirely. Could Rodgers go back-to-back-to-back in 2022?
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Players with three consecutive NFL MVP awards
That subhead ought to just read “Player with three consecutive NFL MVP awards,” because there has only been one back-to-back-to-back MVP winner: Brett Favre. He was named three times in a row from 1995-97, although he shared the third one with Barry Sanders as the two were tied in the voting.
How did Favre do it?
For starters, he led the league in passing touchdowns each year and ranked near the top in almost all other passing stats.
|Year||Comp pct (rank)||Yards (rank)||TDs (rank)|
|1995||63.0 (6th)||4,413 (1st)||38 (1st)|
|1996||59.9 (9th)||3,899 (4th)||39 (1st)|
|1997||59.3 (7th)||3,867 (2nd)||35 (1st)|
Of course, Favre also threw at least 13 interceptions each season, but interception rates across the league were higher than they are in today’s NFL.
All this is to say that it is not easy to win three straight MVP awards.
And it may be even harder for Rodgers to do it given how Green Bay’s offense looks heading into the 2022 season.
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Can Aaron Rodgers win three straight MVPs?
Can he do it? Sure. He’s a future Hall of Fame quarterback who constantly elevates those around him. But there’s no question that his weapons are not what they have been over the past two seasons.
Last year, Davante Adams, widely regarded as the best receiver in the league, caught 123 of Rodgers’ 366 completions, gained 1,553 of Rodgers’ 4,115 passing yards and hauled in 11 of his 37 passing touchdowns. He is now in Las Vegas catching passes from Derek Carr. Marquez Valdes-Scantling (26 receptions, 430 yards, three touchdowns), is now with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes.
That leaves Allen Lazard, who caught 40 passes for 513 yards and eight touchdowns, and Randall Cobb, who caught 28 passes for 375 yards and five touchdowns, as the most established returning wide receivers.
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The Packers addressed Adams and Valdes-Scantling’s exits by signing Sammy Watkins and drafting Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. But replacing a receiver of Adams’ caliber is not easily done.
And lacking that top option could be what holds Rodgers back from winning a third straight MVP. When Rodgers was the MVP in 2011, he had Jordy Nelson rack up 1,263 receiving yards and Greg Jennings gain 949 more. When he was MVP in 2014, Rodgers had Nelson and his 1,519 receiving yards, and Cobb, who had 1,287 yards. In 2020 and 2021, Adams was there to record more than 1,300 yards each season.
Rodgers won’t have that type of target in 2022. Cobb hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiving season since 2014, his lone season in four digits. Watkins hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiving season since 2015, also his only time reaching the milestone.
There is upside with Watson and Doubs, certainly. Watson never had a 1,000-yard receiving season with North Dakota State but twice had more than 700 yards and has been touted as a potentially dynamic option with his combination of size and speed. Doubs had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at Nevada and has received rave reviews during training camp.
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Rodgers can make a lot happen with his ability to read the field, make accurate throws and make things happen in general. But only two quarterbacks going back to 2010 have won MVP without at least one 1,000-yard receiver: Lamar Jackson in 2018 and Tom Brady in 2010. Jackson had the rushing yards to bolster his case.
Brady could be a more realistic model. He had 3,900 passing yards with 36 touchdowns and four interceptions. No receiver had more than 848 yards (Wes Welker) and no one else had more than 706 yards (Deion Branch).
Could Rodgers elevate this group of receivers to the level needed for him to win a third straight MVP? Certainly. But this would undoubtedly be his most challenging path to the award.
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