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Packers at Vikings: Things To Look For

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What are the keys to a Vikings victory Sunday night?

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The 1-0 Minnesota Vikings christen the new US Bank Stadium Sunday night against the hated Green Bay Packers in an early season divisional match-up. While it's way too early in the season to call this a critical game, it is important, and it's going to have a playoff atmosphere. For one, it's a divisional game, and those are important. Secondly, it's the Packers, and they need to be sent back to Hell* where they belong. With a loss.

*And by Hell, of course, I mean Wisconsin. Because it's the same thing.

And finally, it's the opening of the new home for the Vikings. There are a ton of things planned to make the home opener a memorable one, from the Viking War Chant, a halftime show, and a rumored hologram of Prince. It's going to be epic, but it's all for naught if the Vikings don't walk out of there with a win.

So, let's break down to see what needs to happen for the Vikes to start 2-0.

Ride the wave, but don't be overcome by it. The atmosphere in the new stadium is going to be electric, probably akin to a playoff game. The Vikings will be riding a huge wave of emotion, and I think it will cause them to come out of the gates with their collective hair on fire. But there's a fine line between being fired up and too fired up, and they can't let that emotion overcome their discipline, nor can they get the 'I need to make a big play' mentality stuck in their head. Play within yourself, play within the scheme, and the big plays will come. When the big plays arrive, enjoy it, soak it in, and then go do it again. All night long, for 60 minutes.

Win field position. With Sam Bradford probably starting, giving him and the rest of the offense good field position will help immensely. It opens up more of the playbook, and makes the Vikings offense more unpredictable. On the flip side of that, the Packers offense still seems to have issues moving the ball consistently, and I don't see them being able to move the length of the field at will. I also think the noise will be at a level the Packers haven't faced, even in the loudest days of the Metrodome. It's going to cause communication problems, and make the Packers offensive line slow off the ball. The Vikings must take advantage of that.

Turnovers will be key. The Vikings can win this game if the turnovers are even, but if they lose the turnover battle, they'll lose the game. The Packers defense has lived on forcing turnovers for years, and it's uncanny how they seem to get an interception or force a fumble when they absolutely need to. And Aaron Rodgers doesn't throw a lot of picks, so it will be incumbent upon the Vikings to not give the Packers any housewarming gifts.

Get the running game untracked. Last week Adrian Peterson only gained 31 yards on 20 carries, and that has to change. The Vikings interior line play needs to get better, but the offense also needs to find a more vertical passing game. Shaun Hill did fine last week, but the Vikings didn't push the ball downfield vertically, and the Titans kept eight or nine men in the box all afternoon. I'd like to see the Vikings take some shots downfield early and stretch the Packers defense. Force them into a more conventional 3-4 look, and Peterson will have running lanes.

Keep the pressure up, all night. I think this game starts out fast for the Vikings, and once that early emotion ebbs, it will be imperative to keep their foot on the gas. Don't give the Packers any breathing room, keep the pressure up on both sides of the ball, and if the Vikings get a quick lead, don't give up a big play to lose momentum and let them back in to the game.

Red zone and special teams. Finally, when the offense is in the red zone they have to score touchdowns. Field goals and defensive scores is not a good game plan for the 2016 season. As exciting as those returns were last week, the defense isn't going to score twice a game, they just aren't. And the offense can't settle for four field goals a game if they have serious thoughts about winning the division and making a deep playoff run.