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Vikings-Packers preview: Defense may reign in battle of NFC North rivals

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Green Bay's Kenny Clark sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins during the second half of a game on Sept. 16, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis.
Jeffrey Phelps | AP

The Minnesota Vikings travel to Green Bay on Sunday to take on the Packers at Lambeau Field.

With the game taking place in mid-September, it won't exactly be the Frozen Tundra. But no matter what time of year the NFC North rivals play, it's a highly anticipated matchup. The two teams will be aiming to avoid a repeat of their game last year in Green Bay, when they played to a 29-29 tie.

MPR News host John Wanamaker spoke with MPR News producer Jeffrey Bissoy about the game. A few highlights from Bissoy’s pregame analysis are below; listen to the full conversation using the audio player above.

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers drops back during the first half of a game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 16, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis.
Morry Gash | AP

What's a key factor for the game?

"The big thing is going to be defense, for both teams. The Packers defense last year struggled a lot to get stops — especially on third downs and short, or even at times third downs and long. But you saw in that first game of the season, to celebrate the NFL's 100th year, against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field — that defense was new and improved, they were aggressive. Not only do they get stops, they made life very difficult for (Chicago quarterback Mitch) Trubisky, sacking him four times."

Will the Packers defense approach Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins the same way they approached Trubisky?

"I think the philosophy is going to be the same. Not to say that Trubisky is Kirk Cousins -- Kirk Cousins can throw; he was second in the NFL last year in completions. But, you know they're going to force him to be a quarterback. ... Last weekend against the Atlanta Falcons, you got almost 200 yards in rushing for the Vikings. ... A lot of yardage on the ground. They prefer to run vs. passing. Looking at that game, if you're the Packers, you're telling yourself right now, 'We're stopping the rushing game. We're going to force Cousins to make some tough throws.' And when you look at that Bears game, that's exactly what happened. 

"So it's going to be a nasty, gritty game for the Packers defense. I think it will be the same as well for the Vikings defense. Let's not forget that they made life very difficult for (Falcons quarterback) Matt Ryan last Sunday, and Matt Ryan was one the most efficient quarterbacks last season. ... And so this is going to be a another test for both of these teams for just how well are their defenses ready to contain one another."