2020 results show records won't matter in Packers-Vikings rematch

Division games across the league have tightened up as season has progressed

Packers at Vikings during Week 1

GREEN BAY – Aside from the fact that, well, this is the NFL, there are really good reasons to proverbially throw out the 5-1 and 1-5 records the Packers and Vikings are bringing, respectively, into Sunday's game at Lambeau Field.

One would be a pair of Vikings results in the past month that show a more competitive team than the one the Packers saw back in Week 1.

In Weeks 3 and 5, Minnesota lost to Tennessee and Seattle by one point each, holding fourth-quarter leads in each instance. Tennessee and Seattle are both 5-1, just like the Packers are now.

Another is the simple fact that this is a division game, and division games are growing tighter and tighter now that the season is in full swing.

Close contests are generally the rule rather than the exception in division games, because the teams know each other so well. This year has been no different since all teams got their feet wet.

It's interesting to note how division contests have gotten closer since Week 1, when everyone was entering the year in such strange circumstances – no on-field offseason programs, a truncated training camp, no preseason games.

The familiarity division rivalries breed appeared to take a back seat, temporarily, to some elements of surprise and to some teams emerging from the COVID offseason not quite ready to roll.

In a whopping nine division games on the schedule in Week 1, six of them were decided by more than one score, including Green Bay's 43-34 win at Minnesota. Only one-third featured one-score final margins.

But since then, of the 23 division games played across the league, 15 of them – or roughly two-thirds – were decided by just one score. Nine of those 15 were decided by three points or less, including four just last week.

The longer the season has progressed, the more competitive division games have become, while runaways are fewer and farther between. Oh, and there have been just three overtime games across the league all season thus far – all three have been division games.

To take it a step further, there's a litter of matchup examples that, on paper, record-wise, would look like Packers-Vikings this week but illustrate just how difficult division games can be.

Jacksonville and Houston are both 1-6 while Tennessee, as mentioned, is 5-1. Yet the Titans have squeaked out narrow wins over the Jaguars, 33-30, and the Texans, 42-36 in OT.

The Chargers are 2-4 while the Chiefs are 6-1, yet their meeting went to overtime as well, 23-20 for Kansas City, whose only loss as the defending Super Bowl champs is to a division rival, the Raiders. The Jets are 0-7 and the Bills are 5-2, but they just played last week and Buffalo had to come from behind for an 18-10 triumph in which the Bills never scored a touchdown.

Yes, the Vikings are riddled with injuries at cornerback, and they no longer have the top two pass rushers they planned on this season at their disposal. They have a lot to overcome, but they're still a division foe with a coach who knows QB Aaron Rodgers as well as any opponent.

"Anytime you play a Mike Zimmer team, you've gotta be ready for everything," Rodgers said. "He's a phenomenal coach. I was telling a friend of mine, to see him mentioned being on the hot seat, to me, is absolutely crazy. I think he's one of the best coaches in the league and has been for a long time.

"They don't all give you the trouble and scheme that Mike does. I have a lot of respect for the way he coaches and the way he especially coaches the defense."

As far as the Packers' track record, it's worth noting that last year as Head Coach Matt LaFleur swept all six NFC North games, five of them were decided by one score.

This year he's already posted two multi-score division wins over the Vikings and Lions in Weeks 1-2. So, he's either bucking the trend, or as this year's action around the league has shown, things are bound to tighten up.

"I think the second time you play anybody, it's always tougher," LaFleur said this week. "I always think it's challenging.

"This is such a competitive league. I don't care what the record says."

Neither should anybody else.

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