The 2022 NFL season is upon us and with it comes a new fantasy football season. One of the premier matchups of Week 1 will see the Green Bay Packers take on the Minnesota Vikings in a game that has plenty of star power.
Green Bay has a menacing duo at running back with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon and both will need to do even more following the exits of wide receivers Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
The Vikings enter a new era with head coach Kevin O’Connell, who comes from the Sean McVay coaching tree. Optimism is swirling at what their offense could mold into with Kirk Cousins throwing to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen in a scheme designed to open it up.
This year, we’re splitting our weekly fantasy guides into four categories: don’t think twice, high floor, feast or famine and stash away.
It’s fairly self-explanatory but just in case here’s a brief rundown:
In the don’t think twice category are those who should be inserted into the lineups without a shred of doubt. High-floor players are those who should produce solid outings but may not make or break your fantasy football week. Feast or famine players are those who could hit the jackpot in a given week or sink into irrelevance that Sunday. Finally, are the stash-away players, ones who should be kept on the bench.
Let’s jump into this Packers-Vikings matchup!
DON’T THINK TWICE
Packers RB Aaron Jones
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has described the duo of Jones and Dillon as “1a and 1a” but that shouldn’t have anyone shying away from the former. Jones tallied his most receptions (52) and receiving touchdowns (6) in any season of his career in 2021 and expectations are for him to at least match that output this year while also still getting plenty of carries as a “true” running back. Green Bay will lean heavily on its two-headed monster at running back and Jones should flourish lining up in different spots on the offense.
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson
In many fantasy leagues, Jefferson was either the first or second wide receiver taken and lumped into the same group as Cooper Kupp. The dynamic wideout is coming off a season where he posted 108 receptions, 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns in what was deemed to be an offense without much direction. The possibilities of what Jefferson could do in O’Connell’s system are endless. Jefferson is an easy decision to play every single week this year even in a week like this which will see Jefferson matchup with one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Jaire Alexander. What Jefferson brings to the table each and every week in fantasy football far outweighs any matchup he will see. That’s not a knock against a corner like Alexander, you just don’t bench Jefferson under any circumstances outside of injury.
Vikings RB Dalvin Cook
Similar to Jones, Cook will be used in a variety of ways in the Vikings’ new offense and is a top-tier back that just can’t be benched regardless of who the opponent is. It just so happens Cook’s career numbers against the Packers stack up in his favor. There have been a couple duds against Green Bay for Cook but in seven career games against the Packers, Cook has scored nine touchdowns while averaging 108.4 total yards per game. He’s a lock to start in fantasy football and an easy “don’t think twice” candidate.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
It will be fascinating to see the fantasy numbers Rodgers produces without having Adams. In terms of wins and losses, expectations are still sky high in Green Bay but that doesn’t necessarily translate to fantasy football success. Rodgers still has a high floor going up against a Vikings defense that has plenty of uncertainty still roaming in the secondary. Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith are the savvy veterans and Minnesota made some splash draft picks with Georgia safety Lewis Cine and Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., but this isn’t the type of group that will lock down Rodgers. Who leads the charge at wide receiver for the Packers could be a week-by-week case study with the only certainty being that Rodgers will step up. Rodgers may not have the fantasy production of a Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes but the floor is still very high, especially in this matchup.
Packers RB AJ Dillon
One of the more intriguing plots to watch for the Green Bay offense in 2022 circulates around Dillon. The former Boston College back was fed more rushing attempts (187-171) than Jones last year and this year may yield similar results especially when the temperatures start to drop. Dillon is in the co-star role alongside Jones but as Rodgers said earlier this summer, the Packers should optimize putting the best 11 offensive players on the field and both Jones and Dillon fall into that category. If you’re looking for a solid RB2 or flex option, Dillon has a super-high floor against the Vikings.
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins
Even against a defense in Green Bay that could rank among the best in the NFL, this Vikings offense has too much talent for Cousins to fall flat on his face. Jefferson, Cook and Adam Thielen form a trio that would make any quarterback giddy and now that Mike Zimmer is out the door, Cousins getting “unlocked” by O’Connell is a real possibility. As for Week 1, Cousins is a fine option if you don’t have one of the top options at quarterback on your roster and Cousins will very often fall into the “streaming” category based on matchups with the upside being the weapons he has on offense. Against Green Bay and playing at home, Cousins has a high floor.
FEAST OR FAMINE
Packers WR Sammy Watkins
Allen Lazard’s uncertain status for Week 1 has put the Packers’ hierarchy at wideout in a blender. What may be produced is Watkins being No. 1 on the depth chart if Lazard is out. That still doesn’t mean he’s an autoplay. Green Bay will be playing musical chairs all season long with who steps up when at wide receiver and while it will be tempting to plug in Watkins if Lazard is out, there’s still a possibility that Watkins sinks instead of swims. Watkins was a healthy scratch at the end of the 2021 season for a Baltimore Ravens team that was starving for production at wide receiver. Watkins has eclipsed 50 receptions in a season once since 2015 and that includes three years of playing with Mahomes. He hasn’t had a season with more than three receiving touchdowns since 2017. The upside is Watkins being the top option if Lazard is out and having Rodgers as his quarterback. The downside is the lack of production in recent seasons and some rather uninspiring campaigns. It could be great or it could be a disaster in fantasy football terms for Watkins in Week 1. The choice is yours.
Vikings WR Adam Thielen
Thielen is no longer the player he was when posting back-to-back seasons of over 1,200 receiving yards in 2017-18. He's also a clear No. 2 behind Jefferson. But he's been a big-time option in the red zone over the last two years, notching 14 and 10 touchdowns. Since Jefferson's arrival, Thielen has done well against the Packers in games played in the dome in Minnesota. In 2020 he recorded eight catches for 82 yards and a touchdown and last year went for 6-110-2. We don't know if things will change for Thielen in O'Connell's new offense. His recent history shows he might be a decent play against Green Bay but his overall numbers could underwhelm if he can't find the end zone.
Packers WRs Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson
Both rookies should see action Sunday but as far as starting them in your lineup, hold off for now and see how the chips fall early on in the season. Rodgers typically hasn’t favored throwing to rookie wideouts in his career but this season that will be almost impossible with three of the seven on the active roster being first-year players. Still, will Rodgers be hesitant with the trust and lean on Watkins, Lazard and Randall Cobb? Doubs and Watson will both have games where they break out but as for Week 1, stash away both unless you really feel like rolling the dice.
Vikings TE Irv Smith Jr.
Smith Jr. underwent another surgery this summer, this time on his thumb. Availability is often the best ability and it’s been the one thing holding Smith Jr. back in his career. Smith Jr. didn’t play at all in 2021 due to injury and missed three games in 2020 with injuries as well. In this offense with O’Connell pushing the buttons, Smith Jr. may finally bust out and step into the spotlight. Until that happens stash him away, including in Week 1 against the Packers.