Vikings Fans Need to Wait Until Week 8 to See Public Enemy No. 1

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Tork Mason-USA TODAY Sports

Jaire Alexander didn’t make too many friends in Minnesota last year. Indeed, Vikings fans don’t love the Packers’ CB1 (and, very likely, the top corner in the division).

The bad blood started before the game began. Alexander, never one to betray a lack of confidence, talked about stifling Justin Jefferson before the duel. Afterwards, Alexander was similarly outgoing in his confidence, crediting his ability to “follow” Jefferson as the key to shutting him down.

Oct 3, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) catches a touchdown pass against Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander (23) in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The showboating in the game itself certainly didn’t help matters, at least when it comes to being popular in The State of Hockey:

Elsewhere in the game, Alexander landed a double-handed press on Jefferson, causing Minnesota’s WR1 to stumble. Any defensive coach will tell you that it’s poor form to press with both hands. The audacious move leaves the CB vulnerable to getting absolutely roasted. If he misses with his punch, he’ll be totally off balance since he’s lunging with both hands, allowing the receiver to run unencumbered down the field. Alexander didn’t miss, though, instead knocking Jefferson off his stride.

Without question, Jaire Alexander got the better of Justin Jefferson is last year’s matchup. The Vikings’ receiver had some excuses – the footing was terrible, the play from Kirk Cousins was less than ideal – but those excuses can only go so far. After all, Alexander was dealing with the same field.

Jefferson finished the game with a single catch for 15 yards. He was targeted 5 times, tied for the lowest total of the season.

Vikings Fans, Alexander, and The Week 8 Slugfest

Previously, Jefferson torched the Packers secondary.

In Week 1, Jefferson put up humongous numbers. He had 9 catches, 184 yards, and 2 TDs. The wild thing is that he did the vast majority of his damage in the opening half. Green Bay was never really in that game, so Minnesota largely coasted in the second half. A more competitive game would have likely resulted in more targets for the receiver, possibly leading to a day that went well beyond 200 yards receiving.

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

And, to be sure, Jefferson has had success against the cheeseheads. Take a look at his career stat totals versus the Pack:

  • 2020 at Home: 2 catches (3 targets), 26 yards
  • 2020 on the Road: 3 catches (4 targets), 26 yards
  • 2021 at Home: 8 catches (10 targets), 169 yards, 2 TDs
  • 2021 on the Road: 6 catches (11 targets), 58 yards
  • 2022 at Home: 9 catches (11 targets), 184 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • 2022 on the Road: 1 catch (5 targets), 15 yards

Clearly, there has been more success at U.S. Bank Stadium than in the Cheese Arena. Can we expect that to change in the upcoming season?

Vikings fans shouldn’t be upset at Alexander. Sure, having a rivalry is good for the sport and certainly drives fan engagement, but we also need to recognize a couple things. The Packers’ CB1 is an excellent player. Plus, the corner with supreme self-confidence is often the corner who can thrive. His confidence and excellence walk hand-in-hand, so don’t be shocked when he discusses how good he is and then seeks to prove it on the field.

The key, to my mind, is to relish the next opportunity. That’s part of the competitive spirit that makes football so great, right?

Jefferson won the first matchup last year and Alexander won the second. That leaves the score at 1-1, at least for the most recent season. Bring on Week 8 at Lambeau; I’m taking Jefferson every single time.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

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