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New Coach Adds Wrinkle to Packers-Vikings Opener

Over the last four years, how many of the 27 new coaches won in Week 1? And led his team to the playoffs?

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will kick off the 2022 NFL season at the Minnesota Vikings.

The Packers are 1.5-point favorites at FanDuel Sportsbook to ruin the debut of Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell.

First-year coaches went 3-4 in their first games last season. That’s not great but it’s better than the previous three seasons. From 2018 through 2020, new coaches went a combined 2-17-1 in Week 1. One of those wins was by Packers coach Matt LaFleur in the 2019 opener, the first leg of a six-game sweep of the NFC North.

After the 2020 season, The 33rd Team did a long look at the impact of rookie coaches. Whether it was a fresh face, such as O’Connell or Chicago’s Matt Eberflus, or a retread, those teams on average won about seven games per season. From 2014 through 2018, according to The Action Network, teams with new coaches improved by 1.7 wins per season.

The Vikings went 8-9 last season but could be a breakout team based on the offensive firepower provided by Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.

O’Connell and LaFleur were offensive coordinators for the Rams under Sean McVay, with O’Connell serving in that role the past two seasons. O’Connell’s offensive vision for the Vikings sounds like words plucked from LaFleur’s mouth.

“Everybody uses the phrase ‘the marriage of the run and the pass,'" O'Connell said at the Scouting Combine. "Really, what that means in my mind is an identity of doing a lot of things to make it hard on the defense. But, in all reality, they’re simple for us. We use the term ‘the illusion of complexity.’ And, what does that mean? It really means we do as many to make it start out looking the same, but they’re different to defend — personnel groupings, different formations, different motions, different shifts.

“It’s important that we play with great ball security. It’s important that we’re able to establish the run with physicality, toughness, kind of set the tone for everything that we want to do as an offense. And then I think you’ve got to be great situationally.”

New Coaches in Debut Games

In light of Green Bay starting the season against the Vikings, here’s how new head coaches did in their first game (and how many reached the postseason) the past 10 seasons.

2021: 3-4 (two qualified for playoffs).

2020: 1-4 (two qualified for playoffs).

2019: 1-6-1 (one qualified for playoffs).

2018: 0-7 (two qualified for playoffs).

2017: 4-2 (three qualified for playoffs).

2016: 4-3 (two qualified for playoffs).

2015: 5-2 (one qualified for playoffs).

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2014: 4-3 (one qualified for playoffs).

2013: 3-5 (three qualified for playoffs).

2012: 1-6 (one qualified for playoffs).

The Packers will play four teams with new coaches in 2022. With two of those residing in the NFC North, that means six of their 17 games will come against rookie coaches.

Along with the two matchups against the Vikings’ O’Connell and the Bears’ Eberflus, Green Bay has games against the Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel and the Giants’ Brian Daboll.

Because Packers-Giants will be played in London, there’s a line at FanDuel for that game. Green Bay is a 6-point favorite.

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