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    September 25, 2018 9:00 PM EDT

    With his first real game for the Minnesota Vikings in the books  Joel Iyiegbuniwe Jersey , Kirk Cousins has another initiation coming this weekend: a visit to Lambeau Field.

     

    Cousins and the Vikings play in Green Bay on Sunday, an earlier than usual contest for control of the NFC North. The only other times since 2000 that the Vikings have faced the Packers on the road in September were the season openers in 2003 and 2008.

    For Cousins, well, talk about diving right in.

    "It's a great opportunity to join this rivalry and hopefully put my best foot forward and get off to a great start," said Cousins, who grew up in the Chicago area and then western Michigan and, thus, has been immersed in one of the NFL's most storied divisions his whole life as a football follower.

    This will be his first playing experience at Green Bay, too. When Washington traveled there in 2013, he was the backup to Robert Griffin III. Now he'll be the fifth Vikings quarterback to start in the last five visits to Lambeau Field.

    "You realize how important it is for this organization, for our fans," Cousins said Wednesday.

    Cousins passed for 244 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover in a smooth Minnesota debut, a 24-16 victory over San Francisco. The downside? All seven of his pass attempts in the fourth quarter http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/jamize-olawale-jersey ;, including one throwaway on the final play, were incomplete. That's uncharacteristic for a quarterback who's had a strong track record of success late in games, since he became a full-time starter in 2015. He directed two fourth-quarter comeback victories that year, four in 2016 and one in 2017.

    "Some quarterbacks have a reputation of doing them," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "Some quarterbacks make it so that they don't really have to do it in the fourth quarter, too. A lot of times it's opportunities. A lot of times it's the team around you. There are so many variables."

    All eyes will be on Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, whose status for Sunday will be a mystery until pregame warmups . So Cousins could fly a little lower on the radar for this one than his normal front-and-center situation after signing his $84 million, fully guaranteed contract with the Vikings this year. The circumstances were different, but Cousins already has two strong performances against the Packers on his resume.

    Though Washington lost that playoff game at home on Jan. 10, 2016, Cousins completed 29 of 46 passes for 329 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. The following season when Green Bay returned to FedEx Field, Cousins went 21 for 30 for 375 yards http://www.washingtonredskinsteamonline.com/rob-kelley-jersey ;, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a victory.

    "I've taken a lot of steps as a player and in my confidence," Cousins said, reflecting on his progress since those matchups. "So I think that's true of all of us in the league. The longer we play, the more we're out there, the more we're able to be in the fire and playing through mistakes and learning, it helps us be that much better the next time we go out."

    The Vikings are pleased to be the beneficiaries.

    "The last two years, we've had a new quarterback by Week 2," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "The last few years we've been in a situation with a new quarterback that we didn't get many reps with during the offseason. It is nice to be out there with a guy we've been working with since the middle of April and build a rapport with."

    Deshaun Watson was back in a game this week for the first time since surgery to repair a right knee injury in November, and although he didn't play long, he relished his return.

     

    "I just played five snaps, handed the ball off, threw one pass," Watson said. "So Sam Acho Jersey , it wasn't too bad. Good to just go out there for a couple plays and then watch everyone else perform."

    The Houston Texans quarterback is looking to build on his limited action as the team prepares for two practices with the San Francisco 49ers next week before hosting them in their second preseason game on Saturday.

    Watson's health and development in his second year will be critical as Houston tries to bounce back from a season filled with injuries during which the team went 4-12 for its first losing season since 2013. Though he played in just seven games before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in practice, Watson gave the Texans optimism that he'll be the answer to their longtime problems at the position.

    He threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns and ran for 269 yards and two more scores after Houston traded up to select him with the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft.

    Saturday was the team's first practice back in Houston after the Texans spent the first part of training camp in West Virginia. Although they had to adjust to the hotter temperatures at home, Watson and the Texans got a boost from working out in front of several hundred cheering fans.

    "The climate ... it's hot and muggy but at the end of the day we have to come out here and play football and perform and just focus on our task," he said. "So, it's always good to have the fans around and show love. They give us energy and high hopes for this season."

    The 22-year-old said he's grown a lot since arriving in Houston last season and is looking forward to building on what he did last year.

    "Just really (grown) as a person as a whole and then just the knowledge of the game," he said. "Just being able to understand the offense, understand what the defense is doing and just play faster, just go out there and play and not overthink things."

    Coach Bill O'Brien, who worked with Tom Brady when he was an assistant with the Patriots, has enjoyed watching Watson develop and is looking for ways to help him take another step.

    "I think there's areas where he and I need to grow together, like in the red area," he said. "We're a little bit behind there but we have to work together on that and see if we can execute better down there Zach Miller Jersey , but I think there's a lot of areas where he's gotten better and better, and he'll only get better and better because he works at it and the experience he gets will really help him."

    Watson is working behind a revamped offensive line this year after last year's group allowed the second-most sacks in the league. So far, he likes the way the unit is coming together.

    "Guys just building chemistry, working hard each and every day, never complaining," Watson said. "They make mistakes, but at the end of the day they correct those mistakes and don't make it twice, just like everyone else on the offense. Just guys that love to play football. They have a passion about going in ... and putting in the work, and (are) passionate about winning."

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