With no Thursday night or Monday night games on the Week 17 schedule, Sunday night’s contest between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings is the featured game of the week. When the two teams meet at Lambeau Field, they will determine the winner of the NFC North.
The two rivals share a 10-5 record atop the division with one regular-season game remaining. Green Bay has been the favorite to win the division for the entire season, but they have not looked like the Super Bowl contender that many experts predicted them to be at the start of the season. Minnesota has been one of the biggest surprises this season, winning three more games than they did in 2014.
After losing a 30-point blowout to the Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay has lost five of their last nine games, going 1-3 against winning teams. The Vikings have won two games in a row by a combined 53 points. Green Bay is a three-point favorite, according to vegasinsider.com, and the over/under is 46.5 points.
A lot is riding on the outcome of Sunday night’s game. Not only will the contest determine the winner of the NFC North, but it will help sort out the playoff matchups on wild-card weekend.
Both teams control their fate in terms of seeding. The winner is guaranteed to be the NFC’s No.3 seed, but their opponent will be determined by the game between the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. If Seattle loses, the Seahawks are locked into the No.6 seed, meaning they’ll visit the NFC North winner in the first round of the playoffs. That would leave Sunday night’s loser to visit the Washington Redskins.
A victory for Seattle would make another Packers-Vikings rematch possible next week. If both Seattle and Minnesota win, the Packers will be the No.5 seed and head to Washington. But since the Seahawks hold the tiebreaker over the Vikings, a loss for Minnesota would make them the No.6 seed and force them to visit Green Bay two weeks in a row.
Minnesota Seeking Revenge
The Vikings had a chance to take a two-game lead in the division when they faced the Packers for the first time on Nov. 22. But Green Bay won in blowout fashion, and Minnesota will have to play much better the second time around if they hope to win the NFC North.
The Packers defeated the Vikings 30-13 with a dominant defensive performance. They put pressure on Teddy Bridgewater all game long, sacking him six times. More importantly, Green Bay didn’t allow Adrian Peterson to get going. The NFL’s leading rusher carried the ball just 13 times for 45 yards, posting his third-lowest total of 2015. He also fumbled the ball, committing the game’s only turnover.
Green Bay won in spite of a subpar Aaron Rodgers performance. The quarterback completed just 16 of his 34 passes for 212 yards, though he did throw for two touchdowns and no interceptions. Eddie Lacy had 22 carries for 100 yards in what was the first time he reached the century mark all season.
Not the Same Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers began the season widely regarded as the league’s No.1 or No.2 quarterback, but that hasn’t translated into much of a passing game for the Packers. Last year’s MVP hasn’t put up his typical numbers since the first quarter of the season, and it could keep Green Bay from repeating as division champs.
In last week’s loss to Arizona, Rodgers completed just 15 of 28 passes for 151 yards. It marked the ninth consecutive game in which he was unable to post a passer rating of 100.0, and it was the fourth time since Nov. 1 that Rodgers had a quarterback rating of less than 70.0. Jordy Nelson has been injured all year and Rodgers hasn’t gotten much help from his receivers, but the veteran quarterback is certainly part of the problem. If if wasn’t for his last-second, 61-yard Hail Mary against the Detroit Lions, Rodgers would have six straight games with less than 220 passing yards.
Green Bay ranks 26th in passing yards, and Minnesota has one of the best pass defenses. The Vikings rank ninth in yards allowed through the air, and they are tied for ninth with 38 sacks. Only four quarterbacks have been sacked more than Rodgers this season.
Rodgers won’t put up big numbers, but Lacy could have a big game against a subpar run defense. Bridgewater won’t be able to make enough plays to help Minnesota win on the road in what could be a low-scoring affair.
Green Bay over Minnesota, 23-17