Every game during the 16-game National Football League season are big, but when the final game between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings comes down to a matchup between division rivals with playoff implications – well, it doesn’t get much bigger.
The Packers invade the Mall of American Field to take on the Vikings in a 3:25 p.m. start. Here’s how the staffers here at Lombardiave.com see today’s game – but before reading on, take the poll:
Jason Hirschhorn: As students of history, every so often we’re presented with grand parallels between the current day and years past. This week’s Packers-Vikings game is one such parallel.
In the final week of the 2002 regular season, the Green Bay Packers played an injury-riddled New York Jets with a chance to secure a first round bye. The Jets, 8-7 entered the game, faced a win-and-in scenario. Having won their last four games and 12 overall, it was presumed that mighty Green Bay would steamroll New York.
That’s not exactly what happened.
The Jets kept things close through the first half and exploded in the second, leaving a bewildered Packers team in its wake. That loss transformed the Packers from the top seed into the mere also-ran division winner. Adding further insult, the team would go on to lose the first home game at Lambeau Field to Michael Vick and the upstart Falcons.
This certainly does not guarantee the Vikings will defeat the Packers. It simply demonstrates how even when a team as hot as the Packers has a chance to secure a major playoff advantage, nothing is guaranteed. The Vikings can win this Sunday, and even a fully prepared Packers team may not be able to bring home a win. Such is the norm in the NFL. With much reluctance, I’ll predict the Vikings pull it off.
Vikings 28 – Packers 27
Ray Rivard: This is a must win for the Packers and a gotta win for the Vikings. The Packers are already in the tournament, the Vikings have to win to get in. Both teams have major incentive, the game is indoors and it’s a game that was moved from its noon start to the late start for good reason – it should be a great game.
Though the Vikings are playing on their home turf, come in with great momentum and have a running back looking to break the league rushing record against a hated rival, it won’t happen. If there’s one team in the league that can play as well on turf as well as they can in the elements it’s the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers. Rodgers is lights out in domes and he’ll feel right at home in the Mall of America. I see Rodgers showing why he’s the reigning NFL MVP and a candidate for that same title yet again.
Bolstered by revitalized offensive and defensive lines, the Packers will win the game in the trenches and on special teams. The Packers will demonstrate why they have swept division rivals two years straight and will show why they are one of the favorites to take it all the way to the Super Bowl.
The Viking keep it close in the second half, but using their own game against them, the Packers control the clock with a solid running attack in the second half.
Packers 28 – Vikings 20
Bill Walton: The Packers will be playing for a first round bye in the playoffs when they take on Minnesota this Sunday. I’m not entirely convinced that the bye is the best thing for them. The momentum the team has today might be lost if they end up with a week off before they start the playoffs. There are several other playoff implications associated with the game. If the Packers do lose, they’ll still be in the playoffs due to having won the NFC North. However, potential playoff berths for Minnesota and Chicago as well as the seeding for San Francicso are all tied to the outcome of Packers-Vikings and other results.
With Clay Matthews, Mike Neal, and probably Jordy Nelson back for the game the Packers will be as healthy as they have been since week six this season. Randall “Cobbernicus” Cobb and his sore ankle and enormou brain will be a game time decision. The obvious defensive priority is to control Adrian Peterson as much as possible. It will take a team commitment to tackle aggressively in order to even come close. Peterson had the majority of his yards in the first game this year after initial contact. However, I think it really comes down to red zone defense. If Peterson has a good day running only between the 30s the Vikings won’t win the game.
Wife Deneen, looking forward to watching Claymaker do his “Magic Mike” (Magic Clay?) sack dance, picks this one 23-17 Packers. Son John, who along with his father will cover his eyes when Matthews dances, sees the Packers winning big with a 42-28 outcome. I think it will be more like 33-14 Packers. Go Pack GO!
Thomas Marquardt: If the Packers come out like this is a playoff game, it shouldn’t be a contest. Granted, Adrian Peterson racked up 210 yards at Lambeau, but a big chunk of that came on his 82-yard TD run in the first half. Even with that, the Packers still put up a W. Christian Ponder stinks on ice and without Percy Harvin, he stinks even more than that. The Packers won’t completely shut down AP, but they certainly have nothing to fear from the Vikings passing attack.
Defensively, the Vikings shut down Houston on the road last week. That was impressive, even considering Houston’s inflated status in the mainstream sports media, but I don’t expect the same this week. The Packers are peaking at the right time (both offensively and defensively) and I don’t expect a hiccup at this stage in the season.
PACKERS 31 – Vikings 13
Patrick Hughes: In my eyes this game is every bit as important for the Packers as a playoff elimination contest. A win provides the spoils of a bye and a home game. But more important if the Packers play well on both sides of the ball it propels them into the playoffs with some forward momentum.
It is an opportunity for guys who have been sidelined, such as Nelson and Jennings, the opportunity to sync up with Aaron Rodgers. A strong performance by Finley would give him confidence, and believe it or not he needs some. The running game can continue to assert its presence and demand respect. Can you imagine what holding Adrian Peterson to a sub-100 yard rushing game would do for the psyche of the Packers’ defense?
The Vikings, on the other hand, are not about to roll over. You can bet the Vikes are hungry for a playoff berth. Not to mention Adrian Peterson has Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record in his sights. You can take it to the bank that he is going to be coming like a freight train on every single handoff. And behind that train is going to be the roar of the crowd at the Metrodome or whatever they are calling that Glad Bag these days.
This one is going to be dogfight from start to finish. The Packers cannot give the Vikings anything, no turnovers. Conversely the Packers defense needs to force Vikings QB into giving the ball to the Green and Gold. I have a hunch Mike Neal, CMIII and Casey Hayward will all have a big game. On offense look for the three-headed monster running attack to continue to plow forward. I am also thinking Finley, Jennings and Nelson connect with Rodgers for big plays.
Packers 28, Vikings 20.