One man's prediction: Packers 27, Vikings 21: The Vikings (9-6) have every reason to believe they can hang around and perhaps pull the surprise that will push them into the playoffs. But the Packers (11-4) have one big reason to feel superior: Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP, who has 20 TD passes and only four interceptions in nine starts against the Vikings.
It will take a monumental effort -- 208 yards to be exact -- for Adrian Peterson to set the NFL's single-season rushing record. But Peterson did erupt for 210 yards against Green Bay four weeks ago, busting off big-gain runs of 82, 48 and 23 yards. So, yeah, Eric Dickerson should remain on call for a potential congratulatory message. Said Peterson, "Deep down inside I feel like I'll get it."
Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams has stressed all week the need to "not let the top off the defense." Which means the Vikings will structure their coverages to limit Green Bay's explosive downfield passing plays. They did a decent job of that four weeks ago with Rodgers needing 41 dropbacks to throw for 286 yards. "There weren't any coverage busts, any times where we gave them cheap plays," Williams noted. "So you take some solace in that. But still, we gave up too many points."
A frustrating 23-14 loss at Lambeau Field four weeks ago could have been the torpedo that sunk the Vikings' playoff ship. Instead, they drew encouragement from their effort and camaraderie and aimed to immediately clean up their costly mistakes. The aftermath: three consecutive convincing victories that have heightened the team's confidence. "We knew we left a few game-changing plays out there in Green Bay," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "And this season when we've played right and true, everyone has seen how good we can be."
MANO-A-MANO: MATCHUP TO WATCH
Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews vs. Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil
About Matthews The USC product has 12 sacks in 11 starts and was named this week to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl.
About Kalil The USC product anchors a line that has given up 31 sacks (13th in the NFL) while opening holes for 161.1 rushing yards per game.
Who has the edge? Kalil. Only once this year has Kalil truly felt like a rookie -- against Chicago's Julius Peppers, who the left tackle admits opened his eyes with quickness, smarts and an array of moves. Matthews presents a different challenge in Green Bay's 3-4 defense, but the rookie should hold his own.
THE BIG NUMBER
12 Consecutive NFC North games won by Green Bay, dating back to a 7-3 loss to Detroit on Dec. 12, 2010. Rodgers has a 22-6 career record as a starter in division games.
Jarius Wright, Vikings: If an upset bid is to materialize, the Vikings might need a spark from the versatile rookie. Wright had five catches for 53 yards plus an 8-yard, end-around run in last week's win in Houston.