WEEK 17: 7:30 p.m. AT Green Bay • Ch. 11 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)
One man’s prediction: Here we go. Vikings and Packers for the NFC North title. The Vikings have two lopsided wins after hanging tough against the Cardinals. The Packers just got crushed by those same Cardinals. It feels like these teams are heading in opposite directions. But that was the case in Week 11, too, and … well … this game should be much closer, but until these Vikings show they can take the Packers, I just can’t pick them.
Three for A.P.
Running back Adrian Peterson is closing in on his third career rushing title. He leads Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin, the only back with a shot at catching him, by 64 yards. A strong game from Peterson should lock it up. More importantly, it would give the Vikings the balance they didn’t have in the 30-13 loss in November. Oh, by the way, Peterson has rushed for 882 yards and six scores in eight career games at Lambeau.
Despite the presence of two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ passing game is a complete mess. So perhaps they will lean more on the running game like they did in Week 11, when supersized running back Eddie Lacy rushed for 100 yards. The Vikings have struggled to stop teams’ top running backs since then, and they likely will have to limit Lacy without nose tackle Linval Joseph, who is doubtful.
Four of Green Bay’s five starting offensive linemen are battling injuries, including left tackle David Bakhtiari, who is questionable to play Sunday night. The Vikings, who have rediscovered their pass rush the past two weeks, must take advantage. They have been getting it done without blitzing, allowing them to drop seven men into coverage. The key though, as always, will be to keep Rodgers inside the pocket, which isn’t easy.
Player to watch
Harrison Smith, Vikings
The last Viking to intercept Rodgers, way back in 2012, was Smith, who last weekend made an emphatic return from a knee and hamstring injury to record a pick-six against the Giants. Smith knows he has to pick his spots against Rodgers, one of the NFL’s savviest QBs. But if one of his gambles pays off in an interception, that would go a long way to helping the Vikings seize their first NFC North title since 2009.