Both the Vikings and Packers could be looking at some dire playoff prospects with a loss Sunday night. In a matchup of two teams trying to keep their seasons on track, the Vikings defense will help them prevail at home before a trip to New England next Sunday.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Battle for survival in NFC North
With the Bears now 8-3, the Vikings and Packers — both popular preseason picks to win the NFC North — are fighting to stay in the race. A Packers loss could cripple their playoff chances, while a Vikings loss would put the Bears 2½ games up with five to go.
Road woes, meet prime-time struggles
The Packers are 0-5 this season away from Lambeau Field. They’ll face a Vikings team that’s lost all three of its night games this season, including last week at Soldier Field.
Jones sparks Packers’ run game
Since the Packers and Vikings last met in Week 2, the Packers have found a complement to Rodgers in running back Aaron Jones, who leads the league with a 6.4-yard average. On the occasions the Packers commit to the running game, they’ve had a good weapon with Jones, and the Vikings will have to be aware of him.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings C Pat Elflein vs. Packers NT Kenny Clark
With Mike Daniels out because of a foot injury, the key to the Vikings establishing a rushing game against Green Bay’s 26th-ranked run defense will be handling Clark, who’s making a Pro Bowl bid during an impressive third season that has included a career-high five sacks and seven tackles for loss.
Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes vs. Packers WR Davante Adams
Rhodes figures to shadow the Packers’ best receiver, who had eight catches for a modest 64 yards in the teams’ Week 2 tie. Adams is coming off his best game of the season — 10 catches for 166 yards Thursday night in Seattle — and he’ll get plenty of Rodgers’ attention as the Packers quarterback continues to look for receivers he can trust.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
7 The number of times Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has recorded a passer rating of 130 or higher against the Vikings — the most in NFL history against Minnesota.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF …
They’re able to pressure Rodgers, keep him from finding a rhythm with an ever-shifting receiving corps, and stop Jones from breaking big runs against them, while moving the ball consistently against the Packers’ depleted defensive front.
THE PACKERS WILL WIN IF …
Rodgers has one of those days — rare this season — where it looks like no defense, no matter how sound it is, can stop him. A defense that has just 12 takeaways this season could also help things by creating a turnover or two against a Vikings team that has struggled to care of the ball this season.
Prediction: Vikings win, 24-20
Win Probability 55 percent