The NFC North comes down to the season finale at Lambeau Field, as the Minnesota Vikings attempt to win their first division title since 2009 against the Packers who are looking for their fifth consecutive title. The Vikings have struggled to beat the established NFC contenders this season, already losing to Green Bay as well as Seattle and Arizona. But they have been playing well over the past few weeks and are on a hot streak coming into the playoffs. Green Bay haven’t looked like true contenders for much of the season, with flaws across the roster. But they have managed to guarantee themselves a playoff spot thanks to a strong start. Aaron Rodgers is coming off a poor showing against Arizona, but has a history of winning big games when it matters most.
Three Keys to the Game:
Protecting Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers was sacked eight times by the Cardinals last week, and lost two forced fumbles. The Vikings have several star defensive players back from injury, with defensive tackle Linval Joseph, safety Harrison Smith, and linebacker Anthony Barr returning in the game against the Giants last week. Combined with pass rusher Everson Griffen, promising rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings have more than enough on defense to take advantage of Green Bay’s flaws.
Stopping Adrian Peterson
Peterson is the favourite to claim the league’s rushing title this season, the third of his career. He rushed for 104 yards against the Giants, and Green Bay’s defense hasn’t played the run particularly well this season. Peterson is the backbone of Minnesota’s offense, so bottling him up will be crucial to Green Bay’s chances of victory.
If the Packers do manage to bottle Peterson up, Teddy Bridgewater will need to step up in a crucial game. Bridgewater will need to have a clutch performance and carry Minnesota’s offense on his back. Minnesota’s offensive line does struggle with pass protection, making an already pressure-filled game even worse for Bridgewater.
Match-up to watch: Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks vs Eddie Lacy
The Packers have been hot and cold on offense at times this season, partly down to Lacy’s struggles. If he has another slow performance, Green Bay will have to rely on a flawed passing game to win. Bottling up Lacy early would allow the Vikings to divert resources to pressuring Aaron Rodgers. With Barr and Kendricks patrolling the middle, with help from hard-hitting safety Harrison Smith, the Vikings should be able to keep Lacy in the backfield.
Prediction: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are simply the better team right now, and have momentum after a couple of good games. Green Bay’s flaws cannot be fixed by Aaron Rodgers alone, especially against a defense like Minnesota’s.