GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Lambeau Field on Sunday night is the best venue for the Packers to avenge a frustrating loss to the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium six weeks ago.
And it may go down as one of the coldest games in the storied 61-year history of the Packers-Vikings rivalry, as game-time temperatures are expected just above zero with wind chill hovering around minus-10 degrees.
The 12-3 Packers need to win to retain the coveted NFC’s top seed and the first-round playoff bye that goes with it. The 7-8 Vikings may be in a must-win scenario to have a shot at a final playoff spot, depending on the outcome of the 8-7 Philadelphia Eagles-Washington game on Sunday afternoon.
Minnesota beat Green Bay at Lambeau last season as Dalvin Cook dominated with a performance for the ages with 226 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in a 28-22 victory.
Fast forward to November 21 of this season and it was receiver Justin Jefferson who torched the Packers defense, catching eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-31 victory. Quarterback Kirk Cousins lit up the secondary for 341 yards and three touchdowns but also benefitted from two potential dropped interceptions by Green Bay defenders.
While Cook and Jefferson will get their yards, the top priorities for the Green Bay defense are to somewhat contain the two Minnesota playmakers and minimize their explosive plays. Stopping the run and forcing Cousins to pass in the cold and under pressure could lead to turnovers, a facet the Packers defense has excelled at this season.
The Vikings may have lost star receiver, Adam Thielen, for the season on Tuesday after he underwent ankle surgery, but the team was bolstered a day later with the activation of Cook off the COVID reserve list.
For Minnesota, a loss at Lambeau could not only cost them a playoff berth, but the jobs of head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman may be on the line if they miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the last eight years.
The Packers defense will be tested and have to show marked improvement Sunday night against the run, as Joe Barry’s unit was overwhelmed on Christmas by Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, who accounted for 184 total yards and averaged 7.4 yards per rush (17 carries for 126 yards, 1 TD) and 19.3 yards per reception (3 for 58).
The Vikings defense will have its hands full with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams and a 1-2 running punch of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. This game could be tailor-made for the bullish Dillon to help Green Bay control the clock and keep the Vikings offense on the bench.
The Packers added four more players to the COVID reserve list yesterday, but also activated cornerback Jaire Alexander (game status uncertain), and Marquez-Valdes Scantling was also activated and will boost the offense.
Minnesota is the only team to beat Green Bay in head coach Matt LaFleur’s tenure, and the Vikings have not swept the season series from their border rivals since 2017.
Week 17 NFL Picks
Which playmakers will make the most explosive plays: Rodgers/Adams/Jones/Dillon or Cousins/Jefferson/Cook?
Pressuring Cousins and creating turnovers are keys to giving Rodgers and the offense short fields to capitalize in during this physical contest that goes down to the bitter cold end.