The Minnesota Vikings already have wrapped up the NFC North title but there still is plenty at stake when they pay a visit to the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night. While Green Bay is out of playoff contention, the Vikings are in the hunt for a first-round bye and have an outside shot at home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
While Minnesota would need Philadelphia to lose twice to have a chance to secure the No. 1 overall seed, it will clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Packers and a loss or tie by Carolina. The Vikings received a boost when Green Bay was knocked out of the playoff chase and quarterback Aaron Rodgers was placed on injured reserve, but they are not taking their bitter division rivals lightly. “I feel like any team that’s not in it, that should be their mentality. Be the spoiler,” said defensive tackle Linval Joseph, one of Minnesota’s four Pro Bowl selections. “Be the team who has the opportunity to expose that team. Right now, we’re playing this game not to be exposed.” Rodgers, who returned from a broken collarbone in last week’s 31-24 at Carolina, went on injured reserve Tuesday — one day after the Packers were eliminated from the playoff chase for the first time since 2008.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Vikings -9. O/U: 40.5
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (11-3): Case Keenum had a pedestrian performance against the Packers two months ago, but he has posted a passer rating above 100 in five of the last six games, including a 138.4 mark last week when he completed a season-high 87 percent (20 of 23, 2 TDs) of his passes. Wideout Adam Thielen, also named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, had nine catches in the first meeting this season and torched Green Bay for a career-high 202 yards with 12 catches and two TDs last December at Lambeau Field. The backfield tandem of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon continues to supply outstanding production, with each going over 100 yards from scimmage last weekend. The Vikings lead the NFC in both points (17.3) and total yards (283.9) yards, and are yielding 85.3 yard on the ground.
ABOUT THE PACKERS (7-7): After Rodgers had his collarbone broken in the first meeting against the Vikings, Brett Hundley stepped in and threw three interceptions while being sacked four times in a 23-10 loss. Hundley did get better as the season progressed, going 3-4 as a starter and tossing six touchdowns versus one pick in his last three games, but he could be without the services of top wide receiver Davante Adams, who is in the concussion protocol after taking an illegal hit to the head in last weekend’s loss. Wideout Jordy Nelson had only 22 catches in Hundley’s seven starts, but Randall Cobb has come alive with 15 receptions and a TD over the past two games. The Packers are allowing an average of 23.8 points and have held only once team (Chicago, twice) under 20 points since Week 1.
1. Keenum has five games this season with a passer rating of at least 115 and completion percentage of 70, tying Brett Favre and Daunte Culpepper’s franchise record.
2. Nelson has seven touchdowns in his last nine games against Minnesota.
3. Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph has at least one TD reception in four straight games.
PREDICTION: Vikings 23, Packers 19