The Green Bay Packers travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings in a key NFC North matchup on Monday night, which has a host of playoff implications. The Packers lead the Vikings by one game in the standings, thanks in large part to Green Bay's 21-16 victory over the Vikings back in week two. The Packers have already clinched a playoff spot and the Vikings are almost assured of one, but there is still plenty to play for in this game.
Packers look to wrap up division championshipThe Green Bay Packers punched their ticket to the NFL's postseason with a 21-13 victory over the Chicago Bears last week. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a subpar performance against the Bears, completing less than half of his passing attempts (16-33) for just 203 yards. He did throw one touchdown pass but had his second-lowest passer rating of the season at 78.2. The future Hall of Famer is having yet another solid season, throwing for 3,463 yards and 24 touchdown passes. His two interceptions are the lowest total in the league this season, and he has a passer rating of 100.4, which, if it stays above 100, would be the eighth time in his career that he has finished a season with a rating in triple digits.
"I love being 11-3," Rodgers said on ESPN.com. "I think the performance was a little up and down but I thought we did some really good things. We just gotta be a little more opportunistic when we have opportunities."
Third-year running back Aaron Jones scored two rushing touchdowns last week against the Bears to move his league-leading total to 14 for the season. This has been his most productive season, as he has gained 830 yards rushing and has 45 receptions for 425 yards. Despite missing four games this season, Davante Adams leads the receiving corps with 63 receptions for 788 yards this season. Kicker Mason Crosby has been nearly perfect this season, making 16 of 17 field goals and all 38 extra points.
The Packers are one of four NFC teams with an 11-3 record fighting for one of the conference's two bye weeks in the first round of the playoffs. They currently hold the second seed and can win the division by beating the Vikings on Monday. By winning their final two games, they will assure themselves of at least the number two seed and a first-round bye. The Packers have lost their last three trips to Minnesota by an average score of 21-14, and haven't scored more than 17 points in any of those games.
Vikings look to remain hotAfter beginning the season 2-2 the Vikings have put themselves in position to get back to the playoffs after missing the postseason last year. They have won eight of their last 10 games, with their only losses in that stretch coming to the Seahawks by seven and the Chiefs by three. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has had an outstanding season for the Vikings. He ranks in the top 10 of the NFL in passing yards (3,481--10th), touchdown passes (25--tied for seventh), fewest interceptions (five--tied for fourth), and passer rating (111.1--fourth). In their 39-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, last week Cousins threw for 207 yards, one touchdown, and an interception. It was the defense that was the big story, though. Minnesota forced seven Charger turnovers, the first time the Vikings have done that since 1995.
Third-year running back Dalvin Cook has had a breakout year for the Vikings, with 1,135 yards rushing (seventh in the NFL) and 13 touchdowns (third in the NFL). He is questionable with a shoulder injury, but he should be good to go for the prime-time matchup. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has already set a career-high in yards receiving with 1,073, and he is fourth in the league with a 17.9 yards per catch average. Kicker Dan Bailey has only missed two field goals on the season (22-24) but has missed four extra points (38-42).
The Vikings may clinch a playoff spot before they ever take the field on Monday night. A loss by the Los Angeles Rams to the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night puts the Vikings in the playoffs. If the Rams win, then just one victory in the last two games for the Vikings gives them a playoff spot. The Vikings can still win the NFC North (and possibly a first-round bye) if they win on Monday night and next week versus the Bears, and the Packers lose to the Detroit Lions next week.
"It's still all up for grabs," said Cousins on ESPN.com. "Ten wins is a good place to be. We've put ourselves in a position to have a lot to play for these last two games."
Trends found on covers.com:
- The Vikings are 2-11 ATS in their last 13 Monday night games
- The Packers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games versus a team with a winning record