MINNESOTA VIKINGS (11-3) AT GREEN BAY PACKERS (7-7)
KICKOFF: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Lambeau Field. TV: NFLN, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 112th regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 59-50-2. The Vikings are 23-31-2 against the Packers in Wisconsin. The last two years at Lambeau Field couldn’t have gone any more differently. Two years ago, they met in a prime-time season finale to decide the division; the Vikings won 20-13. Last year, the Vikings needed to win to stay in the playoff race; the Packers won 38-25. The Vikings are 1-2 against the Packers at Lambeau under Mike Zimmer. The teams have played twice in the playoffs — both wild-card games at Green Bay. The Vikings won during the 2004 season, the Packers during the 2012 season.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Despite the 34-7 rout of the Bengals last week, the Vikings tied their season high for penalties, with 11. Six on offense were momentum stoppers. If they limit the penalties and play another turnover-free game, the Vikings should be able to control the Packers.
If they can stop Green Bay’s running game, the pass rush should torment Brett Hundley.
When the Packers and Vikings met in Week 6, Minnesota knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game and Hundley threw three interceptions. Look for the Packers to do whatever possible to take the ball out of Hundley’s hands and lean on running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. That probably won’t be easy with Minnesota ranking second in the NFL in run defense and second in total defense. But trying to stop Hundley from making critical mistakes might be Green Bay’s best way to pull off an upset.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Packers WR Jordy Nelson vs. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes. Confusion reigned on the field and in the locker room after the Vikings lost to the Packers 38-25 in Green Bay last Christmas Eve. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked why Rhodes wasn’t covering Nelson during some of the plays. Zimmer said he was supposed to. In the locker room afterward, Rhodes said the players came up with a plan on their own. Nobody seemed to be on the same page when it came to explaining what happened on some of the coverages that allowed Nelson to catch nine balls for 154 yards and two touchdowns. There won’t be much confusion this time. Expect Rhodes, who’s now a two-time Pro Bowler, to shadow Nelson, even though Nelson’s numbers are down (471 yards, six touchdowns) and Aaron Rodgers is out.
–Vikings RT Mike Remmers vs. Packers OLB Clay Matthews. Remmers returned last week after missing five games because of injuries. He missed three because of a concussion and two because of a lower-back injury that’s still lingering. Remmers did OK in his return, but that game was at home against a disinterested Bengals team. Prime time in Lambeau could be a different story. Matthews has a team-high 7.5 sacks and will no doubt want to inflict some pain against the team that essentially ruined Green Bay’s season by knocking Rodgers out for seven games earlier this season. Matthews didn’t practice Wednesday because of a hamstring injury. If he’s able to play, he will test whether Remmers is back to full strength.
THURSDAY INJURY REPORT
–Out: CB Tramaine Brock Sr. (foot)
–Questionable: CB Mackensie Alexander (rib), T Riley Reiff (ankle), S Andrew Sendejo (ankle)
GREEN BAY PACKERS
–Out: WR Davante Adams (concussion), CB Demetri Goodson (hamstring)
–Doubtful: LB Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder)
–Questionable: G Jahri Evans (knee), CB Davon House (shoulder/back), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Vikings WR Adam Thielen. A year ago at Lambeau Field, Thielen had 12 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns. It was the fourth-highest total for receiving yards in franchise history, and the most ever by a Viking against the Packers. This year, he leads the Vikings with 83 catches for 1,191 yards and four touchdowns.
FAST FACTS: Vikings QB Case Keenum has 1,609 passing yards (268.2 per game), 13 TDs and four interceptions in his past six games. He aims for his fifth game in a row with two or more passing TDs. He has a 100-plus passer rating in five of the past six games. … RB Latavius Murray had 104 scrimmage yards (76 rushing) and a rushing TD last week. He has five rushing TDs in the past six games. … DE Everson Griffen ranks fourth in the NFL with 13 sacks. In his past six games on the road, he has seven sacks and two forced fumbles. He has five sacks and two forced fumbles in his past five games against Green Bay. He aims for his fifth game in a row against a division foe with a sack. … Packers QB Brett Hundley has six TDs and one interceptions in his past three starts. … RB Jamaal Williams has five TDs in the past four games. He’s tied for third among NFC rookies with six TDs. … LB Clay Matthews has five sacks in his past four games. He has six sacks and two forced fumbles in his past five games at home against Minnesota.
PREDICTION: After being eliminated from the playoffs last week, the Packers cashed it in by putting Rodgers on IR for the last two games. The Vikings can still claim home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs with two wins and some help, and they will hold up their end of the bargain on a cold Saturday night in Wisconsin.