Erin Henderson Causes An Uproar for National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 24, 2012 – 3:10 pm

The following text was provided by Midori Star Media

Vikings LB Erin Henderson has taken action this season to increase the awareness and importance of saving big cats around the world.

“I am very excited to support National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative. I have always felt an inner lion roaring within me, and bringing awareness to the population decline of these majestic animals is an opportunity to share my passion and love for the king of the jungle,” Henderson said.

National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative is a comprehensive program that is dedicated to halting the decline of big cats through on-the-ground conservation projects and education by teaming up with local communities to stop poaching and to save and protect habitats. Lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards and other big cats are quickly disappearing, which could create a devastating impact on our ecosystem. The Big Cats Initiative, supported on air by Nat Geo WILD and through its Cause An Uproar awareness campaign, aims to halt the decline of big cat populations by the year 2015 and to restore them to sustainable levels.

Information can be found online at

To address this critical issue, Henderson is making a monetary donation for every sack that he registers during the 2012 regular season; he is calling it “Sacks for Cats” and is looking to inspire other NFL players to join him.

“Time is of the essence for the plight of the big cats, and I wanted to step up to provide my personal assistance. I believe strongly if we all take a stand, we can all play a part in restoring big cat populations and bring attention to the dramatic rate that lions, tigers and cheetahs are disappearing,” Henderson said.

The presence and impact of NFL professionals on the field is just as important off the field. Henderson’s hope is that his philanthropic efforts for National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative will spread and ignite support from his teammates and fans.

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Trends Favor Peterson In Matchup vs. Bears Defense

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 23, 2012 – 1:39 pm

A key subplot to Sunday’s Vikings-Bears game is Adrian Peterson vs. a stout Chicago defense. There are trends that conjure up optimism for both sides.

For example, to find the last time Adrian Peterson rushed for 100+ yards against the Chicago Bears you have to go back 5 games – to November 30 of 2008. Also, the Bears currently rank 8th in rushing yards per game allowed (95.2) and tied for 2nd in rushing TDs allowed (3). Through the first 6 games of this season, the Bears were dominant against the run, yielding just 71.0 yards per game and a total of 1 rushing TD.

More recent trends, though, favor Peterson. The NFL’s best RB is averaging 157.3 yards per game over the last 4 contests and an incredible 7.7 yards per carry over that same span. He’s the NFL’s leading rusher by 123 yards (over Marshawn Lynch), has 4 straight 100+ yards rushing games and two weeks ago tied a franchise record for consecutive games (3) with a 60-yard run. On top of all that, the Bears defense over the past 4 games has hit a snag, allowing 131.5 yards per game and 4.5 yards per attempt.

Which set of trends will prove to be prophetic? We won’t find out until midday on Sunday. Bears backers will point to the game being played at Soldier Field and their team’s recent history against Peterson. But Peterson supporters will point to the more practical evidence of the past 4 games.

There is one more notable trend to point out: the more teams run against the Bears, the most success they find. Opposing offenses ran the ball 109 times for 426 yards against Chicago over the first 6 games. Since then (4 games), opponents have run the ball 118 times for 526 yards. Quick math tells you that over the last 4 games the Bears have allowed exactly 100 more rushing yards on just 9 more carries than they allowed in the first 6 games.

But to be able to stay committed to the run, you have to be in the game. If other subplots in the Vikings-Bears matchup go in favor of Chicago, they might not have to worry about the whole Peterson vs. Bears defense subplot.

So what will happen on Sunday? Will Peterson continue his climb? Or will the Bears defense return to form and continue playing well against the NFL’s best RB? Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry. And then watch (on FOX) or listen to (on the Vikings Radio Network) or follow (on the Live Chat) the Vikings-Bears game on Sunday at noon CT.

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Harvin Listed As Doubtful; Jarius Wright Will Be Active Sunday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 23, 2012 – 1:06 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier met briefly with reporters after practice on Friday and provided an update on the probability of WR Percy Harvin returning from his ankle injury in time for this Sunday’s game in Chicago. The chances are not good that Harvin will play, as Frazier said his star WR will be listed as doubtful on the week’s final injury report.

Harvin injured his ankle against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9 and has been rehabbing and recovering since. The ankle has improved, but he’s yet to be able to participate in a practice since the injury. Harvin’s final status for the game likely won’t be declared until 90 minutes prior to kickoff, which is when teams are required to submit their list of inactive players.

Regardless of what happens with Harvin, Frazier did say that WR Jarius Wright will be active. The rookie 4th-rounder played in his first NFL regular season game two weeks ago against Detroit with Harvin sidelined. Wright responded with 3 receptions for 65 yards and 1 TD. He’ll have another chance to contribute in Chicago this weekend.

Frazier said Wright does not figure to fill in for Harvin in the kickoff return role. Marcus Sherels, AJ Jefferson and Josh Robinson (in that order) are listed as backups to Harvin in the kickoff return role.

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Bears QB Cutler Practices, “Looking Better” To Play Sunday

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 23, 2012 – 7:22 am

Early this week it was unclear who would start at QB for the Chicago Bears on Sunday, with Jay Cutler still feeling the effects of a concussion and backup Jason Campbell dealing with an injury to his ribs. But after Thursday’s practice, the picture is a bit clearer.

Cutler, who sustained the concussion two weeks ago in a loss to the Houston Texans and then missed last week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, returned to practice on a limited basis on Thursday. It was the first time Cutler had been on the field working since suffering the concussion on November 11., and it’s a big step in him returning to the field to be the Bears starter against the Vikings.

“I know you all want to know about Jay Cutler. He was able to do some things on a limited basis,” Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith said. “So it’s looking better for (him) to get him back on the football field.”

Chicago will wisely attempt to keep Cutler’s status in doubt all the way up to Sunday morning, but another clue will emerge later on Friday when the Vikings and Bears are both required to submit their final injury reports of the week.

The same can be said for the Vikings with regard to WR Percy Harvin, who is attempting to nurse an ankle injury back to health in time for Sunday’s game. Harvin has not practiced yet this week, and Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier has said multiple times this week that he’d like to see the star receiver practice before playing.

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6 Vikings-Bears Storylines To Follow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 21, 2012 – 7:33 am

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s finally time for the Vikings to flip the calendar away from their bye week and begin on-field preparations for the Chicago Bears. With 6 games to play, the NFC race is wide open. And the Vikings have an opportunity to move into a tie in the division standings with Chicago if they can get a tough road win in the Windy City.

Here are 7 Vikings-Bears storylines we’ll be chasing this week in advance of the Sunday’s showdown between division rivals Minnesota and Chicago…

1. Will Percy Play?
There’s a big question mark for the Bears offense heading into Sunday’s game (more on that next), but the Vikings also have a key offensive player dealing with an injury and dealing with uncertainty about his availability for Sunday. Percy Harvin suffered a sprained ankle in the Vikings Week 9 loss in Seattle, and the injury prevented him from playing in Week 10 against Detroit. The injury also prevented Harvin from practicing on Monday as the Vikings came back to work from their bye week. Will the injury prevent Harvin from playing this Sunday, too? Only time will tell.

2. Cutler’s Status Remains Uncertain
The Bears are in a similar situation with starting QB Jay Cutler that the Vikings are in with Harvin. Cutler sustained a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit with Texans LB Tim Dobbins in Week 10 and he had not sufficiently recovered from the concussion to play in last Monday night’s game against San Francisco. As of Wednesday morning, Cutler had still not been cleared to return, and his comments to reporters earlier in the week didn’t clear up the situation. I don’t expect much clarity on this over the next couple days, and it wouldn’t be surprising to go into the weekend not knowing if Cutler will play or not. If Cutler doesn’t play, backup QB Jason Campbell would likely start in his place. Campbell started on Monday night in San Francisco and struggled in a lopsided defeat. In the loss, Campbell was banged up as well, and if he’s unable to play it would be the newly-signed Josh McCown who would suit up.

3. Bears Looking To Fix Offensive Line Woes
For anyone who watched the Bears-49ers Monday Night Football game this past week, the most glaring weakness for Chicago was the play along their offensive line. San Francisco pressured Campbell all night, battering him from start to finish and collecting 6 sacks along the way. It was the 3rd time the Bears had allowed 6 or more sacks in a game this season, and only the Arizona Cardinals have allowed more sacks this season. It doesn’t matter who the QB is – Cutler, Campbell or Johnny Unitas – when you allow that much pressure you’re not going to move the ball down the field. Obviously the Bears will work this week to fix the issues along their line, and the Vikings will look to continue exposing whatever flaws remain. It will be a good subplot in this week’s matchup.

4. Can Adrian Peterson Continue His Climb?
What Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has done to this point in the season is remarkable. Coming off of reconstructive knee surgery, Peterson is the NFL’s rushing leader by a healthy margin (123 yards over Marshawn Lynch) and he’s actually on pace for a career-high in rushing yardage (1,804 yards). For my money through 10 games, he’s a legitimate MVP candidate and he is without question the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year. He’s returned from a serious knee injury to become arguably a better player now than he was before the injury. And he was already the NFL’s beset RB before his injury. Can Peterson continue his incredible season against Chicago? If he can, it will only add to the unbelievable season Peterson is putting together. The Bears rank 8th against the run and 5th overall on defense, so this will be a great challenge for both Peterson and Chicago’s defense.

5. Vikings Must Stay Away From The Giveaway
The calling card for the Bears this season has been their dominating defensive effort on a week-in, week-out basis. They lead the NFL in takeaways with 30, and 17 of those 30 takeaways are INTs. Incredibly, the Bears have returned 7 of those 19 INTs for TDs, also tops in the NFL. The Bears defense is not only good at taking the ball away, but they are extremely good at scoring once they do take the ball away. The Vikings have been middle of the road in giveaways, ranking tied for 15th with 16 turnovers. Of those 16 turnovers, 8 have been lost fumbles and 8 have been INTs. The key for the Vikings is not to become conservative so as to prevent turnovers. That is playing into the Bears hands and will make it hard to score. The Vikings will be cognizant of staying away from the giveaway while also choosing the right times to be aggressive in an attempt to put enough points up on the board to take pressure off their own defense and try to come away from Soldier Field with a big win. Can the Vikings strike that balance? It’s one of the biggest subplots to this matchup.
6. Can The Vikings Solve The Soldier Field Jinx?
Fans hear all the time about how hard it is to win on the road in the NFL. Many times, this can be an overblown aspect. But when you’re talking about playing on the road in Soldier Field, it’s not talked about enough. Just look at the numbers. The Vikings last won at Soldier Field in 2007, and that was thanks to late-game heroics by Adrian Peterson and Ryan Longwell. Aside from that 2007 road win in Chicago, the last time the Vikings won at Soldier Field was in 2000. That’s just two road wins against Chicago since 2000. Leslie Frazier has not defeated the Bears as the Vikings Head Coach and the Vikings haven’t logged a win over their division rivals since Brett Favre got the job done in 2009.

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10 Takes Through 10 Games

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 20, 2012 – 11:36 am

On Wednesday we’ll throw our entire focus toward Sunday’s contest against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Before we do that, though, let’s take one last chance to reflect on what’s happened over the first 10 games of the Vikings season.

This was the topic of last week’s Wobcast, as I explained my 10 takes through 10 weeks…

10. Vikings are in the playoff hunt!
A strong 4-1 start and a key win against Detroit heading into the bye has placed the Vikings in the mix for a playoff spot in the NFC. It’s quite a treat for Vikings fans to be in this position after watching their team go 9-23 the past 2 seasons. Kudos to GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Leslie Frazier for turning this organization around and heading in the right direction. The Vikings are 6-4 overall, 2-0 in the division and 4-3 in the NFC. If the playoffs started right now, the Vikings would miss it because of tie-breakers to Seattle and Tampa Bay. But the playoffs don’t start right now, so we’ll get to see if the Vikings can overcome a few teams over the next 6 weeks.

9. Dome-field advantage has returned
The Vikings were just 1-7 at home last year and suffered to a 3-13 season. This year, the Vikings dome-field advantage has returned. They are 4-1 in home games, and a big reason for that is the Mall of America Field crowd. Frazier compliments Vikings fans after each game and is genuine in his praise. He’s coached against and played against the Vikings in that building and respects the difference the home crowd can make. Good job, fans. Thanks for helping us gain that incredible dome-field advantage.

8. Youth, health has led to improvement in pass defense
The Vikings pass defense has taken a huge step forward in 2012. They were 26th in yards allowed last season and were 14th in that category after 10 games this season. What’s been the key? It’s been health and youth. CBs Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook missed 21 games combined last season, but this year they both started and remained healthy for most of the team’s first 10 games. Cook is dealing with an arm injury now, but young guys are stepping up in his absence. AJ Jefferson and this year’s 3rd-round pick – Josh Robinson – have filled the void well. Also, Harrison Smith is playing the safety position like we haven’t seen in years from a Vikings safety.

7. Percy has no mercy on opposing defenses
Simply put, I think Percy Harvin is the most dangerous offensive weapon among non-QBs in the NFL. He has 100 touches through 10 games – that’s receptions, rushes and returns – and he’s averaging 13.4 yards per touch with 5 TDs. Harvin is the best kickoff returner in the NFL, one of the best receivers in the NFL, and a good runner. There are not many (any?) better all-around threats in the NFL.

6. Vikings special teams have been outstanding, and deserve more credit
– Often times special teams is the neglected phase of football. But special teams has not been neglected by the Vikings, and in fact I’d submit that special teams has been key to the Vikings success this year. Heck, the Vikings special teams basically single-handedly won a game this year – Detroit – Week 4. A bunch of credit goes to Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer and assistant special teams coach Chris White for the work they’ve done together over the past two seasons. Through 10 games, the Vikings ranked 2nd in average drive start, 4th in kickoff return, 2nd in touchbacks on kickoffs and 9th in punt return. Special teams is something fans complain about when it’s going poorly, but forget about when it’s going well. Let’s take a moment during to appreciate the Vikings special teams play to this point. Bravo, guys.

To see the final 5 takes, which includes bold talk about Adrian Peterson and Blair Walsh, check out last week’s Wobcast.

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A Look Around The NFC North

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 20, 2012 – 7:32 am

Week 11 is officially in the books and the NFC North is now set for what should be a dramatic and exciting final six-game stretch. Every team in the division has had their bye and every team has played 10 games. Let’s take a look at where each team stands as we approach the final stretch of the 2012 regular season…

Chicago Bears
The Bears have been NFC North leaders for most of the season, but after their loss to San Francisco on Monday Night Football they no longer control the division. After starting 7-1, the Bears have lost consecutive games to quality teams (Houston, San Francisco) and now sit at 7-3, including 1-1 in the division. And it doesn’t get any easier for the Bears down the stretch, as they’ll play the Vikings twice in three weeks with Seattle sandwiched between. Then, they host the Green Bay Packers (more on them below) in Week 15 before closing out the season with consecutive road games at Arizona and Detroit. Chicago’s defense is one of the League’s best, but the offense must turn things around if they want to remain in the playoff picture. QB Jay Cutler missed this past week’s game (concussion) and the offensive line just allowed 6 sacks to the 49ers defense.

Green Bay Packers
There might not be a hotter team in the NFL right now. The Packers have won five consecutive games, a stretch that includes a thrashing of the AFC’s best team – the Houston Texans - in Week 6 and a gutty 24-20 win on the road over Detroit last week. The winning streak has them at 7-3 (2-0 in the NFC North) and has vaulted them to a tie atop the division with Chicago. Just as Chicago and Minnesota will do, the Packers will enter a key stretch of their season over the next three weeks, as they travel to play the NY Giants this Sunday before hosting the Vikings and Lions in Week 13 and Week 14. Then Green Bay closes the season with a home game vs. Tennessee sandwiched between road trips to Chicago and Minnesota.

Minnesota Vikings
Speaking of Minnesota, the Vikings come out of their bye with a 6-4 record (2-0 in the NFC North) and a challenging stretch of games staring them in the face. It begins this week in Chicago, continues next week in Green Bay, and then advances to a home game against the Bears followed by consecutive road games in St. Louis and Houston before a season finale at home against Green Bay. Yes, that slate of games is a brutal stretch. But it’s also good news because it means the Vikings control their own destiny. They are currently one game behind both Chicago and Green Bay, but they have four games against those opponents, which gives them an opportunity to methodically work their way into the playoff picture and perhaps even a division title. It all starts this week in Chicago.

Detroit Lions
What a difference five minutes can make. With 5:21 to play in the 4th quarter, the Lions led the Packers 17-14 and had a 1st and goal from the Green Bay 10. A TD would’ve sealed the victory and reestablished the Lions as a playoff contender. Detroit couldn’t find the end zone, though, and settled for a FG and 6-point lead instead. Just 2.5 minutes later, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers lofted a pass toward WR Randall Cobb in the end zone, and Green Bay took a 21-20 lead. Detroit couldn’t muster a game-winning drive of their own, and the air was let out of their 2012 season. They were close to overcoming a poor start to the season (1-3 into a Week 5 bye) with three wins in four games from Week 6 to Week 9, but two straight losses to the Vikings and Packers has ended any thought of a comeback. The loss to Green Bay dropped Detroit to 4-6, a record that includes a devastating 0-4 mark in the division. Detroit is now relegated to a spoiler role within the division (they have one game remaining against both Chicago and Green Bay) and also to trying to generate momentum to carry into 2013.

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Sullivan To Host Thanksgiving Meal At Amplatz Children’s Hospital

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 20, 2012 – 5:38 am

Vikings C John Sullivan will host an early Thanksgiving meal for young patients and their families – roughly 100 people – at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. The event will take place on Tuesday afternoon and will be hosted in a Vikings-themed room within the hospital.

In addition to the early Thanksgiving meal, the event will include several of Sullivan’s teammates visiting patients and their families who were unable to attend the dinner. Those who will join Sullivan include: Matt Kalil, Mark Asper, Troy Kropog, DeMarcus Love, Tyrone McKenzie and others.

The early Thanksgiving meal is a tradition that was initiated by former Vikings G Steve Hutchinson and his wife, Landyn. Hutchinson now plays for the Tennessee Titans, and Sullivan has stepped up to carry on the tradition. Since being drafted by the Vikings in 2008, Sullivan has been one of the most active Vikings in the community, and he’s dedicated much of his time away from the field toward reaching out to children’s hospitals.

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Can Adrian Peterson Rush For 2,000 Yards?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 19, 2012 – 7:31 am

In football, team goals always trump individual accomplishment. That is certainly the philosophy Leslie Frazier employs in guiding the Vikings, which is why the focus in Minnesota is squarely on the upcoming opponent – the Chicago Bears – and a final stretch of games that includes four of six on the road and four of six within the division.

But when you have a player the caliber of Adrian Peterson, and when you’re coming off a bye week, it’s fun to take a moment to appreciate greatness and wonder how far it can go. Consider this: Adrian Peterson has 1,128 rushing yards through 10 games, which puts him on pace for a career-best 1,804 yards. We all know he’s set a goal for himself to rush for 2,000+ yards in a season. So that begs the question, can Peterson rush for 2,000 yards this season?

I think he can. And that would be an unbelievable accomplishment, for several reasons.

First of all, there have been just 6 players in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards (OJ Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis, Chris Johnson). Second of all, and more amazingly, Peterson is on pace for his career-high in rushing yards and is pushing for the 2,000-yard mark in the same season he’s come back from a severe knee injury that he suffered in Week 16 of last season.

To reach the 2,000-yard rushing mark this season, Peterson needs to rush for 872 yards over the final 6 games, which averages out to 145.3 yards per game. It’s insane to think someone could average 145.3 yards per game over an extended stretch, especially considering Peterson himself has averaged over 100 yards per game just one other time (2008) before this season. But we must also keep in mind that Peterson can accomplish insane things (see: comeback season, 2012). Also, Peterson has averaged 157.2 rushing yards per game over his last 4 contests and that pace would put him well over the 2,000-yard mark after 6 more games.

If Peterson gets to 2,000 yards, he will most certainly have earned it. The Vikings have 2 games remaining against the NFL’s 5th-best rushing defense (Chicago) and they face the NFL’s 2nd-best rushing defense (Houston) on the road. The other 2 opponents – Green Bay and St. Louis – rank 11th and 17th against the run, respectively. While these teams have generally done well against the run this season, there have been times of weakness. Both Chicago and Houston allowed Chris Johnson to run for 141 yards against them and St. Louis permitted 118 to Marshawn Lynch and 127 to Stevan Ridley.

Some may call it a stretch, but Peterson is within reach of 2,000 rushing yards. It would require an unbelievable final 6 games by Peterson to get there, but we all know #28 is certainly capable of accomplishing the unbelievable.

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Sneak Peak At The Next Six Weeks

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 18, 2012 – 11:17 am

The Vikings and their fans have no game to sweat out today, which means there is no opponent to worry about. And since there’s no single opponent to concentrate on today, that means we can take a look ahead at all of the Vikings remaining opponents.

When the Vikings return to work this upcoming week following their bye this week, there will be six weeks remaining in the regular season. The Vikings will play four different teams over those six weeks, including two division opponents (Chicago, Green Bay) and perhaps the best team in the AFC (Houston). The Vikings will play four of those six games on the road, including the next two, and then they will finish up at home against border rival Green Bay.

Here’s a brief week-by-week look at the remaining schedule…

Nov. 25 at Chicago
The Vikings return from their bye week to face a tall task – play at Soldier Field against a Bears team that will likely enjoy the return of their starting QB – Jay Cutler – from a concussion. It was 2007 the last time the Vikings won at Soldier Field.

Dec. 2 at Green Bay
The final month of the regular season begins with a bang, as the Vikings travel to Lambeau Field for their first contest vs. the Packers of 2012. Regardless of the outcome in Chicago, this game in Green Bay figures to be HUGE for both teams as they chase a playoff bid.

Dec. 9 vs. Chicago
A challenging post-bye stretch of games continues for the Vikings as they host Chicago and will play their second game against the Bears in three weeks. Aside from the Monday Night Football game that week, which features the Houston Texans traveling to New England for a showdown with the Patriots, this matchup is perhaps the NFL’s most intriguing.

Dec. 16 at St. Louis
Before the season, this was a game many had singled out as one the Vikings should win. But the Rams have come to life under Jeff Fisher, and this game figures to be a tightly-contested one. St. Louis has taken a big step forward defensively, and their offense features one of the NFL’s best RBs – Steven Jackson – along with a QB who was the #1 overall pick in 2010. I think the Vikings will be very alive in the playoff hunt at this point, and this game will test their mettle as finish line nears.

Dec. 23 at Houston
Speaking of tests, the Vikings travel to Houston in Week 16 to face a team many will favor to come out of the AFC to appear in the Super Bowl. The Texans are great or solid in all areas of the game. There’s a chance Houston could have everything buttoned up by this point, so perhaps they’ll rest some of their best players. But it’s best not to count on that…this game will represent a great challenge for the Purple.

Dec. 30 vs. Green Bay
The NFL has given football fans a great Holiday present this season by setting the stage for a great finish in the NFC North. The Packers and Vikings will battle at Mall of America Field in Week 17 to close what will surely have been another spectacular regular season. If there is any drama to be had in the season’s final week, what better way to celebrate it than Vikings vs. Packers?

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