It’s Vikings vs. Packers. It’s Week 17. And playoff implications are on the line. It won’t take much effort to drum up excitement for this game. The story will write itself most of the week and on Sunday, but we’ll still stick to our normal Wednesday routine and go over several Vikings-Packers storylines to watch during the week.
1. Major Playoff Implications On The Line
The Vikings can punch their ticket to the postseason with a win over Green Bay on Sunday. It would be their first postseason appearance since 2009 and it would most likely setup a rematch against Green Bay next weekend at Lambeau Field. To do that, the Vikings will have to overcome the Packers best effort because they also have something to play for – a 1st-round bye. If Green Bay wins on Sunday, not only could they knock their border rivals from the playoff picture, they can also secure a spot in the Divisional round.
2. Historic Turnaround
With a win on Sunday the Vikings will notch their 10th victory of the season, which would represent a 7-win turnaround from their 3-13 campaign a season ago. That would be the team’s biggest increase in win totals from one season to the next in team history. From 1997 to 1998, the Vikings increased their win total by 6, going from 9-7 to 15-1.
3. Game Flexed To 3:25; FOX’s #1 Crew Aboard To Broadcast Game
With so much on the line Sunday, the NFL and FOX have decided to the game from a 12:00 CT kickoff to 3:25 p.m. In addition, FOX will send its top broadcast team to Minneapolis for the game, with Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst) and Pam Oliver (sideline reporter) calling the action.
4. Adrian Peterson Chases History
Can he do it? That’s what everyone’s wondering as the final regular season game approaches and Vikings RB Adrian Peterson sits so close to history. Peterson is 102 yards from the 2,000-yard rushing mark and he’s 208 yards from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards. It’s perhaps the NFL’s top individual story of 2012, with Peterson rushing towards history less than a year removed from a serious knee injury. All the accolades and team success also has Peterson neck-and-neck with Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning for MVP talk. If Peterson tops the 2,000-yard mark, surpasses or even approaches Dickerson’s mark and the Vikings win to clinch a playoff spot, I find it hard to make a case against Peterson for MVP honors.
5. Blair Walsh Chases History, Too
If not for Peterson’s pursuit of such revered records, one could make a solid argument for K Blair Walsh being the Vikings MVP. Walsh, a rookie selected in the 6th round last April, is 32 of 25 (91.4%) on FGs for the season, including a perfect 9 of 9 from 50+. His 9 FGs of 50+ yards is a team and NFL single-season record, his 49 touchbacks on the season rank 4th in the NFL and 1st in team history, he’s already set a new Vikings rookie scoring record, and he’s just 3 made FGs from tying the team record (Gary Anderson – 1998).
6. Injury Report – Who’s In, Who’s Out?
The Packers have dealt with injuries to key players all season, especially over the course of the last two months. Last week, the Packers were without TE Tom Crabtree, RBs Alex Green and James Starks, WR Jordy Nelson, DL CJ Wilson and Jerel Worthy and CB Charles Woodson. WR Greg Jennings has missed significant time this season, several offensive linemen have been in and out of the lineup and LB Clay Matthews missed time because of a groin injury. Now, though, Green Bay is getting healthier. All of the above-mentioned players will have a good shot to be in the lineup this Sunday.
Speaking of injuries to key players, the Vikings will be watching two defensive starters closely this week. DE Brian Robison (shoulder) and CB Antoine Winfield will be on the injury report. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier expressed confidence that Winfield will make it to Sunday, but was less sure about Robison. Also, Peterson has been dealing with an abdominal injury and will be monitored all week, but Frazier said after Sunday’s win in Houston that Peterson will play on Sunday.
7. Can Vikings Pass Rush Get To Aaron Rodgers
Everyone will surely point to pass rush as the key defensively for the Vikings. The Vikings defense has been in top form the past 2 weeks, shutting down the Houston Texans last week and stifling the St. Louis Rams the week prior. Slowing down Aaron Rodgers and Co. is an entirely different matter, however. In 10 games against the Packers, Vikings DE Jared Allen has 15.0 sacks and 4 passes defensed. Can Allen register one of his trademark games against Green Bay? Everson Griffen has a career-high 5.0 sacks this season. Can he add to his total? The Vikings have utilized more pressures (LBs) and blitzes (DBs) to pressure the passer the past 2 weeks. Will the Vikings continue that trend against Green Bay? All interesting questions this week.
8. Vikings Offensive Line Comes Off Dominant Performance vs. Houston
The Vikings have started the same 5 offensive linemen for all 15 games this season, and they are set to make it 16 straight games on Sunday against Green Bay. And if that group plays against Green Bay the way they played against Houston, the Vikings will be in great shape. Here are just a few of the notable accomplishments the Vikings OL registered against a well-regarded Texans defensive front last Sunday: 11 rushing 1st downs, the most Houston has allowed all season; 34:46 time of possession compared to just 25:14 for Houston; previous high for rushing yards allowed by Houston was 158, and the Vikings rushed for 174 yards; Vikings ran the ball 42 times and Houston’s previous high allowed was 33; Vikings are now one of just three teams to register a rushing TD vs. Houston; just 1 sack allowed against a team that registered 3 per game coming into the contest.
9. Will Vikings Dome-Field Advantage Make A Difference?
The Vikings have traditionally had one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. Last year, though, they were just 1-7 at home. The tides have quickly changed this year, as the Vikings boast a 6-1 record at home and are looking to make it 7-1 after Sunday. Frazier often mentions the Mall of America Field crowd as being a difference-maker in games, and if the Vikings win on Sunday you can be sure that a raucous home crowd will have been a factor.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Blair Walsh, Brian Robison, Leslie Frazier
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