Playoff scenarios are on the line for both sides when division rivals meet in Minnesota, as the Vikings host the Green Bay Packers in Week 17 on late Sunday afternoon. With a victory, the Vikings clinch a spot in the postseason, while the Packers can ensure a first-round bye and the second seed in the NFC with a victory.
Whoever loses, their respective situations will still be up in the air depending on the outcome of other games on Sunday. It will take a lot of help for Minnesota to reach the postseason, as the Chicago Bears can swipe their spot with a win over the Detroit Lions coupled with a Vikings' loss.
Meet the Minnesota Vikings
All eyes will be on running back Adrian Peterson, who is 102 yards away from a 2,000-yard rushing season and 208 yards shy of the single-season rushing record. In Week 13's loss at Green Bay, Peterson churned for 210 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Christian Ponder struggled in that last contest against the Packers, completing 12-of-25 throws for 119 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Defensively, the Vikings also surrendered 152 yards and a touchdown to the Packers on the ground.
Meet the Green Bay Packers
Green Bay has won four in a row and nine of their last 10, putting themselves in position for a possible first-round bye in the playoffs. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, named the NFC's Pro Bowl starter, leads the NFL with a quarterback rating of 106.2 and is second in the league with 35 touchdown passes.
The Packers' defense, with the recent addition of Clay Matthews who is back from an injury, is rounding into form. During their current four-game winning streak, Green Bay has allowed 14, 20, 13 and seven points, respectively.
Local Takes: Vikings
Eric J. Thompson from the Daily Norseman says this game could come down to Christian Ponder:
"We have to hope that the Packers will getting a better shot from Christian Ponder as well. You can never pin blame for a loss on one player, but Ponder came pretty damn close in the 23-14 loss at Lambeau. His two game-changing, drive-crushing interceptions along with a bunch of other poor passes were the main difference in a very winnable game. The Vikes don't need Ponder to match Rodgers yard-for-yard. What they do need is a much more efficient game with far fewer mistakes."
Local Takes: Packers
Devin Shanley of Acme Packing Company says Green Bay's receiving corps will put the Vikings' secondary to the test:
"The Packers receiving corp versus the Vikings secondary is still a match-up that can be exploited. If Jones can continue to step up, as well as the Packers getting back the talented Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb , then the Packers should be able to find the match-ups to exploit. More than the depth though, it's going to take guys like James Jones to be able to free up from Chris Cook in order for the Packers to pull away."
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
@StribDW - Dan Wiederer, Minnesota Vikings beat writer for the Star Tribune.
@TomSilverstein - Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter / Green Bay Packers beat.
MM: WR Randall Cobb did some rehab work and then treatment. Weill go through testing on Friday and may decide then or on Saturday for Minn.— tom silverstein (@TomSilverstein) December 27, 2012
The Packers still have something to play for -- a first-round bye. Their scenario is easy: if they win, they get the No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and will host a Divisional round match-up. The Vikings, too, are in the playoff hunt, needing a win to stay in the picture. The other story in this game is Adrian Peterson's chase for 2,000 yards. He's at 1,898 right now, putting him 102 yards away from 2,000, and 207 yards away from tying Eric Dickerson's NFL record.
The pick: 33-24, Packers.
The Packers opened the week as three-point favorites on the road, according to OddsShark. The line has since moved further in their direction, as Green Bay is currently favored by 3½ points. The over/under point total for the contest began the week at 46½ and now sits at 45½.
The Vikings will be in the playoffs with a win; if they lose, they aren't eliminated, but they'll need lots of help. Green Bay, on the other hand, will be taking next week off with a victory in Minnesota, but will be in the postseason either way.