The final game of the NFL regular season has plenty riding on it. But the pressure involved could thwart the attacking creativity of both teams according to our analyst Neil Harvey...
"Minnesota possess quality in the secondary. They´re not half as good though at stopping the run. And so the pragmatic call here is for the Packers to let Eddie Lacy lead their attack, just as he did to great effect the last time these teams met"
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
With 10-5 records, both teams are already guaranteed their places in the postseason. But the NFC North crown is still up for grabs and is well worth winning, bringing with it the guarantee of home advantage in the first round of the play-offs. Awaiting the losers, the daunting task of a road trip on wildcard weekend.
When these sides met in Week 11, the Vikings were in form and Green Bay were trending down. Yet it was the Packers who came away from Minnesota with a 30-13 victory. And we could see a similar situation this time round. The Vikings are in good shape, having trounced the Giants last weekend, that itself off the back of a big win over Chicago. Green Bay meanwhile are once again faltering, comprehensively outplayed by Arizona last week in a 38-8 loss.
So will history repeat itself? Well, that Week 11 showdown was notable for the performances of the running backs, who did the exact opposite of what we expected. The NFL's number one rusher, Adrian Peterson, put up just 45 yards. That was dismal by his standards and his third lowest effort of the season. Packers RB Eddie Lacy meanwhile, stunned everyone by defying the countless fat-boy jibes to produce his first 100 yard rushing game of the season.
On paper there's not much to separate the sides. They have similar defenses. And on offense, Minnesota can boast superiority with their ground attack, while Green Bay have dominance through the air. Picking the winner of any game though is really all about the match-ups. For example, Green Bay's weakness to a strong passing game was exposed last week by Arizona. It was a vulnerability they simply couldn't overcome. Yet it's not a problem they should face in any way against a Minnesota side that possesses the NFL´s last-but-one ranked passing attack.
On top of that, the Packers have been pretty tough on the run, allowing only four 100-yard rushers in 15 games. And as much as Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater may beg to differ, the Vikings' offense begins and ends with Peterson.
So there´s every reason to think the away side may have to work hard to get points on the board. But Green Bay might find scoring difficult too. You may be shocked to find the Packers passing attack ranked in the bottom half of the league. That rarely happens. But Aaron Rodgers has blown hot and cold all season. And his motley crew of receivers simply haven't blown at all, save perhaps early season shooting star James Jones.
Minnesota possess quality in the secondary. They're not half as good though at stopping the run. And so the pragmatic call here is for the Packers to let Eddie Lacy lead their attack, just as he did to great effect the last time these teams met.
So much ground play could take big chunks of the clock and lead to a relatively low-scoring game, just as it did last time. The extra significance of this showdown should also see no chances being taken until late in the game. Ultimately though, Bridgewater doesn't have the arm to throw the Vikings a lifeline if they fall behind, whereas Rodgers most certainly does.
The Packers should win this, although it could be tight. I'd feel much more comfortable though about going low on the total number of points. And by dutching the two premium running backs on show, Peterson and Lacy, to pile up some big yards, and to nab the opening touchdown of the game.
3pts Total points Under 45.5 @ 2.001/1
3pts Total 1st half points Under 22.5 @ 2.001/1
3pts Eddie Lacy rushing yards Over 67.5 2.001/1
2pts Green Bay to win by 1-7 points @ 4.57/2
Adrian Peterson to score 1st/anytime touchdown @ 6.005/1
Eddie Lacy to score 1st/anytime touchdown @ 9.008/1