The Green Bay Packers will start the penultimate week of the regular season as slight underdogs to the Minnesota Vikings, who await them on Monday Night Football in a matchup that will decide the fate of the NFC North.
The Packers (11-3) have been in charge of the division for the entire season and are on the verge of clinching with a spot in the NFL playoffs already guaranteed, but the Vikings (10-4) are also full speed ahead with a chance to undermine their rival’s lead and solidify their own place in the postseason picture. With such high stakes, it feels justified to see the Vikings open as 4.5-point favorites in their own stadium.
That said, the Packers have the inside track to the division and need to win just one of their final two games to be crowned kings of the North, even if it has to come against the Detroit Lions. The Packers would still hold a 4-1 division record if they lost in Week 16, while a win would only get the Vikings’ divisional record to 3-2 (thanks, Chicago!).
While playoffs still seem likely, the Vikings can only claim the division if they beat both the Packers and Bears at home and see the Packers lose out.
“Our goal is to win the North and right now that’s still in front of us,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Sunday of his team’s 21-13 win over the Bears. “We know we’re going to go into a pretty hostile environment next week in Minnesota. The place is a tough place to go play against a really good football team, one of the top teams in the National Football League, and they’re good in all three phases. We’ve got a big challenge in front of us, so we’re going to have to get to work and make sure our process is on point to go up there and try to get a victory.”
Follow the Heavy on Packers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Aaron Rodgers Sees Packers as a ‘First-Year Offense’
The Packers star quarterback gets questions every week from beat writers asking him to explain why the offense has been operating in such an always-changing, rarely-stable manner this season, even though it has already yielded four more wins than in their entire 2018 season.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the Packers are underachieving offensively with weapons such as Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones and the best pass-blocking offensive line in the NFL at their disposal. Against the rest of the league, the Packers only stack up with the middle of the pack in passing (17th), rushing (17th) and total offense (22nd) despite having the second-best turnover differential (+14).
When asked, though, how he feels the offense is functioning after its 14th performance of the season Sunday, Rodgers circled back to the changes the team underwent in the offseason with Matt LaFleur bringing in a new, young coaching staff.
“I think we’re kind of like a first-year offense,” Rodgers said in Sunday’s postgame. “For those of us who have been in the same scheme for so long, a lot of us are rep players. We need reps in the scheme to feel completely comfortable, and you just odn’t get enough time I think during the offseason and the season to fully rep everything, so it comes down to the practice and the communication. And I just think we haven’t been as sharp on some of the important concepts that we really need to latch onto.”
How the Packers continue to adjust against the Vikings should be interesting with Kirk Cousins helming a Minnesota attack that has been efficient down the stretch. While their 39-10 win in Week 15 was more the byproduct of the Los Angeles Chargers’ seven turnovers, the Vikings held their fourth-best rushing attack to its usual standard and collected 137 yards and a pair of scores on the ground — even with star Dalvin Cook exiting with a shoulder injury.