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Packers-Vikings Preview

Posted Dec 26, 2012

It's pretty simple for the Green Bay Packers: Beat the Minnesota Vikings on the road Sunday and earn a direct ticket to the NFC divisional playoffs.

The scenarios get a little more complicated after that, though.

If Minnesota can end a five-game losing streak against its NFC North rival, it secures the team's first postseason berth since 2009 - and likely sets up a rematch at Lambeau Field in next weekend's wild-card round.

The Vikings (9-6) would need Chicago, Dallas and the New York Giants all to lose in order to get into the playoffs should they fall to the Packers.

There's plenty of drama surrounding the regular-season finale without considering Adrian Peterson remains in the hunt to surpass Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.

"When you come to training camp, everything you're working towards is to get to the playoffs and let the chips fall where they may once you get there," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "For us to be on the cusp of getting there, it's satisfying in some ways, but until you actually make it happen, it's hard to put your mind in that frame.

"We really have to focus on this ballgame, winning this game. Until you get that accomplished, it's hard to even think about what's ahead."

Green Bay (11-4) has locked up its postseason berth by winning the North and now seeks a first-round bye after routing Tennessee 55-7 last week. A loss and a San Francisco win over lowly Arizona or a Seattle victory over St. Louis, though, would drop the Packers to the No. 3 seed for another date with Minnesota.

Like Frazier, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy is taking everything in stride.

"I really don't care to talk about any type of scenarios. We're really focused on beating the Vikings," McCarthy said. "As far as who we play, where we play in the playoffs, it's really not a concern of mine. It's important for us to stay on track."

The Packers' current four-game winning streak began with a 23-14 home victory over Minnesota on Dec. 2 as they overcame 210 yards from Peterson - including an 82-yard touchdown run.

Peterson needs 102 yards for 2,000 and 208 to break Dickerson's record set in 1984, but he's more focused on getting a victory.

"It's such a big game when you look at everything that can be accomplished,'' Peterson said. "I'm looking forward to it, man. Most importantly, getting into the playoffs, securing that with a win against Green Bay. Having an opportunity to hit 2,000, having an opportunity to break Eric Dickerson's record in the same game, it would be great to accomplish.''

Peterson, who has run for at least 175 yards three times versus the Packers, rushed for 86 yards in last week's surprising 23-6 victory at Houston, snapping an eight-game 100-yard rushing streak during which he averaged 164.1.

Frazier said he won't alter the game plan simply to get Peterson the record given the importance of the contest.

"If the record comes in the middle of getting a win, that'll be great," Frazier said. "If he doesn't get the record and we win, he'll be a happy dude. He wants to win the game and that's the way we're approaching it. We have to find a way to win the game."

They'll likely have a tough task containing Aaron Rodgers, who has completed 73.1 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 122.6 rating during the Packers' winning streak against the Vikings.

Green Bay has its own record-setter on offense, as Randall Cobb broke the franchise mark for all-purpose yardage in the win over the Titans. He suffered ankle and knee injuries, though, and will test himself Friday to see if he's able to face the Vikings.

Even though Cobb's ankle injury came on a punt return, McCarthy said he doesn't plan to take him off special teams simply to reduce the risk of injury - despite Rodgers strongly hinting that he'd prefer to have his favorite target all to himself.

"I'll be honest with you, I don't have a really high tolerance for this (line of questioning) because I don't understand how you play scared in the game of football. I don't get that,'' McCarthy said.

"You can't sit here and say special teams is important if you don't put a guy like Randall Cobb out there as a returner. Now, if we're sitting here next year, we might be having a different conversation. But the way our team is built for 2012, Randall Cobb is a huge part of our success on special teams."

Safety Charles Woodson, another high-profile player McCarthy once used as a punt returner, will miss a ninth straight game with a broken collarbone, though Green Bay is hopeful he'll be ready for the playoffs.

A few other key Packers could be back Sunday. Alex Green, who sat out last week with a concussion, "definitely" will play while McCarthy is hopeful Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and Jerel Worthy (hamstring) can also return.