Border Battle No. 1 of the 2015 season is upon us. The Vikings and Green Bay Packers will square off at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday for the first of their two matchups on the season. The Vikings enter having won five in a row while Green Bay enters coming off three straight losses, including one at home to Detroit last week.
Here are five of the biggest Vikings-Packers storylines we'll be chasing in the build-up to Week 11...
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Packers.
1. 1st Place is on the line
For a game in Week 11, it doesn't get much bigger than this. After winning five in a row and after Green Bay has lost three consecutive, the Vikings enter the week in 1st place atop the NFC North. But they'll need to keep winning to stay there, as the Packers can quickly reclaim the top spot with a win on Sunday. The Vikings haven't won the division since 2009, and a win on Sunday would make the lead two games with six to play. There's still a lot of football to be played, but there's also no denying the importance of Sunday's game to the NFC North race and the NFC playoff picture.
2. Peterson, running game look to keep rolling vs. Packers
No team is running the football better than the Vikings. Entering Week 11, the Vikings lead the NFL in rushing yards with 1,325 and rushing yards per game with 147.2. Adrian Peterson is ahead of his 2012 pace with 961 yards, which is No. 1 in the NFL and is also 227 yards clear of the No. 2 rusher – Chris Johnson. Defensively, the Packers have been up and down in defending the run. Four times they've held the opposition to fewer than 100 yards rushing in a game but they've also allowed 160 yards or more three times and they've given up three rushing TDs in a game twice. Overall, Green Bay ranks 24th in rushing yards allowed per game (116.2). In 15 games against the Packers, Peterson has rushed for 1,747 yards and 11 TDs on 324 carries with 8 games of 100 yards and three games of 200 total yards.
3. The Purple look to follow the blueprint by pressuring Rodgers
It's not an easy task to contain the Packers passing attack, especially with one of the best QBs in the League calling the signals for them. The best way to neutralize it, though, is to pressure the QB. Recently, Green Bay's opponents have been able to do that, as the Packers have allowed 11 sacks in their three-game losing streak. There's not much to complain about when it comes to the Vikings defense, but one stat that's hard to believe is that the Vikings have registered more than two sacks in a game just one time since Week 4. To come out on the right side on Sunday, the Vikings will look to do what Green Bay's three previous opponents have done well – pressure and sack Aaron Rodgers.
4. What's up with Eddie Lacy?
It has not been the type of season Eddie Lacy envisioned for himself. Through nine games, he's yet to rush for 100 yards and he only has 2 TDs. Last week, he was inactive. It's a confusing fall from grace for a player who had energized Green Bay's rushing offense and made the Packers a true dual threat on offense. Perhaps a game against the Vikings is just what the doctor ordered. The Vikings have been solid against the run this season, but Lacy has had success in four games against the Vikings. In those four games against the Vikings, Lacy has 434 rushing yards and 5 rushing TDs, topping the 100-yard mark in three of those contests and scoring multiple TDs in two of the games.
It's the time of the season when injuries can begin to add up. The Vikings have been without starting middle LB Eric Kendricks for the past two weeks and are optimistic he can return for Sunday's game. Green Bay lost starting S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in last week's game but there's a chance he'll be ready to for Sunday, as well. Each team has a handful of other injuries that bear monitoring, with a knee injury for Green Bay LT David Bakhtiari and a toe injury for Vikings LT Matt Kalil chief among them.