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Lunchbreak: Assessing Vikings, Packers Ahead of Primetime Showdown

The Vikings and Packers have seemingly had a combined grasp on the NFC North in recent years, as the rivals have combined to win 10 of the past 11 division titles.

Minnesota has won two of the past three division crowns, but the Vikings are currently in second place with a 5-4-1 record. The Packers sit in third at 4-5-1. Chicago, which last won the NFC North in 2010, currently resides in first place with an 8-3 record.

As the Vikings and Packers prepare to meet in Week 12 on Sunday Night Football, both teams are jockeying for playoff positioning over the final six games of the season.

ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin and ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky recently chatted about Sunday's matchup and how a win, or loss, could **alter each team’s playoff chances**.

Cronin wrote:

The Vikings go on the road to New England and Seattle the next two weeks, so a win on Sunday night is critical for bolstering their playoff hopes given they'll likely not be favored against the Patriots, and anything can happen against the Seahawks. As it stands, the Vikings would be the NFC's second Wild Card team and have a 51 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN's FPI. That number jumps up to 70 percent if they beat Green Bay and plummets to a 27 percent chance of making the postseason with a loss.

This is the second game for Minnesota in their most difficult four-game stretch of the season with only one matchup being played at U.S. Bank Stadium. If the Vikings can make it out of their Chicago-Green Bay-New England-Seattle slate with at least a 1-3 record and then finish out the season with wins over Miami, Detroit and Chicago, a 9-6-1 finish should hold them in the spot they're in right now. But a win on Sunday is critical in achieving that feat given there aren't many gimmes among their remaining games.

Demovsky wrote that Green Bay faces a similar situation, as a loss diminishes the Packers playoff chances.

He wrote:

It's not a must-win, but it's close. Their mathematical chances would take a big hit with a loss. According to ESPN's FPI, their playoff chances would go from 36 percent to 16 percent with a loss and would spike to 61 percent with a win.

The last time neither Minnesota nor Green Bay made the playoffs was the 2006 season.

Early-season tie could help Vikings in playoff race

Nobody quite knew what to feel as players walked off the field following a 29-29 tie between the Vikings and Packers in Week 2 at Lambeau Field.

On one hand, neither team really had early bragging rights over their rival. But on the other, neither team had taken a hit in the loss column, either.

As the playoff run heats up around the NFL, Mark Craig of the Star Tribune recently wrote that the stalemate could actually end up **helping the Vikings** at the end of the season.

Craig wrote:

The Vikings (5-4-1) head into Week 12 clinging to the NFC's sixth and final playoff seed because of that tie, which likely was going to be a loss before it likely was going to be a win.

Had the [Clay] Matthews penalty not been called and the Vikings lost, they would have dropped to 5-5 and moved down [out of playoff positioning].

"I preach wins more so around here than ties," Zimmer said. "But, then again, I did think [in September], 'Maybe it will help us. But it could hurt us, too.' So I don't really know."

As Craig mentioned, Minnesota would be in if the season ended today.

Washington, which lost on Thanksgiving, is seventh in the conference at 6-5 and would be the first team out. Dallas is also 6-5 but is in first place in the NFC East.

Seattle is eighth at 5-5, and the Vikings will play the Seahawks in Week 14 on Monday Night Football. Green Bay is ninth, and Philadelphia 10th.

The winner of Sunday's tilt between Minnesota and Green Bay will hold the tiebreaker, which could loom large over the final week or two of the season.

Unless, of course, the game ends in another tie.

Skoldiers T-shirts available online

Thanks to a partnership between Polaris and the Vikings, you can support the Wounded Warrior Project and sport a "Skoldiers" T-shirt. People who donate $25 or more will receive a T-shirt. The shirts were first available at Minnesota's annual Salute to Service game on Nov. 4 and are now available through the end of the month at ****.