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Lunchbreak: Past Decade of Vikings-Packers Rivalry Revisited

The Vikings and Packers will close out the decade with one more Border Battle – and in prime time, to boot.

Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune said that Monday Night Football is a "fitting stage" for the 21st matchup of the 2010s between the teams "who have produced as much intrigue during this decade as any in the rivalry's 59-year history."

Goessling recently reflected – as well as asking others to do so – on the past 10 seasons of Vikings-Packers matchups. He wrote:

The 2019 NFC North title will be the eighth by either the Packers or Vikings in this decade. Green Bay has clinched its eighth playoff appearance of the 2010s; the Vikings secured their fourth on Saturday night, passing the Lions for the second-most in the division.

During the 2010s, the Vikings and Packers have played in four stadiums, faced off in back-to-back weeks in 2012, played in front of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at least three times, tied twice at Lambeau Field, dueled for an NFC North title in 2015, each fired coaches within seven days of a loss to the other and packed in enough controversial moments to stoke debate for years afterward.

Goessling worked through 2010, a disappointing season for the Vikings a year after former Packers QB Brett Favre led them to the NFC Championship Game. He reminisced about 2012, where the teams met in the playoffs and 2015, during which Minnesota snapped a six-game losing streak to Green Bay.

That season, the Vikings fell to the Packers in November but traveled to Lambeau for a Week 17 matchup that Minnesota won to claim the division title.

The Vikings gained only 242 yards, but had enough big plays — two long Adam Thielen runs and a Captain Munnerlyn 55-yard fumble return for a TD — to build a 20-3 lead late in the third quarter. That's when the Packers stormed back for two chances to tie in the final three minutes.

On the first, Xavier Rhodes intercepted a pass for Jones in the end zone. On the second, the Vikings knocked down a Hail Mary as time expired.

Goessling referred to the 2017-19 span as the "new rules in play" era, during which more than one controversial call has occurred during a Border Battle.

And now, the Vikings will host the Packers for a Week 16 showdown. Both teams have secured playoff berths, but the division crown still technically is in play. If Green Bay wins tonight, it will earn the NFC North title; if Minnesota wins, it will all come down to Week 17.

The Packers have yet to win in U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016.

"I think [it] is going to be a close game," Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "It's going to come down to the last 10 minutes of the fourth quarter. That's how it always is with these guys."

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Packers.

Vikings benefiting from special teams 'pipeline'

The Vikings on Saturday ruled out starting running back Dalvin Cook, who suffered an injury at Los Angeles last week. Second-string running back Alexander Mattison (ankle) is questionable.

Which means Minnesota fans likely will see a heavy dose of Mike Boone, who originally signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2018.

Matthew Coller of SKOR North recently wrote that the Vikings "special teams pipeline is paying dividends" down the stretch.

With only 21 carries on the year, fantasy football fans everywhere were Googling furiously to learn about the former Cincinnati Bearcat.

But he's been on the field a bunch this year — for 248 snaps, in fact. Of those, 212 have come on special teams.

Boone is just the latest example of a player earning a job on the special teams side and eventually working [his] way to a role on the offensive or defensive side.

Coller quoted Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer:

"I think that's an area that as guys progress, they start learning the special teams," Zimmer said. "There's quite a bit involved there, as well. You see their athletic ability. You see them making plays. I think that leads to guys that end up becoming starters. We've got all kinds of guys – Eric Wilson, Anthony Harris … C.J. [Ham].

"That's kind of where they made their mark, and typically, it turns into them being a good full-time position player," Zimmer added.

Wilson, Harris and Ham are joined by the likes of Adam Thielen, Stephen Weatherly and even Everson Griffen as players who showed they could stand out on special teams before they earned regular — and sometimes starring — roles.

[…]

Last year when starting safety Andrew Sendejo went down with an injury, Anthony Harris was ready. Harris had spent the majority of his first three seasons as a special teamer and then stepped into the starting job and has quickly become a difference maker on the Vikings defense. He has five interceptions this year and ranks fourth at his position by PFF's grading system.

Coller highlighted Wilson's progression, as well, and pointed to rookie cornerback Kris Boyd, who has been earning attention on special teams.

Coller spoke with Vikings running back Ameer Abdullah, who has plenty of NFL experience on both offense and special teams during his time in Detroit and Minnesota.

"There's only so many slots for people who can make the team, and when you talk about actually fielding a team on game day, it's 46 guys," Abdullah told Coller. "Just by sheer numbers you understand you aren't always going to be in there, especially early in your career, or you're in a situation with a lot of talented or established players in front of you. You just do your job and watch the guys in front of you, and whenever your number is called, just be ready."

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