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The Skinny Post: Vikings, Packers to Meet in 117th Border Battle

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings and Packers are no stranger to playing each other in prime time, so it's no surprise the rivals will do so again on Sunday.

The Week 12 matchup on Sunday Night Football matchup will mark the sixth straight season the teams will meet with a national television audience watching.

Minnesota and Green Bay played on Saturday Night Football in 2017, on Sunday Night Football in 2013, 2015 and 2016, and on Thursday Night Football in 2014. The Vikings are 3-2, with three straight wins, in the previous five prime-time matchups between the teams.

Both teams are looking for a crucial win as the stretch run heats up.

The Vikings are 5-4-1 following a loss to Chicago this past weekend, while the Packers are 4-5-1 after losing to Seattle in Week 11.

The Bears lead the division at 8-3 after a win on Thanksgiving, so the Vikings and Packers will try to keep pace in the NFC North.

Here are three areas to watch in Sunday's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

Take advantage of turnovers | By @Eric_L_Smith

The Vikings actually tied the turnover battle against the Bears in Week 11 on Sunday Night Football as each team had three takeaways.

But it felt like Minnesota fell behind in that category as the Vikings threw a pick-six and fumbled in the red zone, allowing Chicago to score 14 total points off turnovers.

The Vikings, meanwhile, scored just six points off three takeaways despite starting near the Bears 30-yard line twice.

It's likely the Vikings will have a tougher time taking the ball away from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has thrown just one interception in 385 pass attempts in 2018. He was tied for the fewest interceptions thrown with Saints quarterbacks Drew Brees among players with at least 330 pass attempts this season before Brees threw one on Thanksgiving.

Oddly enough, the Vikings and Packers are tied at 18th in the NFL with a plus-1 turnover ratio.

Winning the turnover battle would help Minnesota's chance of winning at home Sunday, but converting after the fact would go a long way, too.

The Vikings have scored just one offensive touchdown off 17 takeaways in 2018, a stat that might need to improve as Minnesota makes a push for the playoffs.

Under Head Coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings are 29-6 when they win the turnover battle, 9-17-1 when losing the turnover battle and 6-6 when the teams are even.

Sticking with the run game | By @LindseyMNSports

The Vikings had 14 rushes for just 22 yards, including a five-yard scramble by QB Kirk Cousins, at Chicago last weekend. In its second consecutive Sunday Night Football contest, will Minnesota see an uptick in its run game?

When Zimmer was asked earlier this week if the run game is struggling more this season than in the 2017 season, Zimmer acknowledged that last year's campaign featured more runs, but it's important to keep in mind different factors of the offense.

"I mean we ran the ball a lot more last year, I think. But we were converting third downs a little bit better last year. I think that combination allowed us to continually get some runs in there," Zimmer said. "It's frustrating because you know you have a guy like [Dalvin] Cook who can get big plays and big runs. That part, you get a minus-1 or you get a 1, that's what makes it frustrating more so than the runs, really."

The Vikings were averaging 91.7 yards per game heading into the Bears matchup, and that number a week later is 84.7 rushing yards per game.

Minnesota rushed 18 times for 68 yards (3.8 yards per carry) against Green Bay in Week 2.

Pro Bowler Mike Daniels, an important part of Green Bay's defensive line, suffered a foot injury against the Seahawks on Nov. 15 and was a non-participant in Packers practice this week. Muhammad Wilkerson is out for the season after having surgery on his ankle. The absence of Daniels and Wilkerson could allow Minnesota an opportunity to get its ground game going.

The Packers are allowing 126.1 rushing yards per game (26th in NFL).

Importance of starting clean | By @pcraigers

The Vikings showed in September they could rally against the Packers with a 22-point fourth quarter, but Minnesota is 1-3-1 when an opponent scores first this season.

That means the Vikings also are 4-1 when scoring first, with the only blemish coming in Week 4 against the 10-1 Rams in Los Angeles.

Last week, after gaining 8 on the first snap of the game, the Vikings netted 0 yards on a pair of runs and quickly punted. Minnesota was poised to make Chicago pay for kicking the ball out of bounds, but a promising second possession ended with a fumble at the Bears 14-yard line.

The Vikings have claimed four of the past six games against the Packers, and Minnesota has scored first in three of those four victories.

Playing with a lead allows a team to do more of what it wants on offense and defense, control the flow of the game and reduce the pressure that an opponent can provide.

Substantial Stats

— The Vikings defense has tallied 9.0 sacks in two games against the Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota, which is 2-0 at the venue against Green Bay, sacked Rodgers five times in 2016 before taking down former Packers quarterback Brett Hundley four times in 2017.

— Vikings Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss had 14 career receiving touchdowns against the Packers, his highest touchdown total against any team in his career. Moss will be honored and presented with his Hall of Fame Ring of Excellence at halftime of Sunday night's game.

— The 29-29 draw between the Vikings and Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 2 was the third tie between the teams, the most for Minnesota against any other team.

— Green Bay is winless in five road games this season. The Packers are one of three teams (along with Cleveland and San Francisco) to not have a road win so far in 2018.

Quotable

"My philosophy is we play one week, and we add them all up at the end, and we'll see where it leads us."

— Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer

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