Having clinched the NFC North title last Sunday, the Vikings today look to take a giant step towards having that all-important first-round bye as they take on the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 PM on NBC.
The Vikings, who sit at 11-3, can clinch a first-round bye this weekend with a win and a Panthers loss or tie. Carolina and New Orleans are both 10-4 heading into their final two games, tied atop the NFC South. However, the Saints hold the tiebreaker over the Panthers thanks to their season-sweep of the Panthers. The Vikings hold the tiebreaker over the Saints but not the Panthers, so if the Saints win their final two games (vs. Atlanta, at Tampa Bay) and the Vikings win one more game, the Vikings will secure a first-round bye.
After nearly pulling off a remarkable comeback late in their loss last Sunday to the Panthers, Green Bay was formally eliminated from playoff contention and on Tuesday, they placed QB Aaron Rodgers on Injured Reserve due to soreness from the collarbone injury he came back from. So, that means Brett Hundley, who played well in Rodgers' place earlier this season, will get the start tonight.
Hundley led Green Bay to a 3-5 record while filling in for Rodgers, completing 63.9 percent of his passes, good for 1,534 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. He won two of his last three starts before Rodgers came back, and in those three games he threw six touchdowns to just one interception.
Vikings defenders this week spoke about the importance of making Green Bay's offense one-dimensional, and that starts with limiting their running attack. A pair of rookies, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, have carried the load as of late with Ty Montgomery being on injured reserve. Green Bay is 18th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, while the Vikings defense ranks second, allowing just 85.3 yards per game on the ground.
Green Bay will be without one of their top receiving threats, as WR Davante Adams didn't practice this week due to a concussion suffered in Carolina and was ruled out on Thursday. However, they still have big-time threats in the form of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb that could make life tough on Minnesota's secondary.
On the other side of the ball, Green Bay could be missing some key pieces there as well. LB Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) and LB Clay Matthews (hamstring) didn't practice all week. Perry is listed as doubtful while Matthews is questionable. Those two have combined for 14.5 sacks on the season, so the absence of either would be a big blow.
However, the two linebackers on the inside of Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme, Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez, drew praise from Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur this week for their play as of late. A big reason for that could be DT Mike Daniels, who is one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL and a player that seemingly gives Minnesota fits every time these two teams play.
On the backend for Green Bay, Ha Ha Clinton-dix is second on the team with 74 tackles, while S Morgan Burnett has been used all over the field this year, as Pete Bercich explained in this week's film room segment on "Vikings GamePlan."
The Vikings ruled out only one player heading into the game, as CB Tremaine Brock Sr. will miss the game due to a foot injury. T Riley Reiff was limited in practice the last two days with an ankle injury and is listed as questionable after missing last Sunday's game. S Andrew Sendejo (ankle) and CB Mackensie Alexander (chest) both practiced fully on Thursday but are questionable for the game.
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