NFC North Showdown: Packers-Vikings

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Border Rivalry Take 2.

Last week, it was the Bears.  This week the Minnesota Vikings invade Lambeau Field in an early NFC North showdown at 12 noon Sunday.

Formers Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka was almost at a loss for words on quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ performance in the Packers’ thrilling 24-23 comeback victory.

“I mean, it was unbelievable—what can you say?” Ditka said Friday evening on the Green Bay comeback from a 20-0 second half deficit.

“It was Aaron Rodgers and his will to win.  The Bears played pretty well, but not quite well enough.  As I watched the game (on television), I was thinking, ‘This isn’t really going to happen, is it?’  Well, as long as #12 is on the field, anything is possible.  Even in one quarter.”

While the Bears are a young team on the rise, the Vikings are a veteran team with an array of offensive weapons—Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen—and one of the NFL’s elite defenses.

The two-time defending NFC North champions have won four of the last five meetings with Green Bay, including a 23-10 win at US Bank Stadium last October and a 16-0 victory at Lambeau Field in late December.

The Packers lead the all-time series, 59-52-2, and the rivals are 1-1 in postseason play.

“Well, it should be a pretty good match-up,” Ditka said.  “If Aaron is out, that may be a different story.  But a limited Aaron Rodgers on one leg is better than most quarterbacks with two legs.  He’s certainly proven that.

“Yes, the Vikings have a solid defense and they match up well against anybody.  But the game is at Lambeau Field and it’s going to be a physical division contest.  It’s only the second game of the year, but we’ll learn a lot about both teams after Sunday.”

Rodgers’ status for the game is uncertain, though the Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that he “walks on water” and Minnesota is preparing for the veteran to be under center Sunday.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that nothing has changed on Rodgers’ status, which may not be determined until Sunday morning.  Green Bay did not practice today, but has a session on Saturday morning.

“He’s clearly day to day,” McCarthy said.  “Hopefully he’ll do work tomorrow.

“He feels better than he did at the beginning of the week.  Tomorrow’s practice will be a big indicator. . .  he can play with no reps.  We’ve established that point some time ago in his career.  You’d like to walk off the field Saturday and have your plan set, but this is the NFL.  Things happen.”

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It was a comeback for the ages against Chicago, but the balanced Vikings have an elite defense.  This early season showdown goes to the two-time defending NFC champs with Rodgers’ limited mobility and a defense that is still jelling under Pettine’s new scheme.
Vikings 23, Packers 20

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