This date has been circled on the calendars of Packers fans since the NFL schedule was announced this spring.

Packers-Vikings.  Lambeau Field.  January 1.  High Noon.

This showdown always had playoff implication written all over it, but maybe not quite the way NFL observers envisioned.

It’s Minnesota that sits atop the NFC North with a division title and playoff berth secured with a lofty 12-3 record.  And it’s Green Bay that is fighting for its very playoff lives in a must-win rematch with their border rivals to the West.

As Mike Ditka, former Chicago Bears head coach and NFL HOF tight end, has always said:  “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

Green Bay will have to be at its best in all three phases to compete with the Vikings, who have proven to be one of the NFL’s elite teams and in stunning fashion this season, posting an amazing 11-0 record in one-score games.

The Packers have won three straight—a season-long win streak—and will have to neutralize dynamic Vikings start receiver Justin Jefferson and limit Dalvin Cook on a potent offense led by quarterback Kirk Cousins.  Jefferson roasted the Green Bay secondary in the season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium, but the track will be slower on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon.

The Vikings defense has one of the league’s worst pass defenses that Aaron Rodgers will test, but success for Green Bay may rest with the running attack of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillion to sustain drives and keep the Minnesota offense on the sideline.

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Packers 27, Vikings 24

Green Bay finds a way to pull this one out on a Mason Crosby field goal.  This game could be a roller-coaster ride that ends with the team that holds the ball last.