The 10-4 Minnesota Vikings are a perfect 6-0 at home this season. The 11-3 Green Bay Packers have not won at U.S. Bank Stadium since it opened in 2016.
One of those streaks may end this evening when the Vikings and Packers renew their border rivalry for the 119th time overall. Green Bay leads the regular-season series, 60-53-3, and the rivals are 1-1 in postseason play.
There is plenty at stake for both these teams that are already assured of a postseason berth.
For Green Bay, a victory clinches the NFC North Division, and even with a loss the Packers can win the division by beating Detroit on Sunday. For the Vikings, they must win and beat Chicago Sunday at home—and hope for the faltering Lions to upset Green Bay.
“Well, we knew from the start no one was running away with this division and it’s come down to Sunday night,” former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka said. “This is one of those rivalry games every football fan will be watching Monday night. It’s going to be a loud crowd and the keys to the game are pressuring the quarterback and turnovers.”
Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins have both taken care of the ball this season, and their team rankings reflect that focus.
Green Bay is +14 in turnover ratio and Minnesota is +11. Both rookie head coach Matt LaFleur and veteran Mike Zimmer have emphasized turnover creation by their respective defenses and ball security by the offenses. Zimmer fires up his team before each game by showing a highlight clip of turnovers by NFL teams the previous week.
The Vikings forced an eye-popping seven turnovers in a 39-10 blowout of the Los Angeles Chargers last week, while the Packers forced three in a hard-fought 21-13 victory over the Bears.
While the spotlight tonight will be focused on the franchise quarterbacks to make plays in this key NFC matchup, the Vikings offense will feature a new running back as star Dalvin Cook (shoulder) and his back-up Alexander Mattison (ankle) are sidelined with injuries.
Second-year tailback Mike Boone will carry the load for a Vikings team that ranks fourth in the NFL with a 135.9 yard per game rushing average. Boone was very effective against the Chargers, rushing for a career-high 56 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers defense is ranked 24th in the league against the run, and will be looking to shut down the run and harass Cousins into mistakes, as they did at Lambeau Field in Week 2.
“Got to stop the run,” Ditka said. “Make the other team one dimensional. For the Packers, a fast start is the key in that stadium to take the crowd out of it. They have to be able to run the ball and show have some balance, so Rodgers can do what he does best off of play action.”
The same could be said for Cousins, who has an array of receiver talent to target, including Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Rodgers has the ever-dangerous Davante Adams (39 receiving TDs since 2016, most in NFL) and running back Aaron Jones (17 total TDs this season) as major weapons, but the young receiving corps is still developing and production at the tight end position has been an issue all season.
NFL Week 16 Picks
The team that wins the turnover battle wins this border war.
Vikings 30, Packers 27