Battle for the NFC North Crown

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Following Sunday’s victory over the Chicago Bears by a score of 21-13, the Green Bay Packers enter the final two weeks of the season in prime position to capture the NFC North title. The Packers have missed the playoffs the previous two seasons which led to a coaching change heading into this season. Head Coach Matt LaFleur has the Packers sitting in first place of the NFC North with a record of 11-3 and a playoff spot clinched. Heading into what could be the biggest game of the regular season against the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay looks to capture the NFC North crown and possibly secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This highly anticipated Monday night matchup against the rival Vikings will feature elite talent on the offensive and defensive sides of the football bringing an early playoff atmosphere to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

 

Green Bay heads into this matchup controlling their own fate, meaning all they have to do is win the remainder of their games to capture the division and secure a bye during the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The Packers won the first divisional matchup against the Vikings back in September by a score of 21-16. The Packers showed their strengths on both sides of the football in this victory. The offense exploded for 3 touchdowns on their first 3 drives. While Green Bay’s explosive offense was held in check for the remainder of the game, their defense was able to keep Minnesota from coming back into the game, which included a Kevin King red-zone interception. This currently gives Green Bay a 1 game advantage and tiebreaker over the 10-4 Vikings. The Packers would have to lose their last two games in order to lose the division.

 

The U.S. Bank Stadium has not been a friendly venue for the Packers since opening in 2016. Green Bay has been unable to capture a win in Minnesota over the last 3 seasons, which is sure to be a key factor against this stout opponent. The Vikings are currently 6-0 on the season at home, while ranking top 10 in both offensive points scored and points allowed on defense. The Vikings’ offensive success has been predicated by their ability to run the football. Running Back Dalvin Cook is 7th in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,135, while also tied for 3rd in rushing touchdowns with 13. In the second week of the season against the Packers, Cook ran the ball 20 times for a total of 151 yards (7.7 yards per carry) and a touchdown. 

 

Cook suffered a shoulder injury during the Vikings’ matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers this past weekend, which could mean the potential all-pro might not be 100% healthy for this matchup. Injury or not, the Packers defense, lead by the NFL’s top tackler in linebacker Blake Martinez will have their work cut out for them against this rushing attack.

 

Minnesota’s defense has seen its ups and downs this season. Their main focus on defense is the ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Rising star Defensive End Danielle Hunter has recorded 13.5 sacks on the season which ranks top 5 in all of football. The weakness of Minnesota’s defense has been their secondary. Former All-Pro Cornerback Xavier Rhodes has battled injuries most of this season, making it more difficult for Minnesota to shut down the elite wide receivers of their opponents. Look for the Packer offense to make Davante Adams a focal point in their offensive scheme.

 

The Packer offense is looking to shake the demons they have had in Minneapolis the past three seasons. In three matchups against Minnesota in their new venue, Green Bay has not scored over 20 points in any of the matchups. Future Hall of Fame Quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks to break that streak with another all-time great performance pushing his team to the next level as Green Bay moves one step closer to the postseason. Can the Packers wrap up the NFC North race by completing the sweep of Minnesota on the season, or will Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins finally shake his long-standing winless record on Monday Night Football. The game kicks off at 7:15 p.m. Monday night on ESPN.

 

Bibliography:

 

Pro-Football-Reference.com

sports.yahoo.com

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