GLENDALE, Ariz. – Next Sunday's NFC North showdown between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings has been flexed to Sunday Night Football.
As ugly as their 38-8 loss to Arizona was, the Packers understand they’ll need to bounce back quickly with the NFC North title on the line. It's the third consecutive year the Packers have played for the division crown in the regular-season finale, but the first time the game has been moved into the 7:30 p.m. Central Time slot.
The Packers will be facing a motivated Minnesota Vikings team that was soundly defeated by Green Bay 30-13 last month at home. A 6-0 start to the season allowed the Packers to clinch a playoff spot with last week’s 30-20 win in Oakland, but the reality is they’ve also only won four of their last nine games.
Giving up 38 points, four turnovers and 381 yards to the Cardinals was another humbling experience.
“It starts with me because when the team plays poor, the head coach coaches poor," coach Mike McCarthy said. "With that, it’s a 15-game season to this point. We have the opportunity to play our division opponent there in Minnesota and we’ll go out and win the game."
Minnesota has won its last two games handily over the Chicago Bears (38-17) and New York Giants (49-17). The Vikings aren’t as well-rounded as the Cardinals, who possess the league’s most explosive offense and a top-10 defense, but they’re much improved in Mike Zimmer’s second year as head coach.
The hit-or-miss Packers also dropped their other two home games to divisional opponents this year. The winner will get the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and the right to host a wild-card game. There's a scenario where Green Bay could host the Vikings in back-to-back weeks if it wins Sunday and Seattle beats Arizona.
If the Packers survive to the wild-card round, there’s also a chance they chance they could end up back in Arizona to face the second-seeded Cardinals.
Several players, including receiver Davante Adams, said they’d welcome an opportunity to play the Cardinals again, but is there any reason to think they’d fare any better in a second matchup?
“Can’t be any worse than that,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “I think they had 14 points off sack-caused fumbles. We had the interception and ultimately we had missed tackles. It’s a snowball effect. In that regard, it’s very frustrating, but you have to believe in yourself.”
Added receiver James Jones: "We are in the playoffs, but we all understand that if we play the type of football that we played today, we will be home very quickly. Right now, we need to start playing the playoff football that will take us to where we are trying to go."
email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.