Each Tuesday, Press-Gazette Media will look to the week ahead and the Green Bay Packers’ next opponent. This week, it’s the Minnesota Vikings. Here are three storylines to watch when the Packers host the Vikings for a 7:25 p.m. kickoff Sunday at Lambeau Field.
1. NFC North title game … again: Somehow, you knew this was coming way back when the NFL schedule was released in April. You saw the Minnesota Vikings sitting at the very bottom of Green Bay's slate and, one way or another, knew the Packers' final regular-season game would decide who won the NFC North.
It has happened three straight years, against three different opponents (Packers vs. Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in 2013, Packers vs. Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field last season).
Remarkable that the revolving door now has turned to Packers vs. Vikings.
2. "Play to win": Should the Packers, nursing several key injuries one week before the playoffs, give their maximum effort to win Sunday? Either way, they will be in the playoffs.
A loss would send them to the barely-above-.500 Washington Redskins, which arguably would be a more favorable matchup than hosting the Vikings or Seattle Seahawks in the opening round.
Then there are the injuries — both starting offensive tackles, the top cornerback, the nose tackle. Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday he would not rest anybody who’s ready to play this week. He vowed the Packers will “play to win” against the Vikings.
So we’ll see if they can win their fifth straight division title, their third straight coming on the season’s final day, against a third different NFC North opponent.
3. One last tuneup: Maybe the best argument for the Packers to “play to win” against the Vikings is the simple fact the way they’ve played of late won’t win many games in January.
They have one last regular-season game to get on track as an offense, and it would be wise to maximize their last chance. The Packers offense has not held up its end of the bargain for much of the season, inexplicable for a unit featuring two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
There isn’t one cohesive direction, no consistent identity. Maybe that can’t be cured in just one week, not after a few months of floundering, but it’s clear this Super Bowl-or-bust season isn’t going very far if the Packers can’t get on the same page.
Right now, their offense looks like it isn’t even in the same playbook.