The Minnesota Vikings needed to win on the road last week against the Houston Texans to keep their playoff hopes alive, or at least more realistic. They not only won the game, but dominated the Texans with a 23-6 victory to put their record at 9-6 heading into the final week of the regular season.
It’s very simple for the Vikings in Week 17. Win at home against the rival Green Bay Packers and earn a playoff spot. Minnesota can still make the playoffs with a loss, but they will need a little help to make that happen. The Packers are coming off of a 55-7 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 16, and have clinched the NFC North with a 11-4 record. Green Bay has something to play for this week as well, as they can earn a first-round playoff bye with a win over the Vikings.
When the Vikings have the ball, all eyes will be on running back Adrian Peterson. He is 102 yards shy of becoming the seventh running back in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, and he needs 208 yards to surpass Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105 yards. Peterson had 21 carries for 210 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay back in Week 13, so he will need to nearly repeat that performance to pass Dickerson and set the new single-season rushing record.
Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder will need to put together a better performance than he did back in Week 13 against the Packers, when he completed less than half of his passes (12-for-25) for just 119 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He has played better since that game, but he will have to continue to be effective in key situations on Sunday for the Vikings’ offense to score at the rate it will certainly have to in order to keep pace with the Green Bay offense.
The Vikings’ defense will surely be looking to repeat their performance from Week 13, and another performance along those lines should give the team a good chance to win on Sunday. The Packers controlled the ball for over 38 minutes and had 435 yards of offense in that previous matchup, but they scored just 23 points. Minnesota’s pass rush, led by Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen and his 11 sacks, will have to take advantage of a Packers’ offensive line that was re-shuffled again recently and put pressure on quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Packers 24
2012 Minnesota Vikings Regular Season Review
At the start of the season, no outside observer predicted the Vikings would be on the brink of a playoff berth in Week 17. With a 4-1 start that included a surprising victory over the San Francisco 49ers, the rest of the league quickly took notice that they could be a playoff contender this season.
But an up-and-down middle part of the season, which included losing four out of five games on either side of their Week 11 bye, took some of the early season buzz away. Ponder’s struggles put a spotlight on shortcomings elsewhere on the Vikings’ offense, and led to questions about the 2011 first-round pick’s ability to be the team’s quarterback of the future.
Sitting at 6-6 heading into a home game against the Chicago Bears in Week 14, Minnesota faced a turning point in their season. But a 21-14 victory in that game, followed by road wins in St. Louis and Houston, has the Vikings in control of their playoff destiny in the regular season finale.