The Green Bay Packers look to keep their playoff hopes alive when they travel to the Twin Cities for a rematch with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 17. The Packers enter the game with a 7-8 record while the Vikings have an identical mark. The Packers are coming off a 33-30 win over the Carolina Panthers which went down to the final play while the Vikings lost to the Lions 30-24. Here are six key matchups that will determine who will win Sunday’s Packers-Vikings game.

The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 64-57-3 in the regular season. The series dates back to 1961 when the Vikings entered the league. The Vikings won the first meeting between these teams 24-10 in October. The teams split their two playoff meetings with the last being a Packers win after the 2012 season.

Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game in Minnesota:

Packers Key Matchups: Number One, Contain Justin Jefferson

The last three games were embarrassing for the Packers defense. Joe Barry has been predictable, and his strategies are considered obsolete.

The Vikings will be without tight end T.J. Hockenson while wide receiver Jordan Addison has an ankle injury and did not practice on Wednesday.

The biggest weapon for the Vikings is wide receiver Justin Jefferson. The Packers need to find a way to slow him down. They will have to do it without Jaire Alexander who the team suspended for one game for his actions at the coin toss last Sunday.

The Packers should look to double team Jefferson on most plays. They also need to be physical with the former LSU star and bump him off his route whenever possible off the snap of the ball whether they are playing man or zone.

Carrington Valentine and Eric Stokes both play well when they’re being physical, so Barry needs to emphasize that. Safety help would also be a good idea on many plays.

Jefferson will get his catches, but the Packers defense can’t let him make splash plays or run free in the secondary.

Barry doesn’t have to be outstanding, but the defense can’t be its own worst enemy either.

Key Matchups: Number Two, Keep Aaron Jones Involved Early and Often

The Packers offense becomes much more dangerous when Aaron Jones is healthy and is involved in the offense. His cutting ability and speed forces defenses to account for him. He is a threat to break off big gains any time he touches the ball.

Head coach Matt LaFleur has to keep Jones involved in the offense both as a runner and a receiver. Jones should get at least 18-20 touches against the Vikings defense which is 9th in the NFL and is allowing 95.4-yards per game.

Jones doesn’t have to have another 100-yard day, but he does need to be effective and keep the defense honest. If he gains yards when called upon and opens things up for his teammates, the offense should thrive.

Packers Key Matchups: Number Three, Get Pressure on the Vikings QB

The Vikings announced they were starting rookie fifth-round pick Jaren Hall on Sunday against the Packers. The BYU alum has started one game but only thrown 10 passes all season.

Hall can be elusive and can make plays with his feet. The Packers have to stay disciplined in their rush lanes and not lose contain which would allow Hall to pick up key gains when he scrambles. They may also try to use a spy to prevent Hall from running for big gains.

Rashan Gary needs to get back to form and put more pressure on Hall or whoever is under center for the Vikings. Preston Smith has played well recently and needs to continue to do so. Kenny Clark adds pressure from the interior as does rookie Karl Brooks.

Getting Hall off his game and forcing him into making mistakes would go a long way toward disrupting a Vikings defense that is already without some key receiving weapons.

Key Matchups: Number Four, Protect Jordan Love

The Vikings are 12th in the NFL with 42 quarterback sacks this season. Their top two pass rushers are Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum. Hunter typically lines up on the edge and on the left side of the formation so Zach Tom will have to contain him when he does so. Don’t be surprised if the Packers have a tight end or running back to help block Hunter frequently.

Wonnum had surgery on his quad this week and will miss the rest of the season. That means the Packers will not have to face him on Sunday.

The Vikings defense also blitzes often. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores does a good job of confusing quarterbacks pre-snap as to who’s rushing and who’s in coverage. Packers quarterback Jordan Love will have to make good reads to know who’s open. The offensive line will also have to determine who to block on any given play. This will be a challenge for Rasheed Walker, Tom, Josh Myers, Elgton Jenkins and the right guard duo of Jon Runyan and Sean Rhyan.

If Love has time, the Vikings secondary can be vulnerable although the Packers may again be without Christian Watson and Dontayvion Wicks who did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. Jayden Reed was back at practice this week in a limited capacity.

Packers Key Matchups: Number Five, Don’t Let the Vikings Run Game Awaken

The Minnesota running game has struggled most of the season. They are currently ranked 27th in the league and are averaging just 93.1-yards per game.

The Vikings have moved away from starter Alexander Mattison and given more work to Ty Chandler. Chandler exploded for 132 yards against the Bengals two weeks ago and has scored a touchdown in each of the last two games.

The Packers run defense has struggled all season. They presently rank 30th in the NFL and allow an average of 135.9-yards per game on the ground.

The Packers defensive line is often overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage and players like Gary and Kingsley Enagbare have struggled to hold the edge.

The Packers need a stronger game from their defensive line and linebackers. Isaiah McDuffie and Quay Walker must help stuff the run. Meanwhile, Clark, T.J. Slaton, and Devonte Wyatt must do a better job at the line of scrimmage.

The Packers defense cannot allow the Vikings running game to have a breakout game on Sunday night.

Packers Key Matchups: Number Six, Create Turnovers

The Vikings have had issues with turnovers all season. Minnesota is 30th in the league with a minus-nine turnover differential. Their quarterbacks have thrown 16 interceptions while the team has lost 14 fumbles.

The Packers are even this season. While they don’t create many turnovers, they don’t give the ball away much either.

The Packers need to force turnovers. This will give Love and company a short field and disrupt the momentum of the Vikings.

If the Packers win the turnover battle, they will probably win the football game.


Can the Packers get their defense back on track? Are the players fed up with the way the defense is being called? Do the suspension of Alexander and the recent social media posts by De’Vondre Campbell indicate internal problems on this team?

Minnesota is a tough place to play, and it gets loud in the dome. This will be a difficult task but if the Packers lose, their playoff hopes are done for this season.

I just don’t have enough confidence in the defense right now to pick this team to win.


Vikings 35, Packers 31



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