Minnesota Vikings (7-7) at Green Bay Packers (8-6)
SERIES HISTORY: 111th regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 58-50-2. Green Bay will try to avoid a season sweep at the hands of its division rival for the first time since 2009, when Packers great Brett Favre was the quarterback for the Vikings. When the teams met in Week 2 for the first regular-season game played at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the Vikings hung on for a 17-14 victory.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Playoff picture -- Green Bay clinches a playoff berth with: 1. GB win plus WAS loss or tie plus TB loss plus ATL win or tie plus GB clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over TB.
This is Green Bay's first Christmas Eve game since 2004, when the Packers went into the old Metrodome and pulled out a 34-31 win over the Vikings to win a third straight NFC North title. While a division championship seemed a longshot when the Packers started 4-6 this season, four consecutive victories have Green Bay in wild-card playoff position. Since then, Rodgers has 10 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating over 110.
If Green Bay can avenge a 17-14 loss at Minnesota in Week 2, the Packers would remain no worse than a game behind the division-leading Detroit Lions (9-5) going into the final week of the season.
That would set up a showdown for the title Jan. 1 at Detroit. The Packers have an earlier win over the Lions, so they would have the tiebreaker edge by completing the season sweep.
Minnesota held Green Bay to a season-low 263 yards and limited Rodgers to 213 passing yards while sacking him five times in the September game at Minneapolis. The Vikings, who started the season 5-0, are on a run of seven losses in nine games as they have been decimated by injuries.
Running back Adrian Peterson did not look good in his return to action last week and is out of this one (knee, groin). The Packers will look to make the Vikings one-dimensional. Minnesota is last in the league in rushing.
The Packers are on a takeaway roll, with 10 the last two games. If Bradford has time to get rid of the football, Green Bay will have to be wary of playmaking receiver Stefon Diggs, who torched its secondary in the earlier meeting with nine catches for 182 yards and a touchdown.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Packers wide receivers vs. Vikings defensive backs. Minnesota comes into Lambeau Field short-handed in the secondary. FS Harrison Smith is unlikely to play because of an ankle injury. The Vikings also could be without cornerback Trae Waynes because of a concussion. Having Pro Bowl pick Xavier Rhodes at cornerback could be essential as Minnesota tries to keep up with Green Bay's extensive group of pass catchers for Aaron Rodgers. Rhodes didn't play in Minnesota's Week 2 win over the visiting Packers because of a knee injury. He figures to be matched up with Jordy Nelson, who leads the league with 12 touchdown receptions and needs 18 catches the last two games to attain 100 for the first time in his productive career. Nelson led the Packers with five catches for 73 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown, in the earlier three-point loss to the Vikings.
--Packers pass rushers vs. Vikings offensive line. Minnesota's makeshift group up front amid a slew of injuries has been a laughingstock for much of the season. Still, quarterback Sam Bradford has been sacked just 33 times, only three more than Rodgers. When the teams met in September, the Packers managed to sack Bradford four times. Outside linebacker Julius Peppers was in on two of those sacks, getting credit for 1 1/2. Peppers has been a difference maker for Green Bay's defense down the stretch. He has four of his 7 1/2 sacks (No. 2 on the team) in the last five games. He also forced and recovered a fumble by Chicago's Matt Barkley in the Packers' last-second road win last Sunday. Peppers could have his way with young left tackle T.J. Clemmings on Saturday.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--Out: G Brandon Fusco (concussion), RB Zach Line (concussion), RB Adrian Peterson (knee, groin), WR Laquon Treadwell (ankle)
--Questionable: WR Stefon Diggs (hip), S Harrison Smith (ankle)
GREEN BAY PACKERS
--Out: LB Jayrone Elliott (hand), RB James Starks (concussion)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. Peterson said after the Colts game that he'll play at Lambeau Field. On Wednesday, after missing practice because of "nicks" sustained in the Colts game, he said he wants to play but was taking things "one day at a time." If he plays, it could be his last game as a Viking if, as expected, the Vikings are eliminated from the playoff race this weekend.
FAST FACTS: The Packers are 5-1-1 at home against the Vikings since 2010. ... Peterson has 1,779 rushing yards (104.6 per game) and 13 rush TDs in 17 career meetings.
PREDICTION: The Packers get their playoff mojo rolling and bounce Minnesota from the playoff picture with a convincing victory, adding to the idea that Green Bay will again be a disruptive -- and feared -- factor in the NFC playoffs.
OUR PICK: Packers, 29-17.