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Packers at Vikings Six Pack: What I Want To See

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Can the Vikings put a hammer lock on the NFC North this Sunday?

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

To say this is the biggest game so far in the Mike Zimmer era is a bit of an understatement. I get that every game in the NFL is important on a weekly basis, but this one carries with it both emotional and tangible consequences.

For one, it's Green Bay. It's the team we love to hate, and it's also the team that's pretty much owned the Vikings since 2010, with the Vikings losing 9 of 11 games, to include some pretty lopsided scores. The Packers have also pretty much owned the NFC North division as well, being a permanent playoff fixture in recent years. Beating them for those reasons alone would bring great satisfaction for legions of Vikings fans world wide.

But this game also has some serious playoff and playoff seeding implications, too. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the Vikings currently lead the Packers by a game in the NFC North standings, and a win against them Sunday gives them what would amount to a three game lead if you include tiebreakers. A win puts Minnesota in the driver's seat for the division title, and a loss will more than likely make the division a horse race until the final week of the season.

Oh, and the Minnesota's opponent the last game of the year? Green Bay, in Lambeau Field. Pardon my Vikings fandom, but I really don't want the division title on the line going in to that game. So, how can the Vikings take control of this division with a win Sunday? Let's discuss...

1) Make Aaron Rodgers uncomfortable in the pocket. Aaron Rodgers hasn't been his All-Universe self the last few games, and the problem only seems to be getting worse. Whether he's trying too hard to extend a play in hopes of a big gain, he's injured, or something else, Rodgers is off. And he is getting rattled under pressure, which is something that's deliciously weird to watch, too. With four of Green Bay's five offensive linemen suffering from injuries of some sort, and the Vikings pretty healthy among the front seven for the first time in awhile, Minnesota is in a great position to harass and pummel The Crown Prince all afternoon. But Minnesota also needs to...

2) Maintain tight coverage on Green Bay's receivers. When Jordy Nelson was lost for the year in the pre-season, the conventional wisdom was that the other receivers would step up and the impact would be minimal. When they jumped out to a 6-0 start, it seemed that was the case. But the Packers receivers are now suddenly looking average, and struggle against press coverage. I expect Xavier Rhodes to be on Randall Cobb, and the rest of the matchups all favor the Vikings. If they can consistently eliminate or minimize throwing windows, Rodgers will get happy feet, the play will break down, and the Vikings will stop the Packers offense more often than not. Speaking of offense...

3) The Vikings offense needs to set the tone early. Last week against Oakland, the Vikings offense started out as well as they have all season. They took their opening drive and scored a touchdown. They would've had a touchdown on their second drive but for a dropped pass in the end zone. Another quick start like that is essential, for a couple reasons. With Green Bay's offense struggling, I think the Vikes defense will set an early tone, and give the offense an opening. The crowd at TCF Bank Stadium is going to be revved up and raucous, and if Teddy and company can capitalize early, it's going to be an extremely tough atmosphere for Green Bay to come back in, especially if they're down a couple scores early. But if an early two score deficit is going to happen...

4) The offense needs to score in the red zone. Look, I know i say this every week. But I'm going to keep saying it every week until they convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Last week against Oakland, the Vikings won 30-14. By rights, they should have been up 30-14 midway through the fourth quarter, and the late drive that was stopped by Terence Newman's second interception shouldn't have been for the Raiders to get within two points; it should have been for David Derek Damn It I Always Get Those Two Mixed Up When I'm Writing Carr fantasy points only. This frustrating exercise of not scoring touchdowns in the red zone is going to eventually catch up with the Vikings if they don't fix the issue, and Green Bay is a  team that will make Minnesota pay if it happens Sunday. If they can convert and get a lead, then they should be able to...

5) Run the ball down Green Bay's throat. The best way to keep Aaron Rodgers from mounting a comeback is if he doesn't have the ball. Everyone is kind of making fun of Minnesota's 20th century offense in the 21st century, but it still works, and the 7-2 record speaks for itself. Adrian Peterson is actually ahead of his 2,000 yard 2012 season, and he will have his fingerprints all over this game. An early lead, then ball control late should get the Vikings the ever elusive win against the hated Packers. If that happens...

6) Tear down the damn goalposts! Look, Minnesota fans are as excited for this Packers game as any since the Favre revenge Tour in 2009. This is a game the Vikings need for playoff positioning and the division title and all that, but I would argue Vikings fans need this win more. It's been a long 5 years of wandering in the wilderness against this team, and it's time to start winning and getting back to the playoffs. If we can look back on this season and say our playoff march really started here, and finished in Lambeau with a win in the finale, it would be a cathartic release we not only need, but damn it, we deserve. We've been patient, we've put up with bad football, bad to incompetent coaching, and malcontent players that didn't want to be here for long enough now. I'm sick of waiting until next year, or being in rebuilding mode. I'm sick of being the punching bag of this division, and I'm sick and tired of losing. The reversal starts Sunday, and there isn't a better team in the NFL to do it against than the Green Bay Packers.

The time is now.

Skol Vikings, beat the Packers.