NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Survival Test
by Dennis Ranahan

Two teams that commonly meet to determine first place in the NFC North Division square off tonight in Minnesota when the Vikings host the Green Bay Packers. This one is different, the Vikings and Packers are not meeting to determine who takes control of their division, but rather who keeps alive in their quest to catch the first place Chicago Bears.

The Packers come into action tonight with a losing record, 4-5-1, and need a win to avoid falling out of contention for the division title they have won five of the past seven seasons. The Vikings are looking to defend the NFC North Division title they won last year with a 13-3 regular season record.

Minnesota is one back of the Bears in the loss column, but also have three less wins entering action tonight based on that tie the Packers and Vikings registered in second week action at Lambeau Field.

In other words, the Vikings and Packers are not playing for superiority tonight, but rather survival.

Green Bay would already be out of the race had they not staged a dramatic fourth quarter comeback and win over the Bears in the season’s opening weekend. No Green Bay squad has struggled as much as this one with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. It may be, that the leg injury the Packers quarterback suffered in that opening weekend contest against the Bears, will be revealed after the season as a problem he confronted all year long.

Still, the Packers stick with Rodgers given even when he is injured but able to play he is better than any other option Mike McCarthy has on his roster.

The Vikings face a different quarterback situation. They cleaned house of all the signal callers that were on their winning 2017 team. Teddy Bridgewater, was never a factor again in the Vikings plans after he was injured during the preseason two years ago. The player the Vikings traded for in response to Bridgewater’s injury, Sam Bradford, was hurt early last season and replaced by career backup Case Keenum.

Keenum was masterful in playing within his skill set and directing an efficient Minnesota offense while allowing the Vikings stout defense to dominate most games. Even though that formula worked last year for the Vikings, they decided to opt for more firepower at the quarterback position and shipped all three quarterbacks from last season in favor of their prize off-season acquisition, Kirk Cousins.

The results for Minnesota have been inconsistent. Minnesota’s defense has not been nearly as effective as they were last year and Cousins has not added the dimension they were seeking from the quarterback position.

Still, this Minnesota team will remain in the playoff hunt with a win at home tonight over a Green Bay team that has lost all five of their road games this year. Unless the Packers can snap that string of road woes, they will drop out of serious postseason consideration.

With a win tonight, the Vikings will stay in the hunt for the division title with the Bears, who they host at U.S. Bank Stadium on the season’s final regular season Sunday.