GREEN BAY – Exactly how cold it will be Sunday night remains to be seen, but there's weather-related history potentially to be made in the Packers-Vikings rivalry.
The forecast is calling for single-digit temperatures at kickoff, and if that holds true, this will be the coldest Packers-Vikings game ever played at Lambeau Field.
The coldest to date was in Week 16 of 2017 (Dec. 23), when the kickoff temperature was 10 degrees. With the Packers out of playoff contention, QB Aaron Rodgers did not play and Green Bay lost in miserable fashion, 16-0.
For the record, the coldest Packers-Vikings game ever was back on Dec. 10, 1972, at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn., with a kickoff temperature of zero. Quarterbacked by Scott Hunter, the Packers triumphed, 23-7, to clinch the NFC Central title. It was Green Bay's only division championship between the Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren eras.
It's actually been a long time – eight years – since the Packers played a game with a kickoff temperature in the single digits. The 2013 NFC Wild Card playoff (Jan. 5, 2014) vs. San Francisco kicked off at 5 degrees.
This past week, Rodgers considered that the third-coldest game he's ever been a part of behind two from early in his career, one at Soldier Field in Chicago and then the 2007 NFC title game at Lambeau.
Even this late in his career, though, Rodgers doesn't shy away from the cold. He embraces the edge it gives the Packers, which could be significant this week with the indoor Vikings visiting.
"I like it colder, the better," Rodgers said. "For the most part, the colder it is, the slower the (pass) rush and the offense can have an advantage, especially on a field that could be slick based on the elements."
As this game has gotten closer, more and more factors are pointing to the Vikings relying on their running attack to stay alive in the NFC wild-card chase.
Beyond the weather – which Packers running back AJ Dillon said turns these into "physical, gritty" games – Green Bay had its worst game of the season defending the run last week against the Browns, allowing 218 rushing yards. Bad fits, not setting the edge and missed tackles all contributed to the struggles.
So there already was an expectation Minnesota running backs Dalvin Cook (1,067 yards) and Alexander Mattison (473) would be focal points, and then Vikings QB Kirk Cousins went on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday, sharpening the focus even more on their ground game as being the key to the contest.
"When you give up as many yards as we did last week and how we fit some of those runs, you know they're going to test us," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "We're going to have to prove that we've got things corrected, and it's going to be a great challenge for our defense."
The Packers did a decent job against Cook in the teams' first meeting this year, but he still posted 115 yards from scrimmage (86 rushing, 29 receiving, with a TD).
It was Cook who almost singlehandedly won the game for the Vikings at Lambeau last season, as he racked up 226 total yards (163 rushing, 63 receiving) and scored all four of Minnesota's TDs.
Which brings this column to another rarity, one the Packers would rather avoid.
Minnesota has a chance to beat Green Bay for a third straight time, dating back to last year's second meeting on Nov. 1, 2020, when Cook had that monster game.
The Vikings are the only NFC North team to beat the Packers under LaFleur, who is 14-2 in the division. But more broadly, LaFleur's overall dominance of division games has carried over a pillar of the team's success from Mike McCarthy's tenure.
Not including times Rodgers has been injured, no NFC North foe has beaten Green Bay three straight times since the Vikings did it in 2008-09, the last two wins when quarterbacked by former Packers franchise great Brett Favre.
For the Bears, their last three-game winning streak over the Packers goes back to 2005-06, concluding with McCarthy's first game as head coach. The Lions? Not counting Detroit's four straight wins over Green Bay through the 2017-18 seasons when Rodgers missed all but one of the meetings, a three-game win streak dates back to pre-Holmgren times, in the 1990-91 seasons.