When the Packers and Vikings get together, it marks one of the most exciting rivalries in all of sports. But when they play Friday in a Christmas Eve showdown, there will be more at stake than usual.
Although the Packers clinched a playoff berth before they took to the field Sunday against the Jaguars, there still is unfinished business in Green Bay. The Vikings and Packers are tied atop the NFC North with identical 8-6 records and whoever comes out victorious will have the upper hand for the division title.
Certainly, the Vikings are entering the contest on a high note after winning a 28-27 nail-biter versus the Detroit Lions while the Packers are coming off a difficult defeat at Lambeau Field. However, the attitude in the Packers locker room suggests that they are ready to move on their next task, which will be a very difficult one.
"I knew going into this game that we still had a chance to go to the playoffs, win or lose," Brett Favre said. "I really didn't expect this and I didn't expect to be in the playoffs if we lost.
"But it can be corrected. It's a short week and obviously this week is huge for a lot of reasons. One good thing about a short week is it will help us forget about this one."
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman is also confident his team has the wherewithal to overcome their latest loss.
"We have a real good group of guys," Sherman said. "There were some things out there we could have done and should have done that we didn't do. Sometimes those are the results of guys trying too hard. I'm not saying that's always the case, but we've got to get it fixed."
If the Packers are to get back on track, they will need to bring their best effort to Minnesota where the Vikings typically play well.
"Right now we are battling Minnesota," Hannibal Navies explained. "You couldn't ask for a better chance. We are playing them straight up. They have the same record. We have a chance to play these guys again and hopefully we come out with another win.
"If we do that it clinches our division and we get a home playoff game. We've got our work cut out for us this week."
According to Bubba Franks, the Packers have to take control of the game very early in what will undoubtedly be a hostile environment.
"We need to come out like we finished (tonight)," Franks said. "That's how we need to go into Minnesota, like we have a chip on our shoulder. I promise you I am going to be ready for this Minnesota game, come hell or high water.
"We still have a job to finish and were not finished with it yet. We still have two more division games, and we need to go out on a good note. You hate to lose your last regular season game at Lambeau Field, but it happens, so let's go and make some other teams lose their last home game."
The last time the Packers faced the Vikings was November 14 when Green Bay won 34-31 on a Ryan Longwell field goal. Franks said another victory against a tough divisional foe in Minnesota will allow the Packers to achieve one of their goals.
"It's good to be in the playoffs, that will help us with our second goal," Franks explained. "But we still haven't finished our first goal, which is to win the division. We need to get it with these next two games."
William Henderson said that in order for the Packers to take advantage of this opportunity, they have to correct many of the mistakes that doomed them Sunday.
"We have to make this game as plain as possible knowing we control our own destiny," Henderson said. "We need to go out there and play with a lot more character and a lot less flaws than we did today. We know how good they are capable of being and we know they have some revenge in their hearts."
The Vikings are 5-2 at the Metrodome and if the Packers want to add another loss to that column and win the division title at the same time, it won't be easy.
"Playing in that dome is definitely a home field advantage for them," Navies said. "Their fans get into it and they make noise. It's something they try to take advantage of. It's definitely different than playing at Lambeau Field.
It's a big game for both teams. We are at their house and we know we just have to try and go get a win."
Unlike last season, the Packers don't need to count on any other teams to win out for them to make the playoffs or clinch the division. Instead, their fate rests in their own hands. Mark Tauscher said that's important only on one condition.
"We need to get ourselves right," Tauscher admitted. "At this point, even if we do control our own destiny, if we don't play better it's going to be for the birds."
The Packers didn't sound too surprised that a Minnesota game near the end of December would have such ramifications.
"When you really look at it, the Minnesota game is for all the marbles," Tauscher said. "We needed to win this game today, but we can get this thing turned around. Regardless of whether we won or lost today, our focus still needs to be on Minnesota. But obviously, we are going to look at what happened today and why it happened and try to eliminate it.
"We need to win in Minnesota next week to achieve one of our goals and that is to win the division. Everyone wants to play here at Lambeau. It's a big game next week. We are going to prepare and go there and get it done."