GREEN BAY—The drama has arrived. This is the stretch of schedule for which we have been waiting a whole season. They are three games that will likely decide the Packers' fate.
An exaggeration? I don't think so.
The Packers host the Vikings on Sunday, the Lions the following Sunday, and then travel to Chicago for an NFC North showdown on Dec. 16. If the Packers beat the Vikings and Lions, the game in Chicago will be rightfully billed as a head-to-head clash for the NFC North title.
It all begins with this Sunday's game against the Vikings. Don't go to sleep on the Vikings. Don't make the mistake of thinking their surprising rise this season is a fluke. Hey, they beat the 49ers. Enough said.
The Vikings will bring to Lambeau Field the league's best running back, a player of such physical power and skill that he is averaging 5.8 yards per carry less than a year after undergoing a sickening knee injury that required reconstruction surgery. Here's the truest testament to Adrian Peterson's greatness: Everybody knows who's getting the ball.
Beating the Vikings begins with stopping Peterson. It's something the Packers had difficulty doing last season when they were in the midst of a run to 13-0. Remember that game in Minneapolis, when Peterson rushed for 175 yards and 7.3 yards per carry?
The Vikings will also bring with them one of the game's premier pass rushers, Jared Allen, the high-motor leader of a talented defensive line. The Packers' much-maligned offensive line will be facing another stern challenge this week.
I bring all of this to your attention with the hope that it'll heighten your energy for Sunday's game, because after two rugged weeks on the road, the Packers could use some "home cookin'," to quote Aaron Rodgers.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Vikings.
1. Slow Adrian Peterson—Is it possible to stop him?
2. Protect Aaron Rodgers—That was last week's No. 1 thing. It's no less important this week. This is a must do for this team to have any chance of contending for any type of title this season.
3. Run left—Make Jared Allen play the run.
4. Rattle Christian Ponder—The Packers did that in the second game between the two teams last season, and it produced a blowout win. He's better than he was then, but he's still a young quarterback that hasn't seen everything.
5. Welcome back Greg Jennings—Get him the ball. It always worked before.
6. Prepare for Percy Harvin—He's missed time with an ankle injury and is said to still be limping, but it might be a good idea to game plan for him, just to be safe.
7. Slow Adrian Peterson—Did I already say that?
8. Make them pass the ball—I guess that's kind of the same thing.
9. Be physical—It's always a good time to be the more physical team, but that's especially true in December. Hitting hard is still a good thing.
10. Get the kicker in a good groove—Get Mason Crosby some chippies. Get him some short ones so he has some confidence for the long one he might need to make at crunch time. Additional coverage - Nov. 29