GREEN BAY—The Packers will be playing in a playoff-like environment on Sunday in Minneapolis, against a desperate team and a star player, and in a noisy, hostile atmosphere. It's the perfect portal to the postseason.
Coast into the playoffs? Not this season. Everything about this season's regular-season finale is important and intense.
"Everyone is excited. We're expecting a rowdy crowd. We know what we need to do. We win, we're in. We'll see what happens," Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield said.
"We're very confident. We're playing at home. We match up well with those guys. If we do the things we need to do, I like our chances," he added.
This is a different Vikings team than the one the Packers rallied to beat at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2. That Vikings team was coming off a loss in Chicago and had lost three of its previous four games. It was not hot.
In contrast, the Vikings team the Packers will face in the Metrodome this Sunday is coming off an impressive win in Houston, the third of three consecutive wins by the Vikings since they lost at Lambeau.
Everybody knows about Adrian Peterson. He's the star of the 2012 NFL season, and Peterson can cement that fact this Sunday by rushing for 208 yards and setting the all-time, single-season rushing record.
What a lot of fans don't know about the Vikings is that they have a hot defense that held one of the league's top offenses to six points in Houston and is playing its best football at the right time of the season.
In other words, the Packers will be facing a playoff-caliber team on Sunday that, in a manner of speaking, the Packers will likely have to beat at least once more this season. It's a challenge the Bears similarly faced in the 2010 season. The Bears had to beat the Packers once more. They never did.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Vikings.
1. Stop you know who—Or at least hold him under 200 yards.
2. Listen to Rodgers—Aaron Rodgers says the best defense against Adrian Peterson is to get a lead and force the Vikings to throw. That's an outstanding strategy.
3. Block Allen—Jared Allen will be coming from Rodgers' blindside and he's a full count faster in the noise of the Metrodome.
4. Force interceptions—That's how the Packers won the last game between the two teams.
5. Deal with the noise—A visiting team can't win in the Metrodome without doing this.
6. Beware of red-zone Rudolph—The Vikings look for Kyle Rudolph in the red zone. He's the touchdown-maker in their passing game.
7. Make Ponder be a passer—He likes to get out of the pocket and he's rushed for 237 yards. He converts with his feet.
8. Play like it's the playoffs—In a way, it is. With a win, the Packers will skip the wild-card round and advance to the divisional round.
9. Leave no doubt—With a win, the Packers will have completed a second consecutive perfect NFC North season, and there will be no doubt as to which team rules this division.
10. Get it done at crunch time—That's what wins in the postseason, and it includes a kicker that can make big kicks at big times in big games. Additional coverage - Dec. 27