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Ben Goessling’s Vikings-Packers preview: Who wins and why? – The Hamden Journal

Ben Goessling’s Vikings-Packers preview: Who wins and why?

When: 3:25 p.m. Sunday, Lambeau Field

TV, radio: Ch. 4, 100.3-FM

Line: Packers by 3½


Seeding vs. survival: The Vikings (12-3) clinched the NFC North two weeks ago, but are still playing for the No. 2 seed (and an outside chance at home-field advantage) in the playoffs. The Packers, after a 4-8 start, have won three in a row to put themselves back in playoff position; they likely need to win their last two and have the Commanders lose once to get in. The Vikings, then, can effectively end their rivals’ season with a win at Lambeau.

Jefferson continues record chase: Justin Jefferson needs 209 yards in the Vikings’ final two games to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season NFL record for receiving yards. If he puts together an especially big day on Sunday, he can break the record in the same number of games Johnson had to set it. He exploited massive holes in the Packers’ zone coverage for 184 yards in the Week 1 win; Jefferson said he expects Green Bay to have a different plan for him this time.

Smith returns to Lambeau: Edge rusher Za’Darius Smith has made no secret of his eagerness to face the Packers after the team let him go following the 2021 season. He had one of the Vikings’ four sacks in their season-opening win over the Packers. He could get a chilly reception in his return to Green Bay, but Smith — who needs another half-sack to reach 10½ for the season and secure a $750,000 incentive in his contract — figures to be fired up.


Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Packers CB Jaire Alexander: The Vikings expected Alexander to shadow Jefferson in Week 1; the Pro Bowl corner had asked for the matchup. The Packers have kept Alexander mostly on one side of the field, but they could move him around against Jefferson this time. On Thursday, he called Jefferson’s 184 yards against Green Bay “a fluke”; Jefferson can make a point with the first big day of his career at Lambeau Field.

Vikings defense vs. Packers RB Aaron Jones: The running back is playing through knee and ankle injuries, and even when he’s healthy, the Packers’ plan for him is puzzling at times. But if Jones is healthy enough for a larger workload after getting only eight touches last week, it could help the Packers’ offensive productivity when rookie receiver Christian Watson is questionable to play because of a hip injury.


9: Consecutive games in which the Packers have forced at least one turnover. That streak is the longest active run in the NFL.


They can avoid turnovers against an opportunistic Packers defense, find space to get Jefferson open despite greater attention from Green Bay’s secondary and continue the productive pass rush they’ve had the past two weeks. The Packers will get former All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari back from appendix surgery, but if Smith and Danielle Hunter can have the kind of success against Aaron Rodgers they had in the season opener, the Vikings can win.


Watson plays and Green Bay gets a few big plays from the rookie who’s come alive since he dropped a 75-yard touchdown pass against the Vikings in Week 1. The Packers will also need to protect Rodgers more effectively than they did in September, continue the productive pass rush they’ve put together without Rashan Gary and find a special teams spark if return man Keisean Nixon is out because of a groin injury.


The Packers have won three in a row to revive their playoff hopes. They’re desperate, and they’ll have an energetic crowd on their side for the late afternoon start. But if the Vikings can limit the turnovers that have kept the Packers’ season alive, Green Bay might not be able to score enough points to keep up, especially if its secondary has as much trouble with Jefferson as it did with Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill in Miami last week. The Vikings win in — what else? — a close one. Vikings 27, Packers 23