Packers Won't Need Santa to Deliver a Christmas Eve Gift

They're like two ships passing in the night. The Packers are that vessel that's headed out to the high seas, with a crew full of vigor and optimism. The Vikings are the craft that's headed back to shore, with a worn out crew ready to get home and just sleep for a few months.

The two will meet on what looks to be a mild, possibly rainy, Christmas Eve afternoon at Lambeau on Saturday. They couldn't be in more opposite situations. The Packers, the hottest team in the NFC, are looking for their fifth straight win and find themselves--for the first time this season--in control of their own destiny. Win the final two and they win the North. They could clinch a wildcard spot this weekend, if a bunch of things go their way.

As for the Vikings, their 5-0 start is a distant memory; they've won just twice in the last nine weeks and last Sunday's meltdown at home against the Colts suggests they're ready for the season to end. Their offense remains punchless and now their defense is getting banged up and can't seem to stop anyone anymore.

But the Pack knows the Vikings have won the last two times they've taken the field at Lambeau and will not overlook them or look past them. Mike Zimmer has always managed to make things uncomfortable for Aaron Rodgers. But he'll have his hands full this time around.

No QB has been hotter than Rodgers over the past two months and with the emergence of Ty Montgomery in the backfield, the Pack's offense is as explosive as it's been all season. Montgomery looks the part of the answer at running back for the long term. I've watched a few of his runs in Chicago several times this week. He's the real deal. For the first time in the last ten years of this series, the Packers will have the more explosive, dynamic back on the field.

Montgomery's presence should open things up for Rodgers and the passing game and make things a lot tougher for opposing defenses the rest of the year. If Xavier Rhodes is tasked with covering Jordy Nelson, there should be opportunities for redemption for Davante Adams on the other side. Hopefully Randall Cobb will return after missing last week's game--he's been practicing in a limited capacity this week. For the Vikes, their best defensive player, Harrison Smith, returned to practice as well--if he plays the defense should look a lot different than last week.

It's impossible to know what to expect from the Vikings. Usually, you hate to play a team after it's been embarrassed at home. They usually follow up with a focused, intense effort. In this case, after a long season that started with the Bridgewater injury, made its way to AP and most of the offensive line, continued with the release of Blair Walsh and culminated with the head coach's detached retina, it might just be that the team is ready to be officially put out of its misery.

We know that the Packers' defense is susceptible to prolific passing attacks; they don't have to worry about that with the Vikings. They'll pay close attention to Stefon Diggs after he torched them in Week 2. After him, there's not much there to scare the Packers.

Vikings fans are clinging to the very slim chance their team can still reach the playoffs. It involves winning out and needing a batch of NFC contenders to lose this week and next. After the aberration that was last season, the Packers are ready to move one step closer to reclaiming the division crown and officially dashing the Vikes' hopes for a return trip to the postseason.

Packers 24 Vikings 13

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