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Packers look to keep playoff dream alive vs. rival Vikings

Dec 25, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) drops back with the ball before attempting a pass against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook appreciates a good rivalry.

“It’s fun being a part of Vikings-Packers. … I was a part of Miami-Florida State, and Florida,” the former Florida State star said. “Now, I’m a part of Vikings-Packers. … You only get it once, twice a year. Maybe three. You never know.”

With Green Bay surging back to the NFC playoff race and NFC North champion Minnesota currently holding the conference’s No. 2 seed, Cook may yet prove prophetic.

Of course, Minnesota (12-3) could take a major step toward thwarting the Packers (7-8) and their postseason hopes when the teams meet in Green Bay on Sunday.

A Green Bay loss plus either a Detroit Lions win or a Washington Commanders win would eliminate the Packers from playoff contention. Green Bay would sneak into the postseason if it wins its last two games, as long as Washington loses at least once or the New York Giants lose twice.

The Packers enter Week 17 on a three-game winning streak, though the team hasn’t been at or above .500 since a home loss to the New York Jets in Week 6 brought Green Bay to 3-3. That defeat was the second in what became a five-game losing streak that put the Packers near the back of the playoff race.

During Green Bay’s 26-20 victory at Miami last week, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for 238 yards (his highest total since Week 9) to go with one touchdown and one interception.

“Aaron’s making a lot of plays, and you can really see their passing game coming to life — both on schedule and off schedule,” Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell said. “So, (it’s) going to be a heck of a challenge. They’re always so tough to play at Lambeau Field, and we’ve got to play a really good game to be competitive and give ourselves a chance to win.”

Rodgers, who has contended with an injured right thumb as well as sore ribs this season, missed practice Wednesday because of a left knee injury. He and the team anticipate he will play Sunday, however.

“Usually this is how it goes,” Rodgers said. “You’re dealing with something throughout the year whether it’s a major or minor. Always got to do the body maintenance.”

Minnesota counterpart Kirk Cousins was 34-for-48 for 299 yards and three touchdowns last week in a 27-24 home win against the New York Giants, the Vikings’ fourth victory in their past five games.

Cousins passed for 277 yards and two scores in Minnesota’s 23-7 home win against Green Bay in the season opener. He has thrown for 4,117 yards and 27 scores so far this season, marking the eighth successive campaign in which he has passed for at least 3,500 yards and 25 TDs.

Justin Jefferson, who had 184 receiving yards and caught both of Cousins’ touchdown passes in the season opener, surely will be a focal point for the Green Bay defense on Sunday.

Still, Cousins isn’t at a lack for other options in the passing game. He connected with tight end T.J. Hockenson 13 times for 109 yards and a pair of scores against the Giants. One week earlier, K.J. Osborn had 10 catches for a career-best 157 yards as the Vikings rallied from down 33-0 to stun the visiting Indianapolis Colts 39-36 in overtime.

Although Minnesota has yielded 11 sacks in the past two games, Cousins still has shown a penchant for staying poised. Jefferson, the league’s receiving leader, has gone for at least 11 catches and 123 receiving yards in three straight games.

–Field Level Media