Although the football people would never admit this publicly, the game Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium is a major statement moment in the NFC North.
The upstart Vikings, who own a one game lead over the four time defending division champion Packers, are looking to show the world there is a new sheriff in town. The Packers are looking to put this upstart in its place and reassert dominance in the division.
One game behind in the division at this juncture of the season is not unfamiliar territory for the Packers; they have not led the division after week ten in each of the last four seasons, yet have won the division each time.
So regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game, remember, there’s a lot of football still to be played.
This is the 110th meeting between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.
The Packers lead the series 58-49-2.
Of late the Packers have won nine of the last 11 with one loss and one tie. The loss was at the end of the 2012 regular season; the Packers had the division clinched, the Vikings needed to win to make the playoffs.
Minnesota won a rousing 37-34 decision to earn another shot at the Packers in the Wild Card playoff game at Lambeau Field a week later, a game won by the Packers 24-10.
For all of the “house of horror” talk in the nineties, the Packers actually hold a 27-26 edge in Minneapolis in the series over the years.
Last year Green Bay won big in Lambeau Field 42 to 10 but had to hammer out a 24-21 victory in TCF Bank Stadium over the Vikings later in the season.
Several factors make this one of the best rivalries in the NFL.
First off, prior to Minneapolis getting an NFL franchise in 1960, it was Packers’ territory.
Many fans in that area have grandparents or parents who grew up Green Bay fans. Of course that has worn off over the generations, but it is a layer in this rivalry.
Secondly, the new Vikings had to cut their teeth on the Lombardi Packers in the sixties. Minnesota lost 10 of the first 12 games in the series to the powerful Packers.
In 1967, now legendary Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant brought his 0-4 Vikings into Milwaukee, where they earned the first victory of his coaching career a 10-7 win over Lombardi and his two time defending champion Packers.
From there the series turned decidedly in Minnesota’s favor. The Vikings became the team to beat in the NFC Central for the better part of two decades.
Another aspect of this rivalry that makes it great is the fact these two franchises are usually playing for something significant. Combined, the Vikings (16) and the Packers (11) have won 27 of the 43 NFC Central/North division championships.
The Vikings have made 27 playoff appearances while the Packers have been to the post season 24 times over the last 43 years. This year appears to be no exception.
If the post season began today, both the Packers and Vikings would be playoff bound.