GREEN BAY, Wis. — Six days after facing off in the regular-season finale, and five weeks after their first meeting of the season, the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers are at it again tonight.
“Like I tell the team, it doesn’t matter who comes out of that tunnel, I don’t care what color they have on,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s about fundamentals, matchups, and that’s what we’re focused on.
“We’re playing at home, it’s going to be a great environment. ... The Vikings obviously have done a great job to get into the tournament, and we respect that, but this is a different deal.
“This is what everybody’s been fighting for, and this is what we’re excited about.”
Minnesota (10-6) and Green Bay (11-5) split their first two meetings, with the Vikings’ victory last Sunday in Minneapolis giving them the last wild-card spot. It also dropped the Packers from the No. 2 to the No. 3 seed, and forced the NFC North champs to work a weekend they were hoping to have off.
At least neither team had to scramble to dig up film or scouting reports.
As division rivals, the Packers and Vikings already know plenty about each other. After playing twice in December, they know each other so well they could probably call each other’s plays. There won’t be any big surprises, no new wrinkles to the offense or defense that the other hasn’t already seen.
“So much familiarity with the team that we are playing because of the number of times we have played them in the last month and a half,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “So not a whole lot that needs to be discussed as far as getting motivated to play this game.”
The Vikings game plan will be simple: Give the ball to Adrian Peterson and get out of the way.
That’s the plan pretty much every week, but particularly against Green Bay. He’s rushed for 409 yards in their two games, and is averaging a whopping 7.4 yards per carry.
The Packers have lost their past two home playoff games, including last year to the Giants when they were the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
“It’s not something we’ve thought about or really talked about since probably April,” Aaron Rodgers said. “We want to be playing the right way obviously. We had a good stretch there. We won nine out of 11 games and played a lot of really good opponents, tough opponents, tough games on the road.
“I like the way we’re playing,” he added. “I think we have the right mindset, a good group of leaders in this locker room and a lot of guys who’ve won a lot of regular season, a lot of postseason games. We’re excited about our team and excited about our opportunity in front of us.”
Especially since Green Bay’s high-powered offense is finally at full strength.
The Packers’ top four receivers — Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb — have played less than three full games together this season, with Jennings (torn groin muscle), Nelson (hamstring) and Cobb (ankle) missing a total of 13 games. But all are healthy now, and the Vikings got an idea of how tough it will be to contain them last week, when the Packers piled up 405 yards of offense and scored 34 points.
Expect this week to bring more of the same.
“We’ll tweak our offense, they’ll tweak their defense. Each team’s going to look at what transpired on Sunday and try to make some adjustments to make sure they’re better than they were on Sunday,” Green Bay offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “Playing outside, it can be a different type of game depending on what the weather’s like. But it’s still going to be a battle. They’re a good defense, we’re a good offense. They run the ball on offense, we’ve got to play on defense.
“It’s the same type of game. Just different location.”