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Vikings-Packers: 5 things you can count on in Week 17

Jaren Hall will make his second career start when the Vikings host the Packers on Sunday night.
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The Minnesota Vikings will try to make a final stand when they host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 17.

Both teams enter Sunday's game with a 7-8 record and are looking for some help from other teams to make the playoffs. While the Vikings defeated the Packers 24-10 on Oct. 29, a lot has changed for both teams most notably the absence of Kirk Cousins, who tore his Achilles during the fourth quarter of that game.

With a potential playoff spot on the line, here are five things you can count on in this New Year's Eve showdown.

1. Jaren Hall's second career start

Jaren Hall will get a chance for his second career start after Nick Mullens threw four during last week's loss to the Detroit Lions. Hall's first start went well, completing 5-of-6 passes for 78 yards but he left after two drives sustaining a concussion in a win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Hall's college numbers are intriguing as he threw 51 touchdowns and 11 interceptions during his final two years at BYU. Most notably, Hall posted a 2.7 turnover-worthy play rate during his senior season with the Cougars in 2022 and will need to make more good decisions for a team that has chucked and NFL-high 11 interceptions since Cousins was injured.

The real issue here might be Kevin O'Connell's playcalling. ESPN's Kevin Siefert noted that the Vikings have not changed their offense much after Cousins's injury and that O'Connell has emphasized decision-making over the need to turn on "easy mode" for his quarterbacks.

If Hall can show enough improvement. it could keep the Vikings in the game and give Hall a chance for a spot on the 2024 roster.

2. Justin Jefferson carrying the offense

If the Vikings want to make things simple for Hall, they can just suggest throwing the ball to Jefferson.

Jefferson missed eight games due to a hamstring injury but looked like himself during last week's loss to the Lions. After catching six passes for 141 yards and a touchdown with a catch that invoked memories of a highlight-reel grab in Buffalo, it appears Jefferson is back to full form for a team that desperately needs him.

The Vikings offense is in trouble as T.J. Hockenson suffered a multi-ligament knee injury against the Lions. Jordan Addison also sprained his ankle and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. With the running game ineffective or being limited by O'Connell's playcalling, Jefferson's number should be called a lot against a Packers defense that will be without Jaire Alexander (suspension) on Sunday night.

3. Brian Flores getting the best of Jordan Love

One of the most notable differences between the last meeting between the Packers has been the development of Love. In his last meeting with the Vikings, Love completed 24-of-41 passes (58.5 percent) with a touchdown, an interception and just 5.6 yards per attempt but has turned a corner over his last eight games.

While Love's numbers have been impressive (261.9 yards per game, 16 TD, 3 INT), he's only faced two defenses in the top half of Pro Football Focus's coverage grades during those eight games. Furthermore, Love struggled in the first half before leading a comeback against the fifth-ranked New Orleans Saints (259 yards, TD, INT) and threw three interceptions during a loss to the 12th-ranked Las Vegas Raiders.

Although Flores's defense has shown cracks in recent week, they still rank seventh in PFF's coverage grades, giving Love another chance to show his progress on Sunday night.

4. The Vikings committing more turnovers

Times Square won't be the only place the ball is being dropped on Sunday night as the Vikings continue to have a problem with turnovers.

We already discussed the Vikings' interception problem in recent weeks but turnovers have been just as prominent as injuries as Minnesota's 30 giveaways rank second behind Cleveland's 32 this season. The good news is that the Packers rank 24th with 16 takeaways this season but Detroit had just 15 takeaways until Mullens handed out footballs like he was delivering one of O'Connell's postgame speeches.

If the Vikings can limit their turnovers, they'll have a chance in Sunday's game. But we're in Week 17 and Minnesota has just two games without a turnover this season. At this point, this is who they are and it might be better just to expect it than hoping it will change.

5. The Packers end the Vikings playoff hopes

Every time the Vikings season appears to be dead, they find a way to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. With a win over the Packers, they have the opportunity for their season-finale in Detroit to mean something and that should be enough for Minnesota to go 100 percent on Sunday night.

Unfortunately, the Vikings might not have the firepower to push through. The Packers are a flawed team but Minnesota has just as many problems thanks to their injuries and tendency to turn the ball over.

The Vikings will keep this game close but the Packers should pull away in the end.

Predictions: Packers 21, Vikings 10