November 19, 2014

The Green Bay Packers have been the class of the NFC North for the past four years, while the Minnesota Vikings have been mired in mediocrity for much of that period.

It's the Packers that appear to be searching for some stability ahead of Sunday's battle for first place in Minneapolis, however, especially with Aaron Rodgers hurting.

Green Bay (6-3) lost Sunday in one of the season's biggest upsets, 18-16 at home to a one-win Detroit team that hadn't earned a victory at Lambeau Field since 1991. The Packers failed to score at least 20 points for just the second time in their last 37 at home.

The team's third straight defeat was much different than the first two against Denver and Carolina, which are a combined 16-2. The Lions were coming off a 45-10 loss to sub-.500 Kansas City a week earlier.

Meanwhile, the Vikings (7-2) have won five in a row, surging to the top of a division the Packers are trying to win for the fifth straight season. No NFC team has done that since Dallas won the East from 1992-96.

Green Bay will be looking to avoid its first four-game skid since dropping five in a row in 2008 - Rodgers' first year as the starter.

"I think you always have sequences of games in seasons that you can look back on where one phase isn't playing as well as the other," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think we're in that right now. We just need to keep working and fight our way out of it."

Rodgers has posted an 86.0 passer rating during the losing streak compared to 115.9 in the first six games. He threw for 333 yards Sunday but needed a career-high 61 pass attempts to do so, completing 35.

He was also sacked three times and has been brought down 11 times in the last three games, matching the number of sacks allowed by Green Bay during its 6-0 start.

All of that punishment has left Rodgers with a right shoulder injury, with McCarthy calling him "banged up." Rodgers, limited in practice Wednesday, agreed with that assessment, though he said he was not concerned about his availability for Sunday.

''Probably banged up. But we all are at this time. It's Week 11 coming up, everybody is dealing with different things,'' Rodgers said. ''You get a routine, learn how to take care of your body and push through things.''

Rodgers has won nine of his last 10 starts against the Vikings, including playoffs, throwing 31 TDs and four interceptions in the past 12 meetings. His 119.0 rating against Minnesota is his highest against an opponent he's faced at least three times.

The Vikings' winning streak is their longest since a 6-0 start in 2009.

"I'm sure you're all aware, all right, that we're in first place," coach Mike Zimmer told his players following Sunday's 30-14 win at Oakland. "You know what that means? It means nothing. It's not where we are. It's where we finish at the end of the year."

Nonetheless, Minnesota can take a two-game edge in the division Sunday, though they've won once in the last 11 meetings with the Packers, including postseason. The victory came by a 37-34 score at home in 2012.

"I understand the heightened part of this game, but you know it's still about us and how we play," Zimmer said. "I think that our players will know that this is a big game. I don't think that I'm going to have to pull out any magic wands or anything like that."

The Packers' offense struggled against a Detroit team that came in allowing an NFL-worst 30.6 points per game, and they're likely in for a much stiffer test against Minnesota, which gives up a league-low 17.1.

They'll also have to contend with NFL leading rusher Adrian Peterson, who has averaged 143.7 yards on the ground in his last three games. He ran for 203 against the Raiders.

By contrast, Green Bay's running game has virtually disappeared, averaging 69.3 yards over the past three with as many fumbles as TDs (one). The Packers ran for 127.3 per game through their first six.

Green Bay won both meetings last season, including 24-21 at Minnesota on Nov. 23.

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