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With Help from Cardinals, Packers Clinch No. 1 Seed

The Arizona Cardinals' upset the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers routed the Minnesota Vikings to give Green Bay homefield advantage.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers, already with an NFC North championship and the guarantee of one home playoff game, had a chance to earn homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs on Sunday night.

To get that prize, two things had to happen:

First, in the afternoon wave of games, the slumping Arizona Cardinals had to beat the surging Dallas Cowboys. Dallas had won four in a row, including 56-14 last week against Washington. Arizona had the best record in the NFL until losing its last three games. In its last road game, it got thumped by Detroit 30-12 in perhaps the most shocking upset of the NFL season.

With those trends, the Cowboys were 6 1/2-point favorites at SI Sportsbook. However, the Cardinals (11-5) upset the Cowboys (11-5) 25-22.

Dallas pulled within a field goal on Dak Prescott’s touchdown pass to Amari Cooper and two-point conversion to Cedric Wilson with 4:42 to go.

Arizona needed to answer with a big drive. On second-and-7, Kyler Murray hit veteran tight end Zach Ertz for 11; Dallas burned its second timeout. On the next play, Chase Edmonds ran around right end for 11; Dallas used its last timeout. Runs of 6 by Edmonds and 9 by Murray gave the Cardinals another first down at the 2-minute warning. Murray took three knees to run out the clock.

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Then, the Packers needed to beat the Minnesota Vikings in what was billed as one of the coldest games in Lambeau Field history. With Kirk Cousins testing positive for COVID and Sean Mannion set to make his third start at quarterback in seven NFL seasons, the Packers opened the day as 12 1/2-point favorites at SI Sportsbook. The Vikings, however, had won the last two in the series, including 28-22 at Lambeau last season.

The Packers took care of business, racing to a 20-0 halftime advantage. Green Bay led 299-70 in yards; Davante Adams and Aaron Jones each had more yards than the Vikings. AJ Dillon added two touchdown runs in the second half, the second of which making it 37-10 with 8:41 to go.

The Packers had homefield advantage in last year’s playoffs but couldn’t take advantage. After dispatching the Rams 32-18 in the divisional round, they were upset by the Buccaneers 31-26 in the championship game. Those games were played in front of less than 8,000 fans. Home playoff games this year will be played in front of nearly 80,000 fans.

“For the most part, the colder it is, the slower the rush and the offense can have an advantage, especially on a field that could be slick based on the elements,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “And the homefield advantage that we have with our crowd and being at home and not having to travel is a big deal. It’s all those things. The weather is a part of it. The crowd is obviously a big part of it. The footing is a part of it. If you can handle the elements like we’ve handled it for the most part over the years, I think it gives us an advantage.”

Under coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers are 22-2 at home in the regular season and 2-1 in the playoffs. They were the only team that was undefeated at home this season.

“I think right now there’s a lot of ball left in front of us, and if we look any further than the Minnesota Vikings, a team that has beaten us the last two times we’ve played them, then we’re not focused on the right things,” LaFleur said. “As far as the home field’s concerned, I do think it’s going to be a tremendous advantage. You’re talking about a year that’s totally different with packed stadiums. I thought our crowd did an outstanding job the other night of being loud and really supporting our team, and that brings a lot of positive energy, and I think it definitely translates to success on the field.”

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