The Packers’ matchup with the Vikings this week is crucial for reasons that need very little explanation. If the Packers want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they have to beat the Vikings. It really is as simple as that.
But the Packers also have a chance to pull ahead of the Vikings in one area of their rivalry: their January win/loss record. So far, the Packers and Vikings have played four games against each other in the month of January, with each team winning twice. Sunday’s game will determine which team is on the right side of that history, at least for the time being.
The Packers’ first showdown with the Vikings was a game to forget. A disgusting act, if you will. After winning the NFC North with a 10-6 record in the 2004 regular season, the Packers hosted the Vikings in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The Vikings had managed to sneak into the playoffs despite losing their final two regular season games, nabbing the final NFC playoff spot with an 8-8 record by winning the head-to-head tiebreaker over the New Orleans Saints.
You wouldn’t have guessed the Packers had already beaten the Vikings twice that season; they thoroughly self-destructed. Brett Favre threw four crushing interceptions (though that was hardly an unfamiliar sight in the playoffs), including three in a five-drive span. That same series of drives also included a missed field goal, adding another layer of ignominy to an already bad loss. Randy Moss capped off the Vikings’ win by treating the assembled Packers fans to his most memorable touchdown celebration as Minnesota advanced to the Divisional Round with a 31-17 win.
The Packers got playoff revenge a few years later. In 2012, the Vikings beat the Packers in Week 17 to earn the final NFC playoff spot, stealing the sixth seed from the Chicago Bears based on division winning percentage. Their win was a costly one, though. Starting quarterback Christian Ponder was beaten up and bruised in the victory, leaving the Vikings to start backup Joe Webb. Webb completed 11 of 30 passes, threw an interception, fumbled once, and was sacked three times. The rest of the game pretty much fell into place for the Packers from there; they’d go on to win 24-10.
Three years later, the Packers and Vikings met for their first regular season January game. The second half of the 2015 season wasn’t great for the Packers, who had gone 4-5 after a 6-0 start. The Vikings, meanwhile, had finished strong, setting up a de facto NFC North championship game in Week 17. In keeping with the rest of their season, the Packers were beset by injuries and poor play. With David Bakhtiari out of the lineup, Mike McCarthy made the curious decision to start Josh Sitton at left tackle, a position he’d never played as a pro. Sitton was beaten badly by Everson Griffen on a first-half pass rush that ended with Griffen hitting Aaron Rodgers’ throwing arm and forcing a fumble, which Vikings’ defensive back Captain Munnerlyn returned for a touchdown.
Despite the scoop and score, the Packers still rallied and trailed 20-13 late in the fourth quarter. However, on a 4th and goal play from the two-yard line, Aaron Rodgers threw an interception in the end zone, ending any real chance of completing the comeback.
The Packers played the last of their four January games against the Vikings last season, kicking off 2022 with a 37-10 win. The 2021 season had been a bit of a slog for the Vikings start to finish. They were never above .500 at any point and came into their Week 17 game against the Packers at 7-8. It already seemed like a foregone conclusion that Mike Zimmer wouldn’t return, and the Packers put any thoughts of a miracle run to the playoffs to rest that day.
With Kirk Cousins on the COVID-19 list and Dalvin Cook freshly off it, the Vikings didn’t have the firepower to stick with the Packers that day. Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdowns, AJ Dillon ran in two more, and the Packers secured a first-round bye in the 2021 playoffs — not that it would do them any good.