LOS ANGELES: The Minnesota Vikings will try to end Green Bay’s four-year NFC North Division reign when they play the Packers in a winner-takes-all NFL regular-season finale on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
Both teams are destined for the playoffs, but for each there will be plenty on the line at Green Bay’s iconic Lambeau Field.
The winner will claim not only the division title but also the National Football Conference number three seed, and a guaranteed home game in the first round of the post-season. The loser goes into the playoffs as a wildcard and will open on the road.
“It’s a big game,” said Vikings second-year quarterback Teddy Bridge-water, trying to lead Minnesota to their first division title since 2009.
However, Bridgewater added, it was important not to let the game become “too big.”
“We know that we’re playing for a lot right now, but at the same point you just have to go out there and be ourselves,” he said.
“We don’t have to do anything extra, don’t have to put any S’s on our chests, capes on our backs. We just have to do our job and do our job well.”
That’s certainly what Green Bay will be hoping to do as they seek to bounce back from a 38-8 pounding by the Arizona Cardinals last week.
“They’re coming off a convincing win,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Obviously, we’re coming off being on the other side of that. We need to bounce back.”
The American Football Conference South and West Division titles will also be decided on Sunday.
The Houston Texans have the upper hand in the race for the AFC South.
With quarterback Brian Hoyer expected back from a concussion, the Texans need only a victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars to clinch the division.
The Indianapolis Colts, still missing star quarterback Andrew Luck and with backup Matt Hasselbeck doubtful, still have a faint whiff of hope in the AFC South going into their season finale against the Tennessee Titans.
In the AFC West, the Denver Broncos are eyeing a victory over the San Diego Chargers to secure the division as well as the number two seed in the conference and a first-round bye.
Denver’s veteran quarterback Peyton Manning is expected to be in uniform for the season finale — as backup to Brock Osweiler, who has led the team as Manning recovered from a foot injury.
It will mark the first time in Manning’s pro career that he will serve as the designated back-up.
If the Broncos falter, the Cincinnati Bengals could seize the AFC second seed behind the New England Patriots, while the Kansas City Chiefs — seeking a 10th straight victory when they play the Oakland Raiders — could snatch the division.
Bills out to down Jets
The New York Jets will try to grab the last AFC wildcard with a win against ex-coach Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills are out of the post-season hunt, but the chance to spoil their AFC East Division rivals’ bid makes the contest Buffalo’s “Super Bowl,” Bills running back Anthony Dixon said.
“To send them home packing, that would be great,” Dixon said.
Jets linebacker Calvin Pace predicted the game would be a “bloodbath.”
“Oh, yeah, Rex will have them ready, I know he’ll have them ready,” said Pace, who played six seasons under the bombastic Ryan, who was signed by the Bills last January.
“They’re going to be fired up. We know the type of guy, the type of competitor Rex is, the motivational guy he is.”
If the Jets lose, the Pittsburgh Steelers can steal the final AFC wildcard with a victory over the Cleveland Browns, and the Jets will clinch it if the Steelers lose, regardless of their result against Buffalo.
Carolina’s bid for a perfect season ended last week in Atlanta, but quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers can still become just the fifth team to finish 15-1 with a win against Tampa Bay.
A victory would also clinch the NFC’s number one seed, while a loss would open the door for the Arizona Cardinals, who close the regular season against Seattle.