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Packers thwart Vikings to set up showdown vs. Lions

The Green Bay Packers extended their winning streak to five games with a convincing 38-25 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16. Here's what we learned:

  1. The white-hot Packers have emerged as the sleeping giant no Super-Bowl hopeful wants to draw in the NFC's postseason field. Two years ago, Rodgers captured his second career MVP award after his early-season admonition to R-E-L-A-X ignited a torrid three-month stretch. A similar scenario is playing out ever since Rodgers predicted 4-6 Green Bay would "run the table" with six consecutive victories to close out the season. Locked into the zone like his previous MVP campaigns, the most physically gifted quarterback in football put on his most spectacular display of the season with 347 yards, five touchdowns and a 136.6 passer rating. His best throw of the afternoon would have been good for a sixth score had Davante Adams not dropped the pass -- Adams' third botched touchdown in the past two weeks. Rodgers' tender calf came through with flying colors, as he reached 18.10 mph and covered 47.49 total yards on his meandering 6-yard touchdown scramble, per Next Gen Stats.
  1. Now leading the league with 40 total touchdowns while carrying a one-dimensional offense, Rodgers is in the thick of a tight MVP race featuring Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott. He's not the lone Packers star in the running for a major award. First in the NFL in receiving yards (870) over the past nine weeks, Jordy Nelson is vying for Comeback Player of the Year honors along with Le'Veon Bell, Jimmy Graham, Cameron Wake and Andrew Luck. Rodgers' version of Rob Gronkowski as the field-stretching red-zone weapon who makes the offense's engine go, Nelson hauled in two more touchdown passes to increase his league-leading total to 14. This connection is clicking on all cylinders entering January.
  1. Although the Packers' front seven got to Sam Bradford for four sacks and eight quarterback hits, the overly generous secondary remains an issue. Top cornerback Damarious Randall didn't appear in nickel packages to start the game after getting benched last week. LaDarius Gunter was immediately ruled out after suffering an elbow injury. Meanwhile, Bradford led an offensive attack that piled up a season-high 446 yards while Adam Thielen pulled off a convincing Nelson impersonation. Bypassing Stefon Diggs for the season lead in receiving yards (960), Thielen enjoyed the game of his life with 12 receptions for 202 yards and two touchdowns -- the second of which came with under a minute remaining, long after Rodgers had been put on ice in a one-sided affair.
  1. Green Bay travels to Detroit for a regular-season finale that will determine the NFC North champion. Although there are still scenarios under which the Packers can secure the NFC's No. 6 seed with a Week 17 loss, they would need cooperation from the Redskins and Buccaneers.
  1. It's fitting that the Vikings were undone by two turnovers that can be laid at the feet of the offensive line -- the fatal flaw in their disappointing 2016 season. Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark snatched up a fumble when center Nick Easton's shotgun snap failed to make it past the line of scrimmage. Bradford never had a chance when Clay Matthews hit him from behind for a strip sack that resulted in another lost fumble. Aided by garbage time, the Vikings quarterback passed for a career-high 382 yards and three touchdowns for a 110.6 passer rating. Far from the problem in Minnesota, Bradford has played the best ball of his enigmatic career in 2016.
  1. Of all the stars on Mike Zimmer's defense, second-year defensive end Danielle Hunt might just offer the most potential. With 1.5 sacks on Sunday, Hunter is up to 12 on the season. It's one of the most productive age-22 season by a pass rusher in the 21st century.
  1. Now entrenched as the lead back, converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery has become so valuable on offense that the Packers have replaced him on kickoff returns with Jeff Janis and Christine Michael.
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