Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/29/12
Of the many changes and upgrades that the NFL has made to enhance its appeal in catering to the needs of its fans, the move to having all divisional matchups in Week 17 is among the shrewdest. The league, specifically commissioner Roger Goodell, have done just about everything right as it relates to the structure of the schedule, the matchups, and providing the most enticing and enthralling competitive watching experience any fan could ask for.  Week 17 of the 2012 NFL season is all that, and more.Of the 16 games on the docket, only six are completely meaningless regarding the outcome and its bearing on the playoffs. And one could argue that it’s only five, as any time the Jets play (vs. Buffalo) it seems to be meaningful to every news outlet covering football.For fans, the final regular season week has begun to mimic the excitement college football brings when it pits longtime rivals against one another during the last week of the season. When Green Bay and Minnesota clash this Sunday, familiar foes will once again engage one another with a great multitude subplots intertwining, and some will have potentially historical implications.  3 BOLD PREDICTIONSAaron Rodgers will find himself on his back, staring at the roof of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome oftenRodgers has had another otherworldly season for the Packers. With 3,930 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, and a 106.2 passer rating, you cannot say ‘elite NFL QB’ without including Rodgers in the sentence. However, dropping back to pass so many times can have its consequences if the offensive line in front is average or worse. Rodgers has been sacked 46 times, 2nd most in the league this season. Minnesota  has dropped opposing quarterbacks 39 times, with defensive stand out Jarrod Allen accounting for 11. In the first matchup, Allen was able to get Rodgers to the ground twice, and was consistently the 6th member of the Green Bay offensive line, spending almost as much time in the backfield as the line itself. The Vikings can get pressure both by blitz and via the stout four-man front, and will work to harass Rodgers as much as possible, and will have him making throws quicker than he would prefer. Linebacker Chad Greenway had 13 tackles in the first meeting this season, and should provide backside support to Allen off the right side in pressuring Rogers. With 30-year old Ryan Grant toting the rock for the Packers out of the backfield, Rodgers will likely be working the pass more than normal, which means the Vikings' defensive game plan will be focused more on disrupting that part of the game. Head coach Leslie Frazier will likely focus on that facet of the Packers' attack, and with the Vikings' home crowd at full blast and a playoff berth on the line, the Vikings will make Rodgers’ life miserable throughout the contest.Adrian Peterson makes Eric Dickerson a happy camper by coming up just short of breaking the NFL single-season rushing recordThis one is a tough call. Peterson is having a season for the ages. Coming off a torn ACL is difficult enough for a running back, as conventional wisdom tells us it is normally the season ‘after’ the next season that a player returns to the form he had before this injury. Not only is Peterson back to original from the season following his injury, he has put together on of the greatest single-season rushing performances of all time. With 1,898 rushing yards, Peterson is 208 yards away from breaking Dickerson’s record of 2105, set in 1984. Peterson’s 2012 campaign actually started off fairly slowly. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark just once (102 vs. Detroit) over his first six games. But starting Week 7, things began to break loose for the man known as ‘All Day’. The next four games saw AP blow through defensive lines for totals of 153, 123, 182, and 171 yards respectively. Oddly enough, he seemed to get stronger as the season went on. He torched the Packers at Lambeau Field for 210 yards in Week 13, which included an 82-yard romp the first time he touched the football. His string of consecutive 100-yard games was halted at eight last week when the Texans held him to 86 yards. With second-year quarterback Christian Ponder hardly a threat in the passing game, the Packers are going to place total focus on Peterson in order to not be the team he makes history against. Dickerson made news recently when he said he was in fact not rooting for Peterson to break his record, wanting to keep it all to himself. Come Sunday, Dickerson should still be smiling. Barring another 80-yard jaunt, Peterson will likely find yards slightly tough to come by, and while a 100-yard effort is more than likely, 208 yards will be just out of reach. Peterson will have to settle for becoming the 6th running back to achieve 2,000 rushing yards in a season. Peterson will however be a candidate for both Comeback Player of the Year, as well as NFL MVP, and his unbelievable 2012 season will go down as one of the best ever by a running back, and tossing in the ACL injury, possibly the best ever. The Vikings get paybackThere really is no greater motivation for an athlete to be playing in an ‘all or nothing’ game. Simply put, if the Vikings win, they make the postseason. For Green Bay, a win means a first round bye.  With this game in Minnesota, indoors, and one of the Vikings’ stars looking to make history, Minnesota will have all the motivation it can handle. Playing against their most hated rival will only get them going even more. History is trying to tell us otherwise, as the Packers have won five straight in this rivalry, and the last nine of 10 overall. Streaks, as we know, are there to be broken. With a playoff spot already secured, Green Bay will be interested in keeping everyone healthy. They may also be without one of their best play-makers. Wide receiver Randall Cobb will be a game-time decision with a gimpy ankle. This means an increased workload for Greg Jennings, who himself has missed a majority of the season due to multiple injuries. The other main weapon in the passing game, Jordy Nelson, has been battling a tight hamstring all season, but is currently listed as probable. With his three main targets all operating at well under 100 percent, Rodgers will have to be as crafty as ever in moving the team via the pass. It all lines up for a big Purple Party, and Minnesota dances their way to the tournament, 28-17. 
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