The Minnesota Vikings really needed a win over the Arizona Cardinals Thursday night and the fact that they ultimately fell short was a fortunate break for the Green Bay Packers.
Obviously it’s not hard to discern that a Vikings loss is good for Green Bay, but with three games to go, it puts the Packers in an especially strong position, particularly if they can defeat Dallas on Sunday.
Following the Packers loss to the Bears on Thanksgiving, they sat one game behind the Vikings in the NFC North race. Minnesota was 8-3 and the Packers 7-4. Then, last week, came the Motor City Miracle and Seattle beating down the Vikings in Minneapolis. And suddenly the two teams were tied.
With last night’s loss the Vikings are now a half-game behind the Packers for the division lead. That in itself is bad, but what hurts even more is if the Packers win Sunday — it means that the worse case scenario for Green Bay is a season-ending showdown with the Vikes for the North crown.
Thanks to their win over the Vikings earlier this season — the Packers simply need to be within a game of Minnesota to make the Week 17 game be for the North title, because Green Bay would own the tiebreaker with a season sweep.
Beating Dallas on Sunday would ensure that Green Bay would be at worst 9-6 going into Week 17 and with the Vikings loss Thursday night — Minnesota can be no better than 10-5.
Of course if the Packers beat the Cowboys, they could potentially win the division before Week 17 with wins over the Raiders and Cardinals on the road, but they would also need at least one more Vikings loss to make that scenario a reality.
At this point, it remains likely that the Packers-Vikings Week 17 showdown will be for the division title, but after nearly losing five of six games in the middle of the season — that scenario is still a good one for Green Bay.