“Good to be home:” Division title hangs in the balance as Packers gear up for Vikings at Lambeau

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GREEN BAY — It will be a battle for the NFC North Division title on Sunday, January 3rd as the Green Bay Packers take on the Minnesota Vikings.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Lambeau Field.

The border battle showdown was rescheduled for a late start on Sunday.

The Packers and Vikings are each 10-5 on the season.

Who will be crowned NFC North Division champion on Sunday at Lambeau? Make your pre-game prognostications by voting in our poll below:

Heading into Sunday’s game, the Vikings are coming off a prime time 49-17 victory over the New York Giants in Minneapolis.

The Packers lost to the Cardinals 38-8 in Arizona.

Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings

Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings

After 16 weeks of football, the NFC North Division title still hangs in the balance. A champion will be crowned on Sunday.

If this “Week 17 decides everything in the division” scenario sounds familiar — it’s because it should. Two years ago, it was the Packers at Chicago in the last game of the regular season. Aaron Rodgers threw to Randall Cobb on fourth down for the TD, and the Packers were division champs.

Last season, it was the Packers vs. Detroit in the last game of the regular season. The Packers would earn the division title.

This season, it’s Packers vs. Vikings in the last game of the regular season.

“This is one game. This is exclusive to the players and coaches from both teams. I don’t really get caught up in the history and so forth,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.

“It’s very important to come here, you know? Last game against the Vikings, you know — high profile game. It’s good to be home,” Packers DE Letroy Guion said.

“It seems like it happens every year with us — so it’s fun. It’s an exciting time of the year. Obviously we’ve had some negativity around here the past couple of weeks but it’s so exciting that you get to play your division rival for the division in Week 17. You can’t ask for anything more,” Packers LG Josh Sitton said.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers spent a lot of time on the ground last Sunday vs. the Arizona Cardinals. He was sacked nine times. Packers offensive linemen were banged up, and the substitutions couldn’t get the job done.

This Sunday, protecting the quarterback will be key.

“It definitely doesnt make it easy but we’ve never made that an excuse and we never will so I mean, it can definitely hinder the chemistry on the offensive line,” Sitton said.

“It’s a learn from it and move on type of mentality. As offensive linemen, you can’t really have too long of a — you can’t really relish on what happened in the past. You got to have a short memory and move on from it and, you know, get ready for the next game,” Packers RT Bryan Bulaga said.

“We’re focused on beating the Vikings. This is the 2015 Green Bay Packers. This is our opportunity to win the division championship and, you know, just the way we play and the way they play and just the details of that and the preparation, that’s really what this is all about,” McCarthy said.

“You can’t ask for anything set up better to win the division — get a home playoff game, playing at home against a division rival. We both know each other very well.  It’s set up to be a great game,” Bulaga said.

We saw our first major winter storm this week — and more than a foot of snow fell in Green Bay.

The ice, snow and cold is usually an advantage for the Packers, because that’s the kind of weather they’re used to. But the Vikings are used to the same type of weather.

The Packers used to have a big advantage when the Vikings would come to Green Bay because the Vikings used to be an indoor team, but they’re used to this sort of stuff. They’ve been playing outdoors the last couple of years before they move to their new stadium. and they’re different too in that they’ve been closing the gap on Green Bay this season and the last couple of years.

In their first matchup this year, the Packers played well and got the win (30-13) on November 22nd.

“They’re a confident bunch right now and they’re playing some good football so we know they’re going to come in here and have a lot of energy and, you know, want to stop us,” Packers WR James Jones said.

“Everybody facing the Packers has a chip on their shoulder and wants to get a piece of the Packers because, you know, the tradition around here, you know? You win so many games and you’re always in a playoff spot so I’m sure everybody comes out with a hard hat on and ready to go against us,” Guion said.

Neither the Packers nor the Vikings will be left out in the cold when it comes to the playoffs this year. The winner Sunday night is the NFC North Division champ, while the loser still gets into the playoffs as a wildcard.

The Packers are 10-1-1 in the the last dozen games against Minnesota. Mike McCarthy is 8-1 in Week 17 of the regular season but of course this year, Detroit has won at Lambeau, and Chicago has won at Lambeau — so there’s nothing certain this year in Titletown.

CLICK HERE for more on Sunday’s matchup via Packers.com.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Northeast Region Office is reminding motorists heading to Lambeau Field on Sunday, January 3 for the Green Bay Packer/Minnesota Viking football game that I-41 and adjacent roadways from Oneida Street north to Lineville Road in Brown County are under construction. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

I-41, WIS 172 and I-43 could experience significant backups near the stadium, as could the I-41 interchanges at Oneida Street, WIS 172 and I-43. Barrier walls, orange barrels, and narrow lanes will affect travel.  Due to the I-41 Project construction, Ashland Avenue through De Pere and Ashwaubenon will also experience increased traffic congestion as additional motorists use this as an alternate route. The heaviest congestion is expected three hours before and after the game.

Here is a list of the major roads in northeast Wisconsin most Packer fans will be traveling as they head for Lambeau Field, and the road conditions they should anticipate.

I-43 and I-43/I-41 interchange

  • Brown County
  • The southbound I-41 off-ramp to southbound I-43 remains closed. Drivers can follow the marked detour on I-41 southbound to WIS 172 eastbound, follow WIS 172 east to I-43.
  • The northbound I-43 off-ramp to southbound I-41 remains closed. Drivers should follow detour onto I-41 northbound to Lineville Road, and use Lineville road to access I-41 southbound.
  • I-43 between Atkinson Drive and I-41 is reduced to a single lane in each direction. The speed limit is also reduced to 55 mph.

WIS 172 and I-41/WIS 172 Interchange

Motorists should expect heavy congestion and potential long delays at the I-41/WIS 172 interchange and on WIS 172 in Brown County from I-43 to the WIS 172/I-41 interchange before and after the game. Motorists should consider using alternate routes if possible.

I-41

Barrier wall, narrow lanes, short merge distances and orange barrels will be present at various locations.

  • Brown County
  • Drivers will encounter 11-foot travel lanes and reduced shoulders in multiple locations along a 10-mile segment of highway. The speed limit is reduced to 55 mph from just south of Grant Street to Lineville Road. Temporary barrier wall at various locations will cause traffic to slow.
  • The southbound I-41 off-ramp to Velp Ave remains closed, drivers can follow the marked detour on I-41 southbound to Shawano Ave, follow Shawano Ave east to Military Ave, and Military Ave north to Velp Ave (US 141)
  • Winnebago County
  • Drivers will encounter reduced speed limits on I-41 near the US 10/WIS 441/I-41 interchange. Drivers should also watch for reduced lane widths and reduced shoulder widths on northbound and southbound I-41.

WIS 441/US 10 and Roland Kampo Bridge

  • Winnebago, Outagamie and Calumet counties.
  • Drivers should be aware of orange barrels, narrow lanes, barrier walls and reduced speed limits.

Freeway Service Team

Two freeway service teams will be working on game day in Brown County. One team will be on I-41 from 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and again from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and the other will be on WIS 172 from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  These teams will assist motorists – free of charge – who are involved in minor crashes or are experiencing a breakdown. If necessary, the Freeway Service Team quickly relocates disabled vehicles from the highway’s travel lanes and/or shoulders to safe, pre-designated locations away from traffic.

Services the team provides include:

  • Relocating disabled vehicles
  • Providing small amounts of fuel
  • Handling minor repairs (changing flat tires, battery jump starts)
  • Removing small non-hazardous debris from the roadway
  • Assisting with traffic control and crash scene clearance

Please note if you are involved in a crash:

The WisDOT’s Division of State Patrol advises you to immediately call 911 if you are involved in a crash.  If there are no injuries and the vehicles can be moved, report the other vehicle’s license plate numbers as you may then be advised to move off the main portion of the roadway to a crash investigation site or to a ramp out of traffic.  This will assist first responders in reaching you while helping to clear traffic delays during the critical travel times before and following the game.

Additionally, if your vehicle becomes disabled in the I-41 work zone between De Pere and Suamico, notify authorities immediately, and WisDOT will send the Freeway Service Team vehicle to your location. Motorists can then contact their motor club or towing preference after WisDOT has relocated your vehicle to a more accessible and safe location.

Travelers should allow extra time and can check online for real-time traffic information, including travel times, lane closures and incidents, at 511 Wisconsin online at www.511wi.gov or by calling 511.

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