The Minnesota Vikings have taken sole possession of first place in the NFC North for the first time since 2009.
At 7-2, they hold a one-game lead over the Green Bay Packers, who have dropped three straight. As fate would have it, who is on the schedule this week? Green Bay, of course.
So there's a lot on the line Sunday afternoon when the Vikings host the Packers. A Vikings win would mean:
- A two-game lead in the NFC North
- A 4-0 record in the division
- A guaranteed split with the Packers (they play again in Week 17)
The game is so important that when Vikings players returned to Winter Park Monday morning, they found new black T-shirts in their lockers with the team's and the NFC North's logos on the front and the words "Beat Green Bay" in all capital letters on the back.
During his Monday afternoon press conference, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer admitted the t-shirt was his idea.
"Our players will know this is a big game," Zimmer told reporters. "I don't think that I'm going to have to pull out any magic wands or anything like that. I think they'll understand. To me it's all about preparation, how you prepare. Making sure you focus on one day, one week, one game."
The players and staff wore the shirts around the facility Monday, but players were trying to keep things in perspective.
"It's not so much this game, but it's as far how the season is going – what we've got going and how much more serious it's going to get," wide receiver Stefon Diggs told ESPN. "We want to keep adding to our record and what we're doing right now. You can't take a break. You've got to continue to grind even harder."
But recent history against the Packers isn't on the Vikings side. Since 2010, the Vikings are 1-9-1 against Green Bay – including a wild card loss to the Packers during the 2012 season.
The NFL has flexed Sunday's matchup, so it's now a 3:25 p.m. kickoff.