Packers take another huge step toward playoff berth with blowout win over Vikings

It's happening again.

There was no memorable speech or catchphrase from Aaron Rodgers that will be attached to this late-season run, but somehow the Green Bay Packers are alive and well in the NFL playoff race. The Packers have rallied from the dead before to make the playoffs, and this could be their most improbable comeback if they can finish it in Week 18.

The Packers were dominant in another win. They embarrassed the Minnesota Vikings 41-17. They had an early kickoff return for a touchdown, then an interception return for a score and the Vikings weren't coming back. Green Bay led 41-3 before the Vikings scored two meaningless touchdowns late in the game. The Packers are back to 8-8 after their fourth straight win.

The Packers had a 3% chance to make the playoffs after falling to 4-8, according to FiveThirtyEight's projection system. They're not quite to the postseason yet, but after their win and a loss by the Washington Commanders on Sunday, they're in the playoffs with a Week 18 home win against the Detroit Lions. So much for that 3% chance.

Packers stay hot

Keisean Nixon might sum up the Packers' late-season surge. He was rarely used early in the season, as the Packers kept trying to get something out of kick returner Amari Rodgers. Finally Rodgers fumbled his way off the roster, and Nixon got a chance. He has been perhaps the NFL's best returner since then.

The Vikings opened the scoring Sunday with a field goal, then Nixon took the kickoff back 105 yards for a touchdown. That set the tone.

The Packers later got a 75-yard interception return touchdown from Darnell Savage. The offense hadn't scored and the Packers led 14-3.

The defense was in control the whole game. Kirk Cousins was terrible. Justin Jefferson, on track to challenge the NFL's single-season record for receiving yards, was held without a catch in the first half while Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander talked trash to him and did Jefferson's "Griddy" dance after one incompletion.

The Packers were a bad team and didn't show any signs of hope when they were 4-8. They've been a completely different team since then.

Green Bay Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon had a huge kickoff return touchdown in a win over the Vikings. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Green Bay Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon had a huge kickoff return touchdown in a win over the Vikings. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Vikings get blown out

The Vikings' loss will embolden their critics who have been yelling for weeks that their 12-3 mark was fraudulent.

The Packers took out Jefferson, due to Alexander's fantastic coverage, and the Vikings had no answer after that. The running game never got going. Cousins was under pressure and without Jefferson open most of the day, he couldn't find anyone else for an explosive play. In the fourth quarter he threw an aimless interception deep over the middle that summed up his miserable day.

Green Bay's defense overwhelmed Minnesota. The defense had been a disappointment most of the season but has come alive over the past month. And while it's not a vintage Packers offense, it is improving and still has the back-to-back MVP at quarterback.

The Packers go into Week 18 needing just a win to make the playoffs. That was hard to see coming a few weeks ago.