NFL week 17 preview: Green Bay Packers to put themselves in driving seat for NFC top spot

Now in the business end of the season, Green Bay can put themselves in control of the NFC top spot, while the Dallas Cowboys can capitalise on the poor form of the Cardinals.

With just two weeks left of the regular season there's still plenty up for grabs as a handful of teams make one last desperate dash towards the NFL playoffs.

The New Year starts in fantastic fashion with a packed schedule of games, including a few that have major ramifications to the playoff places.

Aaron Rodgers is gunning for a fourth MVP as his Packers are gunning for top spot in the NFC, while the Vikings are hanging by a thread as they visit Lambeau.

The Cowboys are just behind Green Bay as they face the Cardinals, and while both teams have already made the postseason, there's still a potential bye to play for.

A banged-up Baltimore need to beat the high-flying Rams to stay in contention, while the Chargers and Broncos face a must-win clash in LA.

Here's the pick of Week 17 in the NFL.

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Minnesota Vikings (7-8) @ Green Bay Packers (12-3)

Four straight wins has the Packers crowned as NFC North champions again and on the cusp of grabbing the top seed in the NFC, which they can seal with a win here coupled with a defeat for Dallas.

That would mean home advantage throughout the playoffs as well as a bye - both of those will be crucial to their chances considering their impressive record at Lambeau Field and the fact they've played an extended season.

The Vikings are one of just two away sides to win a regular season game at Lambeau in the last three seasons, and have also inflicted one of only two defeats Green Bay have suffered this season with Aaron Rodgers in their team.

Rodgers has 16 TD passes and thrown no interceptions over the last five games as he's fired himself back into 4/7 favourite to retain his MVP title - although there are rumblings he could get overlooked due to his COVID-19 controversy.

While Rodgers rightly gets all the plaudits, head coach Matt Le Fleur deserves equal credit - a win here would see him break the record for regular season wins in a coach's first three NFL seasons.

Le Fleur is currently 38-9 since taking the job, with former San Francisco 49ers coach George Seifert going 38-10 in his first three years in charge.

Minnesota will offer problems in the air and on the ground, with running back Dalvin Cook having a 200-yard, four TD game as the Vikings won at Lambeau last season, while it was receiver Justin Jefferson who did the damage this season with 169 yards and two scores.

Although they have Rodgers, in what's going to be freezing conditions, Green Bay's own run game could be vital as the Vikings allow the fifth-most yards per game and per carry - and in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon the Packers have a powerful one-two backfield punch.

Best bet:

Arizona Cardinals (10-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

NFL, Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Dallas have won four in a row to go ahead of the faltering Cardinals in pursuit of Green Bay at the top of the NFC. Already crowned as NFC East champions, the Cowboys now want that first round bye after thumping Washington last week in Dak Prescott's best display of the season.

Arizona had been the last undefeated NFL team standing at 7-0, but have slumped in form since, going 3-5. The Cards made the playoffs despite losing last week, but want to try and pip the Rams to the NFC West.

They'll need Kyler Murray to rediscover his early season form back as Dallas will present plenty of problems for a team struggling to make plays.

Prescott leads the top-scoring offense in the league, but Dallas' defense is also a danger having scored a team-record six defensive touchdowns this season, while Trevon Diggs has added 11 interceptions.

With 33 takeaways in all, Dallas could become just the sixth team to lead the NFL in both scoring and turnovers at the end of the season. Three of the previous five made the Super Bowl with one - the 1971 Cowboys - winning it all.

Best bet: 

Los Angeles Rams (11-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (8-7)

LA Rams, Matthew Stafford, QB, NFL

The Baltimore Ravens have been hit harder than anyone with injuries this season and after four defeats in a row dropped them out of the playoffs, they have one last hail mary as they host the Rams.

Former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson was pictured with a serious limp when back in training after injury. Therefore, expect exciting back-up Tyler Huntley to play at QB, but he'll be far from Baltimore's biggest issue.

It's Baltimore's defense that could cost them here, as they were torched by the Bengals last week and with the duo of Matthew Stafford and record-chasing receiver Cooper Kupp coming to town, that spells danger.

The Ravens have lost three on the spin by just four points in total, with coach John Harbaugh twice turning down overtime and losing by trying for a two-point conversion. Those decisions look to have cost them.

LA are chasing the Packers at the top of the NFC and want to win their division. They'll be too strong for banged-up Baltimore.

Best bet:

Denver Broncos (7-8) @ Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

Joey Bosa

The Chargers have looked like the real deal at times this season, with second-year QB Justin Herbert throwing passes like darts and first-year head coach Brandon Staley throwing caution to the wind with some aggressive play calling. But while they've had some moments of greatness, they've also been prone to making mistakes.

The overtime loss to the Chiefs was tough but understandable, their emphatic defeat to lowly Houston last week was unfathomable - and it now makes this a must-win for the Bolts if they're to make the playoffs.

It's Denver's last chance too but they'll also be relying on results elsewhere just to stand a chance of making the postseason for the first time since winning the Super Bowl in 2016.

Herbert's Chargers have been the more exciting team this season, but they lost to Denver in November and the Broncos' brand of tough defense paired with running football is exactly the formula for upsetting them in LA.

The Chargers have more players on the COVID-19 list and crucially their terrible rush defense could be ripped apart by athletic rookie Javonte Williams and running partner Melvin Gordon.

Denver ran for 147 yards in their last meeting and Houston pummeled the Chargers to the tune of 189 rushing yards last week - the fifth time this season that LA allowed more the 180 yards.

Herbert could easily lead his side to victory but there's enough about Denver's style of play to roll with the underdogs.

Best bet:

READ MORE: The Analyst: See where your team ranks in a Premier League table of New Year's Day games

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