We’re barely past the halfway point of the NFL season, but this Sunday’s Packers/Vikings game will go a long way in deciding the NFC North. The Packers (6-3), who have lost three straight following a 6-0 start, trail the Vikings (7-2), who have won five straight and seven of eight, by one game in the standings.

A win, and Green Bay is right back in it. A loss, and Minnesota is firmly in the driver’s seat.

“Green Bay and Minnesota is a big rivalry game,” Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “It’s been that way for years – before any of us was born. It’s a big rivalry game and it’s always going to be a big game. It’s the game of the year for both of us.”

Rhodes, a first-round pick in 2013, has been impressed by how rabid both fan bases are about this game.

“It’s real cool to be a part of history,” he said. “When you walk around in Minnesota, I see fans and the first thing they say – they don’t care about nothing else – (is), ‘Just beat those Packers.’ I’m like, ‘Wow, we have 15 other games and you’re worried about the Packers.’ So that let me know right then and there that this rivalry is unbelievable. It’s real amazing that that’s the No. 1 thing fans want us to do is beat the Packers – like they don’t care about nothing else. It’s the Packers, then it’s the Bears. These are the two rivalries (where) I can say it’s major.”

The Vikings rank second in the league in scoring defense (17.1 points per game allowed), while the Packers have averaged just 18.3 points during their three-game losing streak. Still, Rhodes knows it’s not going to be easy trying to stop No. 12.

“You just got to go out here and play,” Rhodes said. “Play your game and not be nervous that Aaron is gong to make the great throws. You know he’s going make some good throws. You watch film and you watch him throw the ball, you sit there and you’re like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe he made that throw.’ But you just got to be in tight coverage. You got to make him force those throws in there. Even if he’s on the run, he’s going to make a good throw still. So the D-Line got to rush him and we as DBs got to be in tight coverage to the point where he’s got to second-guess himself making that throw.”

The Vikings’ remaining schedule is one of the toughest in football: Green Bay (twice), Atlanta, Seattle, Arizona, Chicago and New York (Giants).

“The back stretch of our schedule is pretty tough,” Rhodes said. “It’s some great teams. Not to say that the beginning wasn’t good teams, but we have to finish out strong with these guys. Because these guys, they’re also trying to fight for what we’re fighting for – and that’s going for the Super Bowl. We have to go out there and continue to fight to get these wins.”


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