Wild Card Weekend: Minnesota Vikings At Green Bay Packers
- QuarterbackChristian Ponder has struggled much of the year, but he came through with excellent performances the last two weeks against the Texans and the Packers (234 passing yards and three TDs). Those two wins helped put the Vikings in the playoffs. In this game, he must avoid mistakes and take advantage of the play-action opportunities he will have against the Packers.The Packers did not play badly in the regular-season finale against the Vikings in the Metrodome. However, they came up just short and must play in this Wild-Card game against their division rivals. Aaron Rodgers threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns against the Vikings and was superb. He may have to be even better this week.
- OffenseAdrian Peterson finished nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record as he finished the season with 2,097 yards and had 199 rushing yards against the Packers. He is the focus of the offense but tight end Kyle Rudolph has the strength to get open and the hands to catch the ball. Unheralded wide receiver Jarius Wright had big catches against the Texans and Packers.The Packers want to run the ball to take pressure off of Rodgers and DuJuan Harris had 70 yards vs. the Vikings. Greg Jennings is healthy once again and makes big catches in clutch situations. James Jones had a receiving touchdown against the Vikings and is coming off of his best year. Jordy Nelson is capable of making big plays, but tight end Jermichael Finley is inconsistent.
- DefenseThe Vikings want to put pressure on Rodgers but they know if they try to blitz him regularly he will tear them apart. They must use their front four to put the heat on and defensive end Everson Griffen registered 3.0 sacks of Rodgers in Week 17. Defensive end Jared Allen is a dangerous pass rusher while linebacker Chad Greenway is a sure tackler.The Packers have to focus on hitting Peterson hard early and preventing him from getting started on a game where he can carry his team on his back and get them another upset. That’s much easier said than done, but NT B.J. Raji and linebacker Clay Matthews are capable of punishing any running back. Free safety Morgan Burnett and linebacker A.J. Hawk are solid tacklers.
- Special TeamsRookie placekicker Blair Walsh hit the game-winning field goal at the gun that earned the Vikings their spot in the playoffs. He also hit a 54-yard field goal against the Packers and was 10-of-10 this year on field goals of 50 yards or longer. Punter Chris Kluwe has a big leg and he averaged 49.3 yards per punt against the Packers.Randall Cobb has been an explosive returner this season but he could not play in the season finale against the Vikings because of knee and ankle injuries. Head coach Mike McCarthy would like to have him back for this game. Mason Crosby has struggled badly on his FG attempts, but he was 2-of-2 vs. the Vikings, including one from 51 yards.
The Vikings played a sensational game and edged the Packers 37-34 to earn a playoff spot. Now they must face the Packers again and find a way to beat them at Lambeau Field. The Vikings are playing their best football of the year, but they will need to turn it up again if they are going to beat Green Bay for a second straight week. It’s a very unlikely scenario.