The Minnesota Vikings (10-6) will travel to the frozen tundra of Green Bay for a rematch of their meeting last week with the Packers (11-5). The Vikings needed the victory to get to this point, while the game didn’t have an impact on the Packers much. The Vikings relied on another standout performance from Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 199 yards on 34 carries to lead them to a 37-34 win, 9 yards short of the season rushing record. Peterson will have an opportunity to make people forget about the record this week against the Packers. It is going to take another stellar performance from Peterson for the Vikings to knock the Packers off on Wildcard weekend. Lambeau has been a house of horrors for the Vikings, similar to many teams, so they will need a flawless outing from their entire team. The offense and defense must operate without too many mistakes, and I think they are going to need to bank on a couple Aaron Rodgers miscues. The elements of Green Bay will come into play here, as it is expected to be a chilly night in Green Bay.
The Vikings’ offense is not that difficult to get a grasp of. Everyone knows what it is coming, but Peterson has run rampant on defenses this season, propelling the Vikings to this spot. His nagging knee injury that was expected to come into play this year is all but a distant memory. Peterson finished the season rushing for 2097 yards for a 131.1 average a game. Quarterback Christian Ponder is in a comfy position considering he has AP at his disposal. He is the ultimate game manager. However, last week Ponder came into himself and produced a solid performance to compliment the efforts of Peterson. Ponder concluded the contest with 234 yards and 3 touchdowns. This is where the other small element of the Vikings’ offense comes in, bite the defense to creep on up and then let Ponder air it out. It seems like the simplest of concepts, and it is, but it has been working for the Vikings this season. It isn’t flashy, they aren’t a finesse team by any means, so this game features two offenses that are different in many facets. The Vikings’ offense ranks 20th in the NFL, averaging 336 yards a game. Of course, the rushing game is the pinnacle of their attack, 2nd in the league, averaging 164.4 yards on the ground per game.
The Packers’ defense will face a stiff test against AP and company. They allowed Peterson to rush for 210 at Lambeau last time around and 199 last week. There is no secret formula for the Packers here, limit Peterson, and they should win comfortably. Easier said than done though, as the Packers rush defense is 17th in the league. The Packers will get a big boost with the return of Charles Woodson. He will provide an immediate boost against the pass and run. On the bright side, the Packers’ defense only allows 21 points per game. A number that figured to be bigger after the display they put on last week.
While the defense has had an up-and-down type of season, the offense has been a potent bunch even with injuries. They haven’t been the Packers that won a Super Bowl two years ago, but the main reason for that has been injuries. Not only will the Packers be getting Charles Woodson back on defense, they’ll also have a full host of receivers for Aaron Rodgers. Most notably, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson have battled injuries all season long will be suiting up for this one. This is crucial for the Packers, as they are arguable one of the best offense, if not the best in the league when they are healthy. Rodgers diced up the Vikings’ secondary both times they met this season, passing for 286 yards in the first meeting at Lambeau and 365 yards last week which was kind of a throwaway game. The Vikings have been extremely vulnerable against the pass this season, allowing an average of 244.2 yards through the air, 24th in the NFL. Rodgers shouldn’t find any problems moving the ball against this defense once again.
Vikings vs. Packers Spread and Betting Odds:
Minnesota Vikings +8 (-105)
@ Green Bay Packers -8 (-115)
Over 46 (-110)
Under 46 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Vikings vs. Packers Pick:
The Minnesota Vikings are feeling on cloud nine to get in this position. Beat the Packers last week and they’re in the playoffs. Well, here we are a week later, and these two are meeting again. Same teams, but under entirely different circumstances from a week ago. First off, the Packers knew their own destiny even before taking the field last week. They were aware that win or lose they would be playing this week. Second, this game obviously isn’t under the dome in Minnesota. It will be taking place in the frigid Green Bay air. One thing that worries with me with the Vikings is the fact that Christian Ponder is not a cold weather quarterback. Remember, he went to Florida State, Ponder has never experienced a game in these types of conditions. If he has it certainly was a long time ago. Ponder is also nursing a sore elbow coming into this one which may hinder him, and he may actually not play altogether, giving way to Joe Webb.
There are also a few numbers and trends that point to a Packers cover. One interesting tidbit is that teams that lose their final game of the season and have a home Wildcard game are 10-3 ATS. There is no denying that the Packers had their eyes on this week and not last. Other numbers that point in the Packers direction is Rodgers’ success against the Vikings, where he has a career 116.4 QB rating against the Vikings. The Vikings are also not much of a road team, finishing with a 3-5 mark. On the other side, the Packers are a spectacular 7-1 at home. Minnesota also usually doesn’t fair well in Green Bay, with a 1-5 ATS record in their last six games at Lambeau. Furthermore, the home team is 4-0 ATS in their last four meetings. I like the Packers to take this one by 10 or more. Peterson will put up a valiant effort, but it won’t be enough to slow down Rodgers and crew.
PICK = Packers -8