With the evening game of the first day of Wild Card weekend, we get treated to a rematch of a game that was pretty entertaining just six days ago; the 6th seeded Minnesota Vikings travel to familiar ground in the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to face the 3rd seed Green Bay Packers. No stranger to one another, this age old rivalry looks well on it’s way to being renewed as the two face off for the third time this season after splitting the season series at a game apiece.
Minnesota Vikings (6) @ Green Bay Packers (3)
The Packers had a chance to lock down a first round bye, as well as knock their divisional rival out of the playoffs in the regular season finale, but they were unable to make that one big stop to get them there. And that is where the key to this game is going to land; defense.
By now we all know of the magical season by Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. In fact, it’ll go down as the second most productive in NFL history; just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s long standing single season record. So to think you’re going to be able to hold a guy that rushed for 409 yards in the two meetings with you this season in check, well you might be dreaming.
The Packers defense, while improved upon last season, still isn’t anything that inspires confidence among the Green Bay faithful. While coming in at eleventh overall in the league in total defense, the Packers were much worse against the run than the pass by allowing over 118 yards per contest. If the Vikings get out to an early lead, there isn’t a team better equipped in the NFL at playing from ahead and eating some clock.
However, there is some dude on the opposing sideline who knows a thing or two about getting out to an early lead. In winning ten of their final twelve games, that Packers offense averaged over thirty points per contest and rarely found themselves playing from behind. This is largely due to a second consecutive season of MVP caliber play at the quarterback position from Aaron Rodgers.
Nearing 4,300 yards and 40 touchdowns, Rodgers has shown the ability to completely pick apart any team and any defense just like that. If he flips that switch and gets into a zone, there isn’t anything that defensive coordinators can scheme up to stop him. At times like his week 6 performance in Houston, he is the unquestionable best at his position in the league. Oh, and by the way, the Vikings defense isn’t exactly the Purple People Eaters anymore.
The Vikings defense is about as middle of the road as it gets in this league, being stout at times and paper thin at others. They give up over 350 yards of offense each week and hops that their offense and, namely, Adrian Peterson can help them win the time of possession battle enough to keep opposing offenses off the field.
It would seem that the team that can run the ball better would have the upper hand here, but not if the opposing team has Aaron Rodgers and a middle of the road defense. So against my better judgment of picking both home teams to win on Wild Card weekend, I just don’t see an upset happening in Green Bay. The Vikes will keep it close, but the Pack pulls away in the fourth quarter.
Packers 34 Vikings 20