MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-6)
at GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-5)
NFC Wild Card Playoff Game
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Green Bay -8, Total: 46
NFC North foes will meet for the third time in a little more than a month when the Vikings visit the Packers in the NFC Wild Card playoffs on Saturday night.
In the regular season finale, with the Packers playing for a first-round bye and the Vikings trying to make the playoffs, Minnesota won 37-34 on a last-second field goal as Adrian Peterson ran for 199 yards. In two games against the Packers this year, Peterson has 409 rushing yards and 7.4 YPC. In their meeting at Green Bay in Week 13, QB Christian Ponder was miserable, going 12-of-25 for 119 yards and 2 INT in a 23-14 Packers win. Green Bay has beaten the Vikings at home three straight times, SU and ATS. Minnesota is just 3-5 SU and ATS on the road this year.
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Ponder had a career-high 120.2 passer rating in last week's win, completing 16-of-28 passes for 234 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT. But his rating hasn't even been half that number in his two visits to Green Bay where he's completed just 47.5% of his passes for 309 yards, 1 TD and 3 INT. Especially with top WR Percy Harvin (ankle) unable to play, there's no secret that the Vikings will try to win this game on the ground with Peterson, who has rushed for 1,442 yards (5.6 YPC) and 9 TD in a dozen career games in this series. And although Peterson is tough to catch on his fast home turf (5.6 YPC), he's been even better on the road this year with 6.5 YPC. Green Bay allows a respectable 118.5 rushing yards per game (17th in NFL), but the Viking have gained 457 yards (228.5 YPG) in the two meetings this year. Green Bay has a stronger passing defense (218 YPG allowed, 11th in NFL), allowing just 161 passing YPG in the past five games. This unit will be even more formidable when S Charles Woodson (55 career INT) returns to the field for the first time since Week 7 because of a collarbone injury. Ponder also has to make quick decisions as the Packers rank fourth in the NFL with 47 sacks this year.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has put up some pretty impressive numbers in the postseason, throwing for 1,781 yards (297 YPG), 15 TD and 4 INT, while posting a 4-2 record. He's also been incredible in the past four seasons in this series versus Minnesota, completing 71% of his passes for 2,503 yards (313 YPG), 23 TD and 4 INT. This includes his 365 yards and 4 TD in last week's loss. Rodgers will also benefit from the probable return of WR Randall Cobb (ankle), who caught 80 passes for 954 yards and 8 TD this season. Top WRs Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are also both 100 percent healthy, which is bad news for the Vikings' 24th-ranked passing defense. Jennings caught eight passes for 120 yards and 2 TD last week, giving him 29 catches for 497 yards and 7 TD in the past five meetings with Minnesota. Although the Packers are not a good rushing team (106 YPG, 20th in NFL), they did chew up 152 yards on 36 carries when these teams met on Dec. 2 at Lambeau Field. RB DuJuan Harris got 14 of the team's 16 carries last week, but veteran Ryan Grant and second-year man Alex Green could also run the football on Saturday night. Having some semblance of a running game will be key, especially because the Vikings are tied for 5th in the NFL with 44 sacks this year.