by Frank Martin
Just six days after an instant classic in the regular-season finale, the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings will meet in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday night. The Vikings used a last-second field goal to steal the win on Sunday at home and grab the final wild-card spot in the NFC. This time, the Packers will have the home field advantage as the No. 3 seed and NFC North champion.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson came up nine yards short of beating Eric Dickerson’s season record but made the play when it counted on Sunday, breaking through on a 26-yard run to set up Blair Walsh’s 29-yard field goal in the final seconds. Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and amassed a season-high 365 yards for Green Bay in the setback and has been at his best down the stretch, totaling 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in the Packers' final three regular-season games.
Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Minnesota needed to win its final four games of the regular season just to reach the playoffs and knocked off playoff contenders Chicago, Houston and Green Bay in those final weeks. Peterson carried it 34 times for 199 yards in Week 17 and averaged 159.8 yards over the final 10 games of the regular season despite being less than a year removed from major knee surgery. While Peterson’s performance has been consistent, quarterback Christian Ponder’s effort in the finale was more of a surprise. The second-year starter passed for 234 yards and a season-high three touchdowns without an interception for a career-best 120.2 rating. The Vikings have some big questions on defense, as cornerback Antoine Winfield left Sunday’s game with a hand injury and is questionable. Rodgers threw for three scores with Winfield off the field.
Green Bay Packers (11-5): Green Bay did not have the same motivation as Minnesota last week, with the Packers' postseason spot already assured. They could have earned a first-round bye with a victory, but the “win or go home” mentality that will be there this week was not on display in Minneapolis. Rodgers is working with a battered receiving corps with Randall Cobb (ankle) questionable and Jordy Nelson (hamstring) limited. Greg Jennings caught a pair of touchdown passes last week in his best game of the season and could get a lot more attention from the Minnesota secondary on Saturday. Stopping Peterson will be the No. 1 goal for the defense. The MVP candidate shredded Green Bay for 409 yards in two meetings this season.
1. This will mark just the second meeting between the two division rivals in the playoffs. The Vikings won a wild-card game at Lambeau Field in 2004.
2. The Packers have won 26 of their last 28 games (including the postseason) at Lambeau Field. They are just 2-4 in their last six home playoff games, however, including a loss to the New York Giants in the divisional round last season.
3. Minnesota is tied for 27th in the NFL with just 10 interceptions - three by Winfield.
NFL Football Prediction: Packers 28, Vikings 24.
jordy nelson - aaron rodgers - adrian peterson - blair walsh - christian ponder - eric dickerson - green bay packers - greg jennings - minnesota vikings - randall cobb