On Saturday, the NFC Playoffs will get underway when the Green Bay Packers play host to the Minnesota Vikings. It will be the third time these teams play this season, and it will be a direct rematch of Week 17.
The Vikings took that outing, using another strong game from running back Adrian Peterson and a last-second field goal from rookie (Pro Bowl) kicker Blair Walsh to seal the 37-34 victory. But that was at home, in the (relative) safety of the Metrodome, and a visit to Lambeau Field is in Minnesota's future.
When these teams met for the first time this season, it wasn't pretty for Minnesota. They jobbed to the Packers in that one, losing 23-14, their second-straight loss to a divisional rival. Right about that point, the season looked lost, but four-straight wins to close things out put them back into the playoffs.
Where They Come From: Packers
Green Bay flew under the radar this season, despite winning streaks of five and four games. That's likely due to the fact that they fell to the Seattle Seahawks, Colts and 49ers within the first five weeks of the season. As it turns out, all three of those teams turned out pretty good, and the only loss that looks "bad" is the loss against the New York Giants in Week 12.
Aaron Rodgers hasn't been that visceral, "I'm going to win and there's nothing you can do about it," quarterback that he'd turned into a couple season ago. At least, he hasn't been able to do those things on a consistent basis. He's simply looked pedestrian at times, and that's not to say that he's been bad, he's just held to a higher standard at this point.
Where They Come From: Vikings
Nowhere. Seriously. This is the Vikings team that went to overtime against the Jacksonville Jaguars and then lost to an unremarkable Indianapolis Colts team in Week 2. Then, of course, they thrashed our San Francisco 49ers at home and announced themselves as contenders.
Christian Ponder has had a decent season. He's thrown for 2,935 ards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, good for a QB rating of 81.2, but he's completed just 62.1 percent of his passes and has had some truly horrible games this year. Adrian Peterson is the guy on that offense. He makes it work, and fell just a few yards short of breaking the single season rushing record.
Against Green Bay in Week 17, Peterson was the driving force behind the win. He's been that guy all season, and for essentially his entire career ... save for one situation:
Something Extra: Vikings
The Vikings are 0-3 at Lambeau Field when Peterson has over 100 yards. He had an 82-yard touchdown and 210 rushing yards on Dec. 2, but it wasn't enough to propel the Vikings to a win in that one. Green Bay has won five of six meetings at Lambeau since Peterson has been with Minnesota, despite the fact that Peterson has five touchdowns at Lambeau and an average of 106.2 yards.
Something Extra: Packers
They really played hard in Week 17. Of course, they were hoping for a No. 2 seed, but they still fought, at times, like a desperate team. I firmly believe they wanted to best the Vikings then and there so as to avoid playing them a third time. Obviously, one less game is better for any team, but I feel like they just want to be done with Mr. Peterson.
If Green Bay wins, then they'll travel to Candlestick Park to take on our 49ers in the Divisional Round. If Minnesota wins, they'll head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons, and the 49ers will instead face the winner of Washington vs. Seattle on Sunday.
So what's the rooting interest? Personally, I feel as though Robert Griffin III is a little bit scary and I'm not sure I trust San Francisco's ability to adjust to Seattle's current gameplan. Green Bay is better than both of those teams on paper, but I feel as though the 49ers are simply better equipped to handle anything the Packers throw at them.
My rooting interest is for Green Bay. I want them back at Candlestick, and I want the 49ers to head into Atlanta or host Washington/Seattle in the Championship Round. The whole "revenge" factor isn't there for me in regards to the Seahawks. This is the playoffs, nothing matters outside of winning. I'll take 6-3 wins over the Packers, Falcons and whoever the 49ers play in the Super Bowl.
That being said, I feel like the Vikings are going to come out and play as hard as they possibly can. Green Bay opened as 9-point favorites and can be had for that on some books, but closer to 7.5 points on most, according to OddsShark. Lambeau plays a huge part in that, accounting for almost as big a swing in the books (traditionally) as Seattle's home field.
I'm going to pick the Vikings, as I think Peterson will shine once again and I think Ponder has started to get a handle on not making huge mistakes. A Green Bay win wouldn't be shocking by any means, I just expect Minnesota to take down the Packers, leading up to a fall in a blaze of glory in the Divisional Round against the Falcons.
The pick: Vikings win, 23-17
Be sure to head over to Daily Norseman and Acme Packing Company before/during the game. Check out SB Nation's picks for the wildcard round and I'm sure we'll have a thread tomorrow for your enjoyment, too.