NFC Wild Card Preview: Packers vs. Vikings

Part three of the Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings series takes place tomorrow night in the wild card round of the 2012-13 NFL Playoffs at Lambeau Field. The game will be Saturday at 8:00 pm eastern and will be shown on NBC.

In lieu of a “Why you should watch” section (you should be watching the games because its the PLAYOFFS), for the duration of the Packers’ season this section will be a section titled “Notable Injuries” to give everyone an idea of who will or will not be playing and how effective you can expect them to be.

Key Injuries: Coming into this game the notable injuries are at important positions on both teams. For the Vikings, all week questions have arisen about the health of quarterback Christian Ponder’s throwing elbow, which he suffered an injury to in last week’s game. He is officially listed as questionable, but is expected to play, regardless of whether or not he will be 100%. At this point, he would probably have to be at risk of a serious injury to not play in this one. For Green Bay, their defense gets a huge boost as cornerback Charles Woodson has been cleared to play and expects to do just that. Wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson have practiced for the latter part of the week, and also expect to play.

What to watch for: I sound like a broken record, but once again stopping Adrian Peterson is the alpha and omega of the Packers’ defensive game plan for this game. Peterson is fresh off of a 199 yard, 2 touchdown performance that propelled Minnesota into the playoffs, and on the frozen tundra in Lambeau he will be counted on again. The weather is expected to be around 20 degrees, and the Vikings’ already anemic passing game will probably take a back seat to Peterson. If Woodson can be effective, the Packers can focus more players on stacking the box with the comfort of having the future hall of fame cornerback in the secondary to protect them from big plays.

Key Matchups: A deciding factor in this game will be the rushing offense of the Green Bay Packers. Their run game has been dreadful all season, and that is usually not a good recipe for success. Green Bay needs some kind of production if only to keep the defense honest, and if the Packers find themselves in a close game late they may need to use their running backs to try to ice the game. If they can not do that, they could leave the door open for a Minnesota comeback in what could be another back and forth affair like the regular season finale.

The Pick: Aaron Rodgers is quite simply on fire right now, and it is hard to go against him at home in the playoffs. While the Vikings have very little postseason experience, the Packers have plenty and that will be the difference. I’m taking the Packers 27-21, but not without a fight from Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. This one should be another great game to kick off the playoffs.

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