NFL Playoffs Preview: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

USATSI_8224623_154224518_lowresIn the second game of the NFL’s playoff double-header, the Minnesota Vikings stroll into Green Bay to take on the Packers for the third time this season. In the two regular-season games, the two teams split the home-and-home series with the total combined difference in the two games being 12 points. After two games, there hasn’t been a clear-cut better team, but the home team did win both contests.

Despite the home team winning both games this season, things haven’t exactly boded well for the Packers in their last six home playoff games, going 2-4 in those games. Despite the Packers having the best home record in the regular season since Week 10 of the 2009 season, the Packers have turned the ball over 17 times in their last six home playoff games while only creating five. With this in mind, Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings said he wouldn’t mind playing on the road in the post season with warmer climates available. 

Though he sees many advantages to playing at home this Saturday against Minnesota, he also didn’t mind previous playoff runs that went through warmer cities or domed stadiums. In fact, he saw advantages to being on the road.

“I’m not opposed to playing here,” Jennings said. “Obviously, with our crowd and our fans, that’s what we want as a team. But going on the road, being isolated away from everyone, I think the focus level and the sense of urgency is just a tad higher because you’re dependent on your teammate. You travel, you’re in a hotel – you’re all together. It’s you guys against everyone else outside of that hotel.”

On the plus side of things for the Packers, the temperature is expected to be in the mid-20s and Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has never started a game in which the temperature was below 40 degrees. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, has 14 starts in such games and an NFL-high quarterback rating of 75 in the extreme cold. Furthermore, Ponder has recorded two of the worst games of his young career at Lambeau Field with a completion percentage of only 47 percent in those games.

Considering Ponder’s success and the fact that his elbow has been bothering him, the Vikings offense will revolve around the talents of Adrian Peterson — which wasn’t really up for debate to begin with. Peterson has rushed for 210 and 199 yards in the two games against the Packers, and 209 of his total rushing yards came after contact. The Packers have struggled to bring Peterson down in their two meetings. According to Pro Football Focus, the Packers missed 10 tackles while Peterson carried the ball in the two games — which is a huge number considering he broke a total of 62 on the season.

The winner of tonight’s game will likely be who jumps out to an early lead. If the Packers can get out to a quick start, that forces the Vikings to throw the ball more frequently, placing a huge load on Ponder who isn’t exactly one of the league’s elite quarterbacks. On the other hand, if the Vikings can jump out to an early lead, the Packers defense will see a heavy load of Peterson who will eat valuable clock with the ground game.

For more on tonight’s game, check out Serena Winters’ pre-game report: