The Green Bay Packers have a chance to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs this weekend with a win over the Minnesota Vikings. As for the Vikings, they currently hold the final playoff spot in the NFC and will clinch a wild-card berth with a win. If they lose Minnesota would need losses from the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.
That is not the only intriguing part of this matchup between two divisional rivals. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is only 208 yards away from breaking the all-time single season rushing record held by Eric Dickerson. The task seems unlikely, but Peterson was able to get over 200 yards off the Packers defense the last time these two teams met.
The Packers have had their fair-share of adversity this season whether it was injuries to deal with or starting the season with a record of 3-3. The slow start by Green Bay had many people concerned and had us all wondering what was wrong with the struggling offense. However, inside the Packers locker room there was no panic. Head coach Mike McCarthy knew that the sluggish start by the team would be easily fixed and he was right. Since then, the Packers have a record of 8-1 and are the hottest team in the league.
The Vikings season has been nothing but a surprise this entire season. Only winning three games last season, it looked like the Vikings weren’t much improved from the team they had last season. With the NFL becoming a pass-oriented league, Minnesota was considered to have no shot at the playoffs unless quarterback Christian Ponder significantly improved. Even though he hasn’t, the Vikings are ranked last in passing offense, they have been carried by Peterson’s MVP-like season along with a solid defense.
As for this weekend’s matchup, the Packers are getting even healthier but again will be missing veteran cornerback Charles Woodson. This will be the ninth straight week Woodson will be sitting out because of a collarbone injury. Woodson says he is ready to go, but the doctors advise him to sit out until the playoffs start. On a more positive not for the Packers, their star receiver Randall Cobb is good to go after sustaining an ankle injury last weekend. Despite questions about if Cobb should be used on special teams, coach McCarthy says there is no question Cobb will continue to be the punt returner.
“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have a really high tolerance for this (line of questioning) because I don’t understand how you play scared in the game of football. I don’t get that,” McCarthy said.
“You can’t sit here and say special teams is important if you don’t put a guy like Randall Cobb out there as a returner. Now, if we’re sitting here next year, we might be having a different conversation. But the way our team is built for 2012, Randall Cobb is a huge part of our success on special teams.”
Cobb broke the Packers all-time single season record for all-purpose yards in a season and has shown that he is the most important player on this team outside of Aaron Rodgers. Now with the offense having Cobb, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson all on the field at the same time for a playoff run, the offense will be hard to stop.
The Vikings are going to have a challenge ahead of them, but if they can control the clock with Peterson and apply pressure by attacking the Packers struggling offensive line they will have a shot at the upset and getting into the playoffs.
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