The Minnesota Vikings ended the regular season with a four game winning streak after a 37-34 win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 17, pushing their record to 10-6 and earning a playoff berth in the process. They will now take to the road and play the Packers for the second straight week, and the third time this season, in an NFC Wild Card game on Saturday night. Green Bay won the regular season matchup at Lambeau Field between the two teams back in Week 13 by the score of 23-14, so the Vikings will be looking for a better performance and an improbable playoff win.
The Minnesota offense will need to put together a repeat of last week’s performance to have a chance to win on Saturday night, and that basically comes down to how running back Adrian Peterson and quarterback Christian Ponder play. Peterson had 409 rushing yards and scored three total touchdowns during the two regular season games against the Packers, and Ponder had one of his best games of the season in Week 17 with three passing touchdowns and no interceptions.
Ponder is reportedly dealing with a right elbow injury he suffered against Green Bay last Sunday, and he did not practice fully on Wednesday or Thursday. It’s worth wondering if he will be at full strength on Saturday night, but right now there is no real concern about his ability to play. If for some reason Ponder does not start or were to aggravate his injury during the game backup Joe Webb would step in, which would present a different challenge to the Packers’ defense due to Webb’s mobility and overall athleticism.
Injuries are also a factor for Minnesota on the defensive side of the ball, with cornerback Antoine Winfield (right hand) and defensive end Brian Robison (shoulder) both banged up. Robison is likely to again have his snap count limited on Saturday night, while all indications are Winfield will play with a soft cast after having to sit out the second half last week when his hand swelled up. I think Winfield’s ultimate impact will go beyond anything he contributes on the field, as his presence as a team leader will be important in what will surely be a tough game in a difficult environment.
The Packers look likely to have all their offensive weapons in place for this weekend’s game, as wide receivers Jordy Nelson (knee) and Randall Cobb (ankle) are both on track to play after putting in full practices on Thursday. Putting pressure on quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as always, will be a big key for the Vikings’ defense, and defensive ends Jared Allen and Everson Griffen along with defensive tackle Kevin Williams will have to spearhead that effort.
Prediction: Packers 27, Vikings 21