The 11*-5 Green Bay Packers host the 10-6 Minnesota Vikings at frigid Lambeau Field Saturday night. Be on the lookout for a snowy Packers playoff win!
The Vikings got into the playoffs by beating the Packers last weekend in Minnesota 37-34. The Packers cannot blame anyone but themselves for letting the 2 seed and the bye slip out of their fingers as a result. Minnesota played well in the game, and although the Packers offense did a good job of battling back to tie the score at 34, the defense let them down. They couldn’t stop Peterson or Ponder. They’ll have to do better.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson was supposedly dealing with an abdominal injury suffered the week before during the Vikings win in Houston. Unfortunately he still ran all over the Packers all day, and therein lies the Packers primary challenge for the game on Saturday. How will they stop Peterson? Whatever can be done schematically or strategically won’t matter one tiny little bit if the Packers don’t tackle 28.
Which Packers defense will show up for this game? We know that Chuck Woodson will be able to play. Exactly how he is to be utilized in the Packers defense against Minnesota has yet to be determined. It’s likely he will share time with rookie phenom Casey Hayward. It’s also likely he’ll be called upon to blitz, cover, and hopefully he’ll be effective whatever he’s asked to do.
The only Packers who will definitely not be able to play against the Vikings Saturday are Jerel Worthy and Jarrett Boykin. RB James Starks is still dealing with the knee he injured against the Vikings in the game at Lambeau. That makes this game’s injury report the least impactful it has been for several months running.
Vikings QB Christian Ponder showed up on their injury report with a bruised elbow. I doubt he’ll miss this game though. CB Antoine Winfield has a broken hand. He’ll probably try to play anyway. If Winfield does play look for the Packers to test him.
The obvious task for the Packers will be to “contain” Adrian Peterson. As in you can’t stop him. You can only hope to contain him. Last week the Packers did a poor job of tackling and a worse job of maintaining their gaps. The defensive secondary also did a sub-standard job tackling Peterson.
This is a simple game. If the Packers don’t contain Peterson they lose and watch the rest of the playoffs from their homes. If they do contain Peterson then it’s highly likely they win and move on against San Francisco next weekend.
Here are some things I’ll be looking for while I watch the game:
Packers offensive line. As always I’ll be looking at the O line play closely. A Rod was running for his life way too much last game. The big guys up front need to step up their play this time around. Opening holes for Harris, Grant, and Green will be just as important as their pass pro. The streak of games with over 100 yards rushing ended last week in Minnesota. I think it’ll be on the O line to start a new streak, and I’ll be watching them to see if they do just that. I would say they need to tackle, but they won’t be able to help contain Peterson.
Packers run game. DuJuan Harris is no longer a surprise. He’s quick, tough, and he’s fast. Last week Ryan Grant had 2 yards on two carries and then didn’t crack the lineup again. I think it will be different in this game. Harris doesn’t have much experience in cold weather, and Grant does. Will that be a concern for Harris? We’ll see, but either way we know MM plays the back with the hot hand. Even in the 16 degree weather with possible snow expected Saturday night at Lambeau. Every back toting the rock will have to protect it.
Packers passing game. It appears the Packers will have all their receivers back in battery except for Jarrett Boykin, who had the big 4th down catch against the Vikings last week but was injured on that play. Cobbernicus will be back, along with Nelson, to go with Jones and Jennings. The receivers, as well as the TEs and backs, will have some weather-related challenges, but that will affect both teams equally. The Packers receivers will be expected to perform regardless of the conditions, and I’ll be watching closely to see how they catch, secure, and carry the ball after they catch it. Jennings had a monster YAC day last week. It would be great to watch him and the other receiver do that again Saturday night.
Aaron Rodgers did pretty much everything he could do to win last week’s game. He’ll need to do the same Saturday. If the defense does what they need to do Rodgers and the offense have more than enough ability to get the Packers past the Vikings. And I loved his comparison this week between the regular season, during which he says players earn their paychecks, and the post season, when players earn their legacies. He’s absolutely right about that and I’ll be watching 12, at least in part, so I can see him continue to build his legacy. I would appreciate it if he would get rid of the ball a little sooner though. You have to be alive to keep building that legacy Mr. Rodgers.
Packers defensive line / LBs.This game will be all about stopping Peterson. Again. Just much more important and there are no do-overs or second chances. So yes…Peterson is the best RB in the league. So what? Tackle him in a technically proficient manner and he’ll go down just like any other back. Maintain the gaps. Make Peterson have to overcome several tacklers if necessary. Don’t give him any easy yards. Gang tackle him. Leg tackle him. But tackle him! And most important- don’t let him get into the secondary. And please no finger wagging this time Raji- let the team run defense do the talking.
In the first game against the Vikings (Packers win) the Packers blitzed more than they did in the second game (Vikings win). I’ll be watching to see how many guys they unleash against Ponder this game. Best I can figure even Ponder can’t complete passes downfield or anywhere else from flat on his back. Under a pile of Packers pass rushers.
Packers DBs. Another obvious for the DBs this week. Packers DBs absolutely must do a superb job of tackling in this game. In the last game they did not and the team is playing Saturday because of it. Having Wood back in the mix will hopefully make a difference. He should have fresh legs. Hopefully Red Batty bought him some big boy shoulder pads to protect those collarbones. He’ll need them if he has to go after Peterson because the D line and LBs aren’t getting things done. I’ll be watching 21 to see how he’s getting around and communicating with the other DBs.
In the first game against the Vikings this season the DBs (particularly Burnett) also closed on INT opportunities. Last week Hayward has his hands on a potential pick but couldn’t finish it. I think if Capers dials up some blitzes and gets after Ponder the DBs will have opportunities for picks. I’ll be watching for them to seal the deal on those opportunities. And to tackle.
Packers special teams. Mason Crosby is back! Even so I think that MM shouldn’t even bother with anything over about 45 yards in the conditions forecast for Saturday night. I’m one of those guys who loves it when football teams always go for it on 4th down. I know the Packers won’t ever adopt that approach, but it could be interesting when outside Mason’s range. As far as the slump being over I’m willing to give Crosby the benefit of the doubt. But fair warning- that won’t last much beyond the first missed FG attempt in the playoffs.
I still think the Packers are due for a big play on special teams. Ross had a couple of really nice returns in last week’s game, but I’m left wanting more. Is Ross due for a TD return? Already? I’ll be watching Jeremy to provide at least one highlight-worthy return on Saturday night.
DISCLAIMER: The writer assumes no responsibility and claims no expertise in the area of predicting random occurrences during sporting contests. If something accidentally occurs that the writer predicted, it is entirely coincidental and not the fault of, nor can credit be attributed to, the writer. (Sorry…my lawyer wanted to keep going but I ran out of money.)
– The Packers will run for over 100 yards in this game. Harris will have most of them.
– Harris will score at least one TD on the ground.
– A Rod will throw for over 300 yards and at least three touchdowns.
– James Jones will lead the team in receiving yards.
– Rodgers will be the second leading rusher for the Packers.
– Aaron will be sacked three times.
– Cobbernicus will throw, and complete, a pass.
– Cobbernicus will catch at least one TD pass.
– Ponder will be sacked five times. Matthews will have two of them. Woodson will get one.
– Ponder will be picked three times. Burnett will get one of them, Shields another, and a LB the third.
– If it does snow during the game, the roof will probably deflate or collap…oh, never mind. This game’s being played at Lambeau! In the elements! The way football was meant to be played!
– Try as they might, the Packers defense isn’t going to “contain” Peterson by holding him to fewer than 100 yards rushing. However, they will not allow him to set the all-time single playoff game rushing record.
Because the game will be played Saturday night and will be nationally televised, we plan to watch the game from the comfort of our large comfortable couch. Son John, who expressed reservations about that approach last week, has made the point that we watched at home and the Packers lost. If things don’t look good early we might be headed to Tailgators on FM1488 in Magnolia. One way or another we’ll be watching the game and looking for a Packers home playoff victory! I’ll be tweeting random thoughts on the game and the telecast to all those who dare to follow at @PackersTX.
Watch LombardiAve.com for the post game analysis.
Bring it Vikings! It’s win or go home! Go Pack GO!