Powered by Adrian Peterson's super-human effort, the Vikings beat the Packers 37-34 in Week 17 to clinch the NFC's final playoff spot. Peterson carried the ball 34 times (a career-high) for 199 yards and one touchdown. He also caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Christian Ponder in the third quarter.
It was an amazing performance from Peterson, who helped the Vikings get in position for the game-winning field goal with a 26-yard run on his final carry. That play put him at 2,097 rushing yards for the season, just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson's single-season record.
Despite Peterson's effort, perhaps the most encouraging development for the Vikings was the play of Ponder.
The second-year quarterback proved he can deliver when needed, completing 16-of-28 passing for 234 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, he didn't commit a single turnover.
Ponder was composed throughout the game, often escaping heavy pressure before finding a receiver downfield. He will have to be just as good, if not better, for the Vikings to beat Green Bay on the road.
Green Bay will undoubtedly load the box against Peterson again, stacking eight or nine men near the line of scrimmage in attempt to stop the MVP candidate. If they are going to win, they will need huge games from the likes of B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk.
Offensively, you can expect the Packers to move the ball through the air again. Aaron Rodgers threw for 651 yards and five touchdowns in his two games against Minnesota this season.
If Week 17 was any indication, this game should be an instant classic. Here is all the info you need for this wild-card matchup.
*Betting odds and injury reports will be updated as soon as the information is available.
When: Saturday, Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Lambeau Field - Green Bay, Wisc.
TV Coverage: NBC
Betting Odds: TBA
Players to Watch
Adrian Peterson - RB, Vikings
Peterson is an unstoppable force of human nature. Against lesser teams, he can will the Vikings to victory by himself. Against a quality team like the Packers, he needs just a little help.
Peterson shredded every team he faced this season, but he's been particularly successful against Green Bay. In two games against the Packers, Peterson averaged 7.4 yards per carry, totaling 409 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.
He showed some signs of fatigue late in Week 17, but you can still count on Peterson to dominate the Packers' defense again. If he can continue to wreak havoc, the Vikings will have a great chance of advancing.
Aaron Rodgers - QB, Packers
As successful as Peterson has been against the Packers, Rodgers has been just as good against the Vikings.
The reigning MVP has completed 73.3 percent of his passes against Minnesota this season. He's averaging 325.5 yards per game versus the Vikings, and he threw four touchdown passes in Week 17.
Rodgers also looked incredibly angry throughout the Packers' loss last week, so you can expect him to come out with a vengeance. With his army of dangerous wideouts, Rodgers should light up the Vikings' defense yet again.
Deciding Factor: Christian Ponder - QB, Vikings
Christian Ponder's duties are fairly simple: give the ball to Adrian Peterson, make two or three timely throws, and don't turn the ball over.
Two of those three things are often easier said than done, but Ponder has proven to be capable during the Vikings current four-game winning streak. He hasn't thrown an interception since Week 14 and he hurt the Packers multiple times in Week 17.
Ponder threw three touchdown passes (all in the red zone) in that game, and completed a huge 65-yard bomb late in the fourth quarter. If Ponder can repeat his performance, Minnesota will likely advance to the second round.
If he crumbles under the postseason pressure, Green Bay will move on.
It's hard to bet on Christian Ponder playing that well again, but it's even harder to bet against Adrian Peterson. He is less man than machine at this point, and as long as he's healthy, I think the Vikings have the edge over Green Bay.
Aaron Rodgers will still do Aaron Rodgers things, scrambling around and throwing bullets all day long. But in the end, he won't be able to counter Peterson's efforts.
I'm expecting another close game, and another hard-fought victory for Minnesota.
Final score: Vikings 31 - Packers 27
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