Vikings vs. Packers: Players Who Must Step Up for Minnesota to Advance

Austin GreenCorrespondent IJanuary 1, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 7:   Toby Gerhart #32 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball against the Tennessee Titans at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 7, 2012 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings are in the playoffs because of Adrian Peterson, but they will need other players to deliver if they're going to win their wild-card matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

The Vikings were able to beat Green Bay 37-34 at home in Week 17 to secure the NFC's final playoff spot. Unfortunately, they will have to survive the harsh environment at Lambeau Field in order to advance.

With their backs against the wall, the Vikings will need big performances from the following players.


Christian Ponder, QB

Peterson is the most important Viking, but Saturday's game will be decided by the play of Christian Ponder.

The young quarterback faces a tough task in his first playoff game. Green Bay has lost just one home game this season, and throwing the ball will likely be difficult in the inclement Wisconsin weather.

The Packers will also force Ponder to complete some clutch throws. Look for them to load the box with eight or nine defenders and dare Ponder to beat them with his arm. He was able to do that on Sunday, but he likely won't get as many lucky bounces this time around.

Ponder will have to be smart, composed and careful for the Vikings to pull off the upset.


Toby Gerhart, RB

Gerhart has carried the ball just 50 times this season, but Minnesota's second-string running back will likely see a decent amount of action this weekend.

Although Peterson is a monster, he showed some signs of fatigue last week. He had a career-high 34 carries, and after a season of grinding away, the punishment is beginning to add up. The Vikings simply can't ride him as much on Saturday, so Gerhart will have to make the most of his opportunities.

The former Heisman runner-up only averaged 3.4 yards per carry this season, and he fumbled the ball twice in one game. Still, Minnesota will have to trust him to carry the rock against Green Bay.

If he is able to spell Peterson and do some damage at the same time, Minnesota will be in a great position.


A.J. Jefferson, CB

The Packers have one of the best passing attacks in the league and the rest of Minnesota's secondary is banged up, so Jefferson will have to be excellent on Saturday.

Aaron Rodgers has already shredded the Vikings twice this season, throwing for 651 yards and five touchdowns. He has a massive arsenal of weapons, as Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley are all threats to explode on a given day.

That's unfortunate for the Vikings, who could be without cornerback Antione Winfield and safety Harrison Smith. Both players are listed as questionable for Saturday, so Jefferson will have to play one of the best games of his career.