|Can Christian Ponder lead the Vikings to the playoffs with |
a win over the Green Bay Packers?
The Green Bay Packers have won the season finale nine years in a row. In season ending games in the last 19 years their record is 18-1. Which shows the seriousness they display even if their playoff spot may be clinched. The Packers are 28-5 in their last 33 games and have won twelve consecutive divisional games. They are looking to become the first team since 1967 to sweep their division two seasons in a row. The advantage for the Vikings is their 6-1 record, which gives them a boost in the moral category. The "Win and In" scenario certainly makes the urgency high and will keep us on the path to a victory.
Based on the statistics I have provided, this will be a daunting task, but can be done through the will and heart this team has displayed. The key is to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers and to force him to make mistakes, which hasn't been the trend. Aaron Rodger's in his last 9 dome starts has 27 TD's against just two picks. Rodgers is a decision maker and takes care of the ball very well. If we can't force turnovers, we must force sacks and collapse the pocket. The Packers are known for their distribution of the football and have been known to use 8 or 9 different receivers in the same game. We must contain this and can't get to "zone" happy in this game and will have to press the aggressive Packers receivers on a frequent basis.
The center of attention will be focused on Adrian Peterson's chance to break the single season rushing record (2,105 yards) held by Eric Dickerson. I love this attention and think it gives Christian Ponder a chance to make some throws up the field. That is if the Packers defense can stop Peterson who gained 210 yards on the ground in the matchup at Lambeau Field earlier this season. The gameplan will be to establish the run and hit the play action once the run has been dictated. Although we remember Christian Ponder's performance earlier in the season against the Packers, I think he has learned from his mistakes. If he simply throws the ball away out of halftime and doesn't try to force the issue, it would have changed the entire flow of the game. The "Buzzkill at Lambeau" was definitely a winnable football game, but mistakes continued to haunt the Vikings and caused us to eventually crumble. Tomorrow this cannot happen and it won't because we have the home field advantage and will have the crowd behind our favorite football team.
The Vikings defense must shut down the run and not allow the Packers to gain yards on the ground, which will lead to less ball control for the Packers offensively. We truly witnessed this in the previous matchup, as the Packers went on over a 7 minute drive to begin the fourth quarter, which put the game away. Packers running back James Starks was getting the edge and was killing the Vikings on the stretch play outside and between the tackles. The Packers will be without Starks, but the Vikings will have to compete with a familar foe in running back Ryan Grant. Time of possession is critical for the Vikings and keeps our defense from becoming tired from over 35-37 min of play, which we have seen in several of the losses this season.
The Packers have been successful in eliminating turnovers this season. The Packers have given up the ball 15 times this year, second fewest in the NFL. The Vikings have won the take-give three consecutive games, which have all resulted in wins. If we can cause a turnover early, our odds are increased dramitically and give us the best chance to win. For one, it gives the Vikings a short field and allows the Vikings more time to control the ball.
The next key comes from us, the Minnesota Vikings fans. We all know we will see our fair share of Packer fans filling up the stadium at Mall of America Field. We need to be twice as loud to drown out the sounds of annoying chants such as the dreaded, "Go, Pack, Go." This is our house and we need the stadium to be as electric as possible. I have a feeling the energy will be high and that it will be a playoff atmosphere in the air. Anyone who has been to an NFL playoff game understands the electricity and energy that is displayed in the stadium.
This is the most important game the Vikings have participated in since the 2009 NFC Championship Game in New Orleans. Both teams understand the critical nature of this game and know that a "Bliss or Miss" scenario is on the line. The Green Bay Packers would love to end the Vikings season by winning a huge rivalry game on the road. I can already feel my nerves building much like I did the morning of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. I know if we can execute the gameplan, hit Adrian Peterson in the run game, and put pressure on Aaron Rodgers, we have a chance to win this game and clinch a berth in the playoffs.
Injury Report (via NFL.com):
|Name||Position||Injury||Practice Status||Game Status|
|Randall Cobb||WR||Ankle||Limited Participation in Practice||Questionable|
|C.J. Wilson||DE||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Alex Green||RB||Concussion||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Jordy Nelson||WR||Hamstring||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Davon House||CB||Shoulder||Did Not Participate In Practice||Doubtful|
|Evan Dietrich-Smith||G||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Jerel Worthy||DE||Hamstring||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Josh Sitton||G||Concussion||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|James Starks||RB||Knee||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Charles Woodson||S||Collarbone||Out (Definitely Will Not Play)||Out|
|Tom Crabtree||TE||Hamstring||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Mason Crosby||K||Illness||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Jeff Saturday||C||Neck||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Brian Robison||DE||Shoulder||Limited Participation in Practice||Questionable|
|Jared Allen||DE||Shoulder||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Marcus Sherels||CB||Quadricep||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Phil Loadholt||T||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Chris Kluwe||P||left Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Marvin Mitchell||LB||Illness||Did Not Participate In Practice||Probable|
|Adrian Peterson||RB||Abdomen||Limited Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Antoine Winfield||CB||Knee||Did Not Participate In Practice||Questionable|
The injury situation is low for the Vikings and should have little worries heading into kickoff on Sunday. Brian Robison is the most concerning as he has a AC joint sprain in his shoulder. In the event he is inactive, Everson Griffen can effectivley rush the passer as well as Robison. All indications are pointing towards Robison playing through the pain, but we won't know until closer to kickoff tomorrow.
On the Packers side, Randall Cobb is the biggest question mark and will be a game-time decision. Cobb injured his ankle in a 55-7 win over the Titans on Sunday. Cobb was very limited on Friday, but will most likely be inactive in hopes to have him 100% for the playoffs. Jason Wilde of ESPN.com Milwaukee is reporting that the odds are stacked against Cobb and that he is most likely out for tomorrow's contest. A true win for the Vikings as Cobb is a major threat for Green Bay in all facets of the game.
Jordy Nelson was injured in the last matchup between the Vikings and Packers and hasn't returned to game action. Nelson participated fully in practice, but will also be a game time decision. The Packers have been so successful with James Jones as the main receiver, they may want to ensure Nelson and Cobb are both ready for the playoffs.
The most important and final key to a Vikings victory is an important aspect of the game. The Vikings need to dictate the tempo and need to score early. The Vikings aren't built to play from behind. If we can control the tempo, Adrian Peterson can carry the ball and kill the clock and ultimatley keep the ball out of Aaron Rodger's hands. In the first matchup this season, the Vikings allowed Rodgers to dictate the tempo by being placed in the no huddle from the start of the game. This is something that can't happen and is one of the major keys that will lead to a happy Sunday for Vikings fans.
Overall, the Vikings need to play the same style of football they have been over the past few weeks of the season. If the Vikings can dictate the tempo, pressure Rodgers, establish the run with AP, and stop the Packer running attack, we can push ourselves one step closer to football immortality.
I can't wait until the ball is hoisted in the air at 3:25 pm ct. tomorrow and the Minnesota Vikings begin their mission to Football Americana. Let's be loud as fans and support our team win or lose because deep in our purple hearts we know our team has outlived expectations.
So let's add another exclamation point to a season filled with many moments, memories, and passions of Vikings football all over the great state of Minnesota.