We’ve got a humdinger this weekend — the Green Bay Packers travel to the armpit of the United States to face the Minnesota Vikings with plenty on the line.
A Packers win means they nail down the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye. It also (likely) means the good guys eliminate the worst guys from the playoff picture. A Vikings win and they’re in. A loss and they need A LOT of help to get in.
There’s also some history on the line. Adrian Peterson needs 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing mark. He needs 102 to reach 2,000. Wouldn’t it be swell if the Packers denied him both marks?
Who’s not playing?
Well, look at this. The only guys the Packers have ruled out are Charles Woodson and James Starks. Davon House is doubtful and Randall Cobb is questionable, but five guys who were out last week are returning — Tom Crabtree, Jordy Nelson, C.J. Wilson, Jerel Worthy and Alex Green. Meanwhile, the Vikings are pretty much the picture of health, with only defensive end Brian Robinson and cornerback Antoine Winfield listed as questionable.
Who should I bet on?
Ask a Vikings fan who’s going to win this game. Then slap them in their ugly Hormel-Chili-stained face for being a moron. The Packers are three-point favorites and although they’re an average-looking 4-3 against the spread on the road, we’re still taking the Packers. They’re the better team, they’re healthier than they’ve been since the beginning of the season, they have something to play for and they’re on a roll. There’s nothing that says that’s going to stop.
What To Watch For
I am Jack’s cold sweat
Let’s talk about the record. Peterson needs 208 yards. The Packers are acutely aware of that. In the first meeting between the Packers and Vikings this year, Peterson ran for 210. A large chunk of that came on his 82-yard, second quarter touchdown run, where Peterson ran through about three of the worst tackle attempts we’ve ever seen. You know the Packers don’t want Peterson setting the record against them and if they can wrap up and not allow 82-yard runs, they should be fine. The Packers should also be stronger against the run this time around. Neither Clay Matthews or C.J. Wilson played in the first matchup. Both will play this week.
I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise
Despite Peterson’s beastly performance against the Packers earlier this season, the Vikings still lost. That’s because quarterback Christian Ponder was completely ineffective. He threw for just 112 yards and tossed two interceptions. Despite starting all of the Vikings games this season, Ponder seems unlikely to surpass 3,000 yards passing. He has 15 touchdowns and 12 picks. Can you say mediocre? The Packers will focus on Peterson this week and hand Ponder an invitation to beat them. We’ll be surprised if he doesn’t fumble that handoff.
I am Jack’s broken heart
A Packers win over the Vikings isn’t all good. If the Packers win, the Chicago Bears are probably getting into the playoffs. All the Bears need to do to make the tourney is beat the hapless Detroit Lions and then have the Packers win. Washington and the Giants are also in contention for that final Wild Card spot. The Skins win the NFC East if they beat Dallas, but can also lose and get the Wild Card if Chicago and Minnesota both lose. The Giants need losses by Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas and they also need to beat Philadelphia. We’ll know where the Bears and Giants stand by the time the Packers play in the afternoon. The good news is, whichever one of these teams gets the final Wild Card will then get to be eliminated in the first round by San Francisco (or Green Bay if they lose to the Vikings). Oh yeah, there’s that too. If the Vikings beat the Packers, they’ll most likely be facing them again next week at Lambeau to open the playoffs. So, we’re looking for Bears at San Francisco!
I am Jack’s smirking revenge
The Vikings haven’t made the playoffs since 2009. That was You-Know-Who’s one glorious season in Vikings puke purple (he had a much less-glorious, injury-plagued, dick-picture-filled season in 2010 and then slunk away unnoticed). The Queens beat the Packers twice that season and… haven’t beaten them since. The cockslinger’s presence no longer looms over the rivalry and the Queens have returned to being the losers we all know they are. That’s how it should be and that’s how it should stay.