The Green Bay Packers face the Minnesota Vikings in what has turned into the Hormel Chili Bowl for Minnesotans, but is actually just a Wild Card playoff game to everyone else.
That’s because the Packers expect to make a Super Bowl run, while the Vikings are happy just to be here. Of course, that doesn’t mean these turds will just roll over, so here’s your need to know.
Who’s not playing?
Holy shit, Batman! The Packers are (relatively) healthy! Jarrett Boykin and Jerel Worthy have been ruled out and James Starks is questionable. However, Charles Woodson, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will play. Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie is out for the Vikings and both quarterback Christian Ponder and cornerback Antoine Winfield are questionable. What does that mean? It means both guys will pull on their skirts and play with pain.
Who should I bet on?
This is a pisser. The Packers opened as 9-point favorites. Nine! They’re now between 7.5 and 8.5-point favorites. Everyone is picking the Packers to win, but this team has been gouged by Adrian Peterson. Dangerous matchup… seemingly. We’re going to go back to the Packers 7-1 record against the spread at home this year, though. That, and the fact that the money is flowing toward the Vikings. The Packers take care of business.
What to Watch For
The sun shining on a dog’s ass
It doesn’t happen that often, but it happened last week when Christian Ponder came out for his moment in the sun. Ponder had his best game as a pro against the Packers, when he was 16-of-28 for 234 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. That’s in stark contrast to the first meeting between the Packers and Vikings this season, when Ponder threw for just 119 yards, one touchdown and two picks. The Vikings keep telling us Ponder has been playing better of late. The stats tell us otherwise. Before last week, Ponder hadn’t thrown for more than 200 yards since week 10. In one of those games he threw for only 91. Oh, and now he has an injured elbow. In other words, Christian Ponder is a joke, but if he somehow repeats his week 17 performance this week the Packers are fucked.
Charles Woodson’s value
Chuckles hasn’t played since week 7. Well, he’s playing this week, goddamit! Will he be rusty? A normal player would, but this is Charles Woodson. And hell, the Packers need him at top form (or close to it). They’ve allowed 409 yards in two games to Adrian Peterson without Woodson. Is Woodson single-handedly going to reverse the tide? He isn’t, but if the Packers are able to keep Peterson somewhat in check, Woodson is going to play a big role.
People assume home-field advantage is a big deal for Green Bay in the playoffs. It used to be. This decade, not so much. The Packers have lost four of their last six playoff games at Lambeau. Let’s recap. Last season, they were blown out in their first playoff game by the Giants. They lost the 2007 NFC Championship game at home. In 2004, they lost to the Vikings in the Wild Card round. In 2002, they lost to Atlanta in the Wild Card round. Their only wins during that stretch — Al Harris’ overtime return in the ’03 Wild Card round and an ’07 divisional win. Both came against Seattle. The Packers aren’t playing Seattle this week. Also of note, Mike McCarthy is 1-2 in the playoffs at Lambeau. Trends change sooner or later though. It better be sooner for the Packers sake.
Your worst nightmare
The game comes down to a kick. The Packers have a guy who’s struggled all season. The Viking have a Pro Bowler who set a record for 50-plus yard field goals this season. Mason Crosby looked fine last week, but he hasn’t looked fine for most of the season. For the Vikings, Blair Walsh has pretty much been money all year long. Expect the Vikings to convert their field goal tries. Expect it to be an adventure for the Packers. The Packers can’t let the outcome of the game come down to someone making a field goal. It doesn’t matter who’s kicking it, the odds are in the Vikings favor if that happens.