Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers: Woodson Makes the Difference

James Brown@@chasingballgameSenior Analyst IDecember 31, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 11: Charles Woodson #21 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates an interception against the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau Field on December 11, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Raiders 46-16. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The 2013 NFL playoffs kickoff this weekend when the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers start things up in the NFC on Saturday at 8:00 pm EST on NBC. The Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans play the early game, but Vikings/Packers will get the majority of the attention leading up to kickoff.

The NFC Wildcard playoff game will be a quick-turnaround rematch as the Vikings beat the Packers to clinch a playoff berth in Week 17.

Despite the result of the Week 17 game, the NFC Wildcard game betting line opened with the Packers as 8-point favorites.

Although the focus will be on the Week 17 matchup, there are several reasons why this game will be much different.

The Packers will be playing this game at home where they beat the Vikings 23-14 in the first meeting. The atmosphere in Green Bay is unlike any other in the NFL, especially during the playoffs.

The Packers will have the services of safety Charles Woodson back on defense.

Woodson is a leader on defense and he did not play in either of the previous games against the Vikings. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy made it very clear that Woodson will be eager to suit up for the playoffs.

“A lot of our decisions, you have risk assessment,” McCarthy said Thursday. “I think that the time I have spent around Charles Woodson, his risk assessment will go out the window when it comes time to play in a playoff game. We're trying to be smart with this. Obviously he's part of the decision, but it's the doctor's call right now.”

The Vikings enter this contest on a four-game win streak, but they historically struggle at Lambeau Field. They are currently drenched in a three-game losing streak on the frozen tundra, which is expected to be frozen for this prime time playoff game.

The Vikings will need a great game from quarterback Christian Ponder if they hope to win. Ponder exceeded expectations in week 17 with three touchdowns, but he will be hard pressed to repeat that effort in this game.

In the last outing at Green Bay, Ponder completed less than half of his pass attempts and was responsible for two interceptions. The Vikings cannot win the game on the feet of Adrian Peterson and will need Ponder to contribute if they hope to keep this game close.

The Packers have been a money-maker for backers at Lambeau field. The Packers are 21-8-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last 30 home games and 23-9 ATS in their last 32 when playing against the NFC North.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will dissect the Vikings defense as the Packers get a huge win at home to kick off the 2013 NFL playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers predictions

Packers 38 Minnesota 17

(Packers -8)

James Brown is a B/R featured columnist and can be followed on Twitter. Feel free to contact James at jtsneaks@gmail.com. He also is a contributor at Bookie Blitz, a sports picks website.