There will be no surprises on the field in the NFC Wild Card Game at Lambeau Field between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers on Saturday night. These two NFC North rivals are meeting for the third time this season, including the second time in six days.
The Vikings needed a win against the Packers last week to get into the postseason. In the process, they prevented their division rivals from clinching a first-round bye and the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
With two teams that know each other so well, this is going to be a game where you line up with the best you have and see who comes out on top. Both teams have taken the best shot the other one can deliver and lived to fight another day, so what does this game have in store?
Here are the keys to victory for both the Vikings and Packers in this game.
Keys to Vikings victory
Put Christian Ponder in spots to succeed; Exploit the Packers offensive line
Everyone knows that the Vikings are going to try and ride Adrian Peterson as hard as they can. The one thing that no one seems to talk about is the way the Vikings were able to use him to set up their passing game last weekend.
What Will Be The Bigger Factor In The Outcome Of The Vikings-Packers Game?
Remember, Ponder had to throw three touchdowns last weekend in order for the Vikings to win that game. They are going to need that kind of production from the passing game again if they want to keep up with the Packers.
Running the ball with Peterson will be key for the Vikings to establish everything else they want to do on offense. But it is on Ponder to make the plays necessary when the game plan calls for him to do so.
On the defensive side, the Vikings have a distinct advantage in the trenches. They finished tied for fifth in the league with 44 sacks. The Packers offensive line has been dreadful at protecting Aaron Rodgers and opening holes in the running game.
Rodgers was sacked an NFL-high 51 times during the regular season. It obviously didn't do much to hurt his overall production, but in a one-game scenario, if he has to run for his life, the Vikings could force turnovers and get the ball back with a short field.
Keys to Packers victory
Force Christian Ponder to beat you; Show the running game
The Packers, like so many teams in the NFL this season, had no answer for Peterson. The potential NFL MVP ran for 409 yards with three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) in the two regular-season meetings between these teams.
If they can find some way to at least slow Peterson down in this game, the burden falls on Ponder to beat them. He has looked more comfortable in the pocket in the last few weeks, but in a high-stakes game, what is he going to do?
The Packers need to find out if they want to win.
Their running game has been virtually non-existent all season, but it is important that they don't completely abandon it. As great as Rodgers is, both as a passer and scrambler, teams should still at least feel the need to prepare to stop the run.
Last week was about as good as the Packers have looked on the ground all season. They only gained 72 yards as a team, but DuJuan Harris had 70 on just 14 carries. With an offensive line as bad as Green Bay's, that is a huge accomplishment.
If the Packers can find some kind of running game in the postseason, like they did two years ago with James Starks, this offense will be even more lethal than it already is with just Rodgers throwing the ball all over the place.