Vikings vs Packers: 10 Keys to the Game for Green Bay
The Packers and Vikings face each other again this week, this time at Lambeau Field, in an NFC Wild Card game to kick off the NFC playoffs. The Packers lost to the Vikings in a 37-34 instant classic at Mall of America Field, which clinched the sixth and final NFC playoff spot for the Vikings.
Revenge will be the word for the Packers this week as they try to end the Vikings' season on the second try. The Packers missed out on a first-round bye by losing last week, and knocking the Vikings out of the playoffs would avenge that loss.
Stop Adrian Peterson
It's the most obvious headline of the week.
If the Packers want to win, they have to put forth a better effort stopping Peterson than they did last week. If the Packers let him run 199 yards and Christian Ponder is at least somewhat efficient, the Vikings have a very good chance of winning this game.
The tackling obviously has to improve, and Tramon Williams needs to go mano a mano against Peterson. Williams looked almost scared to tackle Peterson last week, so all eyes will be on him this week.
Make Christian Ponder Throw
If you take away Peterson, then you force Ponder to throw the ball. If the Packers are able to get into this scenario, they stand a very good chance of winning the game, and it won't really be close.
Ponder was very efficient last week when the Vikings won, but he threw two interceptions against the Packers when the two teams met at Lambeau earlier in the year. The Vikings have not won a single game outdoors all year, so the pressure will really be on Ponder in the elements for his first career playoff game.
The Packers may only force a few errant throws, but that's all it takes against the Packers' young and aggressive secondary.
Protect Aaron Rodgers
Five sacks last week won't cut it in the playoffs.
Don Barclay had a bad game specifically, but the offensive line as a whole needs to do a better job protecting Rodgers. It pretty much neutralized Jared Allen last week, but that allowed Everson Griffen to rack up three sacks.
Rodgers had a fantastic game considering how much he was under pressure. Just imagine what he could or can do when he has time in the pocket.
Fire Up the Crowd
Mall of America Field was jacked up for the regular season finale last week, and the Packers are hoping Lambeau Field is even louder Saturday night.
Some Packers fans were making concentrated efforts this week to keep available tickets out of the hands of Vikings fans. During last year's playoffs, there were more Giants fans than expected, so the Packers are hoping to avoid a repeat this season.
This is Ponder's first playoff game, so a loud Lambeau crowd could play a key role in keeping him off rhythm.
The Packers lost last week in part to falling behind 13-0 early. They outscored the Vikings 34-24 the rest of the way, but the damage had been done.
If the Packers can open up a 21-point lead early, this would effectively force the Vikings to throw the ball, and that increases the chance for a turnover. The best chance the Packers have is to put the Vikings in a deep hole early and make Ponder bring the team back.
It's unlikely he can do that at Lambeau in January.
Manage Your Emotions
The Packers got burned once and nearly a second time Sunday by losing control of their emotions at a critical juncture of the game.
Mike McCarthy's challenge flag, had it been thrown a few seconds later, would have likely cost his team four points. Tramon Williams, however, cost his team four points, as a poorly-timed penalty turned a field goal into a touchdown for the Vikings.
The Packers need to keep their emotions in check on Sunday. It's the playoffs, which means emotions will be running higher. That said, stupid penalties will sink this team if it loses its cool.
Dom Capers needs to lose the drop eight and rush three scheme immediately.
The "soft zone," as it has been called, has been the Packers' Achilles heel on defense the past two seasons. Capers needs to consistently send pressure on Ponder if the Packers want to win the game.
Catch the Football
Drops doomed the Packers last year in the playoffs and basically did against the Vikings last week.
Hang on to the football in the big games. It can't get any more clear than that.
Don't Let Last Year Haunt You
The ghost of last season's loss will hang over this team on Sunday.
They need to bust that ghost and get that win. The Packers have only won one playoff game at home in the McCarthy era, and that's a streak that needs to end on Sunday
Win the Field Position Battle
Jeremy Ross should be returning kicks on Sunday, which will keep Cobb strictly at wide receiver.
No three and outs. The Packers cannot give Adrian Peterson a short field. They need to pin the Vikings deep and let Ponder dig them out.