The Green Bay Packers host the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field in a Wild-Card rematch of the Vikings' 37-34 victory over the Packers in Week 17. After splitting the two games during the regular season, it's clear this game could go either way.
Each teams knows exactly what the other team is going to do. The Packers are going to ride Aaron Rodgers and their passing attack, while the Vikings are going to pound the ball with Adrian Peterson. In what should be a tight contest, these matchups could make or break the game for either team.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Antoine Winfield
Winfield is officially listed as questionable but is expected to play with a cast around his broken hand. Winfield started last week but had to leave the game with pain and swelling in the hand. After his exit, the Packers went on to score all of their 34 points while Rodgers picked on backup Marcus Sherels.
With a healthy Randall Cobb, Rodgers has another weapon that the Vikings will need to cover. That will get much more difficult if Winfield is unable to play through his injury. Winfield being in the lineup gives the Vikings a chance to slow down the Packers pass attack, but it will be tough regardless.
Marshall Newhouse vs. Jared Allen
Newhouse did a great job against Jared Allen last week, as Allen was limited to few pressures; although, he did get free for a sack. For much of the game, Rodgers had enough time to find his receivers down the field.
The Packers need a repeat performance from Newhouse. If they can get that, they should be able to put up points on the Vikings defense. If they don't keep Jared Allen out of the backfield, the Packers will be in for a long night.
Adrian Peterson vs. Packers Tackling
Last week, the Packers didn't do a terrible job at the line of scrimmage, but their tackling from the linebackers and secondary left them vulnerable to long gains. B.J. Raji did a great job in getting a solid push up the middle and creating opportunities to stop Peterson.
The Packers gave up so many yards to Peterson because they failed to tackle when they had the chance. The Packers missed double-digit tackles as Peterson rushed for 199-yards. If the Packers can do a better job of tackling, they will make life harder on Christian Ponder.
Christian Ponder vs. Clay Matthews
Christian Ponder was way too comfortable during last week's game. He was able to sit back in the pocket and find receivers down the field without having to worry about the pass rush. Clay Matthews and the rest of the Packers struggled to get a consistent pass rush. Should the same thing happen tonight, the Vikings will be in great shape.
Peterson's rushing ability slows down the pass rush, but the Packers still need to figure out a way to get bodies towards Ponder when he does pass. In the first matchup, the Packers got pressure on Ponder, and he made just enough mistakes to lose the game.
Vikings Special Teams vs. Packers Special Teams
Both special teams units put together strong performances in the game last week. The Packers averaged 28.7 yards per kickoff return, while the Vikings averaged 28.5 yards per return. On punts, the Packers averaged 20.5 yards per return, while the Vikings averaged 18 yards per return. Both kickers made their attempts, and both punters played well.
While both special teams played well, they ended up being a wash, as they were matched by the opposite team. Each team looked capable of breaking a long return on any of the punt or kickoff returns. If one team gets a long touchdown return, it could be the difference in a tight game.