Payback Time: Facing Vikings Best for Packers in Wild Card

Kris BurkeCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 01:  Spencer Havner #41 of the Green Bay Packers leaps into the stands to celebrate his touchdown with fans during the third quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on November 1, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Packers' fans, start your drooling.

Only two weeks ago, it seemed like the only way the Green Bay Packers would get a third shot at the Minnesota Vikings would be in the divisional round of the playoffs and that assumed the Packers would win a wild-card game first.

A hot Packers team and a slumping Vikings team have now made such a meeting possible in the wild-card round. 

Thanks to the Vikings losing 36-30 in overtime to the Chicago Bears on Monday, it's possible for the Vikings to lose the No. 2 spot in the NFC that they have held practically all season. 

If that were to occur, the NFC North champion Vikings would host a wild-card game with the Packers as a possible opponent.

Now, it's unlikely all this will occur. 

The Giants would have to beat the Vikings, the Cardinals would have to beat the Packers, and then the Eagles would have to beat the Cowboys.  A lot has to happen, but this is the National Football League. As many coaches have said, "stranger things have happened."

Cheeseheads still fuming after the Vikings beat the Packers at Lambeau are foaming at the mouth at getting another chance. 

Who can blame them? For one, it is very difficult to beat one team three times in a single season. History works against the Vikings. 

Second, the two teams are suddenly going in opposite directions. 

The Packers are 6-1 in their last seven, and the Vikings have lost two straight to inferior opponents. 

Taking into account the Packers' lone loss (to the Steelers) came on a last-minute miracle throw by Ben Roethlisberger, as of right now the Packers are actually the better team.

Fans also should not underestimate how bad the Packers want to beat Minnesota. 

Given the Vikings' recent struggles, there is no doubt by losing the two games to Minnesota this year the Packers blew a prime opportunity to win the NFC North this year. 

Mike McCarthy won't need to fire up the troops for this one. They will be motivating themselves.

Take a look at what caused the Packers to drop the two games to the Vikings this year: One was horrid play by the Packer offensive line that kept getting Aaron Rodgers pummeled. That's been corrected. 

Along the same line is the Vikings' pass rush, led by Jared Allen. Any Packers' coach watching tape of the Vikings' two most recent games should be able to develop a plan to contain Allen and keep him out of the game.

The Packers' defense has risen to the occasion since then, as well. 

Dom Capers' squad has turned into one of the elite units in the league stopping the run and having potential defensive MVP Charles Woodson in the secondary doesn't hurt either. 

With Percy Harvin fighting migraines and Brett Favre fighting his own head coach, things certainly look more favorable for the Packers in round three.

Speaking of Favre, his penchant for blowing it in the playoffs looms large for the Packers.  Many members of the Packers were around in 2007 when Favre's final pass as a Packer was intercepted in overtime, setting up the game-winning field goal that would cost the Packers the NFC title. 

Take that into account, along with the reports that Favre has hijacked the offense and the franchise, and the Packers defense is licking its chops at finally laying the smackdown on ole No. 4.

Now, a lot of people are asking why the Vikings are the best matchup for the Packers and not the Cardinals or Cowboys, whom the Packers beat earlier this season. It's easy to reason why these two teams would give the Packers a better chance at advancing, but let's look a little deeper.

First, Arizona's offense is very explosive. Just when you think its struggling and you go for the K.O., BOOM! Larry Fitzgerald catches a 70-yard laser for six points. 

Arizona's receivers are big and tall and could easily overpower the Packers' speedy secondary at any time. 

Sometimes the Packers can muscle the Cardinals' wideouts, but even they can't magically grow a couple inches taller.

As for the Cowboys, the Packers recently have struggled in Dallas. Though they haven't played in the gargantuan Cowboys Stadium yet, it's a ghost that will still haunt these Packers.

Combine that with a suddenly-hot-in-December Tony Romo and the Cowboys will be a much more potent force to be reckoned with the second go-round. Home field advantage can play a huge role, especially in the playoffs.

McCarthy said earlier in the season that "it's not who you play, but when you play them."

This never rings more true than during the NFL playoffs. The Vikings likely won't be shaking in their boots about facing the Packers for a third time—and at home to boot. Any real professional team wouldn't be scared.

If the Packers keep playing the way they have been, though, they could get what would be one the greatest victories in the history of a franchise that already has a ton of memorable victories.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and the Packers are ready to feast in the Metrodome.


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