Back in week 13, the Minnesota Vikings lost what I feel was a very winnable game against Green Bay in Lambeau. The Vikings offense moved the ball in spite of Christian Ponder’s inability to complete a pass for most of the last three quarters. He also threw two crippling interceptions in the red zone. After several short posessions, the Vikings defense was completely gassed, and gave up an 18 play drive that put the game away for Green Bay.
Let’s say that those two picks become a field goal, and let’s say that the Vikes were able to sustain at least two drives in the second half. Yeah, it’s a lot of ‘if/then’ suppositions to make, but if the Vikings don’t turn it over in the red zone and if they were able to get one more drive for at least a field goal, then they win that game.
Because the Green Bay Packers aren’t world beaters. Oh sure, everyone is on their bandwagon right now, but look at who they’ve beaten. It’s not an impressive list, other than Houston on the road, but the Vikes did that, too. Since that October 14 win in Houston, the Packers have played teams with a combined record of 49-63-1. They barely beat a bad Bears team, beat Minnesota at home, and got blown out by the Giants.
This is a game Minnesota should win.
This is a game Minnesota has to win.
This is a game I believe Minnesota will win.
In that first matchup, Aaron Rodgers had a good, but not great game. His 286 yards passing was good, but remember that the Vikings were playing without their best cover guy, Chris Cook. And Rodgers also had a Jared Allen interception nullified by off-setting penalties. Had it stood, the Vikings would’ve had the ball inside the Green Bay 20. Greg Jennings has been subpar all year because of a nagging hamstring injury, and Jordy Nelson is questionable with a bad hamstring. James Jones has stepped up and is quietly having a good year, but as it stands right now, the Vikings secondary matches up very well with Green Bay’s receivers. Put Cook on Jones, Winfield on Jennings, and Josh Robinson on whoever Green Bay’s #3 guy will be, presumably Nelson if he plays, or Donald Driver.
But give Aaron Rodgers time, and he will destroy a secondary, regardless of who he is throwing the ball to. That is why it will be imperative for the Vikings to put intense pressure on him from the first snap. They only registered two sacks in the first meeting, and they need to at least double that Sunday.
I think the Vikings defensive line wins the matchup against a Green Bay offensive line that is kind of patchwork right now. RT Don Barclay is a rookie playing for Bryan Bulaga, who is on IR. And Evan Dietrich-Smith has taken over for vet Jeff Saturday, who was benched last week for the Tennessee game. Dietrich-Smith will be making only his second start at center, and the noise of the Metrodome will be a tough challenge. I fully expect the Vikings to generate more pressure for this game, and hopefully they’ll batter Aaron Rodgers for 60 minutes.
On offense, it’s simple for the Vikings—give Adrian Peterson the ball, and Christian Ponder just needs to make a few plays with no turnovers. If Ponder puts in a performance against the Packers like he did against Houston, and everything else remains the same, the Vikings win this game.
And rivalry aside, the Vikings have everything and yet nothing to play for at the same time. I say nothing because no one saw them being in this position when the season started. 9 wins is about 5 more than most people figured, so a loss here and it’s still a 9-7 season with a lot to build on for 2013. But they also have everything to play for—Adrian Peterson is within shouting distance of one of the NFL’s most prestigious records, a win gets them to the playoffs, and we’ll probably knock the Packers out of the #2 seed, denying them a playoff bye.
And it’s Green Bay, our most hated rival.
If the Vikes pull this off, at the end of the day we can celebrate an AP record, a playoff spot, and a win against the Packers, with a probable re-match against them next week in Lambeau.
A loss? Well, we’re Vikings fans. We’ve been down this road before, and it would suck. But it wouldn’t even register in my top ten of soul crushing Vikings losses. Well, yeah, it probably would. But it would be like 9 or 10.
But don’t make me have to rank this come Sunday night, okay Vikings?