It's easy to write about the upcoming Packers rubber match and focus on Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder, or Jared Allen. And certainly their performances will help make or break the game. Peterson absolutely willed us to victory last Sunday, and yet the key difference overall between that game and round one was Ponder's performance. And as we all know, if Allen and co. can get to Rodgers, good things will happen.
But there's someone else upon who our destiny truly depends: Antoine Winfield. It's not exactly a ‘well-kept secret', but it is sometimes overlooked. When Winfield was playing in the slot, Green Bay couldn't even nab a field goal. But once he was forced to go out due to pain and swelling in his broken hand, Aaron Rodgers began to mercilessly pick on Marcus Sherels, and what had started out as a one-sided affair for the good guys became a close game for the ages.
Winfield hasn't practiced this week, but as has been pointed out, that's not exactly anything new for the veteran defensive back. Even prior to his injury, the 35-year old Winfield was on a limited snap count during practice; a logical choice on Leslie Frazier and Allen William's part, considering both his age as well as his considerable talent and experience.
Last week Winfield was in a padded glove, which was apparently insufficient to keep the swelling down and the pain at bay. (As an aside, if an ironman like Winfield was in such pain that he couldn't play, that must have been some SEVERE agony.) This week the plan is for him to wear a larger ‘soft cast', which hopefully will help prevent the problem from becoming exacerbated again. Williams himself has repeatedly stated that he completely anticipates Winfield playing.
Ultimately, I think this is the absolute key to the game for us. Yes, Ponder must play an efficient game, yes, Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffin all need to wreak havoc on the Packer's backfield, and yes, Peterson must remain Peterson. But the player I will be watching above all others will be our legendary, seemingly ageless cornerback.