For the third time this season, the Minnesota Vikings will take on the Green Bay Packers, and for the second straight week it will be for their playoff lives.
Instead of calling for another Adrian Peterson rush and an NFL record, head coach Leslie Frazier played for the postseason, and it paid off after Blair Walsh knocked in the 29-yard game winner as time expired in Minnesota’s 37-34 victory over the Packers in Week 17.
One more meeting will determine who moves on to the second round. Due to reseeding, if the Vikings win they would play the Atlanta Falcons, while Green Bay would face the San Francisco 49ers.
Below are four key players the Vikings need to come up big in order to drop the Packers and move on.
The most obvious pick. In Week 17, 34-of-66 offensive plays went to Peterson and it paid huge dividends with 199 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Peterson has been the focus of the Vikings offense since receiver Percy Harvin went down earlier this season, and the bulk of Minnesota's hopes rest on the MVP candidate's surgically repaired knee.
The 35-year-old cornerback played through a broken hand in Week 17, and reportedly did not practice Thursday, but will wear a cast for protection this week. Winfield is one of the few veterans on a Minnesota defense that has only three players 30 or over.
The Vikings secondary will need his leadership for any success against Aaron Rodgers, who passed for five touchdowns against Minnesota this year. Rodgers has thrown 24 touchdown passes against the Vikings in his career, which is six more than the next closest opponent.
Like Winfield, Allen is the veteran signal caller for Minnesota’s frontline, and will lead the pass rush against the always dangerous Rodgers. In 11 career games against Green Bay, Allen has 16 sacks and 31 tackles.
The second-year quarterback played the best game of his young career, going 16-for-28 for 234 yards, three touchdowns and a career-high 120.2 rating passer rating. Ponder will need another strong effort this weekend, and create a venerable second-threat to relieve pressure on Peterson.
Even adding his seminal game from this past weekend, Ponder has completed just 48 percent of his passes in four games against Green Bay -- his lowest against any NFC North opponent.