Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder may not get a chance to repeat his career performance from Week 17.
Ponder’s three touchdowns and 120.2 passer rating drew the Green Bay Packers defense away from running back Adrian Peterson in Minnesota’s 37-34 win that sent them to the playoffs, but the second-year passer reportedly has an elbow injury. His game status is unclear as the Vikings rematch the Packers in an NFC Wild Card matchup Saturday night at Lambeau Field.
The NFL Network reported the injury caused fatigue earlier this week, and Minnesota may have to turn to reserve quarterback Joe Webb. A former sixth round pick in the 2010 draft, Webb has only made three starts in his career, and has not made an appearance this season. Webb also has to worry about a Green Bay defense that recorded 47 sacks this year, fourth in the league.
That could cause trouble for the Vikings and running back Adrian Peterson. The MVP candidate was nine yards short of the NFL single-season rushing record, and completed an amazing comeback from knee reconstruction surgery to finish the season with 2,097 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
The pressure will also pile on the Vikings young defense and its only veteran leaders in Jared Allen and Antoine Winfield. The 35-year-old Winfield will wear a protective cast around a broken hand that he played through last week, and will be charged with leading the Minnesota secondary against the always dangerous Aaron Rodgers. Defensive end Allen contributed 12 sacks to a pass rush that was in fifth in the NFL with 44.
The Packers have their own woes, as they try to win their first home playoff game since 2007. Green Bay has lost three of their lost four home postseason contests, making Lambeau not as intimidating a venue as it once was.
The Packers started the season with a 2-3 record, but have since gone 9-2 behind Rodgers' 4,295 passing yards and 39 touchdowns. Green Bay fields the NFL’s fifth highest scoring offense netting 27.1 points per game. More than a third of Rodger’s touchdowns went to receiver James Jones, who had 14 scores this season and was second on the Packers with 784 receiving yards.
The only downside for the Green Bay offense has been the lack of a rushing attack. Head coach Mike McCarthy has used several running backs this season due to injury, and last week used DuJuan Harris, who finished with a team-high 70 yards on 14 carries. Harris may be the top back going into Saturday’s game, though Alex Green appears to have recovered from his concussion and may be available.
The game kicks-off at 8 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast by NBC, or you can watch their live online stream on NBC All-Access here.
Betting Odds: Green Bay is favored by 10 points.
Over/Under: 46.5 points
Prediction: Green Bay stumbled out of the gate, but their offense has been on fire . Rodgers looks like the MVP from a year ago, and Jones has become one of the league’s best receivers. Minnesota’s chances rest on Peterson, but with Ponder possible out and the inexperienced Webb under center, it could be a long day for the Vikings.
Prediction Score: Green Bay 31, Minnesota 24