Vikings Offense vs. Packers Defense
Final week of the regular season, and NFC North gives us a late gift in the form of a potential playoff preview between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are desperate for a win, as it would take losses by the Giants, Bears, and Cowboys for the Vikings to lose and still make the playoffs. Adrian Peterson is chasing a record, and the Vikings offense has been running wild. The Packers are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, 10th in total defense, and looking to lockup a first round bye with a win over their NFC North rival Vikings.
Adrian Peterson vs. Packers Run Defense
No one relishes another assignment against All-Day Adrian Peterson. Peterson embarrasses people with his speed, and punishes them with his power, and the Packers get to face this monster all day, twice a year. With Peterson looking to gain 208 yards and break Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record of 2,105 yards, Peterson will be looking to literally run the ball all day. Standing in his way is a 14th ranked Packers running defense, led by middle linebacker A.J. Hawk. Hawk has improved as a run defender, but is facing an outstanding offensive line, and Pro-Bowl fullback Jerome Felton. Felton and Hawk were matched often in the last match between these two teams, and Felton and the offensive line pushed Peterson to 210 yards. Peterson’s main obstacle in his pursuit of the record may be the Vikings need to win the game. If the Packers are able to get an early lead, and force the Vikings to throw to catch up, it will take the ball out of Peterson’s hands. Winning the game and getting the Vikings into the playoffs is more important than one man’s chase of a record.
Christian Ponder and Weapons vs. Secondary
Christian Ponder has had a tale of 2 seasons. First half of the season was a fairytale of completed screens and short passes to Percy Harvin. Ponder was then leading the league in completion percentage and being talked about as a promising 2nd year quarterback. Harvin goes down, and Adrian Peterson steps up to dominate the focus of the Vikings offense. Ponder, now deprived of his favorite weapon, drops in completions, attempts, yards per attempt, and touchdowns. Ponders weakness to extra blitzes is revealed, his interceptions go up, and the Vikings once again restrict his use. Lately Ponder has been averaging less per pass than Peterson has per run, and has thrown 4 interceptions and fumbled 4 times in the last 6 weeks. Dom Capers likes to bring pressure from multiple places, and against Ponder his aggressiveness will increase. Charles Woodson is out, but other members of the secondary have stepped up to rush the passer. Cornerbacks Sam Shields and Devon House have recorded sacks.
Safety Morgan Burnett has 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, and nickel corner Casey Hayward has been used to blitz recently. Other than Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, Tight End Kyle Rudolph is a legitimate weapon as a receiver. Rudolph is 2nd on the team in receptions(51) and yards(473), and leads the Vikings with 9 receiving touchdowns. Teams have been stacking the box to stop Peterson, and Ponder has been unable to capitalize. Someone in the Vikings receiving corps will have to step up, and Ponder will needs to improve quickly to keep this game close. Peterson cannot do everything.
Offensive vs. Defensive Lines
The Vikings are the 13th best team in pass protection, having allowed only 31 sacks. Most of that you could attribute to Adrian Peterson’s domination of the opposing run defense, and the Vikings not relying on Ponder to throw them to victory. Nevertheless, the Vikings offensive line has been very good. Adrian Peterson(6) trails only C.J. Spiller(6.5) in yards-per-carry for a starting running back, yet has double the carries. The Vikings offensive line prides itself in maintaining blocks for the chance of Peterson breaking a big play. The Packers have the 3rd most sacks in the league(46), and with Clay Mathews having only played 11 games, the Packers have schemed an amazing 15 different players to a sack. Still, in 11 games this season, Mathews has 12 sacks, looking like the unblockable player of old. Vikings rookie left tackle Matt Kalil has been as good as advertised, and the Packers will look to move Mathews around to avoid the bad match with Kalil.