Romilly Evans confidently takes Green Bay to exact some revenge on Minny and Adrian Peterson under the Saturday night lights
It's the Green Bay Packers versus the Minnesota Vikings: Take Two. But the key difference for this Saturday's big late game is that the director has changed the backdrop. Last week, the Vikings hosted the Pack in what was a do-or-die scenario for them, fending off a second-half comeback from Aaron Rodgers to book their play-off ticket.
This weekend, however, they will wish they had booked it somewhere warmer. After all, they now journey to Lambeau Field (sorry, "historic Lambeau Field", as well-worn media epithet dictates), a venue which can rival the icy subzero temperatures of the Arctic in January.
That said, if the cold and snow do blow in, it's a moot point as to which side will be adversely affected. For Green Bay's offense is based around Rodgers and his talented and varied receiving crew. And wide men often struggle in poor weather, which can impede their movement and make the football feel like a rock to catch.
However, the attritional gains of Minny's megastar RB, Adrian Peterson, would seem perfectly suited to such conditions. AP has enjoyed the sort of comeback from two-tear ACL surgery that could even eclipse what Peyton Manning is doing in Denver - certainly from a purely athletic perspective.
Last Sunday Peterson became just the seventh player in league history to rush for 2,000 yards, coming up a fag paper shy of Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105. Of that total mileage, 409 yards came in December's brace of games against the Pack (409 yards from a mere 55 carries). So Green Bay simply must find a way to halt the juggernaut.
If they can stem this tide, though, the Vikes' chances would appear slim to none. That's because the Vikings D ranks a lowly 24th in the NFL (conceding a whopping 244 yards per match). And that's even before we consider what Rodgers and Co can do. The 29-year-old hasn't thrown throw an interception in his past four games and has completed 10 TDs during that spell - four of which came against Minnesota for a season-topping 365 yards. True, he was also sacked five times which definitely determined the result. But regardless of further protection, Rodgers will greatly benefit from the return of leading wide men, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Concisely put, he's got all the guns now.
On the other side of the ball, Rodgers' opposite number, Christian Ponder, is looking to follow up a breakout performance where he passed for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Ponder certainly surprised a few people. But no-one looked more shocked than the QB himself, pulling out third-down conversions like rabbits from a bottomless hat. His passage into the magic circle of clutch quarterbacks is surely only short-lived, though, and a restored Green Bay D can break the spell.
At the head of that restoration is defensive chief, Charles Woodson, who has finally been given the green light to play. Woodson has been missing from action for the last nine games with a broken collarbone, but the storied safety's return has even got the phlegmatic Mike McCarthy excited. "His playmaking just gives us an added dimension," enthused the Packers coach. "His productivity emboldens others." Which is probably code for: "makes others believe they can stop Peterson." As should the Packers' overall record against Minnesota and AP at Lambeau Field, where Green Bay have won five of six.
So, despite what we witnessed under the Metrodome six days ago, the Pack now hold all the aces. And Rodgers, who is enjoying something of a renaissance with wideout Greg Jennings, can prove this week's trump card.
Back Green Bay Packers (-7.5 points) on the Match Point Spread @ 2.01/1 or better
Back Green Bay Packers (-4.5 points) on the First-Half Point Spread @ 1.9110/11 or better
Back Green Bay Packers Touchdown to be First Scoring Play @ 3.55/2 or better
Back G Jennings to be First/Anytime Touchdown Scorer @ 9.08/1 or better