2013 NFL Wild Card Playoff Picks: Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers Vegas Odds and Predictions – Free NFL Playoff Picks 1/5/2013: The Minnesota Vikings (10-6) and Green Bay Packers (11-5) aren’t exactly strangers other, and in Saturday night’s NFC Wild Card game, the NFC North division rivals will square off for the third time this season. Behind a monster game from Adrian Peterson, the Vikings beat Green Bay in the regular season finale to split the season series and clinch a playoff spot. Of course, there is a little more at stake for both sides in this weekend’s rubber match. Armed with one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL, the Packers are eight-point favorites in this game.

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For Minnesota, the season has revolved around the incredible comeback and incredible performance of running back Adrian Peterson. He tore his knee up in December of 2011, but Peterson was somehow ready for Week 1 and went on to rush for a league-leading 2,097 yards, finishing just nine yards shy of the single-season record. Not surprisingly, the Vikings finished the regular season with the second-best rushing attack in football. On the flip side, quarterback Christian Ponder was at the helm of the league’s second-worst passing attack, throwing for less than 3,000 yards on the season. In fact, Peterson averaged as many yards per rush and Ponder averaged per pass. Defensively, Minnesota was solid against the run but struggled against the pass. The Vikings’ defense didn’t force many turnovers either, but the unit did rank fifth in the NFL with 44.0 sacks.

As he has done since taking over the starting job in Green Bay, quarterback Aaron Rodgers led a high-scoring, high-powered passing attack. His 39 touchdowns were the second most in the NFL, and he led the league with a 108.0 passer rating despite being sacked a league-leading 51 times and despite a nonexistent running game. Overall, Green Bay ranked ninth in passing yards this year and finished fifth in points per game. Defensively, the Packers finished in the middle of the pack against the run but rank 11-th against the pass. Green Bay also ranked fourth in sacks this year despite missing outside linebacker Clay Matthews for multiple games. The unit should receive a solid boost this weekend when starting corner Charles Woodson returns.

The Vikings Win If:

Yes, Peterson has to have a big game for Minnesota. He has to control the pace, move the chains and rip off a few big runs. However, a strong game from Peterson will only make the difference if Ponder takes advantage of the opportunities it opens up. When the Vikings beat Green Bay in the season finale, Ponder completed four pass of 20 yards or more, including a 65 yarder. If he connects on his deep throws again Saturday, the Minnesota offense reaches another level and can compete with Green Bay’s scoring attack. Defensively, the Vikings have to get as much consistent pressure as possible on Rodgers. Minnesota did manage five sacks in the regular season finale, but the pressure wasn’t consistent and Rodgers managed 365 yards and four scores. The bottom line is that Minnesota is going to have to score some points to beat Green Bay, and the only way that happens is if Ponder provides a solid counterpunch to Peterson.

The Packers Win If:

While it is easy to say that Green Bay needs to shut down Peterson in order to win, that really isn’t the case. In fact, Peterson ran for more yards in Minnesota’s loss to the Packers than in their win. The difference between the two games was that Ponder threw for just one touchdown and two interceptions in the loss and three scores on no turnovers in the win. As long as Green Bay makes sure Ponder provides little to no help offensively, the Packers can give up all the yards they want to Peterson and still keep the Vikings offense as a whole in check. Offensively, Green Bay can help its cause by building an early lead and putting even more pressure on Ponder. At the end of the day, the Packers win this game if they force Peterson to try to outscore Rodgers and company by himself.

Bottom Line:

With a back like Peterson that can take over a game and a strong pass rush, Minnesota has the pieces in place to control the Green Bay offense. However, it is hard to imagine Peterson playing any better than he has in two games against the Packers and hard to imagine the Vikings’ defense topping the five sacks it did the last team these two teams met. Essentially, Minnesota had their season on the line and played a perfect game by their standards and still only managed a three-point win at home against Rodgers and company. With the rubber match heading back to Lambeau Field and the Packers as healthy as they have been on both sides of the ball and playing with as much motivation as the Vikings this time around, Minnesota is walking into a tough spot. Sure, Peterson will get his yards, but Matthews and company will terrorize Ponder to the point where he implodes while Rodgers will carve up a suspect Vikings’ secondary.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers (-7.5) Cover the Spread

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
Line: Green Bay -7.5
Total: Over/Under 46.5
Time: 8:00 PM EST on NBC

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