While Packers get healthy, Vikings lick wounds entering rematch
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org January 5, 2013 12:00AM
NFL_FLAT_LOGOS_041699: NFL team logos; stand-alone; 1c; 52mm; MOVED Fri. April 16.
• (6) Bengals at (3) Texans, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 5
• (5) Colts at (4) Ravens,
Noon Sunday, Ch. 2
• (1) Broncos vs. lowest
remaining seed, 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 12, Ch. 2
• (2) Patriots vs. highest
remaining seed, 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 13, Ch. 2
5:30 p.m. Jan. 20, Ch. 2
• (6) Vikings at (3) Packers,
7 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 5
• (5) Seahawks at (4) Redskins, 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox-32
• (1) Falcons vs. lowest
remaining seed, noon Jan. 13, Fox-32
• (2) 49ers vs. highest
remaining seed, 7 p.m. Jan. 12,
2 p.m. Jan. 20, Fox-32
• Feb. 3 at New Orleans
5 p.m. Ch. 2.
Updated: January 5, 2013 1:02AM
The Green Bay Packers missed a chance to earn a playoff bye last Sunday in Minneapolis.
But the Minnesota Vikings apparently were in more need of a weekend off.
The Vikings’ 37-34 victory at Mall of America Field — one that eliminated the Bears from the postseason — came at a heavy price. Two key players are listed as questionable entering the wild-card game Saturday night at Lambeau Field.
Quarterback Christian Ponder (bruised right elbow) and cornerback Antoine Winfield (broken right hand) are expected to play, but their effectiveness might be limited. Winfield will be wearing a cast.
Meanwhile, the Packers will field several playmakers who missed the game last Sunday, most notably slot receiver Randall Cobb and safety Charles Woodson.
“We’re getting healthy at the right time,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “You want to play your best football at this time of year, and it’s great to have them.”
The Vikings’ already suspect secondary struggled against the Packers last week after Winfield left the game. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 17 of 21 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the second half, when Winfield wasn’t on the field. In the first half, Rodgers had 103 yards.
Even with Winfield, though, the Vikings’ defense will be stretched thin. The Packers’ full allotment of receivers — Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Cobb — will be available for the first time since early in the season.
“We have an extremely good group of receivers, and the more we put out there, the more DBs they’ve got to put out there, which is going to create a mismatch somewhere,” Nelson said. “It’s the coaches’ job and our job to find that mismatch and take advantage of it.”
But the Vikings have the great equalizer: running back Adrian Peterson.
Despite suffering a season-ending knee injury late in the 2011 season, Peterson recovered in remarkable fashion and finished nine yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. With 199 rushing yards against the Packers last Sunday, Peterson had 2,097 yards for the season — 484 more than second-leading rusher Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins.
“Not to toot my own horn,” Peterson said, “but I have that confidence when I’m out there, so I just go out there and play my game.’’
Peterson said Ponder, in his second pro season, has found his confidence.
“Now he’s able not to be hesitant,’’ Peterson said. ‘‘Now he’s able to finish through with throws and just take off running and make plays when things break down.”
In the teams’ first meeting Dec. 2, a 23-14 Packers win, Peterson had 210 rushing yards on 21 carries.
Rodgers said the Packers’ offense can help with Peterson.
“I think two parts,” Rodgers said. “One, starting fast. We spot them 13 points [last week], and we had three really poor drives to start the game.
“Then, getting the crowd into it. I think we’re counting on our fans this week to be that 12th man and to be really loud from the get-go.”
And so the tables turn in just a week. But the Vikings will be prepared for one thing: the cold.
During practice this week, the Vikings left the large doors to their indoor practice facility open, helping them prepare for the 20- to 30-degree temperatures at Lambeau Field.
“It won’t be a complete shock to the system when we walk out on the field,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “I think it helped us. I think we did the right thing.”