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For just the second time in their storied rivalry, the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings meet in the playoffs, as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers host Adrian Peterson and the Vikings in the NFC's Wild Card round.
Minnesota and Green Bay met twice in December, with the home team winning each contest. The Packers knocked off the Vikings in Week 13, 23-14, while the Vikings clinched a playoff berth in Week 17, with a 37-34 win over Green Bay.
Now, the two rivals will meet on Saturday for just the second time ever in the playoffs, with a trip to the NFC's Divisional round on the line.
Meet the Packers
For the fourth consecutive season, Green Bay is in the playoffs. After winning Super Bowl XLV, the Packers went 15-1 in 2011, and were the favorites to win the NFC, but were derailed in the Divisional round by the New York Giants.
Once again, the offense is the strength of the Packers. Aaron Rodgers threw for 4,295 yards and 39 touchdowns as the Packers scored the fifth-most points in the entire NFL -- despite suffering injuries to Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb at various points of the season.
Despite missing four games with a hamstring injury, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews led the team in sacks, recording 13 sacks in just 12 outings for Green Bay.
Meet the Vikings
For the first time since 2009, when Brett Favre was the team's quarterback, the Vikings are in the playoffs. After going 3-13 in 2011, Minnesota surprised the NFL by winning its last four games to finish 10-6, and securing the final wild card spot in the NFC.
Unlike Green Bay, Minnesota's offense runs through the legs of a running back -- and perhaps the league's MVP. Adrian Peterson came just nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, and is undoubtedly Minnesota's top offensive threat.
Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder threw for under 200 yards in nine games this season, and threw for under 100 yards on three occasions. Ponder played perhaps the best game of his career in Week 17, however, completing 16-of-28 passes against Green Bay for 234 yards and three touchdowns.
Local Takes: Packers
Kevin McCauley of Acme Packing Company wrote about the opening lines for this weekend's Vikings-Packers game, and believes the Packers should be favored by about a touchdown.
According to OddsShark, a few books have already moved that line quite a bit. It's gone down to 7.5 points at a couple books.
I expect it to drop a bit more, then come up a bit before the half. If the line drops below seven points, the money will start shifting towards the Packers.
Have I telegraphed my pick for the game enough in this post? Barring an unexpected status of 'out' for Clay Matthews, Green Bay by a touchdown seems reasonable.
Local Takes: Vikings
Christopher Gates of the Daily Norseman wrote a two-part Vikings year in review, and capped it off with praise for Ponder and the Vikings -- and noted how Minnesota's Week 17 win thwarted its rivals.
Christian Ponder played the best game of his NFL career, connecting on three touchdown passes and not turning the ball over. Minnesota defeated Green Bay for the first time since Leslie Frazier became coach, cost the Packers a first-round playoff bye, and knocked the Bears out of the playoffs all in one fell swoop.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Packers already installed as 8-point favorites over the #Vikings on Saturday. Is LOL sufficient, or should I go to ROFLMAO?— The Daily Norseman (@DailyNorseman) December 31, 2012
@TyDunne - Packers beat writer
Frazier says the Packers did some different things in the run game vs Peterson with safeties, DL. Credited TEs for taking on the linebackers— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) December 31, 2012
@StribDW - Vikings beat writer
An excerpt from the Wild Card picks:
The Packers are tasked with something no one has done consistently -- stop Adrian Peterson. He's a freak of nature. The question isn't whether he's great, it's whether he's the greatest.
I keep coming back to this question: How will the Packers stop Peterson?
I don't have a good answer for that.
The pick: 23-20, Vikings
Green Bay opened the week as 9.5 point favorites, but the line has moved to 7.5 on some books, according to OddsShark. The over/under for the game is set at 46.
If Green Bay wins, the Packers will pack their bags and head to San Francisco to take on the 49ers, while the Vikings set up tee times. If Minnesota wins, Leslie Frazier's team will head to Atlanta for a date with the top-seeded Falcons.