- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
- 0 Shares
Frozen tundra: You've already heard plenty of national nostalgia about playing a night game in freezing temperatures at one of the NFL's most sacred cathedrals. As much intimidation as Lambeau Field presumably exudes, it's worth noting that the Packers have folded more frequently there than their opponents in recent history. They are 2-4 over the past decade in home playoff games, and one of those losses was to the Vikings after the 2004 season. Packers receiver Greg Jennings was among those who spoke honestly this week about his preference for playing postseason games on the road.
Road struggles: The Packers are 7.5-point favorites, and all 14 ESPN analysts picked them to win. One of the primary reasons: The perception that the Vikings, despite a four-game winning streak to end the season, are overmatched as a visiting playoff team. Quarterback Christian Ponder, for one, has never started a game in temperatures under 40 degrees. Saturday's high is expected to be in the mid-20s. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, has 14 career starts -- and an NFL-high 75.1 Total Quarterback Rating -- in games below freezing. The Vikings' extended history reveals they have struggled in road playoff games since moving indoors in 1982. Over that 31-season span, they have won only four road playoff games (in 14 opportunities).
Slowing Peterson: Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson rushed for 230 yards after contact in two games against the Packers this season, illustrating the Packers' inability to tackle him over an extended period. Pro Football Focus debited the Packers a combined 10 missed tackles on his 55 carries against them. The Packers have mostly been hurt when Peterson has bounced runs outside the tackles, accounting for 205 of his total yards on just 15 such carries, and they have suggested that better gap integrity could limit those occasions. But they might have to find a way to win despite Peterson. Of the six previous players to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, only one won a playoff game (in four opportunities). In 1998, the Denver Broncos' Terrell Davis rushed for 468 yards in three playoff victories on the way to winning Super Bowl XXXIII.
Ponder's issues: Ponder solidified his status as the Vikings' 2013 starter with a strong finish to the regular season, but there is some understandable skepticism about his potential for succeeding Saturday night. He has been limited this week by a sore right elbow and, of more relevance, will be making his first playoff start at the same site where he has had two of his worst performances. In two games at Lambeau, Ponder has completed 47.4 percent of his passes with almost no downfield success. In those games, he has completed just three passes that traveled 15 yards or more past the line of scrimmage (in 14 attempts).
Close game? The teams' two regular-season games were decided by a total of 12 points. Does anyone have the advantage if Saturday night's game is close? The Packers are 1-3 in games decided by three points or fewer this season and 6-14 all-time under coach Mike McCarthy. This season, the Vikings are 2-1 in such games. The Vikings have a Pro Bowl kicker in rookie Blair Walsh, who nailed all 10 of his 50-plus yard field goals this season, while Packers place-kicker Mason Crosby has been shaky during the second half of the season. All three of Walsh's misses this season came on the road, including his only career attempt at Lambeau.
(Statistics courtesy ESPN Stats & Information unless otherwise noted.)
1dDana Wakiji / Special to ESPN.com