Vikings-Packers scouting report
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Vikings on offense: Adrian Peterson is among the best workhorse running backs in the NFL. Less than a year removed from major knee surgery, the 6-foot-1-inch, 217-pounder hasn’t lost a step and might even be faster (did he go to the same surgeon who fixed up “The Six Million Dollar Man”?). Peterson (2,097 yards) has a rare package of vision, strength, and passion. He bursts through tiny openings and explodes onto the second and third levels. He has impressive acceleration and rare is the day he is caught from behind. Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder (6-2, 229) is an underrated athlete with a strong arm. He has made great strides but still has a tendency to lock on to his primary receiver and force throws rather than checking down to secondary options. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is a monster. The 6-6, 258-pounder creates mismatches because of his height and quickness. He’s a red zone demon.
Packers on defense: B.J. Raji is a versatile nose tackle with the quickness to collapse the pocket and the power to anchor against the run (he’s not a shabby dancer, either). Rugged linebackers Clay Matthews (he’s rangy and powerful) and A.J. Hawk (ditto) are always around the ball.
Packers on offense: 2011 MVP Aaron Rodgers has steadily navigated the Packers back to the playoffs after the team stumbled out of the gate. Among the smartest signal-callers in the game, Rodgers has great pre-snap recognition and one of the strongest and most accurate arms in the league. Rodgers is versatile enough to dink and dunk his way down the field or hit you with a gorgeous deep ball. He makes very few mistakes. The receiving corps is solid with Greg Jennings (great speed and strength), James Jones (sneaky speed), Jordy Nelson (surprising strength and athleticism), Randall Cobb (he’s quick and instinctive), and tight end Jermichael Finley (he’s huge). Running backs Alex Green (he’s quick and agile) and Ryan Grant (he finds openings) will split the load.
Vikings on defense: Jared Allen is a force at defensive end. The 6-6, 270-pounder had a team-high 12 sacks — his sixth straight season with 10-plus sacks. He is swift and strong and impossible to defend one-on-one. Chad Greenway is a rugged, throwback linebacker who could have played in the leather-helmet era. His hits are stunning. Safety Harrison Smith (103 tackles, 3 INTs) is everywhere.
Special teams: The Vikings are without one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL in Percy Harvin, who is on injured reserve with a severely sprained left ankle. He is one of the top return men in the league. In his stead is Marcus Sherels, who has a 26.4-yard average on 16 kick returns. He also has a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown to his credit . . . Chris Kluwe has a 45-yard average on 72 punts . . . Rookie kicker Blair Walsh has been outstanding, hitting 35 of his 38 field goal attempts, including an impressive 10 of 10 from 50-plus yards. Yes, it’s nice to kick indoors . . . Green Bay returner Cobb is terrific. He has a 25.4-yard average on kickoff returns and 9.4-yard average on punt returns . . . Tom Masthay has a 43.5-yard average on punts . . . Mason Crosby hit on 21 of 33 field goal attempts and is 2 for 9 from 50-plus yards. Yes, Lambeau Field can be rough.
Miscellany: Packers coach Mike McCarthy is 5-3 in the postseason . . . This is playoff game No. 1 for Vikings coach Leslie Frazier . . . Packers have won 13 NFL titles . . . Minnesota beat Green Bay, 37-34, last Sunday indoors . . . Game-time temperature is expected to be a balmy 20 degrees.