Newyorkjets.com is profiling each playoff game in this NFL postseason, with a special eye on Jets angles in each of the matchups. Today: the NFC Wild Card Game to be played Saturday night:
(6) MINNESOTA (10-6) at (3) GREEN BAY (11-5), 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are lurking beneath the radar, and the Packers seem to like it that way. In 2010 the Pack went the sixth-seed, all-road route to winning Super Bowl XLV over the Steelers, 31-25. Last year, they rolled to a 15-1 record, earned the NFC's No. 1 seed and a first-week bye ... and promptly fell to the Giants at their Lambeau Field shrine, 37-20.
This year they're back in familiar territory in more ways than one. The Falcons and 49ers were the more ballyhooed top seeds, the Redskins and Seahawks are piloted by precocious, mobile quarterbacks.
Rodgers & Co. are sitting with the No. 3 seed, coming off a 37-34 loss at Minnesota last week, but playing back in front of the Cheeseheads at Lambeau against those same Vikings.
There could be danger lurking for the Green & Gold in Adrian Peterson, who enjoyed one of the best ever regular seasons by an NFL tailback and especially jacked it up in his two games vs. the Vikes' NFC North rivals with 409 rush yards, 199 of them coming last week in the win that secured the Purple's first playoff berth in three years. That showing has earned him the role of Bane in a Packers fan's "Dark Knight" parody movie trailer now online.
But LB Clay Matthews insists AP will not drive the Packers and their nation batty on Saturday.
"We need to do a better job of stopping the run, and we will do that," said Matthews. "We aren't giving up 200 again."
Rodgers finished as the top-rated QB in the NFL with a 108.0 passer rating fashioned on a sparkling plus-31 TD-to-INT margin: 39 touchdown passes to only eight INTs.
Peterson finished as the league's top rusher with 2,097 yards — a mere 8 yards shy of Eric Dickerson's NFL-record 2,105 for the Rams in 1984 — at 6.0 yards per carry and for 12 TDs. Peterson's also the NFL's top scrimmage yardage producer this year with 2,314 yards.
That's important because if Peterson is held in check, QB Christian Ponder did a great job of game-managing so far but would have no receiver available to him (with Percy Harvin on IR) who had more than 53 receptions or 493 receiving yards this season.
The applicable rankings: the Vikings' second-ranked run game (and first in yards/carry) vs. the Packers' No. 17 run defense (and 26th yards/carry), the Pack's ninth-rated passing game (but also 28th in sack percentage) vs. the Vikes' 24th-ranked pass defense (but seventh-best sack attack, led by Jared Allen's 12.0). Hmmm...
The Packers have a fine red-zone operation, having scored TDs on 68.1% of their visits inside the opponents' 20-yard line, third-best in the league. Rodgers is one reason for that high rate, and WR James Jones is another — JJ is the top TD producer and non-kicker in the NFC this season with 14 TDs and 84 points.
Packers CB Casey Hayward out of Vanderbilt is the top rookie in the NFL this season with six interceptions.
Green Bay leads the all-time rivalry between these teams, 54-49-1, including five of the last six. The Packers topped the Vikings, 23-14, at Lambeau in Week 13, then lost at the Metrodome, 37-34, last week. The teams' only postseason meeting was a 31-17 Minnesota win at Green Bay in the 2004 NFC Wild Card Round.
The Packers are 29-17 all-time in the playoffs, including Super Bowl wins in I, II, XXXI and XLV and a Super loss in XXXII. The Vikings are 19-27 in the playoffs, including four Super Bowl losses in an eight-season span (IV, VIII, IX and XI).
Division rivals have met frequently in third games over the years, 41 times since 1990. The team that wins Game 2 has won the playoff meeting 13 times in 25 situations.
Teams meeting in back-to-back games doesn't happen nearly as often, 12 times since '90. The team that won Game 16 took the playoff game six times out of 12.
In other words, recently history is no indicator for this game. Unless...
There are four three-game "series" since 1990 that fit the following pattern: Team A wins at home, Team B wins at home, playoff game is back at Team A's house. Team A has won three of those four playoff games. The only time Team B won was 2010, when "B" was Green Bay, going into Chicago to beat the Bears in the AFC title game, 21-14. Yet one of the three Team A wins were also by the Packers, prevailing at home over Detroit in both 1994.
In this limited sampling, it looks like the Packers' type of rubber match.
Neither team has a lot of strong connections to the Jets.
Packers starting C Jeff Saturday, questionable for this game with neck/shoulder injuries, did battle against the Jets a number of times from 1999-2010 as Peyton Manning's center on the Colts, the last time in the 2010 AFC Wild Card Game won by the Jets, 17-16. Chad Morton, Green Bay's special teams assistant, tied the NFL record with two kickoff-return TDs in the same game, including the gamewinner with the overtime KO, when the Jets topped the Bills, 37-31, on opening day in 2002.
Vikings DEs Allen and Brian Robison and DT Kevin Williams are the still-formidable anchors of a D-line that came to prominence under the position coaching of current Jets DL coach Karl Dunbar. Backup TE John Carlson, as a Seahawk, scored the only touchdown in Seattle's snowy 13-3 home win over the Jets in 2008. Way back in March 2004, Buffalo CB Antoine Winfield was seemingly close to joining the Jets as an unrestricted FA but abruptly changed course during negotiations and signed with the Vikings, for whom he's been a starter when healthy ever since.
The last time the Jets played these teams was in the 2010 season, when they bounced the Vikings and their former one-year QB, Brett Favre, 29-20, then three weeks later lost to the Packers, 9-0, with both games at then-named New Meadowlands Stadium.