Quick, what’s the over/under for how many times we’ll hear someone say something about how much these two teams want each other to die Saturday night? Give me o/u 7.5.

It feels like the Packers and Vikings have a rivalry that dates back to a time when wheels weren’t circular, and revealing some ankle skin was considered scandalous. The last (and only) time they met in the playoffs Randy Moss mooned a bunch of people (not really), and Joe Buck thought that was the most disrespectful act ever committed by a human (really).

But that was during a time when the Vikings had a vertical receiving threat — that Moss character — and their offense wasn’t one dimensional. As historically dominant as Adrian Peterson was this year with his 2,097 rushing yards (the second best all-time single-season total), he can’t win a playoff game alone.

Christian Ponder is then the looming, haunting question, especially with Charles Woodson back. Can he do enough?

We’ll look at that and more as we delve into the deeper digits and some ranting below. But first, the basics:

Vikings offense Packers defense
Total yards P/Game 336.6 (20th) 336.8 (11th)
Passing yards P/Game 171.9 (31st) 218.2 (11th)
Rushing yards P/Game 164.6 (2nd) 118.5 (17th)
Vikings defense Packers offense
Total yards P/Game 350.0 (16th) 359.4 (13th)
Passing yards P/Game 244.2 (24th) 253.1 (9th)
Rushing yards P/Game 105.8 (11th) 106.4 (20th)

The most glaring deficiency there is tied to Ponder. He leads a passing offense that was, in a word, horrid, particularly after the loss of Percy Harvin. The Vikings also had just 18 passing touchdowns, while overall Ponder finished with only 6.1 yards per pass attempt.

The search for confidence and pleasant Ponder good vibes leads us to Week 17, and Minnesota’s playoff-clinching win over Green Bay. That’s when Ponder finished with 234 passing yards — his highest total since Week 8 — while his YPA increased to 8.1, a jump pushed by his season long 65-yard completion.

But what of that Packers pass rush? That’s where we begin the rest of the numerical exploration.

Thoughts and rants

  • The Packers finished fourth in sacks with 47, a pace of nearly three per game. Ponder faced a top-five pass rush four times (Packers twice, and the Rams and Texans). In those games he was sacked only four times.
  • That lack of pressure — or at least successful pressure — is partly a product of Ponder’s mobility, but a Vikings’ offensive line that allowed only 64 QB hits (tied for 5th) also played a significant role. Winning the slugging in the trenches will be crucial for Minnesota if Ponder is to provide Peterson with any support.
  • And about Peterson: his torchings were regular, but he breathed hot fire against the Packers. Peterson had a combined 409 rushing yards over two games against the Vikings’ division rival.
  • He accumulated those yards at a rate of 7.4 per carry, a pace that included an 82-yard run, and it rose to 10.0 YPC in Week 13. Yep.
  • So from the Vikings’ perspective, we’re beginning to see why offensively this game keeps coming back to the central question of whether or not Peterson’s brilliance can overcome Ponder’s potential ineffectiveness as he’s left throwing to Jarius Wright, Michael Jenkins, and Jerome Simpson in the few times he looks deep.
  • The loss of Harvin has clearly been massive, but he’s such a dynamic player that the impact of his absence can’t be understated. Despite appearing in only nine games he still finished the season ranked third overall in yards after the catch with 531.
  • Yeah, that should be illegal. It gets better/worse depending on where your support lies. Keep in mind that YAC number, and then consider that Wright, Jenkins, and Simpson have combined for 1,033 receiving yards…in total.
  • On the other side of the ball the Packers have a similar concern in the trenches. Led by Jared Allen — he of the midnight Marine-led golfing — the Vikings weren’t far behind the Packers in quarterback bruising with 44 sacks. That could be the equalizer Ponder and Peterson need as they may consistently get good field position while Allen et al penetrate a Packers O-line which allowed 51 sacks during the regular season (31st).
  • That number looks worse alongside Aaron Rodgers’ moderate drop backs. There’s a difference between being a pass-oriented offense as the Packers are, and a pass-heavy offense. The Packers attempted 34.9 passes per game, while handing off for 27.1 rushing attempts. A lean to be sure, but a slight one, and it led to Rodgers dropping back a total of 552 times.
  • That means he was sacked once every 10 drop backs. To put that in the proper context, consider that Matthew Stafford led the league in pass attempts by a wide margin (he dropped back 727 times, while Drew Brees was second with 670), yet he was still sacked only 29 times.