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Updated: December 29th, 2012 3:01pm
Preview: With all eyes on Adrian Peterson, can QB make Packers pay?

Preview: With all eyes on Adrian Peterson, can QB make Packers pay?

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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Who: Green Bay Packers (11-4) at Minnesota Vikings (9-6).
When: 3:25 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Metrodome (capacity: 64,111), Minneapolis.
TV: Fox (Ch. 9).
Line: Packers by 3.5.
Coaches: Vikings - Leslie Frazier (2nd season, 15-22); Green Bay - Mike McCarthy (7th season, 79-40).
Series: The Packers lead 54-48-1 and beat the Vikings 23-14 on Dec. 2 at Lambeau Field. The Vikings and Packers have each won 25 times in games played in Minnesota, but Green Bay has won the past two games at the Metrodome. Frazier is still looking for his first victory over the Packers as the Vikings' head coach.
Last meeting: The Vikings held a 14-10 lead at halftime over the Packers but were unable to hold on as Green Bay rallied to score 13 unanswered points in the second half. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder struggled in the defeat, throwing two key interceptions in the second half and finishing with a 41.9 passer rating.
At stake: No pressure or anything, right? A Vikings victory will put them in the playoffs, one season after finishing 3-13. A Packers victory will give them the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye in the postseason. The Vikings, whom nearly everyone picked to finish last in the NFC North this season, also could back into the playoffs if they lose but they would need a lot of help. Under that scenario, the Vikings would need a Dallas tie or loss at Washington; a Giants tie or loss against Philadelphia; and a Chicago loss at Detroit.

Injury report

Vikings: CB Antoine Winfield (knee, hand) and DE Brian Robison (shoulder) are questionable. DE Jared Allen (shoulder, illness), P Chris Kluwe (left knee), RT Phil Loadholt (knee), CB Marcus Sherels (quadriceps), LB Marvin Mitchell (illness) and RB Adrian Peterson (abdomen) are probable.

Packers: RB James Starks (knee) and CB Charles Woodson (collarbone) are out. CB Davon House (shoulder, hip) is doubtful. WR Randall Cobb (knee, ankle) is questionable. K Mason Crosby (illness), G Josh Sitton (concussion), G Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee), DE C.J. Wilson (knee), DE Jerel Worthy (hamstring), C Jeff Saturday (neck, shoulder), TE Tom Crabtree (hamstring), RB Alex Green (concussion) and WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring) is probable.

Five things to watch

Man on the run: Adrian Peterson needs to rush for 102 yards to become the seventh player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105 yards, set in 1984 with the Los Angeles Rams. The Packers, who are ranked 14th in the NFL in run defense, will do everything in their power to make sure that doesn't happen. Peterson gained 210 yards on Dec. 2 against Green Bay, so the Dickerson record is not out of reach. The Vikings could benefit through the fact the Packers will have to put so much focus on Peterson that that should open up other elements of the offense. Peterson was "held" to 86 yards last Sunday by Houston, but the Texans' focus on the Pro Bowl running back also helped the Vikings. The man in the spotlight in this one might not be Peterson, but rather the guy who has the keys to the offense.

And that guy is ... : Christian Ponder has had what could be best described as a roller-coaster season. At his best, Ponder has done an efficient job of managing games for the Vikings. At his worst, Ponder has made costly mistakes that doomed his team to failure. The plan entering this season was for the Vikings to find out if Ponder was the long-term solution at quarterback. Entering their regular-season finale, it's clear the Vikings and Ponder have not been able to answer that question. And right now, that doesn't matter. What does matter is that the Vikings find themselves in a position to clinch a playoff berth with a victory and that means they are going to need Ponder to play an efficient game Sunday under enormous pressure. Ponder is going to have to make the Packers pay for all the attention they will pay to Peterson. The wide receivers will have to do their part as well. That includes you Jerome Simpson. Can they do it? Stay tuned.

Slowing the hot hand: The Packers' Aaron Rodgers has the best passer rating in the NFL (106.2) among starting quarterbacks, and is second to New Orleans' Drew Brees with 35 touchdown passes. Rodgers has a habit of making life very tough on NFC North foes. He has a 23-6 record against divisional opponents in his career, including playoffs. Rodgers has a combined 109.1 passer rating against the division, completing 607 of 874 passes for 7,246 yards and 57 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. He completed 27 of 35 passes for 286 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Packers' victory over the Vikings earlier this month at Lambeau Field. In nine career starts against the Vikings, Rodgers has a combined 114.2 passer rating with 20 touchdowns and four interceptions. The Vikings do have cornerback Chris Cook back - he missed the first meeting because of a broken arm - but having corner Antoine Winfield playing with a wrap on his broken hand won't help matters.

At home in the Dome: Remember the days when every time the Packers and Brett Favre visited the Metrodome, one of the key storylines was Green Bay's lack of success in the building and how the noise flustered them? Well, those days are over. Since McCarthy took over in 2006, the Packers are 18-7 (.720) in dome games, including playoffs. That ranks second in the NFL among teams with eight or more road/neutral dome games behind only the New York Jets (7-2, .778). The Packers have not lost in Minnesota since the 2009 season and Rodgers' career 116.6 rating indoors ranks No. 1 in NFL history. Green Bay's defense also has been pretty good inside. It has posted 55 takeaways and 10 defensive touchdowns in 25 dome games since 2006. The Packers' have a plus-26 turnover ratio indoors since 2006.

Getting their kicks: If this game comes down to the kickers, bet your house on the Vikings. Rookie Blair Walsh, a sixth-round pick, was elected to the Pro Bowl this past week. Walsh has connected on 32 of 35 field-goal attempts and set an NFL single-season record last Sunday at Houston when he made his ninth 50-plus yard field goal. Walsh hasn't missed an extra-point attempt all season and is fourth in the league with 49 touchbacks. Then there is Crosby. The Packers have to be praying their kicker doesn't get into any crucial situations in this game. Crosby made field goals of 26 and 48 yards last Sunday in the Packers' 55-7 destruction of the Tennessee, ending a streak of eight consecutive games in which he had botched at least one kick. The previous weekend in Chicago, Crosby missed a pair of attempts in a 21-13 victory, leaving him 17 of 29 on the season, an NFL-worst 58.6 percent. Crosby was a sixth-round pick out of Colorado in 2007 by the Packers and signed a five-year, $14.75 million contract extension that included a $3 million signing bonus in July 2011. He then had the best season of his career, hitting on 24 of 28 field-goal attempts. That success is now a distant memory.

Crystal ball

Judd Zulgad: The Vikings have proven me wrong week after week and that might be the case again. However, the Packers have plenty to play for in this game and they clearly have the better quarterback in Rodgers. Rodgers has the "I'm going to beat you" mentality that the Vikings need to hope Ponder develops. The Vikings have had a great ride this season and it won't be surprising if it continues on Sunday. But the Packers have no interest in playing the Vikings again next weekend in a first-round game and likely will do everything to make sure that does not happen. Packers 24, Vikings 21.

Tom Pelissero: The Packers are built to play just this type of game, on a fast track with their multitude of weapons against a Vikings defense that still has its issues stopping high-powered passing attacks. But the nod here goes to a home team that is brimming with confidence and somehow, some way keeps finding ways to win -- as long as it doesn't lose the turnover battle. Vikings 30, Packers 27.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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