Preview: Minnesota at Green Bay, on January, 5 at 8:00pm on NBC
Take out all of the pontification, the predictions, the punditry, and the NFL playoffs are about great players making great plays and leading their teams to victory. We remember and talk about the great plays, the long drives, and the last minute heroics for years. And, great players are those who “kick it up a notch” come January and February and go from “NFL greats” to “legendary Hall of Famers.”
With that said, there is perhaps no matchup more intriguing as these twelve teams begin their march to the Super Bowl as the Packers and the Vikings, two of the NFL’s most iconic teams, face off in a matchup featuring two of the game’s greatest players: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (pictured) and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Sure, the matchup of the Seahawks-Redskins featuring Wilson v. Robert Griffin III highlights two members of, what appears to be, one of the greatest quarterback classes of all time and the Colts v. Ravens will combine the entry of Andrew Luck into the NFL playoffs and the grand potential exit of Ray Lewis. But none of these players have as much at stake as Rodgers and Lewis.
Rodgers is a quarterback between eras. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have already cemented their legacies as all-time greats (though neither will be content to rest on their laurels), and quarterbacks like Cam Newton (who may turn out to be this generation’s version of Dan Fouts, putting up numbers but never winning anything), Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and RGIII are looming behind as up and comers.
One Super Bowl ring will not cut it for Rodgers. He has a better supporting cast than Peyton Manning ever had, and the Packers expect to win. While he still has several years in his prime, having Manning, Brady, Luck, Wilson, and RGIII all leading their teams in the 2013 NFL playoffs will provide a stage for the competitive Rodgers to prove that he’s the best of the bunch.
For Peterson, the clock may be ticking. Running backs, particularly with the running style of Adrian Peterson, do not last very long. While he may be one of the more freakishly talented backs to ever play the game (Peterson fell nine years shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's all-time NFL single-season rushing record), he will never have a passing game that fully takes the pressure off of him, as Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is at best mediocre. He has only a few more years that he can count on his body to hold up, and the Vikings supporting cast may not give him another opportunity to make a name for himself in the NFL Playoffs.
Both players are hot right now. Rodgers has 10 passing touchdowns in his last three games, and Peterson has rushed for 409 yards over the last two games. Peterson will certainly need help from the pass rush of the Vikings, and Rodgers will need another big game from his receiving core and improved play from his offensive line. However, this game will come down to a matchup of two great players and which one can will their team to victory and add to their own legacy. Which performance by either of these greats will we still be talking about this time next year?