Midweek Musings on Border Battle III

New Year's festivities are over (Happy New Year, everyone), most of us are back at work and we're starting to get serious about Saturday night's game at Lambeau.

First order of business is to consider who has a chance to miss the game and who might be back. For the Vikings, they're monitoring Antoine Winfield's broken hand, which prevented him from finishing the game last week. Marcus Sherels was completely torched by Rodgers and Jennings and whether #26 plays or not, the Vikes will be looking for a different option to man the slot. The other two nicked defensive players, Brian Robison and rookie Harrison Smith both seem likely to play.

For the Pack, Charles Woodson has been cleared to return, after missing nine weeks with the broken collarbone. I have no delusions that he will step onto the field after that much time off and become the Woodson of 2010. But his presence in the huddle and on the sidelines will be huge for a defensive unit that played horribly last weekend. You have to believe the guys in the back seven have been forced to watch the film over and over: the missed tackles, the poor coverage, the dumb penalties. I expect a much stronger defensive performance this time around and Woodson's presence will only help.

I think the Pack should have everyone healthy on defense, except for Jerel Worthy--sounds like he may torn his ACL which will put his 2013 in doubt (continuing a disturbing trend of significant injuries to top draft picks: Sherrod, Perry, Bulaga).

Offensively, it sounds like Randall Cobb will be back. It will be interesting to see if the Pack puts him back on returns, or if they let Jeremy Ross play again after a strong showing at the Metrodome. With Cobb coming off an injury and the wintry conditions, it's a tough call. It would be a lot of pressure for Ross--to play in those elements on that kind of stage.

Jordy Nelson missed Tuesday's practice and his status is up in the air until we hear from McCarthy. It seems like a season that's destined to never give Rodgers all of his weapons--one comes back and another goes down. With Boykin's injury, Driver might get one last chance to make some magic at Lambeau.

DuJuan Harris provided a nice boost to the running game after Ryan Grant got off to a slow start. I don't understand a lot of Packer fans' infatuation with Grant. I know he had a nice day against the Titans, but there's a reason he was out on the streets all season. Expect Harris, Alex Green and maybe even James Starks to see carries this week, though I get the feeling Starks will be inactive for another week.

After what happened last year in the playoffs, Rodgers and company have been pointing toward this time. A chance at redemption and a chance for Rodgers to deliver a message to the rest of the playoff field. The Vikings have to rebound quickly off a very emotional win at home. A game where Peterson ran for 200 yards, Ponder had a QB rating of 120 and the Vikings didn't turn the ball over--and they won on a last second field goal.

This time the Packers have the same motivation as the Vikings--and they remain very difficult to beat at Lambeau (the 2-4 home playoff record this decade notwithstanding).

The wise guys in Vegas are believers. The Packers and 49ers are the favorites to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC at 6:1. It starts with the Vikings. I like Dom Capers' ability to make adjustments to make things more difficult for Ponder, who has not played in elements like these (nor has their superb kicker Blair Walsh). The Vikings' four straight wins have all come indoors. The high temperature on Saturday is 26, with winds at 15 mph. That changes everything.


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