Originally posted on Optimum Scouting  |  Last updated 1/4/13

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs for a 19-yard touchdown in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Despite teams like the Giants or Saints making the playoffs this season with fantastic quarterbacks, it seems the trend in the NFC this year is young quarterbacks and powerful running attacks. The Vikings look to repeat their Week 17 effort to uphend the likely NFC favorite Packers. And the Seahawks travel to Washington in a battle of rookie quarterbacks.   Minnesota at Green Bay – Saturday, 8:00 PM EST In a rematch of just a week ago, the now-home Packers will once again be faced with the task of stopping/slowing down/containing Adrian Peterson for the third time this season. After running for 210 yards when they played in Week 13, then another 199 in Week 17, the Packers should realize this will be a tough task. But even after considering what Peterson can do, it may be up to the Vikings to contain the Packers offense just enough, so the work by Peterson will be rewarded with a win.   Key Match-Ups to Watch Green Bay’s Defensive Line vs. Minnesota’s Interior Offensive Line The key to slowing down Peterson is, in my opinion, is forcing him to bounce runs outside on initially interior run calls. While this is the case for every running back, it makes getting to his top speed harder for Adrian Peterson. Once he has a seam and can pick up steam as a runner, it’s more of an effort to stop a touchdown than stop a first down. BJ Raji did this last week, especially later in the game, but Peterson was still able to will himself to big chunks of yards. It’ll take efforts from Ryan Pickett, CJ Wilson, as well as linebacker Erik Walden to force Peterson to flatten out his interior runs, and not let him have the balance and openings to explode into the 2nd and 3rd level Minnesota’s Harrison Smith, Defensive Backs vs. Green Bay’s Deep Routes While a surprise draft selection put pressure on Harrison Smith to play well, he has even more surprisingly relished in the role as the team’s feature defensive back now with Antoine Winfield. Expecting he and the rest of the Vikings defensive backs to slow down the Packers offense isn’t all that reasonable, especially if Winfield doesn’t play. However, they do need to slow drives, prevent long touchdowns, and keep the Packers offense to under 30 points to have any sort of shot. It’s difficult to expect Christian Ponder to score points against a defense that will be VERY ready to prepare for them, so keeping Peterson fresh by extending drives is crucial for Smith and the Vikings defensive backs. Rookie Watch Minnesota Safety Harrison Smith As stated above, it’ll be Harrison who needs to lead this secondary against the deep passing Packers. Green Bay had four receptions of 30 or more yards just last week against Minnesota, including a 73 yard reception by Jordy Nelson. Week 13, they held green bay to just two 30+ yard passes, and for the most part, contained Rodgers, including an interception by Harrison Smith.   Prediction If Peterson can get his 150+ and touchdown, that’ll mean the Vikings offense is still right on track, the secondary is able to exploit for long plays for Christian Ponder. However, it’ll be tough for the Vikings secondary, including Harrison Smith, to slow down Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs. Peterson likely still goes off, but Ponder will have a tough time in the playoffs against a veteran laden Packers team. Green Bay 27, Minnesota 17 -------- Seattle at Washington – Sunday, 4:30 PM EST The notion that rookie quarterbacks can’t lead their teams to the playoffs has now escaped the minds of NFL teams and analysts everywhere now, and should for the near future, with how special the play of Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin has been. Two great quarterbacks, two great running backs, and two explosive defenses should make for a great first round match-up. Key Match-Ups to Watch Washington RB Alfred Morris vs. Seattle LB Bobby Wagner While the Redskins offense is run by Robert Griffin, the offense is run THROUGH Alfred Morris on multiple occasions. Still getting over the fact that I gave him a “7th-undrafted” grade, he’s been thoroughly and consistently impressive this year. His decisive steps, strong lower build, and patience up to the 2nd level, he puts substantial pressure on linebackers to finish tackles and not play over-aggressive. Fellow rookie Booby Wagner, the leader on the inside of this Seahawks defense, will have to make sure he finishes tackles on the inside. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Washington Interior Defensive Line This stat, brought to you by FootballOutsiders.com, speaks volumes about both the play of the Seattle offensive line and the physical running style of Marshawn Lynch. Seattle was the least “stuffed” team (percentage of times stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage on a run play) in the NFL. Their defense, 5th in the league vs. the run, will rely on Jarvis Jenkins, Barry Coefield, and rest of the depth they have in their front three to hopefully slow Lynch more than just 12% of the time at the line of scrimmage.   Rookie Watch Washington QB Robert Griffin Lots of rookies to watch in this game, from Alfred Morris to Bobby Wagner and, of course, Russell Wilson. However, Griffin maybe the most curious to watch, as he is the most unknown of the three in what he’ll bring this weekend. Will Griffin be able to play through his knee injury again? How will he deal with Seattle getting pressure despite having 7 in coverage? Can he overcome the fact that the Seahawk defense plays against the Redskins same offense in practice? Lots of pressure on Griffin to be spectacular, maybe too much. Prediction In what is the start of likely a fantastic, brewing “rivalry”, two rookie quarterbacks who have their teams’ on very “hot streaks” face off to advance to play the very beatable Atlanta Falcons. In the end, it’s the Seahawk defense causing Griffin to make a few mistakes against 7-8 in coverage that ends their 9 game winning streak. Seattle and Russell Wilson currently are my favorite to come out of the NFC. Seattle 24, Washington 20
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