NFC Wild Card Round Quarterback Matchups

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

Christian Ponder vs. Aaron Rodgers

Saturday night, Christian Ponder and the Vikings will travel to legendary Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. With quarterback play being such a vital part of the postseason, the Packers will be considered the favorite despite losing last week to the Vikings 37-34.

Christian Ponder is a textbook definition of a young, game managing quarterback. He does his best to avoid turnovers and be efficient with his throws. Normally, this style of play doesn’t scream Super Bowl contender. However, most quarterbacks don’t have a freak of nature to hand the ball to. Ponder finished the 2012 regular season with 2,935 passing yards and 18 touchdowns. Ponder threw for only 838 more yards than Adrian Peterson rushed for (2,097).

Nevertheless, in 2 games this year against the Packers, the Vikings were 1-1. In their week 13 loss to Green Bay, Ponder had more passing attempts (25) than Peterson did rushing attempts (21). The Packers controlled the ball for 38 minutes and won 23-14.

However, in the Vikings week 17 win, Peterson ran 34 times compared to Ponder’s 28 pass attempts. The Vikings controlled the ball for 6 more minute than the Packers  were able to win on a last second field goal.

On the contrary, the Green Bay Packers are led by gunslinger Aaron Rodgers, whose style of play is nearly the opposite of Ponders. Rodgers and the Packers are a throw first, run second style of team. On the season, Rodgers completed 371 of 552 passes for 4,295 yards and 39 touchdowns. The Packers are at their best when Rodgers is slinging the ball around to his plethora of talented receivers. In their 11 wins this season, Rodgers threw for an average of 268 yards per game and at least 2 touchdowns (average of 2.64 per game).

Rodgers is also a proven force in the playoffs. He has a 4-2 record in the post season. In 6 career playoff games, Rodgers has 15 touchdown passes and only 4 interceptions. Rodgers was the MVP in the Packers Super Bowl XLV win over the Steelers.

Seattle Seahawks @ Washington Redskins

Russell Wilson vs. Robert Griffin III

Sunday afternoon, the Wild Card round will come to an end with a matchup of two sensational rookie duel threat quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III.

Prior to last April’s draft, everybody was aware of Robert Griffin III, but not many people knew about Russell Wilson, who was overlooked due to his height (5′ 11″). Only ESPN Analyst and former Super Bowl winning coach Jon Gruden gave Wilson a shot to succeed in the NFL.

Wilson not only got his opportunity, he ran away with it, literally. Wilson has been a dynamic duel threat quarterback since week 1. On the season, Wilson threw for 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also ran 94 times for 489 yards and 4 touchdowns. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry.

Nevertheless, besides his dynamic talent, Wilson’s decision making has been the reason for his success. In Seattle’s 11 wins, Wilson threw for 21 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions.  It is safe to say, Wilson has silenced his doubters and opened a door for smaller quarterbacks.

On the other hand, the Redskins are led by the already legendary Robert Grifffin III. His pre-draft story was the exact opposite of Wilson’s. Griffin III was the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner and 2nd pick of the draft. Griffin III was a physical specimen that scouts drooled over and the Redskins traded up to acquire.

RGIII has not only lived up to his hype, he has exceeded it. Griffin III has already established his status as a Redskins legend by leading the them to an NFC East title for the first time since 1999.

Like Wilson, Griffin III had an extremely efficient year as a passer. However, unlike Wilson, whose offense was more focused on running back Marshawn Lynch, the Redskins offense was built to operate through Griffin III because of his dynamic abilities as a passer and rusher.  He threw for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns. In addition, he had 120 carries for 815 yards and 7 touchdowns. Griffin III averaged 6.8 yards per carry and kept the Redskins offense playing ahead of the chains.

It will be interesting to see how effective Griffin III is against Seattle’s stout defense. The Seahawks are 6th best against the pass, and 10th best against the rush. This game will come down to which quarterback makes the smartest plays for his team. One rookie mistake could cost their team a chance to advance.



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