It's been a long time since NBC could boast "Must See TV" in prime time, but Saturday night will be one of those nights.
Nielsen ratings are always skewed on game days, but tonight's Nielsen ratings may set Minnesota and Wisconsin records. Thanks to the scheduling of the wild card weekend, there is only one game that will start when the prime time ratings begin. Aaron Rodgers. Adrian Peterson. Fortunately, this is the NFL.
If the Twins and Brewers met in the World Series – more than a tad improbable since the Twins greatest recent achievement has been avoiding 100 losses in a season – the collective yawn from baseball fans would provide marginal ratings. A Timberwolves-Bucks NBA Final would set the sport back for years. Wisconsin doesn't have an NHL team, but, then again, neither does Minnesota right now.
Yet, two small-market teams (including the smallest market), will draw huge ratings. And rightfully so. This is why the NFL is king in the world of sports. You can't ignore the power of the NFL in terms of maintaining a fan base. In any other sports, a matchup of flyover states like Minnesota and Wisconsin would mean nothing. In the NFL, look for NBC to pimp its other shows mercilessly at the expense of advertisers because the Packers and Vikings are going to draw monster numbers – even without Brett Favre having any personal involvement.
VIKINGS-PACKERS BY THE NUMBERS
The Packers finished the season with the 13th-ranked offense (20th rushing, 9th passing) and the 11th-ranked defense (17th rushing, 11th passing).
The Vikings finished with the 20th-ranked offense (2nd rushing, 31st passing) and the 16th-ranked defense (11th rushing, 24th passing).
The only team with more rushing yards than the Vikings was the Washington Redskins. The only team with fewer passing yards was the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Vikings were first in the league in average per carry with 5.4 yards a pop.
Green Bay averaged 359 yards a game (253 passing, 106 rushing). The Vikings averaged 337 yards a game (172 passing, 165 rushing).
Defensively, the Packers allowed 337 yards a game (218 passing, 119 rushing). The Vikings allowed 350 yards a game (244 passing, 106 rushing).
The Packers were 10th in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-7 (25 takeaways, 16 giveaways). The Vikings were tied for 17th at minus-1 (22 takeaways, 23 giveaways).
Only San Francisco (14) had fewer giveaways than Green Bay.
The Packers were ninth in the league in third-down efficiency, converting 90 of 213 chances (42.2 percent). The Vikings were 19th at 37.1 percent (78 of 210). The league average was 38.2 percent.
Defensively, Green Bay was 15th in third-down efficiency, allowing conversions on 83 of 218 opportunities (38.1 percent). The Vikings were 27th at 41.3 percent (95 of 230).
The Packers were fourth in sacks per pass play, recording 47 sacks on 615 pass plays. The Vikings finished seventh with 44 sacks on 656 pass plays.
The Packers were third in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 32 of 47 opportunities (68.1 percent). The Vikings were 18th at 53.8 percent (28 of 52).
Defensively, both Minnesota and Green Bay were dismal in third-down defense. The Vikings finished 27th, allowing touchdowns on 31 of 51 chances (60.8). Green Bay was 29th at 61.7 percent (29 of 47).
Aaron Rodgers had six 300-yard passing games. Christian Ponder had one.
Both teams allowed four 300-yard passers, including Rodgers having one of the games the Vikings gave up.
The Vikings had three 100-yard receiving games – all by Percy Harvin in just nine games. The Packers had seven 100-yard receiving games – three by Randall Cobb, two by Jordy Nelson and one each from Greg Jennings and James Jones.
The Vikings have allowed five 100-yard receiving games. The Packers allowed four.
In perhaps the biggest stat disparity between the teams, Adrian Peterson has 10 100-yard rushing games, while the Packers had none.
The Vikings allowed four 100-yard rushers and the Packers have allowed three – two of them being Peterson.
There were 24 games in which a running back ran for 150 or more yards. Peterson had seven of them. The other 31 NFL teams combined to post 17 of them.
The difference in year-ending QB rankings between Rodgers and Ponder was pronounced. Rodgers was 10th in pass attempts (552), seventh in completions (371), third in completion percentage (67.2), eighth in yardage (4,295), second in touchdowns (38), first in touchdown percentage (7.1), tied for fourth in interceptions (8), third in interception percentage (1.4) and first in passer rating (108.0).
Ponder was 21st in attempts (483), 18th in completions (300), 13th in completion percentage (62.1), 25th in yards (2,935), 31st in average gain (6.08), 23rd in touchdowns (18), 21st in touchdown percentage (3.7), tied for 13th interceptions (12), 15th in interception percentage (2.5), and 21st in passer rating (81.2).
Rodgers was second in fourth-quarter passer rating at 113.5, behind only (of all people) Jay Cutler (114.7). Ponder was 18th at 86.0.
Rodgers led the NFL in third-down passer rating at 110.8. Ponder was 20th at 76.8.
Peterson led the NFL with 2,097 rushing yards – 484 more than second place Alfred Morris. Alex Green led the Packers with 464 yards, which ranked him 38th in the league.
Peterson led the NFL in most yards from scrimmage with 2,314 yards (2,097 rushing, 217 receiving) – 350 yards more than second place Calvin Johnson – a fellow member of the draft class of 2007.
Cobb was 17th in receptions with 80, followed by teammates James Jones (64, tied for 34th) and Jermichael Finley (61, tied for 44th). Despite missing seven games, Harvin led the Vikings with 62 receptions (tied for 42nd). To his credit, Harvin led the league in receptions at the midway point and was on pace for 107 receptions.
Cobb finished 24th in receiving yards with 954, followed by Jones in 44th place (784) and Nelson (50th, 745). Harvin led the Vikings with 677 yards in nine games, which tied him for 60th in the league.
Jones was second in the league in scoring among non-kickers, scoring 84 points (14 touchdowns). Peterson was third with 80 points (13 touchdowns and a 2-point conversion).
Blair Walsh finished fourth in scoring among kickers with 141 points. Mason Crosby was 17th with 113 points.
Walsh finished third in touchbacks with 53. Crosby was 15th with 35.
Green Bay rookie Casey Hayward finished tied for fifth in interceptions with six. Harrison Smith and Antoine Winfield tied for 29th in the league with three for the Vikings.
Despite missing four games, Clay Matthews finished fifth in the league with 13 sacks. Jared Allen finished eighth with 12 sacks.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.