Can Winfield Make The Difference?

All odds are stacked against the Vikings, being 6-1/2-point underdogs in Lambeau Field. But there is one key player that could make a difference.

The Vikings defense has been one of the league's worst for five years. When Mike Tice took over as head coach, the defensive coordinator of the year(s) began emphasizing a commitment to stopping the run.

In some cases, that stress point worked. In other cases, it exposed the passing lanes even more.

When the Vikings and Packers meet today for their first playoff showdown, the Vikings will have one thing they didn't the last five years — or the last time the two teams met in the Metrodome on Dec. 24 — a cornerback equally adept at stopping the run as he is at blanketing receivers.

In the last meeting, Antoine Winfield was out and Donald Driver went off for 11 catches for 161 yards and a TD. Winfield may get the job of shadowing Driver today.

Winfield will also be counted on to help stop Packers running back Ahman Green's outside rushing game, especially during the team's typical "Packers sweep."

The Vikings hope Kevin Williams will pressure Brett Favre and Randy Moss will expose an equally weak Green Bay secondary, but if the Vikings stand a chance at limiting the Packers offense, the return of Antoine Winfield to anything close to 100 percent after a high sprain will be a must. Especially with backup safety Willie Offord taking over for the injured Corey Chavous.

SUNDAY NOTES * The weather forecast today is calling for temperatures in the mid- high-30s with a chance of rain turning to snow after the sun goes down.
* The experts have spoken. The nine-man prognosticating crew at The Sporting News all went with Green Bay, while eight of 10 staffers from Pro Football Weekly also picked the Packers. * The Vikings and Packers finished Nos. 1 and 2 in third-down conversions this year.
* Michael Bennett has just one touchdown in six games vs. the Packers, but it came Christmas Eve when he rushed 17 times for 92 yards and caught three passes for 67 yards and a TD.
* Cleditus Hunt will be a game-time decision after being benched last week by Mike Sherman for ineffective play in the last meeting with the Vikings.
* Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila has 13.5 sacks this year, but was neutralized in the last meeting with the Vikings.
* Since 1990, at least one road team has won a game during the wild card weekend every year.
* The NFL set a record this year for best leaguewide completion percentage (59.8%) and best leaguewide passer rating (82.8) – which some take as the new rules against defensive holding and chucking receivers.
* Brett Favre will be starting his 20th career postseason game Sunday.
* The Vikings and Rams found themselves moving up the all-time playoff game list this weekend. Dallas leads the list with 54 postseason games followed by Oakland with 43 games. The Rams moved into a tie for third with San Francisco at 43 on Saturday, while the Vikings moved one game ahead of Pittsburgh with 41 career postseason games.
* Green Bay's all-time postseason record is the best of any NFL team with 24 wins and 13 losses. The Vikings have a record of 17-23 all-time in the postseason.
* There were three overtime games in the playoffs last year.
* Morten Andersen has kicked at least one field goal in each of his last nine postseason games. * Dating back to last year, in the last 16 games that Randy Moss has played anything but a cursory role, he has scored one or more touchdowns in 15 of them.

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