NFL Playoffs: Statistical Predictions for Aaron Rodgers and Christian Ponder
On the surface this looks like a major mismatch. Hell, it is a mismatch. Aaron Rodgers will be making his sixth postseason start in three years tonight against the greenest of green playoff quarterbacks in the form of Christian Ponder, who is making his first career postseason start.
And the game is being played at Lambeau Field, where Green Bay is 13-4 since the stadium opened in 1957. Today's article, however, isn't to focus on what it going to be the final score or who is going to come out on top. Instead, I am going to look at each quarterback and what they will accomplish during what promises to be one heck of a battle between division rivals tonight.
Christian Ponder, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings
Ponder improved in every major statistical category from his rookie season. He completed over 62 percent of his passes for nearly 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns. The most glaring improvement for Ponder was the amount of games he won in the regular year. After losing eight of his 10 starts as a rookie in 2011, Ponder went 10-6 and started all 16 games for Minnesota in 2012.
He was 5-3 at home compared to just 3-5 away from the Metrodome. This isn't where the home/away splits end either. The Florida State product threw just seven touchdown passes and averaged under 170 passing yards per outing in his eight away games. Six of his 12 interceptions came in open-air stadiums despite the fact he only played in those types of venues four times during the regular year.
Ponder did have a stellar performance against Green Bay at home in Week 17. He completed 16-of-28 passes for 234 yards and three scores. Equally as important, he didn't turn the ball over a single time in the playoff-clinching victory. Ponder has, however, lost three of his four career starts against Green Bay in two seasons. He is 0-2 against at The Frozen Tundra with a 47.9 quarterback rating. In those two games Ponder completed less than 50 percent of his passes and averaged 154.5 yards per outing.
It goes without saying that Ponder is in an unenviable position here. He has to make his first career postseason start against a Super Bowl MVP on the road at Lambeau Field. It really doesn't get much more difficult for the former first-round pick.
Regular Season Average: 19/30, 183 yards, 1.1 touchdowns and 0.8 interceptions.
Regular Season Average (Away): 20/32, 169 yards, 0.9 touchdowns and 0.8 interceptions.
Projected Stats: 21/34, 223 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
The reigning NFL and former Super Bowl MVP is coming off, arguably, the best two-year stretch in the history of the National Football League. He has thrown for nearly 9,000 yards with 84 touchdowns and 14 interceptions since the start of the 2011 regular season. To put that into perspective, the best two-year stretch for future Hall of Famer Brett Favre in a Packers uniform was in 1995 and 1996 when he threw for just over 8,000 yards with 77 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.
Rodgers is, however, coming off a playoff performance last January that saw Green Bay go down to the eventual Super Bowl Champion' New York Giants 37-20 in the divisional playoffs. He has to have a bitter taste in his mouth due to that disastrous overall team performance.
Overall, Rodgers is 4-2 with a 105.5 quarterback rating in the playoffs. That being said, it is important to note that all of those wins came in the Packers' championship run two years ago when they didn't play a single game at home. Rodgers has lost both of his postseason starts at Lambeau in his career.
Interestingly enough, Rodgers also performed better on the road than he did at home in 2012. Five of his eight interceptions came at Lambeau and his quarterback rating fell a whole 13 points as well.
Rodgers threw for over 650 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception in his two starts against Minnesota during the regular year. He had a completion percentage of 73.3 and quarterback rating of 116.0 in those two starts. Overall, Rodgers is 7-4 and has thrown 24 touchdowns compared to four interceptions (116.4 rating) in 11 career games against Minnesota.
Rodgers is 5-1 with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions in six career starts against Minnesota at Lambeau Field. This means that he performs better, at least in terms of statistics, against the Vikings in Minnesota.
Regular Season Average: 23/35, 268 yards, 2.4 touchdowns and 0.5 interceptions.
Regular Season Average (Home): 23/35, 256 yards, 2.1 touchdowns and 0.6 interceptions.
Projected Stats: 25/37, 288 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
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