GREEN BAY - Aaron Rodgers has a case to make for the best quarterback among NFC playoff teams. There is no argument, however, that he is the most seasoned in the postseason.
Rodgers is the only starting quarterback among the six remaining in the NFC to have won a playoff game as a starter. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is the only other QB to have made a playoff start.
“I think the fact that Aaron's played 7 [playoff games] now, it's definitely an experience we'll draw from,” said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. “He’s played in the cold, on the road.”
Experience may be most helpful in the lead up to games.
"It helps with the week of preparation, knowing what to expect on a week like this,” said Rodgers. “It's single elimination, 12 teams still playing, we have a chance to move on to the final 8. That's our approach."
The playoffs also provide a new level of pressure, knowing, as Rodgers notes, a loss ends your season. Offensive teammates say Rodgers’ demeanor stays pretty level as they move into the playoffs.
“The magnitude of the playoffs is bigger,” said right guard Josh Sitton. “You have to have that experience to keep a level head, Aaron's definitely always a level-headed, confident guy, that definitely helps even more in the playoffs."
On the other side of the spectrum is the Vikings’ starting quarterback. He, like many fellow NFC playoff quarterbacks, is preparing for his first career postseason start.
“This is obviously the first time for Christian Ponder, but football, to me, is still football,” said McCarthy.
Ponder, the Vikings second-year quarterback, played perhaps his best game of the season against the Packers in Week 17. Green Bay’s defenders don’t believe, or won’t say, that inexperience could hold Ponder back. They do say, however, they plan on forcing Ponder to beat them again.
“We want to take 28 [Adrian Peterson] out of the mix,” said Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. “That's definitely the game-plan this week. They handed him the ball a career high for him last week, if we can limit those carries and force ponder to beat us, I think that's the game plan we want to play."
Rodgers and Ponder will both add a tally to their postseason starts Saturday night. The Packers hope their experienced signal-caller will have them experiencing a playoff win at Lambeau.