With just one game to go in the 2017 season, the Vikings are in great shape to lock up the second seed in the NFC. The Eagles have already clinched the top spot, but Minnesota will only drop out of number two if:
- They lose AND
- The Rams and Saints lose AND
- The Panthers beat the Falcons
So it looks like they will have a first round bye. And with a 16-0 win over the rival Packers on Saturday, there is a lot to feel good about as a Vikings fan. But there are also some growing concerns. Let us take a look at each.
Harrison Smith’s Middle Finger
After getting snubbed for the Pro Bowl, Harrison Smith seemed to have a little extra spunk on Saturday. As Smith kept making plays, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were incredulous as to how the guy failed to earn a Pro Bowl nod, and given his performance, it is easy to see why. Smith was exceptional in coverage, allowing just three completions for 21 yards and a targeted rating of 30.0. He also picked off two passes, giving him a team-high five interceptions on the season. Plus, as usual, Smith was a dominant run-stopper in the box. Pro Football Focus gave him a near-perfect grade of 99.9 on the game, due in large part to his six solo tackles.
With no Davante Adams, Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes had a little less of a challenge against the Packer receivers. That being said, they did exactly what they were supposed to. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson struggled to get open all game, combing for just seven catches and 33 yards on 15 targets. Brett Hundley finished with a yards per attempt of just 3.25. No one was open all game, Hundley continually had to improvise and when challenged, Waynes and Rhodes made plays. A truly dominant performance from the defensive backfield.
David Morgan is turning into a bit of a cult hero in 2017. He has all the makings of a Kleinsasser-type: providing an impact without the ball and taking advantage when the ball does end up in his hands. Plus, the long, flowing locks do not hurt. And on top of all that, he took over long-snapping duties when Kevin McDermott injured his shoulder. The snaps were not perfect but they got there and Kai Forbath made all the kicks on which Morgan snapped.
Case Keenum Deep Balls
He gets some leeway as the freezing temperatures likely played a major role in his inaccuracy. But Case Keenum‘s downfield throws have been off for a few weeks now. There were multiple times when he had a receiver running open downfield and he just missed them. And it was every which way: Underthrown, overthrown, thrown wide, he just was not on point. Keenum has to be able to take advantage in the postseason when these opportunies pop up.
With the field simultaneously frozen and in bad shape, the Green Bay grass was just begging to take some players down. As a result, both teams’ gameplans appeared to shorten up as they were just looking to get out healthy. Even still, men from each side had to leave with injury. The Packers lost Nelson, Richard Rodgers and right tackle Jason Spriggs while the aforementioned McDermott, Nick Easton and Shamar Stephen left for Minnesota. Easton’s injury has cost him his season as he will undergo surgery on his fractured ankle.
Pass Protection, Again
While still an improvement from a year ago, the Vikings pass protection has taken a bit of a nose dive the last three weeks. Keenum faced pressure on 37.9 percent of dropbacks, getting hit seven times and sacked three times. Since any team the Vikings could face in the postseason has a strong pass rush, this is beginning to be a concern. And Easton’s season-ending injury will not help matters.
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