The Minnesota Vikings clinched a playoff spot Sunday night, this after dismantling the Giants, 49-17. The Vikings led 19-3 halftime, 32-3 late in the third quarter and never looked back.
Minnesota (10-5) is now tied with Green Bay (10-5) in the NFC North with one game to go. That game? Yup, Vikings/Packers this Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Thus, much of last night’s postgame chatter centered not on beating the Giants, but on potentially winning the division.
“The talk in the locker room was kind of what happens if you beat Green Bay?” Vikings voice Paul Allen said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Then you get Seattle in Minneapolis most likely – and Seattle put a pretty good butt-whooping on the Vikings earlier this season. If you lose, then you go back to Lambeau or you go to Washington. I think the bottom line for this Vikings team – given (that) it’s 1-10-1 against Green Bay the last 12 games – the next step is beating Green Bay.”
The Vikings started the season 7-2 but dropped three of their next four, including a 30-13 home loss against Green Bay and a 38-7 home loss against Seattle. Since then, however, the Vikings have gone 2-1 with the only loss coming in the final minute at Arizona.
The main difference lately, Allen said, has been the play of Teddy Bridgewater, who has seven touchdowns (six pass, one rush) and zero interceptions in his last three games.
“They started throwing it really well,” Allen said. “Teddy Bridgewater, through seven December games, has a passer rating well over 100. It’s interesting. If you look at Bridgewater’s stats and stack him up against a guy like Derek Carr, who was taken four picks behind him in the 2014 draft, or even former Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, a lot in the fantasy football world will second-guess the things Teddy does. But the good thing about Teddy, if you watch him weekly, (is that) he may not be a big box score, but he does not torpedo games. And this is with all due respect to Derek Carr: Derek has big, lofty numbers, but he also throws a lot of pick-sixes, and Teddy is pretty safe with the ball. So since they started throwing the ball better, the offense has been more balanced.”
Adrian Peterson, meanwhile, continues to lead the NFL with 1,418 rushing yards. In fact, he’s one of just four tailbacks with 1,000+ yards and one of just two with more than 1,110.
Not bad for a guy who missed almost all of last season.
“I think Adrian has been very good at overcoming things that people don’t think he can do,” Allen said. “He looks every bit as good this year as he ever has.”
Now the Vikings just need to overcome their Green Bay demons and beat the Packers at Lambeau. Can Minnesota do it? Or will the moment be too big?
“No, I think they’re ready,” Allen said. “I think the way they played in the Thursday night game in Arizona (was a turning point). Granted, they lost the game, but the Sunday previous, they got beaten pretty badly by Seattle, and it looked like things may be going amiss. They played right with – if not outplayed – Arizona, and I think that was an eye-opening experience for a lot of the younger guys on the team. There really isn’t anybody in the NFL that they should fear. I’ll say it again: This is a playoff team, and winning the division would obviously be the next step. But until you start beating the Green Bay Packers, you can’t say you’ve taken that next step.”