Lunch Break

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Lunchbreak: Vikings Defined as NFC's 'Most Balanced Team' Heading Into Postseason

Posted Jan 3, 2018

The Vikings will use today’s practice as another session of self-scouting and getting back to the basics, as Head Coach Mike Zimmer and a number of players have emphasized this week.

Minnesota has a bye during the Wild Card weekend but will learn who it will host on Jan. 14 after this weekend’s games.

If the Rams defeat the Falcons, they will visit Minnesota. If the Falcons win, then the winner of the Panthers-at-Saints game will be heading north.

In reflecting back over the season and looking ahead to the playoffs, NFL.com’s Kevin Patra made some observations about the 2017 Vikings. Patra wrote:

The Minnesota Vikings clinched a first-round bye with a familiar recipe: A smothering defense and chain-moving offense. Mike Zimmer’s D once again controlled the game, dominating the Bears run game and pestering Mitchell Trubisky into rookie errors.

Patra highlighted the Vikings containment of running back Jordan Howard, who had nine carries for just nine yards.

The first half was a performance the Purple People Eaters would be proud of. Minnesota's defense has allowed a combined 10 points to offenses the past three games. With the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense destroying offensive lines and Case Keenum running a steady offense, the Vikings head into the postseason with the most balanced team in the NFC. Sunday's whitewash of the Bears sets up Minnesota with a golden opportunity to play a home game in the Super Bowl.

PFF: Stefon Diggs emerging as a top ‘red zone weapon’

On Sunday, Stefon Diggs reached 200 catches in just 40 games, becoming the fastest player in Vikings history to meet the benchmark.

Diggs wrapped up the 2017 regular season with 64 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns. According to Mark Chichester of the analytics site Pro Football Focus, Diggs has “developed into one of the best receiving talents in the NFL” since the Vikings selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Chichester pointed out that Diggs is one of nine receivers who has graded above 80.0 (by PFF’s grading system) in each of the past three seasons. Chichester wrote:

His 2017 campaign, which is the highest-graded season of his career to date, sees him ranked 10th among qualifying receivers with an overall grade of 84.8 and has [helped push] Minnesota into the playoffs as PFF’s odds-on favorite to make it to Super Bowl LII as the NFC’s representative.

There is no doubt that Diggs possesses the straight-line speed to challenge even the quickest of defensive backs, and there is much to be said about his ability to generate yards after the catch (297 YAC yards this year, 23rd among receivers), but there is one underrated aspect of his game that isn’t often acknowledged. Despite his small stature (Vikings list him at 6-foot, 191 pounds), Diggs’ physicality and savvy route-running have led him to emerge as one of the most dangerous red-zone threats in football.

PFF graded Diggs at 132.2 in the red zone, highest among players with at least 25 red zone targets since 2016. Behind Diggs were Cowboys TE Jason Witten (129.2), Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry (124.1), Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (119.8) and Broncos TE Demaryius Thomas (119.6).

Alan Page, Kevin Warren, Dennis Green among Vikings names to be recognized during Super Bowl week

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, Hall of Fame defensive tackle Alan Page will be honored during Super Bowl week with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Fritz Pollard Alliance. Tomasson wrote:

The Fritz Pollard Alliance deals with the NFL on minority hiring. In addition to Page, chairman John Wooten said Monday that Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren and the late Dennis Green, Minnesota’s [head] coach from 1992-2001, will be among those honored at the Johnnie Cochran Salute to Excellence Awards at the Minneapolis Institute of Art on Feb. 1, three days before Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Tomasson quoted Wooten, who said, “We are extremely proud of honoring Alan Page with our Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in the community and his accomplishments off the field.”

Green will be honored with the Paul Tagliabue Award, given to an individual “who has been outstanding in helping minorities” in the NFL. The award will be received by Green’s family.

Warren is among five who will receive the Johnnie Cochran Salute to Excellence Award. Winners are minority executives and coaches whose teams have made the playoffs.

Others honored with the award will be Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin, Carolina Head Coach Ron Rivera, Steelers Vice President of Football and Business Administration Omar Khan and Kansas City Vice President of Communications Ted Crews.