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Brooks: 3 Reasons Vikings Can Win NFC North

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks called on his talent evaluation experience and came up with three reasons the Vikings can win the NFC North and develop into "a true NFC power."

Brooks listed three reasons and explains how reviewing coaches' film that shows all 22 players involved in plays helped him form this belief.

The Vikings (10-5) visit the Packers (10-5) at Lambeau Field for a 7:30 p.m. (CT) kickoff on Sunday Night Football. The winner will claim the division title, earn the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and host a Wild Card game. The loser will play a road game when the postseason begins.

From Brooks:

1) Teddy Bridgewater is growing into a playmaker.

For all of the criticism hurled at Bridgewater for his pedestrian numbers, it's time to appreciate his ability to guide his team to wins. The second-year pro has the best record (16-11) of any quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft class. Most importantly, he's guided the Vikings to the top of the NFC North while displaying the management skills and football IQ of a veteran.

2) Adrian Peterson is still the best RB in the game.

Studying the All-22 Coaches Film of Peterson, I see a rugged runner with exceptional vision, balance and body control. He has one of the best stop-start cuts in the business, and his ability to accelerate in the hole is remarkable for a veteran runner. Although he has lost a bit of the top-end speed that once made him a threat to score from anywhere on the field, Peterson has four runs of 40-plus yards in 2015, tied for second most in the NFL.

3) The Vikings are building a championship-caliber defense under Zimmer.

There's no disputing Zimmer's track record as a defensive architect based on his success directing elite units throughout his career. The veteran coach has been a part of 11 playoff teams during his NFL tenure, including seven division champions. Thus, it is not a surprise he has quickly transformed theVikings' young, athletic defense into one of the top units in the NFL.

Respect within Rivalry

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Vikings.com recently published the Gameday *program cover story about Brian Robison's willingness to do "Whatever it takes" for the good of the Vikings. Staff writer Eric Smith also caught up with Robison about the importance of containing* Aaron Rodgers this week.

Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com caught up with the veteran, who is on track to start his 49th consecutive start and learned that Robison respects the morphing that Clay Matthews has done to benefit the Packers.

"A guy I have a ton of respect for is Clay Matthews," Robison told Krammer. "You see the same thing out of him. Used to be an edge rusher type guy, and now he's playing middle linebacker and doing things like that. His sack numbers aren't as high, but he's still making plays to allow his team to win ball games.

"So I got a lot of respect for a guy who does that, especially at his level, the way he was playing, and really taking a step back to help his team. I got tremendous respect for that, because that's what I'm doing here."

*Robison, 32, was asked to overhaul his game when the Vikings hired Zimmer to remake a porous defense prior to the 2014 season. This year, injuries to defensive end Everson Griffen and defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd have forced the Vikings' coaching staff to be even more creative with their approach. *

To relieve a banged-up interior of the line, Robison has shifted inside on obvious passing downs with rookie Danielle Hunter coming off the bench to fill his end spot.

Sherels Making Hometown, State Proud

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Vikings punt return specialist and cornerback Marcus Sherels is featured on the cover of City Pages. In a feature by Loren Green, Sherels is labeled as the "NFL's most rootable** player."

Green revisits Sherels' time as a prep star that was followed by his college career that began with him walking on with the Golden Gophers. He developed into a starter there, and brought a competitive fire with him in the 1996 Geo Prizm Sherels drove to get to his first Vikings training camp in 2010.

*The NFL is known for its larger-than-life figures, measured in both personality and girth. Sherels is neither. He stands at 5-foot-10 and weighs 175 pounds, which makes him the size of an average U.S. male. His personality is equally lacking in distinction. He is soft-spoken and quiet, reserved but intelligent. *

Yet in the same way he catches punts — eyes upward and ignoring outside forces — he's been able to dash up Hwy. 52, from the John Marshall Rockets to the Minnesota Vikings. Along the way, this undersized everyman has likely become the NFL's most rootable player.

Running free

In his weekly deeper dive at stats, Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune reported the Vikings rushed for 169 yards before contact was made by a single Giants defender:

More than half of Peterson's yards have come after contact this season. But in the blowout win over the Giants, specifically in the second half, there were several occasions when Peterson and backup Jerick McKinnon got to the second or even third level before being touched, if any Giants defender got a hand on them at all. According to ESPN Stats and Information, 169 of the team's 218 rushing yards came before initial contact. That was the most for the Vikings in a game since a win over the Lions in November of 2012.

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