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Lunchbreak: Already in Playoffs, Vikings in 'Clean Up' Mode

The Vikings are already guaranteed a playoff spot, but they will need to make some adjustments in order to make a postseason run – in games that would all be on the road.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said after the team's Monday Night Football loss to Green Bay that "there's a lot of things that we need to clean up."

An Associated Press report in USA TODAY wrote that the Vikings were "humbled" by their division foe in Week 16.

[Kirk] Cousins has had a career-best season under the direction of [Offensive Coordinator] Kevin Stefanski and [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor] Gary Kubiak, largely thriving in a system that favors multiple tight ends and play-action, roll-out and screen passes. For the second time this season, the Packers schemed those pillars right out of the game plan.

Cousins was frequently in the shotgun formation out of necessity, and he took five sacks after going down behind the line of scrimmage only once over the previous three games. When opponents have the pass-rush skill and play-calling acumen to do this, Cousins needs to be able to find ways to get the ball down the field more quickly and not just settle for safe dump-offs to fullback C.J. Ham. The two lowest passer ratings for Cousins in his 31 games with the Vikings have been this season against the Packers.

The AP quoted Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark, who pointed out after the game that Green Bay successfully took away the Vikings play-action pass.

"That's their bread and butter," Clark said.

The AP posted a "Stock Up" and "Stock Down" category, first highlighting safety Anthony Harris.

Anthony Harris had another standout performance, darting in front of Davante Adams for the first interception of Rodgers in 278 attempts and nine games. Harris, who also had three tackles and two passes defended, is tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions. That's the most by a Vikings player since Darren Sharper had nine picks in 2005.

Meanwhile, it was pointed out that left tackle Riley Reiff needs to "be able to better control the opponent's top pass rusher" after struggling against Packers outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith.

What are next steps for Minnesota heading into Week 17 and then Wild Card weekend?

Getting the running backs and linebackers healthy will be the most critical task for the next two weeks. Re-establishing a winning identity, even in a meaningless game against Chicago on Sunday, will be important, too. Stefanski and the rest of the staff must find some more antidotes to the way Green Bay stifled Cousins and overwhelmed the offensive line.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.

Pair of former Vikings projected for NFL 2010s All-Decade Team

We're just days away from the turn of the decade, and the NFL will later announce the 2010s All-Decade team.

But ahead of the official announcement, NFL.com's Chris Wesseling projected whom he believes should be on the prestigious list. He included a pair of former Vikings: Adrian Peterson at running back and Cordarrelle Patterson at kick returner. Peterson and Patterson currently are with Washington and Chicago, respectively.

Wesseling wrote the following of Peterson, who was drafted seventh overall by the Vikings in 2007 and spent his first 10 NFL seasons in Minnesota.

No running back has nabbed more than two first-team All-Pros in the decade. Peterson and LeSean McCoy are the backs with the highest peak as well as the most production. While McCoy is the decade's leader in yards from scrimmage (13,923), Peterson ranks in the top six with 11,135. More importantly, Peterson was twice the NFL rushing champion while nearly toppling Eric Dickerson's long-standing single-season record in a magical 2012 MVP season that stands as the most impressive display of power and speed in the past decade. Peterson was not only the first rushing leader to average at least 6 yards per carry since Barry Sanders in 1997, but he also led esteemed NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell to declare that 2012 campaign the greatest individual offensive season in NFL history. "I've been doing this a long time," Cosell explained. "I'm usually not wowed when I watch stuff. I'm wowed when I watch [Peterson]."

The Vikings are currently prepping to face Patterson, who was drafted 29th overall by Minnesota in 2013 and played four seasons for the Vikings.

Patterson ranks first in kick-return yards (6,101), kick-return touchdowns (7) and kick-return average (29.9) this decade. While legendary return ace Devin Hester remained explosive enough in his decline phase to top the punt-return charts, Patterson is the definitive returner of the decade – bigger, stronger and faster than the competition. In fact, he might just be the greatest era-adjusted kickoff returner in NFL history.

A case for Seahawks support this weekend

The Vikings are locked into the No. 6 seed for the NFC playoffs, but they won't find out who they're playing until Sunday night.

Scenarios still exists where Minnesota could play Green Bay, San Francisco, Seattle or New Orleans, with the latter two being most likely.

Steve Silverman, an NFL contributor for Forbes, opined recently that Vikings fans should root for a Seahawks win over the 49ers, which would mean Seattle gets the No. 3 seed and Minnesota would get a rematch with its Week 13 opponent. Silverman wrote:

The Vikings would be underdogs against the Saints or Seahawks, but a matchup with Seattle would be preferable. The Seahawks are beaten and bruised, and they are coming off a 27-13 home defeat to the last place Arizona Cardinals.

Injuries at the running back slot have forced the Seahawks to bring running back Marshawn Lynch, a hero from yesteryear. Lynch has not played with the Seahawks since 2015. He sat out the 2016 season, played for the Oakland Raiders in 2017 and '18, and has not played at all this year.

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So, Vikings fans should be rooting for the Seahawks this weekend. If they can rebound from their Week 16 loss to the Cardinals and overcome San Francisco, while Green Bay and New Orleans win, the Vikings should have an opportunity to push the Seahawks to the limit and possibly extend their season to the divisional playoffs.

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