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Lunchbreak: Danielle Hunter Rounding Into Form as Playoffs Approach

Danielle Hunter has 7.0 sacks this season, pushing his career total to 25.5, which is tied with Jim Marshal for the fourth-most by a Viking in his first three seasons.

The Vikings defensive end needs one to tie Kevin Williams for third and three to tie Hall of Famer Alan Page.

Hunter had 6.0 sacks as a rookie before recording 12.5 sacks last season, as many believed the former LSU standout was primed for a big season in his first opportunity to start.

Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune recently wrote that Hunter has more than held his own this season, especially as offenses have paid extra attention to the 23-year-old.

Krammer wrote:

*Expectations skyrocketed for Hunter, including some favorable preseason odds for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, after he posted 12.5 sacks as a rotational player last season. Hunter admitted more attention from offenses, especially earlier in the season, disrupted his consistency. *

"I've come a long way," Hunter said. "I think I've been a little bit more worried during the season because I've been chipped a lot, and it's messed with me."

Hunter has a sack in four of his past six games, including a takedown of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton last weekend in a 34-7 win that clinched the NFC North for Minnesota.

"He just has to do like he did last week and just go," [Vikings Head Coach Mike] Zimmer said when asked about Hunter. "React and use his athletic abilities ... I think that's been a [learning] process for him this year. Last week he did that, and I hope it continues to move forward that way."

Krammer wrote that Zimmer has liked Hunter's game in recent weeks, noting that the defensive end has started to play more and think less.

*His four pressures on Dalton, according to Pro Football Focus, were the second most among NFL defensive ends last weekend, when he played with some welcomed recklessness. *

"I thought last week maybe he played his best game," Zimmer said. "I'm hoping it continues to go forward here. Like a lot of young guys when they first start becoming a full-time player, they never want to make a mistake."

Holler: NFC playoff field is a stacked bunch

As the final two weeks of the NFL season approach, the Vikings know they will already be in the playoff field by virtue of their NFC North division title.

Almost everything else is up for grabs, however, as just two of the NFC's six spots have been claimed.

With a wild and wacky end to the season on the horizon, John Holler of Viking Update noted that securing a first-round bye should be of the utmost importance for Minnesota as a stacked playoff field awaits.

Holler wrote:

*When it comes to having the stripes of playoff success, the top of the NFC this year is surprisingly inexperienced in that regard. *

*The Minnesota Vikings haven't won a playoff game since 2009. The top seed, Philadelphia, hasn't won a playoff game since 2008 when they beat the Vikings. The Los Angeles Rams, currently the No. 3 seed, haven't won a playoff game since 2004. *

*Clearly, something is going to have to give, but, as things currently stand, there isn't a strong postseason pedigree for any of the teams at the top of the standings, [which makes] locking down as high a seed as possible, preferably one that comes with a first-round bye, important. *

*The Vikings achieved their first objective last week by winning the NFC North. Now claiming a first-round bye has become a front-of-mind topic, because, in a dominant and deep playoff field, forcing teams to come to your house to play takes on more urgency. *

"It's extremely important," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "Our first goal is win, clinch our berth in the playoffs, and now it's about seeding.''

The Vikings are 6-1 at U.S. Bank Stadium this season, and have not allowed a visiting opponent to score 20 points.

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