As the NFL regular season gets ready to wrap up this weekend, it's a good time to take a look back over the past 16 weeks.
ESPN asked its beat reporters to reflect on the 2017 season and identify best – and worst – moments of the year for the teams that they respectively cover.
Courtney Cronin said it wasn't easy to choose just one moment from Minnesota's successful season, but she ultimately tabbed "the statement win" over the Rams as the best. Cronin wrote:
The Vikings had a handful of statement wins throughout 2017, but here's why this one matters the most: Minnesota's showdown with the Rams, which ended in a 24-7 victory, was a measuring stick for the second half of the season. Not only did the defense hold the league's most potent offense to seven points, [but] Case Keenum essentially solidified his role as the starter going forward. This was the game where Minnesota was finally viewed nationally as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Cronin opined that the Vikings "worst moment" was when rookie running back Dalvin Cook suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 4 after bursting onto the scene early. Fortunately for Minnesota, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have successfully kept the ground game rolling in Cook's absence as he continues to rehab the injury.
NFL.com: Shurmur among those who 'matter most' in Week 17
There are 16 weeks of NFL football in the rearview mirror, but as NFL.com's Marc Sessler pointed out, "Week 17 is just the beginning" for the 12 teams that will continue on to the playoffs.
Sessler took a look back through the season and also did some forward-thinking in assembling this week's "who matters most" list. He identified seven individuals – from players to front office members – who could play significant roles in the final week of the regular season.
Coming in at No. 6 was Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur, who has held the role since November of 2016. Sessler wrote:
Now embedded with the Vikings, Shurmur has worked wonders with Case Keenum and successfully overcome the loss of star rookie runner Dalvin Cook. Minnesota's offense is thrilling to watch and often unpredictable, but also one of the league's most consistent attacks. The Vikes don't drift to sleep, which serves as a credit to their experienced coordinator. With a win over Chicago, Minnesota would nab the No. 2 seed and loom as a rational pick to become the first team in NFL lore to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium. Shurmur, meanwhile, remains a deserving candidate for Assistant Coach of the Year with an outside shot at a head-coaching gig. Quite a comeback story.
Joining Shurmur on the list were 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Ravens RB Alex Collins, Panthers LB Luke Kuechly, Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles, Titans QB Marcus Mariota and new Browns General Manager John Dorsey.
Everson Griffen playing a big role in Vikings 2017 success
Everson Griffen recently was voted into the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive season.
The defensive end has played a big role in Minnesota's 12-3 record. So far this season, he has recorded 46 total tackles (coaches' tally), 16 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and 13 sacks.
On Wednesday, Bleacher Report's Anna Katherine Clemmons posted an in-depth feature on Griffen and his journey to this season, which his wife Tiffany calls his "most consistent" yet.
Clemmons touched on Griffen's work with a movement coach and his dedication to a strict training schedule. She also emphasized his commitment to family. Clemmons wrote:
*Even though his days often begin with 5 a.m. hyperbaric chamber sessions, Griffen is almost always in motion, bouncing to the beat of his own energy. He's holding a sleeping Sebastian on his chest, bear-hugging Greyson when his oldest son returns home from pre-K or joking with Tiffany about a recent purchase. Griffen laughs often, his wide, joyful smile evident as he pats his dozing newborn's back and talks about his … 30th birthday. *
"I bet people look at me now like, 'Everson got three kids and married? Whew!'" Griffen quipped to Clemmons. " 'Who's that woman over here that changed him?' My family is what I'm most proud of. I couldn't do it without them.'
Clemmons said Griffen's "eight-year evolution has been readily apparent" and that he's helped the Vikings defense reach No. 1 in the NFL.
She spoke with Tiffany, who said that Griffen "knows what it takes to be great" and that he's become even more dedicated this season.
"He knows he can do it, so he made the decision and he goes all-in," Tiffany told Clemmons. "This year is the most consistent he's ever been. I think figuring out his mental game and knowing who he is as a person has played a big role. It's all clicking now."