The Divisional round playoff games provided fans with some exciting matchups.
Following the weekend's conclusion, and now that four teams remain in pursuit of the Super Bowl, Adam Schein of NFL.com put together **“NFL Divisional round hat tips”** to highlight individual contributions. Schein wrote:
As you can see, this installment of the Schein Nine flows chronologically – wanted to recapture this memorable weekend in the manner we all saw it play out. And yes, Sunday's participants receive more shoutouts than Saturday's because, well, Sunday was freakin' amazing.
Of the nine players and coaches that Schein pointed to, two wore Vikings Purple.
Schein first highlighted Case Keenum, who made the **“Minneapolis Miracle”** pass to Stefon Diggs for the walk-off touchdown.
*Did Case Keenum seriously throw a walk-off, 61-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs on the final play of the game? *
If I'm in disbelief, how about the Vikings great fans? Wow. Tip many caps to Keenum, who made a number of big throws in Minnesota's mind-blowing 29-24 win. What a sensational story amid one of the all-time great finishes.
And the second Vikings player included?
Schein tabbed Kai Forbath, who made a 53-yard field goal that made the comeback win a possibility for Minnesota.
He made the kick. That needs to be stressed. Forbath made the go-ahead kick with 1:29 remaining from 53 yards out. Yes, Saints K Wil Lutz proceeded to make a go-ahead kick of his own one minute later, setting the stage for Diggs' miraculous touchdown – THIS. WAS. A. CRAZY. GAME. – but don't forget Forbath's bomb.
And given that Minnesota's a defense-first team, I'm thinking Forbath hasn't faced his last high-pressure situation of this postseason. That 53-yarder – down by a point, in the game's waning minutes – is a huge confidence-booster.
Craig: Defensive MVP candidates numerous for 2017 Vikings
In anticipation of this weekend's NFC Championship matchup at Philadelphia, Mark Craig of the *Star Tribune *posed this question: "Who's the Most Valuable Player of this top-ranked defense?"
Craig didn't just opine the answer himself, however; rather, he spoke with **defensive teammates in the Vikings locker room** in the week leading up to the Saints game. When he asked Harrison Smith, the First-Team All-Pro said, "I don't know." Craig wrote:
C'mon, Harry. It has to be Everson Griffen and those career-high  sacks, right?
It has to be shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes, who gives Griffen more time to rush, right?
It has to be nose tackle Linval Joseph, the immovable mass of humanity who sets the run defense and creates the favorable downs and distances that gets [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's mouth a droolin', right?
It has to be Smith, the most versatile tool in Zimmer's laboratory, right?
But the Vikings are an unselfish group.
"I could point to a bunch of different guys and you'd say, 'No, it's this guy,' " Smith told Craig.
While Smith went on to suggest other teammates – Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Andrew Sendejo, Trae Waynes, Joseph or even Zimmer – Xavier Rhodes continued to point back to Smith as the most-deserving candidate.
Rhodes wouldn't back down.
"Quote me," Rhodes told Craig. "He's the best defensive player in the whole league … I tell him this all the time. I tell him he has the opportunity to take over as the face of this league."
Smith debated back, "We aren't like that," which confirmed Craig's opinion that "it doesn't make much sense to try and pick an MVP for this defense."
"I'm not being humble," Smith told Craig. "It's everybody."
A possible preview of Vikings offense against Eagles
There's no denying the talent of the Eagles defense.
In the regular season, Philadelphia finished fourth in total yards allowed and first against the run.
Minnesota will have its hands full taking on a tough unit.
But according to CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson, the **Vikings offense “is loaded with weapons”** that can succeed against the Eagles in this weekend's NFC Championship game.
Wilson said that even if Philadelphia is able to affect Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, "They're less effective against tight ends and running backs, which could mean big things for [Kyle] Rudolph and [Jerick] McKinnon" in the passing game.
Wilson then wrote about the Vikings run game:
*Latavius Murray has been a pleasant surprise, and at 6-feet-3 and 230 pounds, he's the type of runner that defenses grow weary of tackling as the game progresses. *
Wilson pointed out that standout running backs Alfred Morris (Cowboys) and Todd Gurley (Rams) recorded 91 and 96 rushing yards, respectively, against the Eagles in Weeks 11 and 14.
*Murray is more upright and less elusive than Gurley or Elliott, though not by as much as you might initially suspect. *
Either way, Murray remains a load to tackle. And the Eagles defense, for as good as it's been this season, has struggled against physical backs. That coupled with the overall dynamism of the Vikings' offense should make for a long afternoon on Sunday.