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Lunchbreak: Vikings-Seahawks Holds ‘Enormous Playoff Stakes’ After Packers Loss

San Francisco ran away with a Sunday Night Football victory over Green Bay, which means the Packers and Vikings now share an 8-3 record.

The Packers do hold a tie-breaker over the Vikings right now due to their Week 2 win in Green Bay, but the second Border Battle of the season will take place at U.S. Bank Stadium on Dec. 23.

Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune pointed out that “the Vikings chance to win the NFC North is now under their own control” as they prepare to head to Seattle for Monday Night Football. Goessling wrote:

The Vikings … only need to beat the Packers for the fourth straight year at U.S. Bank Stadium and match them the rest of the way to win the division title.

It’s the Vikings upcoming task, however, that might have the most to say about their division title chances.

Their assignment against the Seahawks is no easy task for a number of reasons. They’ll face a 9-2 team that’s beaten them five straight times (and hasn’t allowed them to score more than nine points since 2013). They’ll play on the West Coast at night (historically a daunting proposition), and face Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, an MVP candidate who’s tormented the Vikings like few others.

Unless they’re able to win at CenturyLink Field for the first time since 2006, the Vikings could again find themselves in the position of needing help from an underwhelming set of Packers opponents if they want to win the division.

Green Bay is set to face the Giants next week and then Washington. The combined record of the Packers remaining non-Vikings opponents is 12-31-1.

Goessling explained that if the Vikings lose to the Seahawks, they’ll need to win their final four games and hope that the Packers lose another to fall to 11-5.

If the Vikings were to lose more than one of their last five and still end up with the same record as the Packers, the only way they can claim a division title is with Green Bay losing a second division game (to either the Bears or Lions), which would then give Minnesota the NFC North crown based on its record against common opponents (the Vikings Week 6 win over the Eagles, who beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 4, would be huge here).

PFF calls Kendricks ‘most underrated player’ on Vikings roster

Which Minnesota Viking is most underrated and under-appreciated for his play in 2019 thus far?

According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, it’s linebacker Eric Kendricks.

PFF’s Anthony Treash used “advanced data and unique play-by-play grading” to highlight one player on each NFL roster that he believes is the team’s most underrated. Treash wrote the following of Kendricks:

Eric Kendricks is having himself a career year in Minnesota and has earned a 90.5 overall grade that currently ranks second at his position. He has been wowing in all phases so far: He has earned an elite 90.3 run-defense grade, he’s generated the fourth most pressures (14) as a pass-rusher, and in addition to having the fifth-highest coverage grade for a linebacker, Kendricks has also allowed the second-lowest catch rate (61.2%) and produced the most pass breakups (12) among linebackers while in coverage. In fact, those 12 pass breakups are double the [number] of the next closest linebacker.

For the fun of it, which other NFC North players did Treash highlight? After all, the Vikings will host each of them at U.S. Bank Stadium down the season’s final stretch.

He pointed to Bears safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Lions receiver Marvin Jones, Jr., and Packers edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. Treash called Green Bay’s acquisition of the former Raven “the signing of the offseason.”

Smith has a pass-rush grade of 83.9 that ranks ninth among edge defenders, and he has collected the third-most pressures (57) at the position. With a 21.1 [percent] pass-rush win rate that ranks ninth among his peers entering Week 12, Smith is not only the most underrated player on the Packers, but he’s also one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the entire NFL.

Rudolph visits alma maters during bye

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph didn’t stray far from the Midwest during the bye week.

Rudolph and his family visited both of his alma maters during the break, first stopping at Elder High School in Rudoph’s hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. He took in a Friday night game under the lights and helped cheer the Panthers to a 28-21 defeat of Colerain High School.

The Rudolphs also visited Notre Dame, where Kyle spoke to recruits for the Fighting Irish.

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