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Lunchbreak: Well-Rounded Team Giving Vikings Chance at NFC Title

Quarterback Case Keenum has been a true leader for the Vikings.

He quickly earned the respect of his teammates in the locker room, after stepping in for an injured Sam Bradford in Week 2 and helping lead the Vikings into the playoffs, where they are now poised for a shot at the NFC title.

But the Vikings talent goes much deeper than just the quarterback position.

In a recent article leading up to the conference championship games this weekend, NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks wrote about the importance of a well-rounded team.

Brooks said he believes "that there are plenty of lessons to be gleaned from the team-building efforts" of the Vikings, Jaguars and Eagles, teams which Brooks opined don't necessarily have "an elite quarterback" under center. He wrote that all three of those teams have built their defenses from front to back.

These units don't just keep offensive production down, but they rarely allow opponents to drive the length of the field for touchdowns. While this philosophy is proposed in meeting rooms around the league, the Vikings, Jaguars and Eagles have the right personnel to actually pull it off in a league that's built around the pass. Looking at these three rosters, it is not a coincidence seeing plenty of talent along the defensive line and in the secondary. These teams invested draft capital and free-agent dollars on the marquee defensive positions, and it has paid off handsomely this season.

Brooks emphasized the presence of safety Harrison Smith and corners Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes in Minnesota's secondary.

When I look at each of these squads, the depth and talent assembled at those core positions (pass rusher, cornerback and safety) pop off the page. These teams feature blue-chip players in these areas, and the collection of talent overwhelms opponents in big games.

In addition, Brooks pointed toward the Vikings offensive line as a key to Minnesota's success. He noted the "overall athleticism, movement skills and collective strength" of the unit.

The Vikings have been able to absorb the loss of a talented RB1 (Dalvin Cook) due to rock-solid blocking at the point of attack. With the ground game and complementary run-action pass calls setting up No. 7 for success, Minnesota's offensive line has been critical to this magical season. Major credit goes to third-round pick Pat Elflein – the rookie has provided immediate returns at the pivot.

Finally, Brooks wrote about the importance of "surrounding the quarterback with plenty of playmakers," which he said the Vikings have. He called Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs "arguably the NFL's best 1-2 punch at wide receiver" and also highlighted Kyle Rudolph and Jerick McKinnon, whom he defined as a "pass-catching back with speed to burn."

Like it or not, this kind of QB-independent roster-building could be the way of the future in a league ushering in a changing of the guard at the position. […] you should get used to seeing executives constructing true teams, as opposed to QB-centric squads.

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MMQB: How Vikings-Eagles got here after 2016 trade

In September 2016, a trade between the Vikings and Eagles brought Bradford to Minnesota.

Bradford was acquired in the wake of Teddy Bridgewater suffering a devastating, season-ending knee injury, and he started 15 games of the Vikings 8-8 season. The Eagles, meanwhile, invested their energies into rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.

Now 16 months later, it's interesting in itself that the two teams who orchestrated such a major trade will face each other in the NFC Championship game. But even more ironic is that it's Keenum and Nick Foles, rather than Bradford, Wentz or even Bridgewater, who will look to lead their respective team to Super Bowl LII.

Albert Breer of Monday Morning Quarterback addressed the unique situation and gave an overview on all four remaining teams and how they built their current team. Breer highlighted the Vikings focus on the offensive line – which got "a new identity" – and on backfield depth for the 2017 season. He also emphasized the defense that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer have built. Breer wrote:

The defense is filled with big, fast high draft picks. But there are also players who came via a different path. The Vikings found Andrew Sendejo when he was a Sacramento Mountain Lion in the UFL, lost him to the Cowboys, then the Jets, then finally signed him as a special teamer and developed him into a starter. Likewise, the brass liked defensive tackle Tom Johnson as he came out of the CFL but lost him to the Saints. When the Saints switched schemes, Johnson's fit was no longer there, he was cut, and the Vikings pounced. Johnson, a few years later, wound up replacing former first-round pick Sharrif Floyd.

Breer reflected back to the time of the Vikings-Eagles trade and recalled a conversation he had with Spielman.

It was based on the premise that only a team that felt like it could win at the highest level would make this kind of move. Spielman didn't shy away from that.

"We're in a situation where the team has an opportunity to have a really good year," Spielman told Breer.

A year later, Bradford's down, but the belief that the Vikings were close is still very much there. Can you believe it? At this point, they've got every reason.

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'Super Kids' Gather 45,000-plus items for children in need

The National Football League teamed up with local schools, the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, Verizon, Braemar Field, the City of Edina and the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities for a Super Bowl project called Super Kids-Super Sharing.

Nearly 46,000 books, pieces of sports equipment, school supplies and games were donated by greater Twin Cities area students as part of a Super Bowl Project called Super Kids-Super Sharing. Thanks to the generosity of local students, those items were organized Thursday at the Braemar Field Dome.

This grassroots community project started in local homes earlier this winter as students and families gathered up lightly used (or new) books, school supplies sports equipment and games to donate. Students dropped off and helped sort the items. Representatives from recipient schools and organizations that work with local children in need then selected the items they could use.

Students also donated used cell phones to help with the Verizon Foundation's effort to engage all students in STEM education. As part of Super Kids, Verizon also donated $25,000 to Sabathani Community Center.

The NFL has developed the Super Kids–Super Sharing project in each Super Bowl community for 18 years. Since its inception in 2000 at Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta, the Super Kids-Super Sharing project has placed hundreds of thousands of books and pieces of sports equipment into the hands of children in Super Bowl host communities.

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