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Mailbag: Christmas Day Edition

A present to you on Christmas Day – a special edition of the Mailbag. The NFL's season is at a crucial point, with teams pushing to qualify or improve positioning for the playoffs. With that, there are lots of questions to be answered and issues to address. This special Christmas Day edition of the Mailbag looks to do just that.

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I've noticed this season that Teddy is really good at drawing the defense offside. With that being said, I've also noticed that usually when he gets them to jump we hand the ball off. To me that would be the perfect opportunity to take a shot downfield. Is it just Teddy's inexperience that he isn't seizing that opportunity?

-- Tim Leyden

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**The thing to remember is that if a running play is called in the huddle and then Bridgewater gets the defense to jump offside, there really isn't much he can do to take a free shot down the field. At that point, the play is called and there isn't enough time to change the play to a pass and then snap the ball to catch the defense offside. By the time the play would be changed, the defender(s) who jumped would be back onside. I don't know if Bridgewater is only using the hard count on runs, or if he's also using the hard count on passing plays but the defense just isn't jumping in those particular instances. Either way, Bridgewater not taking shots down the field when the defense jumps offside isn't a function of inexperience, it's just that a running play has already been called so there is little he can do about it.

Once again, the Vikings get snubbed by the Pro Bowl. Like last year, we have plenty of deserving players! Some players who made it I had never even heard of. Why didn't Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith, Linval Joseph, or Everson Griffen get selected?

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-- Carter Stromberg**

They didn't get in because they weren't voted in. Not making the Pro Bowl doesn't mean you aren't a Pro Bowl-caliber player, it just means you weren't voted in. It's ok to be frustrated by it as a fan, but I can assure you it's the furthest thing from the minds of Vikings players and coaches right now as they prepare for the final two games of the regular season and try to make a playoff push.

I know coach doesn't like to publish much info regarding injuries but when can we expect our starters back healthy.

-- Scott Reinhardt

You never expect anything when it comes to injuries. Every injury is different and every player heals differently. As for Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph and Harrison Smith, it sounds like all three are making progress and are close to being back. It's hard to tell and it doesn't make sense to speculate on who is the closest and who has the best chance to play Sunday, so we'll just have to wait and see. The good news is that the Vikings have had other starters and role players step up in the absence of the starters, and that will only serve the defense and the entire team well as the season progresses.

Great win for the Vikings on Sunday. I've been a Vikings fan for 40 years, and most fans are familiar with the late-game or late-season collapses. The team's ability to close games out the past two seasons has been great. Kudos to Coach Zimmer and the staff for keeping the pedal down. I don't want to jinx the next two weeks, but where would Zim's performance this season put him in Coach of the Year voting?

--Brian Week

That's a good question and it's something we'll find out once the season is over. Of course I would advocate for Zimmer's case, particularly with the way his defense has played of late while missing three of its best players and with how the offense has been able to function with two missing starters along the offensive line. But there have been several very good coaching jobs in the NFL this year, including Ron Rivera in Carolina and Andy Reid in Kansas City. Rivera's team is undefeated going into Week 14 and they haven't lost a regular season game since Week 13 of last season to the Vikings – that's 18 straight regular season wins. Reid's Chiefs began the season 1-5, but since a Week 6 loss (also to the Vikings), the Chiefs have ripped off eight straight wins and are now 9-5, just one game behind division-leading Denver. Bill Belichick has done a nice job navigating through a ton of injuries in New England, as has Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, and both of those teams look to be in the mix in the AFC coming down the stretch, especially the Patriots, who are the AFC's No. 1 seed entering Week 15. A lot of good candidates for that award, and what happens over the next two weeks and in the playoffs will likely play a huge factor into how the voters decide to vote.

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