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Monday Morning Mailbag: A Secondary Shake-up?

View exclusive images shot by the team photographer from the Dec. 11 game against Arizona.

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With the Packers beating the Cowboys, can the Vikings still win the NFC North? -- Miguel Gonzalez West Palm Beach, FL

Yes. If the Vikings win their final three games, which includes at Lambeau Field in Week 17, then they will win the NFC North. Currently, Green Bay owns the head-to-head tie breaker over the Vikings, but if the Vikings finish with the same record as Green Bay and defeat Green Bay in Week 17, then the Vikings get the nod by virtue of winning the second tie-breaker (division winning %).

Teddy played probably his best game with the Vikings that I can remember (against Arizona). He went nearly toe-to-toe with Carson Palmer. What was different? I hope Teddy and the offense can play like this the rest of the season because each game that is left just became substantially more important. -- Mike Dudley

There were several factors that led to Bridgewater performing so well, but the big one to understand is the pass protection. It was much better last Thursday, and it's no coincidence that Bridgewater played so well on a night when he was also protected well. Pass protection leads to more time for Bridgewater, and more time for the QB means more time for WRs to break open and more time for the QB to make decisions.

I understand trying to go for the win, but am wondering why the coaches didn't choose to just kick a field goal on 3rd down to send the game to OT? With only 13 seconds left and no time outs, a sack or completed pass in the field of play ends the game even without a turnover. -- Tommy Marrinan

You can make a fair argument that kicking on 3rd down was the right move. But had the Vikings kicked on 3rd down and Walsh missed, then you could also argue that picking up additional yardage was the right move. Hindsight is always 20/20. If Mike Zimmer would've known that a sack-fumble was coming, he surely wouldn't have chosen to run one more offensive play. Also, running one more offensive play wasn't about going for the win. It was about improving the chances of making a FG. As it was, the Vikings were in position for a 48-yard FG; the average make percentage for all NFL kickers since 2005 on 48-yard FGs is 67.5%. Had Bridgewater completed the pass to his primary receiver on that last play (Diggs), it would've been a gain of 10-12 yards, depending on the spot. That would give the Vikings a 36-38-yard FG try; the average make percentage for all NFL kickers since 2005 on 38-yard FGs is 83.8%. That means that by gaining 10 more yards, the Vikings could've increased the chances of tying the game by 16.3%, which to me is well worth attempting one more pass.

I think our offense stepped up against Arizona. But why does it seem like we can go down one drive look smooth on offense make the defense look like they can't stop us. And the next minute we're going three and out. We need more consistency, we should've won by one to two touchdowns. I also have to give props to Xavier Rhodes; he hung in there and showed a lot of heart. -- David D. Sioux Falls, SD

That's the nature of the NFL. The other team is getting paid, too. David is right that the Vikings need more consistency, but that's what every team is striving for. You hear coaches say all the time they want their teams to play with consistency. Having ups and downs is the nature of the game and is a constant battle for teams. The best teams are those that can decrease the downs and maintain the most consistency in their performance. If I could point to one thing, though, that takes away from the Vikings offense's ability to perform in a consistent manner, I would point to negative plays. A turnover, a run for negative yards or a sack are all negative plays that just seem to be drive-killers for the Vikings. If the Vikings can reduce the amount of negative plays on offense, I think they'll find some consistency.

Do you think the Vikings see somebody they can mold or is he more of a stop gap with all the injuries? Ben M. Shakopee, MN

I view Harris as having the potential to be much more than a stop-gap player who fills in because of injuries. There are a lot of things for him to clean up from his debut performance, but considering it was his debut performance I would say the future looks bright for Harris. He displayed range on the pass breakup he had near the goal line, he displayed instincts and toughness with the way he played close to the line of scrimmage, and he displayed intelligence and a knack for the game by being able to fill in so admirably against one of the best offenses in the NFL on a short week and in his first career game.

With Terence Newman playing very well at safety and Trae Waynes doing well opposite of Xavier Rhodes at cornerback, what do you think of the possibility of keeping Newman opposite of Smith at safety and starting Waynes at CB? -- Nate Kern

That sounds like a good plan to me. It's a good way to get the most talented players on the field as well as a way to get a 1st-round rookie some important experience. I also like a setup where Anthony Harris steps into the starting lineup at safety with Smith and then Newman stays at CB with Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn with Waynes being the next guy off the bench and the CB who comes onto the field in the dime package. Either of those plans improves the situation at safety, in my opinion. At the end of the day, the more players you have who can step in, the better. With Andrew Sendejo and Smith still on the mend, it's all hands on deck with three games to go plus the postseason remaining a strong possibility.

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