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Monday Morning Mailbag: Teddy Taking A Step

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This was the best game of Teddy's career, no doubt. The first TD throw to Diggs was one of the most impressive throws I've ever seen. Do you think this is the Teddy we will see from now on? -- Jackson Schell

This is the type of performance Bridgewater can deliver when he's protected well and when he's on the same page as his receivers. It's no coincidence that Bridgewater has logged arguably the two best performances of his career in the two games where he's been protected better than at any other point in his career. A lot of credit can be passed around for the way the offense played against Chicago, from Bridgewater to Norv Turner to receivers making plays after the catch. But don't forget about the offensive line. That's a group that catches a lot of heat when things don't go well, so now that things went well against the Bears it's only fair to credit the big guys up front as well as the running backs and tight ends for their contributions in the blocking game, too.

With the Vikings and the Seahawks both at 9-5, why haven't the Vikings solidified a playoff spot like the Seahawks? The next best record in the NFC is the Falcons, who are at 7-7. Even if the Vikings lose the rest of their games and the Falcons win the rest of their games, wouldn't we be the 6 seed in the NFC? -- Timothy South Dakota

Not necessarily. The Vikings do hold a head-to-head tie-breaker against the Falcons, but that wouldn't apply if the Vikings finish the season in a three-way tie with the Falcons and Seahawks. In that scenario, the Vikings would lose out in the tie-breaking process because of the fifth step (strength of victory). As long as it's possible for the Vikings to finish the season with the same record as the Falcons and Seahawks, the Vikings can't clinch. But that makes it simple to figure out the rest of the way. Over the next two weeks, the Vikings need one of six things to happen: a win over the NY Giants or Green Bay, a Falcons loss to Carolina or New Orleans, or a Seattle win vs. St. Louis or at Arizona. If any one of those six things happen over the next two weeks, the Vikings are in.

What's the tie-breaker if the Vikings and Packers finish with same record? -- T.J. Leverentz @TLeverentz8

To break a tie within the division, the first four steps are: 1) head-to-head, 2) division win %, 3) common games win %, 4) conference win %. If the Vikings and Packers finish with the same record after 16 games, they will have split the head-to-head series. But the Vikings will have a 5-1 record within the division while Green Bay would be just 3-3, which would give the Vikings the advantage and make them division champions and hosts of a wild card round game.

With all the injuries on defense, how did the replacements do? I didn't see the game and I've seen the numbers but sometimes it doesn't tell you the impact that each player had. -- Stefan Sodbinow

Three player stepped into starting roles on Sunday and those guys deserve credit for the way they played, but so do several other players. Tom Johnson notched a sack while starting with Linval Joseph sidelined, but Brian Robison had a huge strip-fumble-recovery in the game and Sharrif Floyd was constantly disrupting plays. Edmond Robinson saw more action in base defense with Anthony Barr out of action, but Chad Greenway had a sack and played well in an increased role. And then Anthony Harris got the nod for the second straight week and did some good things but credit also goes to other members of the secondary for the way they played, including veteran Terence Newman. A lot of players stepped up on the Vikings defense. With no Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph or Harrison Smith, the Vikings are missing arguably the best player on each level of the defense. That would lead to shortcomings for a lot of groups, but the Vikings defense is full of tough, smart and resilient players, and because of that the defense didn't miss a beat and registered an impressive performance.

Danielle Hunter seems to do good things every week but doesn't get as much hype as some of the other rookies. Given he's one of the youngest players in the NFL, would you agree it looks like he has a big future for the Vikings? -- Andrew Grant Mapleton Queensland, Australia

Without question. Hunter is playing as well as any defensive rookie in the NFL right now. He leads all rookies in sacks with 5.0 and he has a tackle for loss (TFL) in seven of the last eight games, including six consecutive games. If Brian Robison wasn't also having such a solid season, he probably would've earned a starting role by now. As it is, Hunter will continue to play behind two quality DEs in Robison and Everson Griffen and he'll also remain a key contributor on multiple special teams phases.

Jerick McKinnon was a valuable piece in the passing game. Do you see the Vikings using him in more of a pass-catching back role? -- Cody Carter

Coach Zimmer mentioned in his postgame press conference that the Vikings intentionally featured McKinnon more in this week's game plan. I'm not sure if that was a product of this particular matchup against Chicago, an isolated occurrence or something that we'll see more of going forward. But I do know it was crucial to the Vikings success on Sunday. It was great to see "Jet" find the end zone for the first time in his career. McKinnon has the skill set that makes him an all-around back. He had several physical runs against Chicago where he was finishing by delivering a blow to the defender rather than by taking shots from tacklers. He's also willing in the pass blocking game and, as Cody reference in his question, he's obviously a talented pass catcher (4 receptions for 76 yards and 1 TD on Sunday).

Is it just me or has Teddy been extremely good with the hard count this year? -- Chance Maclin

It's not just you. Mike Zimmer was asked about this during his postgame press conference and even he said Bridgewater is good at using the hard count to draw defenders offsides. On Sunday, the Bears were called for offsides four times. Two of those penalties resulted in 1st downs for the Vikings, one negated a sack and another turned a 3rd and goal from the 8 into a 3rd and goal from the 4. The Vikings scored TDs on each of the drives that included a defensive offsides call against the Bears.

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