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Monday Morning Mailbag: Vikings Take the NFC North

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Wow, what a win. Congrats to the Vikings on taking the NFC North. As a long-time fan, I couldn't be happier. Now we progress to the next step to get deep in the playoffs. What do you think the Vikings need to do to beat Seattle at home?

-- Mike B.

Goodwin, SD

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I don't usually look at time of possession as a critical variable in determining wins and losses, but it may be a more important factor than usual for the Vikings next Sunday against Seattle. The Vikings lost the time of possession battle by 11 minutes in Green Bay but they were still able to hold Green Bay to 13 points. Holding Seattle to 13 points while losing the time of possession battle in that fashion will be much more difficult. The Seahawks are 6-1 since Week 11, and in that time they rank No. 1 in time of possession and in 3rd down offense, and they rank No. 2 in scoring offense at 32.0 points per game. QB Russell Wilson has been on fire in that span, ranking No. 1 among all QBs in TD passes (24) and in passer rating (132.8). I'm sure Mike Zimmer and his defense will have a solid plan to execute on Sunday, but the offense can help by sustaining drives, eating up the clock and scoring points to put pressure on Seattle to keep pace on the road.**

How concerned should Vikings fans be about the play of Stefon Diggs?

-- Daniel S.

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**Any time you are only 2 of 11 on 3rd downs, average just 4.9 yards per play and don't get to 100 yards passing in a game, there are reasons to be concerned. But this is a week-to-week league and there are always reasons to be concerned about something, it seems. Bridgewater and the offense were great the two weeks prior against Chicago and the NY Giants, so it's a matter of identifying what the problems were on Sunday night in Green Bay and then working this week to fix them so the performance is better against Seattle. A fair way to state it is that there are things to clean up from Sunday night's win but there's no reason to think Bridgewater and Co. can't do that in the next six days leading up to kickoff versus Seattle.

How can the Vikings defense do a better job of containing a dual-threat quarterback in Russell Wilson this time? He is playing at a high level at the moment.

-- Markos Tsegaye

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**One talking point I'm sure we'll hear from players and coaches this week is to "rush smart". That means pass rushers must know their assignments on any given pass rush so they don't allow Wilson to break contain and get out of the pocket to buy time and/or tuck the ball and run. I would also take a look at the plan for Aaron Rodgers from Week 17. Rodgers is known for using his mobility to break the pocket, buy time and fire to receivers who become uncovered downfield, but the Vikings were able to contain this aspect of Rodgers' game for the most part in the season finale. I'm sure there are some things the Vikings can transfer from that game plan to the next game plan. But there are also some new things the Vikings could do, so it'll be interesting to see what Zimmer and his staff draw up to try and slow down the hottest QB in the League right now.

Do you think Jerick McKinnon can be his own threat or do you think his success is only coming by way of AP?

-- Mike Dudley

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**Having Adrian Peterson on the roster and on the field makes everyone better because he commands so much of the defense's attention that it typically opens up favorable matchups for other offensive players. But even with that said, McKinnon is good enough in his own right to be a playmaker at this level. A perfect example is a play offensive coordinator Norv Turner dialed up in the Vikings first possession of the game in Green Bay. On the third play of the game, McKinnon lined up in the backfield and then motioned out wide right. LB Jake Ryan followed McKinnon to the outside, and McKinnon promptly ran a go route and created five yards of separation down the field. Unfortunately, Teddy Bridgewater overthrew McKinnon on the play and a missed opportunity happened. But that's an example of how McKinnon can be used and it's different than how Peterson is used.

The Vikings earned the NFC North title because their defense played outstanding the whole night. Last year, Mackensie Alexander looked ok. This year, he's played lights out. Last year, Linval Joseph looked ok. This year, he played lights out. Ditto with Xavier Rhodes. Ditto with Anthony Barr. This year, player after player improved over last year. The one thing that didn't change from this year to last was that the players trusted Coach Zimmer and they played hard for each other. That's why this isn't a fluke. Skol Vikings!

-- Gary

St. Cloud, MN

Zimmer and his staff deserve a ton of credit for the way they've developed the young, talented players that GM Rick Spielman and his staff have collected. And the players deserve credit for the way they've worked to try to improve and for the results they've generated in that effort. It's a fun group to watch. They have a big challenge ahead of them this week and it'll be interesting to see what transpires in a home playoff game on Wild Card weekend.

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