It’s that time of year again; the NFL playoffs are here. The Minnesota Vikings are the three seed in the NFC after finishing an impressive 13-4 under rookie head coach Kevin O’Connell. The Vikings now get ready for a rematch with the New York Giants (9-7-1). Minnesota defeated New York on Christmas Eve 27-24 on a Greg Joseph 61-yard walk-off field goal. With the playoffs this week the question is can the Vikings make a playoff run, even with the way their defense has been playing.
Where Their Defense Ranks At The End Of Regular Season
With the regular season over let’s take a look at where the Vikings defense ranked statistically in a number of categories.
- Total Yards Per Game: 31st – 388.7 yards
- Rushing Yards Per Game: 20th – 123.1 yards
- Passing Yards Per Game: 31st – 265.6 yards
- Points Per Game: 28th – 25.1 points
- Yards per Play: 30th – 5.9 yards
- Time of Possession: 26th – 30:45 minutes
- Third Down Conversion Percentage: 12th – 38.14%
- Fourth Down Conversion Percentage: 3rd – 37.93%
- Red Zone Scoring Percentage (TD Only): 21st – 57.14%
- Takeaways Per Game: 9th – 1.5
No surprise they aren’t great. The Vikings defense was one of the worst in the league. They have seven major categories in which they are in the bottom 12 teams, two in which they ranked 31st. On the other hand, they ranked 12th in opponents third down conversion percentage, third in opponents fourth down conversion percentage and ninth in takeaways per game.
Those are some good categories to be ranked high in. Teams don’t do great when it comes to converting on third and fourth down against Minnesota. They also can get turnovers. At one point around the midway point in the year the Vikings were averaging almost two turnovers a game. They have time-and-time again stepped up big late in close games getting critical turnovers.
The only issue is that teams are keeping it close and piling up both yards and points against the Vikings. They must find ways to limit the number of yards they give up. They must go back to when they held teams in the low twenties while still giving up a bunch of yards. They can’t do both, it’s how you get an early exit from the playoffs. If the Vikings continue to play this way on defense, there’s a good chance they won’t last long this postseason.
What The Defense Needs To Do To Not Be A Liability
Like I stated above, can they get back to not giving up a lot of points? It’s hard to see the Vikings finding ways to limit the number of yards they give up. They need to find ways to hold teams to field goals and not touchdowns when they are driving. Force to take the minimum and not give up the max. It’s how they cannot be as big of a liability.
They can also find ways to get stops more consistently and not allow their opponents to drive the ball and convert big first downs. Find ways to get off the field and keep your offense on it. They also need to get turnovers. This team ranks ninth in turnovers per game with 1.5. They will need to find a way to get at least one if not two or more in each postseason game. Though this is easier said than done.
What The Rest Of The Team Must Do In Support Of The Defense
So, the defense doesn’t look great, and they’ll need some help, just like they’ve gotten all season long. It’ll be up to the offense and special teams to pick up some of the slack of the defense to aid the struggles of their defense.
The special teams on occasion have been able to make some plays throughout the season. You have Kene Nwangwu’s kickoff return against the Patriots on thanksgiving, as well as blocked field goals and punts this year. This team can get a big play on special teams in certain moments. They’ll need to get some to not only help the defense, but also if they want to win some playoff games.
So, what does the offense need to do; besides scoring a lot of points? The offense needs to create long drives that end in points, preferably touchdowns. This is important for two reasons. One, it gives the defense rest. It gives them something that at points they haven’t gotten a lot of. If they can stay fresh, it could help them get more consistent stops on defense. That’s how you beat a Jalen Hurts, a Patrick Mahomes, a Josh Allen. They can’t beat you if they aren’t on the field.
That leads into the second point. Keep the star players on the teams they’ll face on offense on the sidelines. The longer they are there the better chance you have of winning. The more your offense can stay on field and control the time of possession the better it is for you. Wear down their defense and keep your own fresh.
So Can The Vikings Make A Playoff Run?
Yes, they can make a playoff run. Will they? I don’t know. The biggest thing is that they most likely will have to go through the 49ers. I just don’t like that matchup. The 49ers are explosive on offense, even with Brock Purdy at quarterback. The defense is very good and really physical. On paper it doesn’t look good. If the Seahawks can pull the upset, then it could become more likely that Vikings can make a run in the postseason.
The Vikings just need to play consistently, something they have struggled with a lot at times. They play more like lightning in a bottle. If they play up to their potential, they can be dangerous this postseason. Nobody seems to be giving this team a chance and it’s foolish to think that way about a 13-win team. This team has what it takes to make a run and pull off an upset or two along the way, it all depends on what team shows up and it starts this Sunday with the Giants.
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