5 things the Vikings can learn from the 4 remaining playoff teams
The Conference Championship games are just a day away and they are primed to be great. The San Francisco 49ers take on the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Minnesota Vikings had hoped to make it to the final four but they lost to the New York Giants in the wild-card round. They should be watching this Sunday’s games to see how these teams are constructed. The NFL is a copycat league and there are plenty of things the Vikings can take from these teams to help get them over the top.
Here are the top five things the Vikings can take away from Conference Championship weekend.
Multiple dynamic weapons are needed
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When you look at the four remaining teams, they all either have a multitude of diverse and dynamic weapons or Patrick Mahomes, which is the ultimate trump card. Look at the group of excellent weapons on each team.
49ers: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell
Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon
Chiefs: Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster
Eagles: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, Miles Sanders
The Vikings currently only have Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook with the potential with T.J. Hockenson to emerge on that elite level next season. Cook could very well be on his way out next season. They need to add a dynamic receiver to pair with Jefferson in the worst way this off-season.
Have sufficient cornerbacks
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Cornerback is like the offensive line. It’s great to have elite players but in reality, it’s a weak link system. The teams in the playoffs currently have built their secondaries built to be at worst solid. The only team with more than one great player on the back end is the Eagles with Darius Slay, James Bradbury and C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
The Vikings currently have three cornerbacks on the roster that are all viewed as capable starters. If they can add three pieces that are also capable or can develop into such, the Vikings could be in great shape, especially with any form of improvement at defensive coordinator.
Pass rush is vital
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Early on, Za’Darius Smith had his way with opposing offenses, collecting 9.5 sacks in the first eight games. In the final eight that he played, Smith only had 0.5 sacks. Opposing teams had figured out with the Vikings’ predictable defense that they could slide protections to stop both Smith and Danielle Hunter and it proved to work.
All four defenses can both get pressure with just their line and also utilize blitzes successfully. Each team has a dominant pass rusher on the outside along with the ability to generate interior pressure consistently, something the Vikings couldn’t do. To take that step, they need to figure out how to get consistent pressure from across the line.
Build through the trenches
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The Vikings haven’t truly built their team with a real identity. They tried to do a little bit of everything without making any one singular thing a focus. When you look at all four teams remaining, they made the trenches a priority in one way or another.
The 49ers and Eagles have long built their teams through both the offensive and defensive lines and they have two of the best defensive lines in all of football. The Chiefs and Bengals have done so in recent years out of necessity and it’s helped keep them atop the AFC. If the Vikings want to take the next step, they need to be consistent in the trenches.
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Kirk Cousins is a good to great quarterback that ranks somewhere between 8-15 in the NFL. He took steps this year in trying to attack down the field in stead of checking down. Unfortunately, a lot of that credit was lost when he checked it down to T.J. Hockenson with the season on the line.
One thing that Cousins just doesn’t do well is create when the play breaks down. He can on occasion, but it’s not something you can expect him to do with any sort of consistency. Outside of Brock Purdy who has the maniacal genius Kyle Shanahan calling plays for him, the rest of the quarterbacks are all excellent at creating. It’s the main reason why their teams are this close to winning a Super Bowl. If the Vikings want to get themselves to that point, they will need to consider finding a quarterback who is great at creating.
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