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Jim Souhan

Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene

Souhan: Vikings not good enough again, and this time it hurt

This is a file-at-the-final-gun blog. My real column, and all of our team coverage, will be available later at startribune.com and in the morning paper.

Philadelphia -

Maybe Marcus Williams should have made that tackle.

When the Saints safety somehow missed Stefon Diggs at the end of the divisional playoff, Diggs' miraculous 61-yard touchdown erased a Vikings collapse and vaulted the team into the NFC chanpionship game.

From the late in the third period of that game through the beginning of the fourth period on Sunday, the Vikings were outscored 62-19.

They weren't good enough to win without help against the Saints. They weren't good enough to compete against the Eagles, giving up 38 unanswered points after scoring a touchdown on their first drive.

The Vikings have lost their last six NFC title games. In their last two NFC title games on the East Coast, they were outscored 79-7.

The NFL's top-ranked defense should be embarrassed by its performance on Sunday, but the loss quickly shifts the conversation to quarterback. Case Keenum was not effective in the second half against the Saints until Williams' missed tackle, and he wasn't effective against the Eagles after the first drive of the game.

There is a reason the Vikings never publicly committed to Keenum. They aren't sure he's their best quarterback. But their other current options, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater, have problematic knees.

The last two weeks, Mike Zimmer's defense stopped stopping offenses. In a way, each of the last two seasons have ended with versions of collapses.

The 2016 Vikings won their first five games, then went 3-8.

The 2017 Vikings became the second team in franchise history to win 13 games, then survived the Saints only because of a bizarre missed tackle, and did nothing to survive a team featuring a backup quarterback considered the weakness of the team.

Souhan: Re-seeding the Vikings and NFL playoffs

My view of the strength of the final four teams in the NFL playoffs, regardless of game site:

1. New England Patriots

Have allowed the fewest points in the NFL since Oct. 1 and thrive on offense under almost all circumstances. As long as Brady and Gronk are healthy, they are the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

2. Minnesota Vikings

I thought going into the playoffs that they were the strongest team in the NFC and that hasn't changed, even though they required a miracle to win on Sunday. They are the most balanced of the remaining teams. The biggest question is whether their defense's struggles in the second half against New Orleans were indicative of an ongoing flaw. Mike Zimmer blamed himself for becoming predictable.

3. Philadelphia Eagles

If Carson Wentz had remained healthy, the Eagles might be No. .1. But he didn't and with Nick Foles the offense is limited.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

This team reminds me of the 2012 Vikings, who were built around Adrian Peterson and asked Christian Ponder to merely convert short-yardage third downs. This Jacksonville defense may be better, and more physical up front, but the Patriots are likely to take away everything they like to do.

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