Souhan: Here's 7 steps Vikings need to take for playoffs

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 12, 2013 - 10:27 AM

These moves would be enough to get them into the playoffs in a suddenly wide-open division.

Sunday the Vikings begin a three-game stretch that will propel them into contention or turn the rest of the season into a glorified quarterback tryout camp. Here’s a comprehensive plan that will enable them to make the playoffs in a conference lacking in impressive wild-card candidates:

1. Transition to Josh Freeman as quickly as possible.

Even when Christian Ponder was at his best, he didn’t take full advantage of defenses crowding the line of scrimmage to stop Adrian Peterson. Matt Cassel, while playing well last week, didn’t even take full advantage because he threw inaccurately on deep routes.

Whatever his flaws, Freeman is willing and able to throw deep, and he is working with quality receivers. If the Vikings can force defenses to choose between stopping Peterson and stopping the deep passing game, the offense could become unstoppable.

2. Keep Peterson on the field.

Toby Gerhart is a quality backup, but Peterson is the rare back who can make defenses worry about a handoff or screen pass on third-and-10. He’s not a great pass-blocker; he makes up for that by being a constant threat. Too often offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave pulls Peterson for a play or a series. He should really stop doing that. Peterson is one of the best-conditioned athletes in all of sports. He can stay on the field.

3. Find a role for Patterson.

It’s simplistic to say that rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson should be on the field all the time. Peterson is most productive when running behind fullback Jerome Felton. Kyle Rudolph is a Pro Bowl tight end. Greg Jennings should be the No. 1 receiver, and Jerome Simpson has made the most of his opportunities this season. Put Patterson on the field, and either Felton, Rudolph or Simpson has to come off.

While playing Patterson for a tremendous number of snaps might not make sense, getting him the ball more often when he takes the field is common sense. At the very least, Patterson should be on the field when Felton is not. Patterson might be the second-most-spectacular athlete on the roster, after Peterson. He should play a larger role.

4. Put Bishop on the field.

Vikings linebackers are having a terrible season as a whole. Desmond Bishop might not be the player he once was, he may not even be an every-down linebacker, but he’s good enough to start for this defense.

5. Put Rhodes on the field.

Josh Robinson should not be starting at cornerback in the NFL. Rookie Xavier Rhodes might make some mistakes if he replaces Robinson as a starter, but he’s a superior athlete who will also make positive plays. Robinson is the weakest link on what has been a mediocre defense.

6. Take advantage of the schedule.

The Vikings are coming off a bye. They should be as healthy as they’ve been all season, with the return of cornerback Chris Cook and safety Jamarca Sanford. They’re playing at home against a mediocre Carolina team. They are required to win today.

If they do, they will be 2-3 when facing a terrible Giants team, and perhaps 3-3 when facing the Packers, without injured defensive star Clay Matthews, at home. If the Vikings can win those three games, they will have given themselves some margin for error when they face their toughest stretch of the season.

7. Take advantage of the division.

The Packers look vulnerable, especially without Matthews. The Lions are having trouble keeping their most valuable player, Calvin Johnson, healthy. The Bears just lost starting linebacker D.J. Williams for the season.

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Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 74 4th Qtr 8:28
Memphis 68
Washington 67 4th Qtr 10:14
Chicago 79
Milwaukee 47 2nd Qtr 5:56
Denver 40
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 3rd Prd 6:12
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 2 3rd Prd 17:41
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 3rd Prd
Minnesota 2
NY Islanders 1 2nd Prd 9:57
Dallas 0
Anaheim 1 2nd Prd
Arizona 0
Los Angeles 0 1st Prd 12:12
Edmonton 0
San Jose 9:00 PM
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 2nd Half 0:06
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 58 2nd Half 3:17
Northern Ill 59
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 20 2nd Half
Clemson 21
Texas A&M 23 2nd Half
Florida 26
Kentucky 23 1st Half 3:33
Georgia 24
West Virginia 38 1st Half 2:25
Kansas 22
Auburn 30 2nd Half
Missouri 30
Michigan 34 2nd Half
Northwestern 27
Villanova 12 1st Half 5:02
Creighton 19
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 2nd Half 0:29
Kansas State 57
Texas 79
Fresno State 30 2nd Half
Air Force 24
San Jose St 28 2nd Half
Boise State 48
Nevada 24 2nd Half
Colorado State 37
UNLV 18 2nd Half
San Diego State 26
Wyoming 29 2nd Half
Utah State 28
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9




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