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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Cleveland 4 Suspended
Kansas City 2
Baltimore - W. Chen 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Pineda
Kansas City - D. Duffy 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
Seattle - J. Paxton 6:07 PM
Toronto - J. Happ
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt 6:08 PM
Detroit - K. Lobstein
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Houston - N. Tropeano 7:05 PM
Texas - D. Holland
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
Arizona - J. Collmenter 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 0 2nd Prd
NY Rangers 0
Detroit 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Washington 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
St. Louis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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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 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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