Every Thursday morning we’ll answer your Vikings questions submitted for our weekly Access Vikings podcast and post-game OverTime video.
From @jrm531: Heading into Week 17, who do you have as the Vikings' MVPs? Offensive and defensive, excluding Adam Thielen and Danielle Hunter?
AK: Well, you just took the two MVPs right out of the question. The second Most Valuable Player(s) on offense and defense would go to Stefon Diggs and Harrison Smith. Diggs might finish with the quietest 100-catch season in memory. With six catches against the Bears, Diggs and Thielen become the seventh duo in NFL history with 100 grabs apiece. Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster already became the sixth duo this month. Diggs leads the Vikings in yards after the catch (426) and has had his biggest games against critical opponents (128 yards at GB, 126 yards at CHI, 123 yards at L.A.). Only four NFL safeties have more run stops than Smith's 17, and none have fewer missed tackles than his one this season, according to Pro Football Focus. During linebacker Anthony Barr's three-game absence, Smith started playing more of a hybrid linebacker role in certain situations, which is why the Vikings' run defense didn't drop off much without their downhill linebacker. He's as versatile as they come and an easy selection behind Hunter for defensive MVP.
From @SkolVikingsFan5: The first half of the season Adam Thielen was unstoppable. The same can't be said for the second half. What's the difference? If the answer is simply just rolling more coverage to his side, then is he not as good as some people believe?
AK: Look at the targets. Thielen was averaging 12.25 targets per game during Weeks 1-8, when he tied the single-season record with eight consecutive 100-yard receiving games. In seven games since, Thielen has been targeted an average of 7.6 times per game. Obviously, defenses started giving him more respect after his ridiculous start to the season (which was unsustainable even if you're Jerry Rice). And that pace has predictably fallen. However, Thielen is still fourth in NFL receptions and sixth in targets. His workload should only be questioned when they're floundering on offense and can't rekindle that connection. Like the Week 14 loss in Seattle, when Thielen wasn't targeted until the third quarter and was visibly frustrated on the field. Or the week prior in New England, where Thielen had 28 receiving yards on 10 targets. If Thielen is truly drawing that much attention where he can't get the ball, then Kirk Cousins and company need to adjust and find the yardage elsewhere.
From @BradyEvenson: Does it appear Chad Beebe is in line for the third WR spot now that they've experimented by scratching Treadwell?
AK: It’s obvious the Vikings are high on receiver Chad Beebe’s potential as a get-open-quick option for quarterback Kirk Cousins. It’s an especially helpful talent of Beebe’s this season, because Cousins has needed quick reads behind porous pass protection. But don’t overlook receiver Aldrick Robinson, who had already started siphoning Treadwell’s snaps at the No. 3 spot during obvious passing situations like third downs. Robinson was the third receiver in Detroit with 32 snaps [52 percent], while receivers Brandon Zylstra [6 snaps] and Beebe [4 snaps] played sparingly. It remains to be seen how much Beebe could factor into Sunday’s game against the Bears, but they sent a clear signal to Laquon Treadwell by making him a healthy scratch for the first time since his 2016 rookie season.
From @miller70chev: How many "win and in" games has this franchise had? And what's their record?
AK: Great question, and one I'll defer to NFL researcher Ivan Urena (@Ivan_Urena1), who noted this week the Vikings have controlled their playoff future in a season's final week on 12 occasions, making the postseason 11 of 12 times. Of course, the one absence was the infamous 2003 loss to the Cardinals thanks to Nate Poole and the old "force-out" rule that was eliminated five years later. The most recent "win-and-in" game was the Adrian Peterson-led 2012 finale against the Packers. The Vikings had already clinched a playoff spot before winning the NFC North in Green Bay during the finale of the 2015 season. But the Vikings didn't always win to make the postseason on 11 of those 12 occasions. They backed into the playoffs in 2004, when the Vikings lost four of the last five games but still made it thanks to some help in the final week.