It is now or never for the Minnesota Vikings and their 2016 playoff chances. Every remaining game this season is a must-win for the Vikings, even this Sunday against the 2-10 Jacksonville Jaguars.
At first glance, this seems like an easy win for Minnesota as the Jaguars have not won a game since Week 6. But this is the Vikings we are talking about and anyone who has spent more than a second rooting for this team knows that almost anything is capable of happening when Minnesota takes the field.
Besides preventing head coach Mike Zimmer from tearing his other eye out this weekend, there are a few things that the Vikings should emphasize in order to ensure a better outcome than what Hillary Clinton had in the state of Florida back in November.
DO – Find someway to make running the ball great again
Since Minnesota does not know if or when running back Adrian Peterson will be coming back this year, the team has to suck it up and make due with the backs they currently have on their roster in Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata.
The Jaguars’ defense is much worse at defending the run than the pass in 2016 so the Vikings have to find a way to exploit this weakness on Sunday. In five of their last seven games, Jacksonville has allowed the opposing offense to gain 100 yards or more on the ground.
Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has done well mixing in different types of passing plays within the offense. But he must shift more of that creative thinking to the team’s rushing offense this weekend versus the Jaguars.
DON’T – Scramble Sam, please just don’t…
Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, the collective hearts of every Vikings fell into their stomachs when quarterback Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game for a few plays at the end of the first half. Luckily he was able to return and did not suffer any sort of serious injury.
But still, what if he was not able to return last week? Minnesota would then be left with the noodle-armed Shaun Hill to attempt at leading the team to the playoffs? Good luck with that.
The Vikings just need to grab Bradford by the shoulders and say, “hey you, that running for a first down thing you did last week. Please do not ever do that again unless you are looking for an early vacation.” If anything were to happen to Minnesota’s starting quarterback, the heap of garbage that this season has already turned into would likely just light itself on fire.
DO – Only bring pressure from the defensive line
This is something the Vikings should have no trouble doing since a majority of their sacks this year have come when the defense has only rushed four or five players.
But since Minnesota will be without safety Harrison Smith on Sunday, it may be smarter for the team to have its linebackers focus more on pass coverage than finding a way to bring down the opposing quarterback. Jacksonville will likely try and test whoever the Vikings have starting in place of Smith and Minnesota has to ensure that Jaguars regret that decision.
DON’T – Get cute on special teams
As one of the Vikings’ most reliable units over the past few seasons, the team cannot afford anymore mistakes from their special teams. A horrible game by punter Jeff Locke and a fumble by wide receiver Adam Thielen were huge factors in Minnesota losing to the Cowboys last week.
If Marcus Sherels ends up missing another game this Sunday, whoever the Vikings have returning punts should just keep it simple and not try to be the game’s hero. If he has to call for a fair catch every time, so be it.
That end result is much satisfying than Minnesota turning the ball over deep in their own territory.