Thursday, February 11, 2016

linval joseph

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Vikings Post-Season Awards
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

If there’s one thing Minnesota Vikings fans can agree on, it’s that the 2015 season didn’t end as well as we all hoped (or thought) it would. At 11-5 and atop the NFC North, Mike Zimmer’s team surprised the NFL world, knocking off the Green Bay Packers to storm into the playoffs for the first time since 2009. But Blair Walsh’s missed last-second field goal ended what had been a promising campaign in Minnesota.

Fortunately, it was a season to remember, and a season to build upon in the coming years. With one of the league’s best coaches at the helm and a young roster built to last, the Vikings should stay competitive in 2016 and beyond. Before we jump too far into the offseason though, now presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on a memorable 2015.

We saw rookies outperform their draft positions and 30 year-old running backs lead the league in rushing. We saw a second-year quarterback shine, and often struggle behind a leaky offensive line. More importantly, we saw a team realize it’s potential and exceed expectations. To celebrate the successful season, we’re asking you to hand out awards to the most deserving Vikings. From the Most Valuable Player to the Rookie of the Year, the power to choose is in your hands. Without further ado, here are your VT post-season awards nominees:

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Minnesota will play the Seahawks at full strength

Vikings Inactives Wild Card
Image courtesy of NFL Game Pass

The Minnesota Vikings are near full-health in their most important game of the season, a Wild Card matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. The last time these two teams met, Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith, and Linval Joseph were either injured before the game or left the game early because of injuries. This time around, Mike Zimmer’s defense will be primed to contain Russell Wilson and the red-hot Seahawks offense.

On Friday, the Vikings released the weekly injury report, which listed all but one player as “probable” for today’s game. Defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis is out with an ankle injury, and will be replaced by former practice squad player B.J. Dubose. Below, a look at all of the Vikings’ inactives for Wild Card Weekend:

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Zimmer's blitzes could be the key for the Vikings on Sunday

Vikings Blitz Wilson
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Sifting through recent Seattle Seahawks game film, it’s difficult to find many weaknesses for the Minnesota Vikings to exploit. Russell Wilson is playing at MVP levels, especially as of late. In Seattle’s last seven games, he’s thrown 24 touchdown passes and just one interception, helping him finish the season as the first player in NFL history to record at least 4,000 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, and 500 rushing yards in a single season. Known more for his mobility than his ability from within the pocket, Wilson is thriving as a traditional pocket passer. This season, he’s posted a 118.6 passer rating when throwing from the pocket, which is higher than any qualifying quarterback in the past three years.

When the Vikings and Seahawks met last, Wilson hurt Mike Zimmer’s defense every which way. He scored one touchdown on the ground and threw another three, two of which were 20 or more yards down the field. That game kickstarted his stretch of All-Pro play and helped the Seahawks win six of their last seven games. But that game was also a lopsided affair, one that found the Vikings shorthanded on the defensive side of the ball. Missing three of their most important players — one at each level of the defense — the Vikings surrendered 433 yards to the Seahawks and allowed a season-high 38 points. Finally healthy and playing some of their best football, the Vikings have the chance to upset the Seahawks and win their first playoff game.

But how can they slow down Wilson and Seattle’s suddenly dangerous passing attack? It’s simple — put pressure on the quarterback and blitz.

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How do the Vikings respond in a rematch after a loss?

Zimmer Bounces Back
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

One of Mike Zimmer’s greatest advantages as the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach is his relationship with Bill Parcells, the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the New York Giants. When Parcells took over as the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach in 2003, he kept Zimmer on board as defensive coordinator. Their close relationship began almost 16 years ago and continues stronger to this day, helping to influence the Vikings’ current winning ways.

After every Vikings game, Parcells texts Zimmer a comment, from words of congratulations to an observation or a question, all meant to help and inspire Zimmer. According to Parcells — per ESPN’s Ben Goessling — Zimmer regards the texts as “treasured gold.” That gold has helped Zimmer take one of the league’s worst defensive teams and turn it into a playoff contender. The Vikings, who host the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round of the playoffs this Sunday, finished the 2015 season as NFC North champions and potential postseason spoilers.

If history is any indication, Zimmer’s 2015 Vikings won’t suffer the same fate as Vikings teams of old. These Vikings are a resilient bunch, cut from the cloth of Bill Parcells himself. “They can’t ever call you a loser again, because we’re winners from now on,” Parcells told Zimmer after the Vikings beat the Chicago Bears and moved to 9-5 on the season. His words of relief and accomplishment echoed the same speech he gave the Cowboys after Dallas won eight games in 2003.

It’s a speech to inspire a team that’s lost badly on the national stage, to motivate a group of players that have little experience playing postseason football. Most of all, it’s a speech to inspire confidence and create the belief that the Vikings can beat the Seahawks this Sunday, no matter the previous results.

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Playoffs, Homeboy. As the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings prepare to take on the Seattle Seahawks on the surface of Pluto Sunday, we welcome in Di Murphy (@DiMurphyMN) of The Daily Norseman for her weekly spot to set this mother on fire with Hot Takes.

Besides discussing Making a Murderer (which I do at length), we dive into the deliciousness of winning the NFC North, why this team isn’t satisfied with being one-and-done in the playoffs, how Seattle can get got, how Harrison Smith is a better safety than Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas combined, why the 38-7 beatdown was a fluke, if there’s any coaches in the NFL we’d take over Mike Zimmer, and why fans going to the game Sunday have no right to complain about the cold.

All this and other “Home ” nonsense on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint

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