This Weekend in NFC Proved 2 Things for Vikings

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The Detroit Lions and San Francisco advanced to the NFC Championship last weekend with pretty damn good — but not elite — quarterback play.

Jared Goff will represent Detroit next Sunday, while Brock Purdy will hope to shake off some cobwebs present versus the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers prevailed on Saturday, but Purdy wasn’t very crisp.

This Weekend in NFC Proved 2 Things for Vikings

The weekend’s two NFC playoff games also proved a couple more things applicable to the Minnesota Vikings, and thankfully, the franchise already has the items in-house. And that’s in addition to the Vikings [maybe] employing Kirk Cousins at quarterback, whose resume belongs in the same category as Goff and Purdy.

1. A Totally Productive TE

This prerequisite actually applies to the entire NFL at the moment, not just the NFC. Have a look at the landscape of the remaining playoff teams and their tight ends:

  • Detroit Lions = Sam LaPorta
  • San Francisco 49ers = George Kittle
  • Kansas City Chiefs = Travis Kelce
  • Baltimore Ravens = Mark Andrews + Isaiah Likely
Proved 2 Things
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See a pattern? You should. The teams alive in the tournament emphasize or invest in a premiere tight end. There are no exceptions. All the clubs left in the dance did not skimp at tight end while roster-building last offseason. LaPorta, Kittle, Kelce, and Andrews are a foursome of Pro Bowl tight ends.

Thankfully for the Vikings’ sake, they employ T.J. Hockenson. So, assuming that Minnesota produces a productive offseason via free agency and the 2024 NFL Draft, it has the firepower at TE to be included in the who’s who of the NFC.

The Worst Confirmed
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Hockenson may not be available when the 2024 season kicks off — Detroit Lions safety Kerby Joseph busted his ACL a month ago — but if the Vikings can keep the 2024 campaign afloat until his return, the team would, in theory, have a healthy Hockenson at playoff time.

2. Defense

Detroit’s defense wasn’t gangbusters throughout the regular season, but it stiffened versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 49ers defense has all the defensive personnel necessary to be elite but curiously finished 2023 with a whimper on defense. Like the Lions, though, San Francisco’s defense did the trick against the Green Bay on Saturday night.

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The Chiefs had just enough defensively to keep Josh Allen and friends out of the endzone on the final drive of the Divisional Game on Sunday, and that made all the difference in the world. Bills kicker Tyler Bass missed a game-tying field goal, and that was that. Finally, Baltimore’s defense did the trick against Houston and has played elite all season.

going to stick
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For the Vikings? Well, Brian Flores turned the ship around in one year. It just doesn’t entirely feel like it for fans right now because the group stumbled down the stretch of 2023. In 2022, the Vikings ranked 24th per defensive DVOA. Flores came along and dragged the unit to 11th-best per defensive DVOA in one year.

Minnesota is on the right path defensively, and the 49ers + Lions proved last weekend that at least some semblance of timely defense is required.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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