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Bleacher Report – Vikings

What can the Vikings learn from each playoff team?

By Matthew Coller

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The NFL postseason kicks off on Saturday and the Minnesota Vikings, like you, will be watching on TV instead of participating. As we continue to dig through what went wrong in the 2016 season, let’s have a look at what went right for some of this year’s playoff teams and how the Vikings can emulate their successes.

Wild card round

Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans

The Raiders used a three-man rotation at running back with Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard and totaled 1,746 yards rushing, 573 receiving and 19 touchdowns. They averaged 4.8 yards per carry and caught 79 passes. Basically, the trio was LaDainain Tomlinson in his prime. The total cost for this incredible production: $1.7 million.

The lesson here should be pretty clear: The Vikings do not need to invest a huge amount of their cap to get great results from the running back position. Oakland’s rushing and screen-pass success has a lot to do with their top-notch offensive line. That’s where the Vikings should spend their money instead of on Adrian Peterson.

As for the Texans, well, hug your quarterback. Houston signed Brock Osweiler to a contract that will result in a $19 million cap hit next season and he made a great case for being the league’s worst QB1. Teams, including the Vikings, always need to keep in mind what the replacement level production for a quarterback would be versus the commitment in length and cash they are making. Not that Osweiler is a cautionary tale for Sam Bradford, but the Texans are an example of what can happen by going all-in on a meh quarterback.

Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Only about 15-20 starting NFL quarterbacks are competent, so the backups are usually abysmal. But if there’s a case for the Vikings making sure they sign a proven fill-in, it’s Miami’s Matt Moore. After Ryan Tannehill went down, Moore won two of three starts, threw eight touchdowns, three interceptions, averaged 8.6 yards per attempt and posted a 105.6 rating. He hasn’t played this much in a long time, but when Moore got extended starting time back in 2011, he had a solid 7.2 YPA and 87.1 rating. Assuming Teddy Bridgewater isn’t healthy enough to start the year as the backup, the Vikings should poke around for a good just-in-case option (as they had in Shaun Hill).

The Steelers tell us that the benefits of an elite quarterback stretch beyond Ben Roethlisberger’s play. If you have a QB in place for a decade, you can focus draft and free agency on every other position. There isn’t really much to learn here, rather it speaks to the ripple effect of Bridgewater going down with a career-threatening injury.

Detroit Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks

Oh, what a difference an offensive coordinator makes. Since Jim Bob Cooter took over the Detroit Lions’ offense, Matthew Stafford has this stat line (via Football Reference):

As the Vikings assess their options at offensive coordinator – whether it’s Pat Shurmur or somebody else – they need to keep in mind that matching quarterback skills to the right scheme can be the difference between mediocre and good quarterback play.

It is a very tough task to maintain an elite defense year after year, which is what the Vikings hope to do. The Seahawks have shown that it is possible as they were third in the NFL in points again. However, there are some cracks in the foundation. They ranked 17th in yards per attempt in the passing game and 15th in Football Reference’s “Expected Points” stat in pass defense. The Vikings’ takeaway should be: When you’ve got a great defense, every year should be “win now” because it’s really hard to stay at the top.

New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers

There are a lot of similarities between the Giants and the Vikings. New York finished the regular season 26th in points for and second best in points against. Also familiar: Their offense struggled due to two terrible tackles, they couldn’t run the ball and the Giants’ secondary carried them on defense. The importance of slot corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has shown through this season as he ranked as the league’s second best corner by Pro Football Focus. Minnesota should his value take to heart when replacing or re-signing Captain Munnerlyn.

The lesson from Green Bay is that even the great Aaron Rodgers can be affected by his circumstances. Last year, he lost No. 1 receiver Jordy Nelson and set career lows across the board statistically. He’s still a freak show, so Green Bay made the playoffs, but he wasn’t quite the same. This year, with the help of 97 catches by Nelson (and a solid O-line and running game), Rodgers bounced right back to being a top three quarterback.

Divisional round

Kansas City Chiefs

Can you win with a great team around a quarterback who has limitations in his game? The Vikings should be focusing on the Chiefs intently to see if they can finally make a deep playoff run or if they will once again get gobbled up by the top quarterbacks of the AFC.

But that’s not the only takeaway. There might be an argument for keeping Cordarrelle Patterson within the Chiefs’ offensive attack. Tyreek Hill has become an explosive threat in the short passing game and run game for Kansas City. He ran 24 times for 267 yards and three touchdowns to go along with his 61 receptions – which mostly came on screens. Home run threats aren’t easy to find.

New England Patriots

Trade for Tom Brady? An athletic No. 2 tight end who could run successful deep patterns would probably help the Vikings. Other than that. Tom Brady.

Atlanta Falcons

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had an all-time great statistical season and one major reason for that is his success throwing deep. Ryan went 25-of-52 for 995 yards. nine touchdowns, zero interceptions. Bradford attempted 40 such throws, completing 18 for 625 yards, four TDs, zero picks. Of course, the offensive line made a huge difference in the frequency, but Bradford can throw the ball downfield successfully and could do it more often next year if given the chance. The Falcons also improved their O-line during last offseason by signing center Alex Mack.

Dallas Cowboys

Everyone would like to emulate Dallas’s offensive line. But that one goes in the Tom Brady category. The Cowboys spent tons of draft assets and hit on a bunch of picks over a number of years to build up this incredible O-line. It’s not realistic to think the Vikings could do the same anytime soon. If there is a lesson, it might be that experience is overrated and swings at quarterbacks in the draft are worth it, even if they don’t often pan out. If the Cowboys knew how good Dak Prescott was going to be, they’d have taken him with their first pick, but sometimes guys slip through the cracks.

The post What can the Vikings learn from each playoff team? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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