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Wild Card Six Pack: What I'm Looking For

The Vikings host their first playoff game since the 2009 season. How can it be a successful one?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Hi kids. How are we feeling? Nervous? Excited? Giddy?

I'm a little bit of all three, to be honest. I feel like I'm 8 years old again, waiting for Christmas morning to come, looking at all the presents under the tree. It feels so good to be back in the playoffs, doesn't it?

I know there's a bunch of folks outside the state of Minnesota who think the Vikings don't stand a chance. With they way they're talking, they almost look at the Vikings winning the division and getting the third seed as a joke of cosmic proportion. They're quick to point out how good Seattle is, and how bad Minnesota is. Yes, Seattle beat our Beloved Purple 38-7 earlier this year, I'll be the first to acknowledge that...but they also lost to the fairly hapless Rams.

Twice. The Seahawks are not unbeatable.

But how can the poor, undeserving, can't get out of their own way Vikings even stay on the field with Seattle? I mean, I guess Mike Zimmer should just forfeit, which will keep everyone in the stands from getting frostbite. Heh. Yeah, YOU go to Mike Zimmer and tell him to forfeit the game.

Look, gather 'round, because I have a secret I want to share with you. But you can't tell anyone else, okay?

The Minnesota Vikings can win this game. Seriously. How? Let's find out.

Don't abandon the running game. It's going to be cold, really cold. And that's going to make running the ball imperative. I don't see either team scoring more than something in the high teens or low 20's for points, so sustaining drives using the ground game is going to be key.  It's going to be important for Adrian Peterson and the ground game to consistently get four or five yards and keep the Vikings offense in manageable down and distance situations. And once they're faced with second or third down and manageable, they need to...

Be effective in the passing game. One of the things that has bothered me the most about the offense and the play calling this year is that the Vikings seem to abandon the short crossing stuff early in the game and transition to a more deep attack. It's weird, because that short and intermediate stuff has worked well almost the entire year when they use it. When it's this cold, it's going to be tough to throw the ball, especially deep routes, so maybe the weather will force the NORV! and the Vikings to go with the short 'catch and run' type patterns. Either way, the Vikings need to play ball control, chew the clock, and keep the defense rested. If they can do that, the defense has a good chance to...

Stop Marshawn Lynch. It hurts to tackle in the cold weather, but the Vikings are more used to this than Seattle. I really feel this gives Minnesota an advantage, even with Marshawn Lynch coming back. He hasn't played in two months, and when you factor in the the extreme temperatures expected on Sunday, I have doubts about how well he'll be able to handle a workload of 20-25 carries. If the Vikings can contain him early, it is going to bode well for the defense in general. With Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, and Harrison Smith coming back and all healthy, I like their chances to do limit Lynch's effectiveness. But if they do that, then it becomes even more critical to...

Keep Russell Wilson in the pocket. Wilson is Fran Tarkenton reincarnated on a football field--the size, the way he scrambles, how he keeps his eyes downfield--I really love watching him play, usually. The other thing about Wilson is that if he can get out of the pocket, he can kill you with his arm or legs, and Minnesota really has to keep him in check on Sunday if they're going to win. A few weeks ago, the Rams did a great job of that by collapsing the pocket up the middle with the guys on the perimeter keeping their contain. And when you get your arms on him, wrap and tackle. But that's not enough, because the Vikings will need to...

Win the turnover battle and convert scoring chances. Whether it's stopping a potential scoring drive with a pick in the end zone, a la Xavier Rhodes last week, or recovering a fumble in plus territory, wludford wrote a great post about how key it is to win turnovers in extreme cold weather games. They'll also need to convert scoring chances into points, even field goals, as he also noted how FG accuracy really drops in these kind of games. I'd prefer six points to three, duh, but I really feel that scoring will be at a premium, and the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins this game. Finally, when the Vikings come out on top, they...

Can't give Mike Zimmer a Gatorade bath. Look, it's going to be like 20 below with the wind chill. If they give him a Gatorade bath, one of two thing will happen. The Gatorade will probably have frozen into a 25 pound block, and when they dump it on his head they'll knock him out cold and give him a concussion. Then he'll get put in the coaches concussion protocol and he might not be able to coach for the divisional game. Or, it won't be frozen, and he'll get wet, cold, come down with double pneumonia in his lungs and get admitted to the hospital.

So don't give Mike Zimmer a Gatorade bath when you guys win, okay? Save it for the Super Bowl win.

Skol Vikings, beat the 'Hawks.