With the Minnesota Vikings clinching the NFC North last Saturday and officially earning a postseason birth, we at the Daily Norseman thought it a good idea to look at other playoff teams’ stars and how they are poised to challenge Minnesota.
1) Philadelphia Eagles - Clinched Playoffs: QB Jalen Hurts
While the will-he-or-wont-he-play discussion ramps up for Hurts considering his status versus the Cowboys on Sunday, Philadelphia’s QB1 remains a without-a-doubt MVP candidate.
Hurts hasn’t been ruled out of the matchup against Dallas, but many Eagles fans are hoping the Eagles give him a rest and hand the ball to Gardner Minshew. The speculation on having him available seems to be a strategy meant to force the Cowboys to be unsure on which QB they will be facing.
The fact remains that Hurts will play in the postseason.
While only ranking 10th in total passing yards this year, with 3472, Hurts is poised to break Cam Newton’s record of 14 rushing touchdowns handily, needing only 2 more ground scores across his remaining 3 games.
Hurts played, and decimated, the Vikings during a week 2 matchup scoring two on the ground while rushing for 57 yards on 11 attempts in a 24-17 contest. Hurts also racked up 333 yards by going 26 for 31 with a touchdown through the air.
If the Vikings run into the Eagles, which will more than likely be the case, they will need to make the most of their second chance to get at Hurts.
2) San Fransisco 49ers - Clinched Division: DE Nick Bosa
While the Brock Purdy circus remains full-tilt, perhaps the 49ers' best player, or at least the one most likely to throw off QB Kirk Cousins, is found on the other side of the ball.
Nick Bosa has been a revelation yet again this season for the Niners and their first-ranked (by points scored) defense this year. Bosa has 15.5 sacks, leading the NFL while adding a forced fumble.
While his sack numbers are impressive, Bosa is also second in the league in QB pressures with 47. While the Vikings' O-line has arguably performed better this year (at least when it has needed to), Cousins has been sacked 40 times, 4th most in the league.
That should give Vikings fans some worry if the Vikes and the Niners were to face off in the postseason.
3) Dallas Cowboys - Clinched Playoffs: RB Tony Pollard
Vikings fans, I’m sorry for writing this. I’ll try and make it quick.
Dallas simply had their way with Minnesota in week 11. It wasn't pretty. CBS switched the game off.
Nowhere was it more ugly than the way Dallas simply ran Minnesota off its own field. Tony Pollard undoubtedly led the track meet with 2 receiving touchdowns, one of 30 yards and one of 68 yards. He added 80 yards on 15 rushing attempts (20 yards longest) while being targeted 6 times for 109 receiving yards.
Pollard is averaging 5.5 yards per attempt, 6th best in the league. Pollard also is in the top 10 of rushing yards (#8, 969) and TDs (#8, 9). Combined with Ezekiel Elliot and QB Dak Prescott, one has to wonder if the Vikings' defense will get flashbacks if they were to meet him in the playoffs.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - In the Hunt: QB Tom Brady
While the NFC South has sure been unimpressive this year, Tommy Touchdown still has his touch, leading the NFC in passing yards.
While those yards have not directly translated to scores, with Brady only ranking 13th in the league in passing TDs with 20, it remains as hard as ever to doubt Brady.
No one is more likely to throw the ball either, with the 45-year-old still leading the league in attempts with 623. With a still-potent Julio Jones, the Buccaneers' pass game is still a force to be reckoned with for opposing defenses with Brady throwing the ball.
Even with his age and the bucko defense considered, nothing can count out Brady in a close game. If the Vikings were to run into Brady, it would be the first time he would have a playoff game against the Vikings, and no vikes fan wants to see postseason Brady lined up against a defense that remains unproven.
After all, he is the most recent QB to receive a championship ring.
Honorable Mentions: QB Jared Goff - Lions, QB Brock Purdy - 49ers, WR CeDee Lamb - Cowboys, WR AJ Brown - Eagles, LB Haason Reddick - Eagles, S CJ Gardiner-Johnson - Eagles.