While each of the teams the Vikings must face in the next three weeks all exemplify basic balance, they each do it in vastly different ways.
On offense, the Texans fuel their powerhouse by pounding the rock with Arian Foster and using their devastating zone runs to set up their passes to Andre Johnson and various tight ends. Foster leads the league in rushing attempts with 283, and Andre Johnson ranks seventh in the league in receiving yards. For the Texans, their relatively balanced offense goes through Foster and extends elsewhere, meaning that the Vikings will have to find a way to stop the run without selling out.
Conversely, the Packers will use the pass to create opportunities in the running game, relying on draws to get most of their yardage on the ground. The Packers went away from this tool in the middle of the season, but they have returned to it with great effect, particularly in the last few games. The draw play takes advantage of the looks and personnel packages that Green Bay is often confronted with and usually gashes defenses up the middle for good gains. If the Vikings find a way to limit passing opportunities in a base package or resist the tendency to blitz, they will have found one of the many necessary keys to the game.
But against the Rams, the offense is set up independent of its counterparts. The myriad of running backs that they employ will provide a constantly-changing pace for defenses to deal with, and the passing game will fluctuate based on need more than anything else. The Rams, like the other two teams, aren't afraid to gun it, given that they have attempted the seventh most passes in the air exceeding 20 yards or more. But the receivers they have are well suited for shorter passes in the slot, like Austin Pettis and Danny Amendola. They will attempt to find a way to beat the Vikings without having to pay too much attention to their talent constraints because they are somewhat effective at any number of strategies.
On defense, Houston once again presents a unique, specific situation—they have an extraordinary front seven with the best interior rusher in the league and will provide pressure often in their 3-4 one gap system. The pass pressure provided by their pass rushers will help generate turnovers by forcing the quarterback into bad decisions.
With that, they are tackling machines as well, displaying solid fundamentals and taking away runs to the middle. Their linebackers can excel in coverage, so they also have the ability to take passes away from the middle passing lanes.
On a different note, the Rams do a good job containing runs to the outside and preventing passes from making it to the sidelines. They are more vulnerable to getting gashed when being run at from sideline to sideline. On the second level, their linebackers do a poor job completing tackles—even the ever-popular James Laurinaitis—and they don't flow to the ball. Both defensive ends get pushed out of the run game extremely easily, so getting to the outside isn't much of a problem for quick runners.
The Rams provide a much different egg to crack on defense than the Texans in this respect, once again showing complementary strengths and weaknesses.
In Green Bay, however, the defenses are arranged differently. Their ability to contain the pass is much better than before, not allowing as many yards per attempt as the average team, and matching the Vikings in many respects.
They remain distinct from both the Rams and the Texans, however, with their defensive attitude. The Packers are much more keen to take the ball away, baiting quarterbacks and relying on safety help to shore up their ball-hawking ways. With Charles Woodson likely returning for the Week 17 matchup, this shouldn't be too much of a problem for them.
They don't exceed the Texans in interceptions, but they do play a different style of defense designed to produce a greater reward—using inside leverage to place defensive backs between the quarterback and the receiver.
As a run defense, the Packers are not as well off as the other two teams, but they do have a number of individual players at the second and third level who are generally pretty good at getting to the ball. While many members of the Packers line can be taken advantage of in the run game, the Vikings will need to make sure that their second-level blocks are up to snuff if they want to repeat Adrian Peterson's impressive 210-yard performance.
With three completely different types of teams, the Vikings will have to change gears quickly at the end of the season and plan their offense and defense with greater flexibility than they needed to during the rest of the season, where the Vikings faced a lot of outside man coverage, vanilla zone schemes and one-dimensional offenses.