Minnesota Vikings Week 17 Stock Report
Thanks to two straight home wins, the Vikings have positioned themselves to go into Lambeau Field and steal the NFC North away from the Packers, who have won the division four straight years. Green Bay is 10-5 in 2015 and coming off a disastrous loss in Arizona last Sunday.
In the following slides, we'll look at the risers and fallers for the Vikings ahead of their Week 17 showdown with the Packers.
Rising: QB Teddy Bridgewater
Few are playing the quarterback position better than Teddy Bridgewater over the last three games.
Since the start of Week 14, Bridgewater ranks fifth among NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage (70.4), second in yards per attempt (9.1) and passer rating (123.2), and ninth in touchdown passes (six). He wasn't fantastic against the New York Giants last Sunday night, but he did throw a gorgeous 28-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph to get the Vikings rolling.
After a stagnant start to his season, Bridgewater is now hitting on more big throws than at any point in 2015. He's playing more confident every week, which is a huge development as Minnesota goes into Green Bay and preps for a first-round playoff game. The Vikings can go as far as Bridgewater will take them.
Falling: LT Matt Kalil
Matt Kalil suffered through a triple whammy of negatives against the Giants.
The Vikings left tackle had a false-start penalty that negated a touchdown run, he gave up a sack to Giants defensive end Robert Ayers, and he eventually left the contest with a hurt foot.
Kalil has been much better overall in 2015, but he's still not consistent enough from week to week. If any one factor can derail Minnesota's momentum, it's probably failures along the offensive line. Kalil should be the one player Bridgewater doesn't have to worry about. He needs a more even performance on Sunday against the Packers, who have given Kalil big-time problems in the past.
Rising: Vikings Defense
Yes, the Giants were without star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday night. But that reality doesn't take everything away from the Vikings, who held the sixth-ranked scoring offense to just 10 points through the first 58 minutes of a blowout matchup.
Minnesota sacked Eli Manning four times and intercepted three of his passes, including a pick-six from returning safety Harrison Smith. The Giants also finished 1-of-11 on third down and 0-of-2 on fourth down.
The Vikings are finally healthy again on defense, and it showed against New York. Getting Smith back was especially important, as he's the biggest difference-maker on the Minnesota defense. His impressive ability to attack against the run and create big plays in the passing game might be unmatched at the safety position in the NFL.
Over the next two weeks, the Vikings will play either Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, Rodgers and Kirk Cousins or Rodgers two weeks in a row. Now healthy, the Minnesota defense looks capable again of meeting any challenge.
Falling: CB Terence Newman
According to Ben Goessling of ESPN, Terence Newman was sick and throwing up before last Sunday night's matchup with the Giants. Head coach Mike Zimmer said he should have taken out the veteran cornerback before he actually did.
Newman was in coverage on Rueben Randle's 72-yard touchdown, which saw the Giants receiver get behind the defense and then bounce off a tackle attempt before strolling into the end zone. It was one of New York's only big plays of the contest.
Newman practiced on Wednesday, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. If he can't go against the Packers, however, Minnesota will have to lean on rookie Trae Waynes. Aaron Rodgers might want to attack that matchup.
Rising: RB Jerick McKinnon
It took Jerick McKinnon 25 games to score his first professional touchdown. It took less than one for him to snag his second and roughly eight minutes of gameplay to get his third.
McKinnon put the finishing touches on Minnesota's blowout of the Giants, scoring on a seven-yard rush early in the fourth quarter before jetting off the left side for a 68-yard touchdown with three minutes, 36 seconds left. The second-year back finished with 97 total yards.
The Vikings are finally getting McKinnon involved. Over the first 13 games, McKinnon managed just 203 total yards and zero touchdowns. He's produced 183 yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks.
His speed, toughness and versatility make him tough to handle in a variety of situations. Adrian Peterson needs the football, but so does his backup. McKinnon is a game-breaking talent in his current role.
Rising: K Blair Walsh
Blair Walsh missed his fourth extra point of the season against the Giants, but losing one point is forgivable when you connect on as many big opportunities as the Vikings kicker hit last Sunday night.
Of Minnesota's 49 points, Walsh was responsible for 19. He made five field goals, including two over 50 yards.
With one week left, Walsh leads the NFL in made field goals with 32, and he's second with six makes over 50 yards.
The Vikings would probably like him to be more consistent on extra points, and it's certainly possible a missed point here or there could cost Minnesota a big game. But Walsh's ability to consistently get three points—he's missed just five field goals all season—has turned into a comforting asset.