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EAGAN, Minn. — The 2019 finale of Monday Night Football will include one of the best rivalries in the NFL.

The Vikings and Packers will play in Border Battle No. 119 in Week 16, as the teams square off in prime time on Monday night. Kickoff is at 7:15 p.m. (CT).

Minnesota is 10-4 following a convincing 39-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in which the Vikings defense forced a season-high seven takeaways. The Vikings would be a Wild Card team if the season ended today.

Green Bay leads the NFC North at 11-3 and can clinch the division with a win. The Packers have already clinched a playoff berth.

The Vikings need to win their final two games and have the Packers lose out in order to claim the NFC North.

Minnesota can clinch a playoff spot with a win Monday but would also be in with a 49ers win over the Rams on Saturday night.

Here’s a look at the Vikings Week 16 matchup against the Packers:

Passing: Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers put up similar numbers in Week 15 as both quarterbacks led their team to a win.

Cousins completed 19 of 25 passes (76 percent) for 207 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 96.6.

Cousins has now completed 291 of 413 passes (70.5 percent) for 3,481 yards with 25 touchdowns and five interceptions. His passer rating of 111.1 ranks third in the NFL.

Rodgers, meanwhile, completed 16 of 33 passes (48.5 percent) for 203 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. His passer rating was 78.2.

Rodgers has now completed 300 of 474 passes (63.3 percent) for 3,463 yards with 24 touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating of 100.4 is tied for ninth in the NFL.

Rodgers is 12-8-1 in 21 career regular-season starts against the Vikings.

Rushing: The Vikings ran for 137 yards against the Chargers but lost running back Dalvin Cook in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.

Cook, who ran for 27 yards on nine carries, was replaced by Mike Boone, who excelled in that role with 56 yards and his first two career scores on 13 carries.

Ameer Abdullah had 25 yards on five carries. The Vikings were also without rookie Alexander Mattison, who missed the game with an ankle injury.

Cook leads the Vikings with 1,135 rushing yards and 13 scores. Minnesota ranks fourth in the NFL with 135.9 rushing yards per game.

Green Bay ranks 17th in the NFL with 106.6 rushing yards per game.

Aaron Jones had 51 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Jamaal Williams added 26 yards on eight attempts.

Jones has a team-high 830 rushing yards and is tied for the league lead with 14 rushing touchdowns.

Receiving: Stefon Diggs set a new career-high Sunday, as he had four receptions for 76 yards to surpass the 1,000-yard mark.

Diggs now has a personal-best 1,073 receiving yards on 60 catches. He also has five scores.

Kyle Rudolph (48 yards), Adam Thielen (27 yards), Cook (16 yards) and C.J. Ham (13 yards) each had three catches on Sunday. Rookie Irv Smith, Jr., had two catches for eight yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.

Cook has 53 catches for 519 yards, while Rudolph has 38 receptions for 360 yards and is tied with Thielen with six touchdowns. Thielen, who made his return from a hamstring injury, has 30 catches for 418 yards in nine games in 2019.

Davante Adams had seven catches for 103 yards and a score to lead the Packers with more than half of their receiving total.

Jake Kumerow had a 49-yard catch, while Geronimo Allison (19 yards) and Allen Lazard (14 yards) each had two catches.

Adams leads Green Bay with 63 catches for 788 yards, and he has four scores. Williams has a team-high five touchdown catches, while Jones and tight end Jimmy Graham have three scores apiece.

Defense: The Vikings defense was dominant Sunday, forcing a whopping seven turnovers, the most in a game since 1994.

Danielle Hunter had two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, while Harrison Smith had an interception and a fumble recovery. Shamar Stephen and Eric Kendricks forced fumbles, and Ifeadi Odenigbo and Trae Waynes had fumble recoveries.

Odenigbo picked up his fumble and raced 56 yards for his first-career score.

Mike Hughes’ first pick of the season was turnover No. 6, and Anthony Harris capped off the wild day with another interception.

Minnesota is now plus-11 in turnovers, tied for the fourth-best in the league. The Vikings allowed 345 total yards and recorded three sacks by Hunter, Odenigbo and Jaleel Johnson.

Hunter leads the Vikings with 13.5 sacks in 2019, while Harris leads the Vikings with five interceptions.

The Vikings are now 14th with 338.9 yards allowed per game and are tied for sixth in points allowed at 18.5.

Green Bay has allowed 371.3 yards per game, which ranks 23rd. The unit’s 20.2 points allowed per game ranks ninth.

The Packers allowed 415 yards but just 13 points to Chicago at home. Dean Lowry and Jaire Alexander had interceptions for Green Bay, which sacked Mitchell Trubisky three times.

Preston Smith has a team-high 11.5 sacks for the Packers, while Za’Darius Smith has 10 sacks.

Vikings Roster in Photos
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.

Special teams: The Vikings had a mostly solid day on special teams in getting their 10th win.

Dan Bailey missed his first extra-point attempt but made the next two. He was also true on four field goals of 26, 44, 38 and 27 yards. Bailey is now 22 of 24 on field goals (91.2 percent) and 38 of 42 on extra points in 2019.

Vikings punter Britton Colquitt averaged 51.5 yards on two punts and did not record a touchback. He has averaged 44.2 yards per punt this season.

Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson also came up with a big special teams play in the second half when he tipped a punt a play after the grounding penalty. Wilson doesn’t get credit for a block on the play because the ball traveled 26 yards before landing at the L.A. 41.

Mason Crosby made all three extra points Sunday. He is now 16 of 17 on field goals (94.1 percent) and 38 of 38 on extra points in 2019.

Packers punter J.K. Scott averaged 35.7 yards on seven punts, with two of them landing inside the 20-yard line. Scott averages 43.7 yards per punt.

Neither team has a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown in 2019.

A quick glance

Here is the NFC playoff picture as of Monday morning:

1. Seattle (11-3)

2. Green Bay (11-3)

3. New Orleans (10-3)

4. Dallas (7-7)

5. San Francisco (11-3)

6. Minnesota (10-4)

The Saints play on Monday Night Football against the Colts to wrap up Week 15.

The Rams are still in the Wild Card hunt at 8-6. Los Angeles would get in if the Rams win out and the Vikings lose out.

Key games in the NFC playoff field in Week 16 include the following:

-Rams at 49ers (Saturday)

-Cowboys at Eagles

-Saints at Titans

-Cardinals at Seahawks

-Packers at Vikings (Monday)

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Custom Rashod Hill Jersey Large

EAGAN — When the Minnesota Vikings came out of halftime without veteran left tackle Riley Reiff, there was cause for concern.

Not only has Reiff put together a strong season at one of the most valuable positions in the sport but his assignment was largely former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. But experienced swing tackle Rashod Hill came off the bench and allowed zero sacks, zero QB hits and zero pressures (per PFF) in the second half.

“I think Rashod (Hill) has proven to be very versatile,” offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. “He’s our swing tackle, so he has to be ready to go in on the right side, on the left side. You saw in that game he came in and I thought performed pretty well. Riley’s a captain of this team, certainly want him out there. If he’s not available to go, that’s why you have backups that are on point like Rashod like he showed this last week. Rashod is certainly a guy that we’ve leaned on. He’s came in during a game before. He’s come in during the week. He’s really taken the bit as being a player that is always ready to go.”

Monday night’s game wasn’t the first time that Hill has been asked to jump up off the bench and stop a quality pass rusher. Against Philadelphia he entered in relief of Reiff and had the same results: Zero pressures on Kirk Cousins. In 85 total snaps Hill is yet to give up so much as a QB hurry.

“It’s good to have him, he can play both sides,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Need guys like that.”

The Vikings may need him to continue his quality play if Reiff can’t go this week against the Detroit Lions. The starting left tackle missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practices.

For a swing tackle who was undrafted and signed off Jacksonville’s practice squad in 2016, Hill has a good amount of NFL experience. He has 1,400 total snaps, 882 of which have come at right tackle, 493 on the left side and a handful as an extra lineman. Last season he won the starting job over Brian O’Neill — who hasn’t allowed a sack all season — but eventually saw the second-round pick in 2018 take over the starting gig.

Swing tackles who can be trusted on both sides against good competition are hard to find in the NFL. That’s why the Vikings gave him a $2 million deal as a restricted free agent this offseason rather than drafting a replacement or signing someone on the cheap. That decision could pay dividends if he has to start down the stretch as he did in 2017.


— With Ron Rivera out in Carolina, the Panthers are already being connected to Kevin Stefanski as a possible replacement. The Panthers bumped up Scott Turner to offensive coordinator for the final four games in order to give him a shot at being the next OC. If they want to keep him on, that would even strengthen the possibility of hiring Stefanski since the two worked together in Minnesota.

“Excited for him,” Stefanski said. “Never good in this business when people are losing jobs to get an opportunity that way, that’s not the fun way to do it, but any of us and you’re getting your first opportunity to call plays, I think is exciting. I think you have to lean on your assistant coaches. I think he has a really group down there to help him out.”

— The Vikings drafted Armon Watts with hopes he could be a development project. With the few opportunities he’s gotten due to injuries, the former Arkansas DT has been a noticeable presence. With Linval Joseph coming back quickly from injury, we may see more of Watts in the rotation.

“He’s really done a nice job in the run game,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “He’s done a nice job. He tipped a pass last week that ended up going for an interception, so he’s really shown an ability to be able to go and adjust and adapt to what it is we’re asking him to do. He’s been pretty successful with what we’re asking him to do.”

— With the Bears beating the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football, all of the sudden Week 17 between the Vikings and Bears looks more interesting. Chicago is still 1.5 games back of the Vikings but the Bears would have a tiebreaker because of the Week 4 game at Soldier Field. Chicago plays Green Bay next week with an extra few days rest.

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Custom Ifeadi Odenigbo Jersey Large

CARSON, Calif. — Of all the teams to root for growing up, Ifeadi Odenigbo was a Chargers fan because he liked Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and longtime quarterback Philip Rivers.

The Vikings defensive end played his first game against his childhood team Sunday and delivered the highlight of a lifetime when he scored on a game-changing, 56-yard fumble return at the end of the first half.

“It was pretty cool. That was my first-ever career touchdown,” Odenigbo said. “Never got one in high school. Never got one in college. Being able to get one in L.A. is pretty neat.”

Minnesota led 12-10 at the time of the touchdown. By the time Odenigbo crossed the goal line with just seven seconds left in the second quarter, the Vikings had put their stamp on the game.

“That was a big play. He hustles all the time, so that was great for us,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said of Odenigbo. “The game was kind of going back and forth at that point, so for us to get that right before the half was really big.”

Multiple Vikings had a hand in the play, beginning with Danielle Hunter.

The defensive end breezed past Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, who attempted to chip him, before powering through right tackle Sam Tevi and knocking the ball out of Rivers’ hand.

“I didn’t even notice the chipper,” the 6-foot-5 Hunter said of the 5-10 Ekeler. “I was locked in on the tackle. We knew [Rivers] was going to try to get the ball out quick so we went with our quickest rush.

“I went to power to make him hold the ball. I reached for the ball and the rest happened,” Hunter said.

The Chargers began the play with the ball at the Vikings 26-yard line. But by the time Hunter knocked it away, the pigskin had rolled back to the Vikings 40.

Ekeler raced back to corral it, only to be brought down by linebacker Eric Kendricks, who kept the play alive by knocking the ball away.

“I was a tackler on that play,” Kendricks said. “I was kind of on the sideline, so I knew he was going to jump and get the ball. I held him by the waist.”

Kendricks wasn’t credited with a forced fumble on the play … much to his chagrin.

“It wasn’t? I feel like he had possession,” Kendricks said. “I waited until he picked it up and then knocked it out.”

Odenigbo, who has missed a chance to get the ball immediately after the fumble, then pounced on the ball at the Vikings 44.

“I saw the ball there and I thought, ‘Alright, I get a second chance.’ I was fortunate enough to pick up the ball,” Odenigbo said.

Hunter’s force had started the play, and now his speed was about to extend it, as he raced downfield and threw a block on left tackle Russell Okung at the Chargers 35.

“I knew there was going to be at least one dude in front of him,” Hunter said. “I saw the dude and ran with all my might to block him. I knew if we blocked him, then Ifeadi would be able to score.”

Postgame Celebration Photos From Sunday’s Win Over The Chargers
View postgame celebration images that followed the Vikings win over the Chargers.

The defensive end had thwarted both Chargers offensive tackles on the play … and now Odenigbo was home free.

“I didn’t even realize that,” Hunter said of beating both Tevi and Okung. “I’m glad that happened … I’m happy for [Odenigbo].

“It was his first touchdown,” Hunter said. “When we play together, things like that happen.”

Odenigbo then cruised into the end zone, one of four fumble recoveries and seven total takeaways by the Vikings defense on Sunday.

“I saw Danielle put in an excellent block. I was fortunate to score the touchdown but it was good, complementary football,” Odenigbo said. “Coach Zimmer always harps on pursuit and effort, and that was quite the effort from Danielle and EK.”

The Vikings went into the half up 19-10 after Odenigbo’s massive score. They then dominated in the second half as they outscored the Chargers by a 20-0 margin.

But if you’re looking for a turning point in Sunday’s game, it came when Hunter knocked the ball loose, Kendricks kept the play alive, Odenigbo picked up the rock, Hunter threw a block and Odenigbo coasted right into the end zone.

Said Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins: “Ifeadi’s touchdown at the end of the half was the play of the game.”

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Custom Adam Thielen Jersey Large

For the past few weeks, the Minnesota Vikings have been making a push towards the NFC playoff bracket without the help of one of their top wide receivers.

With the way Kirk Cousins has been playing for the Minnesota Vikings during the team’s past few games, it’s easy to forget that he’s been doing it all despite not having Adam Thielen to throw to.

Thanks to a hamstring injury, Thielen hasn’t been on the field for more than 10 offensive snaps since the Vikings’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6.

The hope was that he would be healthy enough to return last week when Minnesota took on the Seattle Seahawks. However, Thielen’s hamstring clearly wasn’t ready and the Vikings decided to also hold him out of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.

According to a recent report, however, it seems like Minnesota is looking at their upcoming matchup in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers as the time in which Thielen will return to the field.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday that the Vikings and their receiver are, “optimistic (Thielen) can be on the field,” next week in Los Angeles.

Hopefully, the Minnesota receiver is as close to full health as possible and his preparations for Week 15 don’t end up with him suffering another setback with his hamstring. The Vikings have two very important divisional matchups to close out the season coming up and they could certainly use Thielen’s help in these two games.

Should Minnesota attempt to have the veteran receiver return in Week 15 against a Chargers team that only has five wins this year? The Vikings could likely get a win in this matchup without Thielen, but if he’s healthy enough to play, he should be out on the field.

Minnesota doesn’t know what the future holds and their goal for now is to just make sure they come out with a win in each of their final three games of the season. Having Thielen back in the lineup would definitely make this goal much easier to achieve for the Vikings.

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Custom Stephen Weatherly Jersey Large

A tennis ball flies through the air, followed closely behind by two streaks of white fur.

Gravel sprays from beneath their dogs’ paws as they race each other across the fenced-in play area.

A first glance might lead one to believe that the pups share a bloodline, but a closer look reveals distinct differences between the two.

There’s Orion, a Siberian Husky who struts a sleek build and has silvery-blue eyes and a majestic, curled tail.

Atlas, meanwhile, has dark brown eyes, the tell-tail (pun intended) backend of a German Shepherd and large ears that stand at attention.

Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly got both as puppies in Nashville, Tennessee, and chose their names based on his love for Greek mythology.

“Orion was first. I really liked the name; I used it in a project that I had in college for a line of mineral water,” Weatherly explained with a chuckle. “And then Atlas, same thing, Greek mythology.”

Purple Pups Photos: Stephen, Atlas & Orion Weatherly
View photos of Vikings DT Stephen Weatherly and his dogs Atlas and Orion who are featured in this segment of Purple Pups.

At the time of this interview, Weatherly had his eye on a white cat at a nearby shelter. Although it didn’t end up working out to adopt the feline, he already had a name picked out: Adonis. For the “trifecta,” he explained.

Maybe someday.

Weatherly points out that while their variances in appearance may be subtle, the contrast in personalities is much starker.

Orion loves to be the center of attention and shows off a craftier demeanor, according to his owner.

“He’s very mischievous, and he does things on purpose. He knows how to open doors,” Weatherly said. “He doesn’t get into anything unless he feels like he’s being disrespected. He’s very much that kind of guy.”

Weatherly first noticed Orion’s “evil-genius side” early on when he realized the puppy was feigning an injury.

“He would fake limps on walks so he wouldn’t have to walk anymore,” Weatherly laughed. “I thought I had hurt him because he was like 12 weeks and wouldn’t walk and started limping, and I’m like, ‘Oh my [gosh], I’ve over-walked him. This is a problem.’

“So I pick him up, I run inside … and poured some food into his bowl, hoping he would feel a little bit better, and he sprinted over to the bowl like everything was fine,” Weatherly continued. “So that was his M.O. Also when he was younger, if you ever [scolded] him and flicked your finger at him, not hitting him, but just flick your finger at him, he would immediately start wincing, like winking one eye like you blinded him, so that was also his way to get pity.”

And as for Atlas?

The younger dog is called “a big dummy” by Weatherly.

“But I love him for it,” the defensive end said. “He’s training to be a lap dog; he doesn’t understand personal space at all. He’ll crawl on the bed, he begs, drops his ears. He tries to get as small as possible, which is hilarious because he’s 85 pounds.

“But yeah, this is the evil genius right here, Orion, and Atlas is [his sidekick],” Weatherly added. “Do you remember Pinky and the Brain? Yeah, that’s Pinky, and this is the Brain.”

Both have learned various tricks – they will sit, lie down, shake and stand on their back legs on command – but only Orion takes after his “dad” in the athletic category.

“Atlas can’t catch unless you throw it directly at him,” Weatherly quipped, patting the German Shepherd on the head. “And then still it’s, like, 50-50.”

Continuing to compare the pair of pups, he pointed out that Orion is independent and “only loves me because he knows I control the food.” He explained that while Orion tends to toe the line and require more discipline, Atlas is truly a man’s best friend.

“German Shepherds, just love them unconditionally, and then they’ll love you back,” Weatherly said. “Atlas is a big, loveable protector.”

He recalled an experience in which he and his then-roommate, Vikings running back Ameer Abdullah, were rough-housing.

“Ameer and I were wrestling, and Atlas thought his father was being beat – which I was,” Weatherly admitted. “And Atlas jumped in and kind of nibbled on Ameer.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Interference.

“Nibbled? Nibbled?” Abdullah interjected good-naturedly.

“He gave him a love nip right behind his shoulder,” Weatherly countered.

“I’m probably going to get an infection, I don’t know,” Abdullah said. “And they shed, as you can see.”

He laughed and then added, “No, I love these dogs. They’re great dogs.”

Weatherly concurs.

Although he’s an animal lover in general – he’s been known to babysit turtles, Gnevieve and Gretchen, and enjoys his roommate’s bunny, Benny – he will always be the biggest fan of dogs.

“I had a dog growing up, and being an only child, I feel like that was like my brother in some regards,” Weatherly explained. “I’ve always just loved them. They’re always there. [Whether] I had a great day at practice or a horrible day at practice, they don’t know which one is which. They just love me the same.

“I always tell people that dogs are the only creatures capable of unconditional love,” he added.

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Custom Stefon Diggs Jersey Large

A winning day for students at Early Childhood Academy Public Charter School in Southeast.

“Everybody is getting coats that have been paid for,” said 7-year-old Trenton Lemons.

Look who’s at Early Childhood Academy Public Charter School in SE today! @Vikings player and Gaithersburg native Stefon Diggs is here giving out coats with @OperationWarm . His message to students tonight at 5.

“We thank Stefon Diggs because he gave us coats,” said second grader Jaiden Barrera.

The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver flew back to his hometown to distribute coats to children in need.

“Trying to take that load off of parents who might not have it or who might have it, still just want a little assistance. You know, I just try to do my part,” he said.

A winning day at Early Childhood Academy PCS in SE. “Everybody is getting coats!” said 7-year-old Trenton Lemons. “We thank @stefondiggs because he gave us coats,” said Jaiden Barrera. See the @Vikings player back in his hometown giving out coats & kindness tonight at 4.

More than 70-percent of students at the school are considered at risk and 100-percent qualify for free and reduced lunch.

“We’ve now made it a point to go into underserved areas, underserved schools primarily, and provide coats to these kids in need,” said Chefik Simo of Operation Warm.

The non-profit organization provided nearly 300 coats and the former University of Maryland player helped give them out.

That’s very good especially for people who are cold-natured like me,” said Lemons.

“Yes. So we won’t be sick and it’s cold outside,” said Barrera.

Diggs received sincere gratitude from students and offered them words of encouragement.

“Make sure that you are doing your homework so you can do well in school. I talked to somebody earlier and they said practice makes perfect, can everybody agree with that?”

His audience was in full agreement; happy to receive advice and assistance from a hometown hero.

Diggs lived in Waldorf, Laurel and Gaithersburg before playing football at Maryland and being drafted by the Vikings in 2015.

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Custom Anthony Barr Jersey Large

When the Vikings made a roster move in October that led to a locker being open next to the one for linebacker Anthony Barr, rookie cornerback Kris Boyd swooped in and claimed it.

So, for the past two months, Boyd and Barr have been at adjacent lockers at the TCO Performance Center. The rookie said he learns something just about every day from the four-time Pro Bowl selection.

“I see him as a big brother to me,’’ Boyd said. “He kind of took me in when I got here.’’

Barr is in his sixth season with the Vikings and second as one of six team captains. Since becoming a captain last year, the soft-spoken Barr has sought to be even more of a leader.

After Boyd, 23, was selected in the seventh round of the draft out of Texas in April, he got to know Barr. The linebacker saw something in him.

“His personality is just kind of contagious,’’ said Barr, 27. “He’s got a very positive spirit, a positive vibe. He keeps things entertaining. It’s good to have a younger perspective around some older guys. He keeps things fresh and funky for us.’’

Barr certainly has a soft spot for Boyd. When he learned that Boyd had somehow been left out of receiving a present in a Christmas gift-giving exchange in the Vikings locker room, Barr stepped up and surprised him with a nifty Louis Vuitton bag.

“He was a little hurt on Christmas because I guess he didn’t get a gift, so I felt bad for him,’’ Barr said.

Barr also invited the rookie to join him at linebacker Eric Kendricks’ home on Christmas. Several other veterans also were there.

“It was really cool,’’ Boyd said of Barr presenting him with the Louis Vuitton bag. “I have it posted on Instagram.’’

Boyd has played mostly on special teams this season and has been very effective as a gunner on the punt team. He’s played just 47 snaps on defense, but could be in for more work Sunday when the Vikings (10-5), locked into the No. 6 NFC spot, face Chicago (7-8) at U.S. Bank Stadium a regular-season finale with no playoff implications.

Early in the season, when Boyd wasn’t playing much, Barr talked to him about not getting down.

“I was just trying to keep him calm, understand you know your time is going to come,’’ Barr said. “I told him that you’re a guy who’s going to have a long career in this league and just be patient and enjoy the process.’’

Boyd appreciates the advice he has gotten from Barr. That’s why when a locker opened next to Barr’s in October, he moved from across the room.

“He actually told me not to move, but he was just joking,’’ Boyd said. “We just have a connection. Now that I’m next to him, we chop it up every day.

“If I ever have any questions, he’ll give me tips and information. He’s always telling me to keep my head up and always stay ready.’’

Sunday’s game could provide a good opportunity for Boyd. He anticipates getting some snaps on defense.

“That’s how it’s looking right now,’’ he said. “It would be cool.’’

The Vikings like Boyd’s potential. Defensive coordinator George Edwards said he has continued to get better in practice throughout the season.

“Kris has a lot of speed,’’ Edwards said. “He can get in and out of a cut. The big thing is that schematically, I think this is his first time through.’’

Special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf likes the aggressiveness Boyd has shown on special teams. He leads the unit in tackles.

On Dec. 8, Boyd had a big hit on Detroit’s Danny Amendola on a punt return. Barr was impressed with that play.

“I know the capability he has of being a good player in this league and just want to see him do well,’’ Barr said. “So I’ve got to stay on him.’’

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Custom Laquon Treadwell Jersey Large

So, you’re saying there’s a chance.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, the Vikings have a 6.4 percent chance of making it to Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer posed the hypothetical question during his postgame press conference Sunday, “Why not us?”

Seifert previewed the Vikings-Saints Wild Card game that will take place in New Orleans at 12:05 p.m. (CT) on Sunday. He offered a “reason for hope,” “reason for concern” and the “X factor” ahead of the postseason matchup.

Seifert pointed to running back Dalvin Cook as Minnesota’s reason for hope despite being the underdog entering New Orleans. He wrote:

Running back Dalvin Cook is expected to return after missing two weeks because [of injury]. Cook has … averaged 3.1 yards per carry in his final four games of the regular season. But the Vikings offense runs through his ability to hit the outside zone and to be a productive outlet receiver, and there is optimism that he’ll be fresh and ready for the playoffs.

The reason for concern posed by Seifert is the game’s location. As the No. 6 seed in the NFC, the Vikings will be on the road for the duration of the postseason. Historically, Minnesota has struggled in road playoff games; it won its last one in January 2005, when the Vikings defeated the Packers at Lambeau Field in the Wild Card round.

Seifert called quarterback Kirk Cousins the “X factor” for the Vikings.

For much of the 2019 campaign, Cousins has put up career numbers. In nine games, he posted a passer rating of 111 or higher; in five of those contests, his rating was above 133. Cousins finished the regular season 307-of-444 for 3,603 yards, 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

But he has struggled in games, as well, particularly against NFC North opponents Green Bay and Chicago. Seifert pointed out that Cousins’ lowest-production outings this season occurred in Vikings losses.

Minneapolis Miracle makes list of decade’s top 10 moments

As the Vikings prepare to travel to New Orleans for a Wild Card matchup against the Saints, it’s hard to forget the last time the two teams met in the postseason.

NFL International’s Neil Reynolds recently compiled what he believes to be the league’s 10 most memorable moments of the decade. No surprise, he included in the mix the Minneapolis Miracle, which lifted the 2017 Vikings over the Saints in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Reynolds wrote:

The 2017 playoffs were full of drama … and few games have ever ended in as shocking a fashion as the Divisional round game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. All hope seemed lost for the Vikings as they prepared to take the game’s final snap from their own 39-yard line trailing 24-23. Case Keenum heaved up a prayer, Stefon Diggs caught the ball and when [Saints CB Marcus Williams] overplayed it, the receiver ran down the sideline to complete what became known as the Minneapolis Miracle. In our Sky Sports studio, it was sheer pandemonium as [NFL RedZone’s] Scott Hanson nearly lost his voice as he screamed and hopped around like a small child on Christmas morning. He was not alone. It was a special moment as we saw the first playoff game in NFL history decided by a touchdown as time expired.

Reynolds also included a handful of Super Bowl moments, including the Patriots comeback to upset the Falcons in Super Bowl LI and “The Philly Special” that saw the Eagles win Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium.

And don’t forget the Miracle in Miami, when the Dolphins defeated the Patriots in crazy fashion in December 2018. The wacky ending happened just over a year before Miami upset New England once again, this time at Foxborough on Sunday to knock the Patriots to the No. 3 seed.

Craig highlights rookies Hollins, Watts in postgame takeaways

After every Vikings game, Mark Craig of the Star Tribune posts five takeaways from the contest.

In the wake of Sunday’s narrow loss to the Bears, during which Minnesota played mainly its reserves, Craig highlighted the performance of Vikings rookies Alexander Hollins and Armon Watts.

Craig urged Vikings fans to “keep an eye” on Watts, whom Minnesota drafted in the sixth round out of Arkansas. He wrote:

The 6-5, 295-pounder was [inactive] for nine games. Then he played seven snaps while notching half a sack in the win at Dallas. Then he played 11 snaps at Seattle while batting the pass that Anthony Harris returned for a touchdown. Sunday was Watts’ seventh game and his first start. He didn’t disappoint. He had a sack, a forced fumble and was the key force in stopping Mitch Trubisky for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 42.

“I was just thinking get penetration, knock [center Cody Whitehair] back as much as I can,” said Watts, who gained perfect leverage. “I think I’ve made the most of some opportunities this year.”

Of Hollins, Craig said that he “packed a wallop” in his first significant playing time.

The longest reception of Sunday’s game was a 35-yarder by Alexander Hollins. All 166 pounds of him. The undrafted rookie out of Eastern Illinois spent Weeks 2-12 on the Vikings practice squad before being added to the active roster Dec. 2. Sunday was the fifth game he’s played, but his two catches for a team-high 46 yards were his first two in the NFL. Meanwhile, former No. 1 draft pick Laquon Treadwell also played and was held without a catch on two targets. The 6-1 Hollins, who caught 80 balls as a senior, made a nice read and adjustment on the 35-yarder.

“It’s a play we run on the quick,” Hollins told Craig. “I saw man-to-man, so I knew where to go based on that. Sean [Mannion] threw a good ball, and I helped the team.”

Hollins’ other catch was an 11-yarder on third-and-7.

Craig’s other three game-day observations delved into Mannion’s performance at quarterback, Kris Boyd’s ability to “get under the skin” of Bears receiver Allen Robinson II and the comeback of tackle Aviante Collins, who has missed significant time to injury the past two seasons.

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EAGAN, Minn. — Friday’s Injury Report – The Vikings have released the statuses for the injury report following practice on Friday.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks (quad), and running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder) have been ruled out for Sunday.

Running back Alexander Mattison (ankle) safety Jayron Kearse (foot) and cornerback Mackensie Alexander (knee) have been ruled questionable.

Thursday’s Injury Report – The Vikings held their first full practice of the week at the TCO Performance Center on Thursday on advance of the game against the Bears on Sunday.

The injury report was identical to the report from Wednesday’s estimation following the walkthrough.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks (quadriceps) is the only Viking who was listed as a non-participant in practice.

Both running backs Dalvin Cook (shoulder) and Alexander Mattison (ankle) were listed as limited participants.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (knee) and safety Jayron Kearse (foot) were listed as full participants.

Wednesday’s Injury Report – The Vikings have released Wednesday’s injury report in advance of the last game of the season on Sunday against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Vikings held a walkthrough on Christmas Day, and the practice report is an estimation.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks (quadriceps) is the only Viking who was listed as a non-participant in practice.

Both running backs Dalvin Cook (shoulder) and Alexander Mattison (ankle) were listed as limited participants.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (knee) and safety Jayron Kearse (foot) were listed as full participants.


Table inside Article
Name Position Injury Wednesday Thursday Friday Game Status
Eric Kendricks LB Quadricepts DNP DNP DNP Out
Dalvin Cook RB Shoulder LP LP LP Out
Alexander Mattison RB Ankle LP LP LP Questionable
Xavier Rhodes CB Ankle FP FP FP –
Shamar Stephen DT Knee FP FP FP –
Jayron Kearse S Foot FP FP FP Questionable
Mackensie Alexander CB Knee – – LP Questionable

Table inside Article
Name Position Injury Wednesday Thursday Friday Game Status
Taylor Gabriel WR Concussions DNP DNP DNP Out
Eddie Goldman NT Concussion DNP DNP DNP Out
Akiem Hicks DT Elbow DNP DNP DNP Out
Bobby Massie OL Ankle DNP DNP LP Doubtful
Rashaad Coward OL Knee LP LP DNP Doubtful
Prince Amukamara DB Hamstring FP LP LP Questionable
Bilai Nichols DT Knee – – LP –
To view the full injury report for both teams click here.

Practice Status

DNP – Did not participate in practice

LP – Limited participation in practice

FP – Full participation

(-) – Not listed

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The Vikings weren’t sure what they’d get from second-year cornerback Mike Hughes in 2019.

Hughes tore his ACL midway through his rookie season. He missed offseason workouts, training camp and preseason. He didn’t make his debut until Week Week 3.

As the 2019 season has progressed, so has Hughes’ role on the team.

“For him to miss that time, obviously, was big. OTAs as well,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He is very conscientious, he asks a lot of questions. He wants to be really detailed about his work and he continues to be that way each and every day. I feel like he is feeling much better with it. I think he is still asking a lot of questions about what he should be doing and how he should be doing and things like that.”

Hughes went from averaging 30-35 snaps midway through the season to 46 and 53 snaps, respectively, over the last two weeks.

With Xavier Rhodes’ decline, the Vikings have had to rely on Hughes more and more.

Hughes has a Pro Football Focus grade of just 57.4, a mark that ranks 89th of 126 cornerbacks. That’s not great, but it’s also more than a 10-point increase over Rhodes.

No matter who the Vikings face off against in the wild card round (49ers, Saints, Seahawks or Packers), Hughes will play a pivotal role in that game.