From Comcast SportsNetEDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- One year ago, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier approached the postgame news conference and was ready to bask in the glory of a pre-Christmas victory that snapped a six-game losing streak, even though star running back Adrian Peterson's career was in doubt following a major knee injury.That was then.Now, Peterson leads the NFL with 1,898 yards rushing and is only 207 yards away from Eric Dickerson's single-season record, and is dealing with an abdominal injury. And he says he'll be ready to help Minnesota (9-6) in its bid to earn a playoff spot with a victory over the Green Bay Packers (11-4) on Sunday."To go through all those tough times the last couple years to get back to where we were in 09, to a point be in the playoff hunt and be on the doorstep now; I think the best part for us is, if you really want to prove it, you win this game, you're in," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "This is everything. All the chips are in now. We wanted this. We asked for it. Let's go. Let's not be scared of it, because there's nothing to lose at this point."With Peterson leading the way and trying to become the seventh player in league history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season -- he needs 102 to join the club -- Minnesota has made an unlikely late-season run to control its playoff destiny. The Vikings would clinch a postseason berth with a win over the NFC North champion Packers on Sunday. A loss by Minnesota opens several scenarios, which includes needing losses by the Chicago Bears (9-6), New York Giants (8-7) and Dallas Cowboys (8-7).Peterson sat out the final minutes of Sunday's 23-6 win at Houston, with coach Leslie Frazier calling it a precautionary measure. He finished with 86 yards against the Texans, ending his streak of eight 100-yard games."Adrian is a little bit sore with his abdominal muscle," Frazier said. "We'll have to see how he does this week, how much work that we'll give him as we get ready for this ball game, which will be a huge ball game for our team."The Vikings are also expected to have 14-year veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield available. He suffered a "small" fracture in his hand Sunday. He played through the injury, and would wear a soft cast if he goes against the Packers.
As they prepare for the season, it's time to start looking in depth at what the Bears could look like in 2020.
JJ Stankevitz and Cam Ellis are joined by one of the smartest minds in football media, Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, to discuss and predict what the Bears look like in 2020. The group discusses the QB competition, will the Bears defense improve or regress, and what should Matt Nagy do in terms of his scheme this year.
(2:40) - Nick Foles should be the starter in 2020
(7:45) - Matt Nagy needs to be more predictable in play calling
(15:30) - Have the Bears used and embraced analytics
(22:10) - How easy is the Bears schedule and what will be their record at the end of the season?
(31:00) - Why you should watch the Bears in 2020
Listen here or below.
Under Center Podcast
Ask anyone in Chicago who the standout of training camp 2.0 was and you'll hear one name: Kirby Dach.
“He has all the potential in the world,” Patrick Kane said. “He can be a top player in the league.”
“He’s got the potential to be a great player in this league and a great player for the Blackhawks for a long time," echoed Brent Seabrook.
Upon hearing this enormous praise from a pair of three-time Stanley Cup champions and joining the hype train myself, I couldn’t help but think: Are we putting unfair expectations on a kid who’s still only 19?
The answer: Nope. Because he can handle it.
Dach looks like a completely different player after finally having an “offseason” to recharge, both mentally and physically. And it’s showing in the postseason.
Through three games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, Dach has four points — all assists — and a team-best plus-4 rating; in total, he’s been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks’ 13 goals so far. He became the first Blackhawks rookie to register at least one point in his first three postseason games since Eddie Olczyk in 1985.
All those numbers are great, but here’s the eye-opener: Dach is averaging 20:21 of ice time in the postseason, which trails only Patrick Kane (22:21) among team forwards. He led all Blackhawks forwards with 23:21 of ice time in Wednesday’s Game 3 comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers, which was, by far, a career high for Dach, who averaged 14:16 of ice time during the regular season.
The Blackhawks are giving him an enormous amount of responsibility, whether it's top-six minutes at even strength, power-play time on the first unit and penalty kill reps. And Dach is handling it about as well as you could ask for.
"He loves responsibility and he thrives on it," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We knew, based on how he looked in training camp, that he was ready to take a bigger role here. He's been great. He's been as advertised."
Dach isn't just making an impact on the scoresheet, either. He's doing the little things right, too.
Olli Maatta scored the first goal in Game 3 after his shot from the point got past Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but that puck doesn't go in without the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Dach wreaking havoc in front of the net. Those plays don't go unnoticed inside the locker room.
"It shows that the coach trusts in your abilities to get a job done," Dach said of the added responsibility. "And as a player, it's a welcoming challenge. You want to be put in those situations and succeed in them."
One of the main reasons why the Blackhawks selected Dach third overall in 2019 was because of the way he elevated his game in the Western Hockey League playoffs. He was the engine for the Saskatoon Blades and the focal point for opponents yet thrived off the attention.
“He does all the things that can wow you, but then he does the other stuff, too," GM Stan Bowman said the day the Blackhawks drafted Dach. "He was great at stripping pucks, he was great at backchecking, he was great at the physical play when the series got pretty intense in the playoffs and it was clear they were targeting him. He not only took it, he gave it back. It was impressive to see him raise his game at a time of year when it matters most, which is playoff hockey.
"You watch the NHL playoffs and you see how intense it can be and then you look at the way he plays, and you can see that that game translates."
It sure does.
Whether he can be a big-time point producer in the NHL remains to be seen, but it's clear Dach is the kind of player whose game is better suited for the playoffs than the regular season. And we're seeing why.