Let's see how the Vikings' team MVP candidates for the season shape up following their 24-14 win over the Eagles on Tuesday night.
1. RB Adrian Peterson: It's a sign of major progress that Peterson lost his first fumble of the season in Week 16; not four months ago, we were talking about that as the weak point in his game. Another strength in his arsenal: Playing through pain. He excels at that. Witness Tuesday's performance in which he ran for 118 yards on 22 hard-rushing carries and a tough TD run into the pig pile. Peterson tweaked his sore knee right away in the game but still had four rushes of 15 yards or more. Even with a game missed, he has been the Vikings' best player all season long. And the lack of fumbling is just one sign of this progress.
2. CB Antoine Winfield: It is perhaps fitting that Winfield had his breakout game this season the week that Pro Bowl invitations were announced — and that he was not among them. Winfield's season has gone largely overlooked outside of the daily observers of the team, and he was the key difference maker in the upset over the Eagles. It was Winfield's blitzing from the slot, a common theme all night, that really harrassed Michael Vick into one of his worst games of the season. Winfield took him down for an eight-yard sack on the second play from scrimmage then got a strip sack in the second quarter, picking the ball up and running it 45 yards for a game-tying TD. He blitzed more than a dozen times in the game and completely changed the way the Eagles deployed their blocking schemes, resorting to more six- and seven-man protections in the second half when they were trying to come back. Along with his team-high nine tackles, Winfield showed just how good he is … and how few people have noticed.
3. WR-KR Percy Harvin: Although kick returns have been taken off his plate now, Harvin stepped up with a big game as a receiver, giving Joe Webb a go-to target in his first NFL start. Harvin was little short of fantastic on Tuesday, making several tough grabs with his sticky hands and finishing with 7-100 receiving. He had a 46-yard catch that showed his explosiveness and skill, and he surpassed his rookie receiving totals, which is amazing when you consider he missed three games and just how much the team has struggled to throw the ball. Harvin is a major star in the making.
4. LB Chad Greenway: Greenway struggled a little in pass coverage but didn't allow any huge plays on him. He was more effective as a blitzer and helped create a diverse pressure package from several angles. Greenway hit Vick once and caused protection problems another time that led to a sack. His tackle totals have leveled off a bit down the stretch, but overall Greenway has had a nice season.
5. OLT Bryant McKinnie: Considering how badly McKinnie struggled against the Bears, the matchup with Eagles DE Trent Cole looked frightening. But McKinnie played a clean ballgame and dominated Cole on a long run by Peterson. Although he allowed one sack, McKinnie was mostly good in pass protection and had a silent night for the most part. That's a good thing.