NFL Playoffs: Minnesota Vikings’ Secondary in Trouble without CB Antoine Winfield

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Getting burned deep, it’s something the Minnesota Vikings secondary has rarely been guilty of this season. Playing a traditional ‘bend but don’t break’ style defense, the Vikings have done a great job of keeping plays in front of them this season, and an even better job of keeping players out of the end zone.

The heart and soul of the Vikings’ secondary is no doubt 14-year veteran Antoine Winfield. While he’s playing fewer snaps than ever in his career, his impact on the game is still just as noticeable.

Last weekend against the Green Bay Packers, Winfield was unable to play in the second half due to pain from a broken finger. Almost immediately when he left the game you could notice the difference it made in the way Aaron Rodgers moved the ball down the field. The first series without Winfield resulted in an easy six for the Packers.

As the game progressed, Rodgers repeatedly picked on Winfield’s replacement, Marcus Sherels.

While Sherels is a very solid return man for the Vikings, he’s not exactly the greatest cornerback. Sherels was burned deep on a couple of occasions, most noticeably on a 73-yard hookup that set up another Packers’ score. Throughout the second half Rodgers threw at Winfield’s replacement, burning him for 162 yards in total. At times, Sherels was just flat out bad going up against talents like Greg Jennings.

However, as of now it looks like Winfield is going to give it a go Saturday night with harder cast in place on his right hand:

“I feel pretty good. Tried to go last Sunday, played two quarters, but the pain was a little bit too much. This week I have a little more protection so I should be able to make it all four.”

Winfield noted that he’d ‘have all off-season to heal up,’ and seems to be very willing to play through the pain.

This is good news for Vikings’ fans, as Winfield’s presence in the secondary could be the difference in the game. His physical style of play against the slot receiver will be key, especially since he will be lined up with either Jennings or Randall Cobb.

But if the pain in Winfield’s hand is too great and Sherels is forced back into regular action, it could very well be curtains for the Vikings’ season.

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