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3 Vikings who need to step it up after the bye

Minnesota needs these players to be better down the stretch.

The Vikings are sitting pretty at 8-3 and tied for first place in the NFC North coming out of the bye, and they're staring down a December stretch run that starts in Seattle Monday night. 

The offense is clicking as well as it ever has in the Kirk Cousins era, but things are starting to look a little bleak on defense and Mike Zimmer needs to clean a few things up if Minnesota is going to be a legit contender in the NFC.

Here are three players with gigantic roles that the Vikings need to step it up beginning Monday night in Seattle. 

Xavier Rhodes

It's been quite the fall from grace for Xavier Rhodes since being named an All-Pro in 2017. After a shaky season last year, things have gotten worse in 2019.

After the Broncos win, Rhodes was the 66th-best cornerback (out of 75 qualified players) with opposing quarterbacks posting a 124.1 passer rating when targeting him, according to Pro Football Focus.

Despite being picked on, Zimmer still elects to play Rhodes against big-time receivers. If Rhodes can no longer be the shutdown defensive back he once was, Zimmer may have to find a role that doesn't allow him to be destroyed as regularly as he has been. 

Anthony Barr

The Pro Bowl linebacker nearly signed with the New York Jets in the offseason before inking a new deal with the Vikings at the 11th hour.

After a solid season debut against the Falcons where he haunted Matt Ryan for four quarters, Barr has been a non-factor when it comes to rushing the quarterback. Since Week 2, Barr has just a half sack, four tackles for a loss and three quarterback hits in nine games.

PFF has given him a grade of 56.5 this season, meaning he's been an average player overall. For a Pro Bowl linebacker who is 11 games into a five-year, $67 million deal on a team that's already stuck in salary cap purgatory, the Vikings could use more splash plays from Barr in the final five weeks of the regular season. 

Garrett Bradbury

It was a rough first month for the rookie Bradbury, as PFF graded him the worst center in the league through the first four weeks. But since Week 7, he's been graded the 16th-best center, allowing just seven QB pressures, according to Matthew Coller of SKOR North

Football Outsiders notes the Vikings have the sixth-best in the league when it comes to pass protection, in addition to paving the way to Dalvin Cook putting up huge numbers in both the running and passing game. 

It's critical that Bradbury remain consistent or improve as he anchors a line that will need to be outstanding in big games going forward. 

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