If you were to peek in on any Minnesota Vikings practice from 2015 to 2019, particularly during training camp, chances are you would've seen Stefon Diggs and Xavier Rhodes going at it on the field.
Rhodes was a first-round pick in 2013 and was entering his third season when the Vikings drafted Diggs in the fifth round in 2015. Before long, the big-name cornerback from Florida State and the little-known wide receiver from Maryland were among the league's best players at their positions. Rhodes likely had the edge for the first few years while he was establishing himself as an elite shutdown corner, and Diggs presumably took over that edge in 2018 and 2019 when he was becoming a star receiver and Rhodes' level of play was slipping a bit.
Now the two former Vikings will meet in a real game for the first time to kick off a wild card weekend unlike any we've ever seen. Diggs was traded to the Bills in March. Rhodes, who struggled mightily while dealing with some injury issues in 2019, was a cap casualty who wound up signing a one-year deal with the Colts. The two teams meet in Buffalo on Saturday at 12:05 p.m. central time, with the No. 2 seed Bills hosting the No. 7 seed Colts in the first of six wild card games over the next two days.
Both players happened to end up in perfect situations. Diggs got to go to a pass-heavy offense and play with a breakout star in Josh Allen. The result was that he led the NFL in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Diggs was named a first team All-Pro and is a big reason why the Bills are seen as the No. 1 threat to the Chiefs in the AFC. Meanwhile, Rhodes had a major bounce-back season playing for Colts DC Matt Eberflus, finishing with the best PFF grade of his career and ranking sixth in coverage snaps per reception among cornerbacks with at least 400 such snaps.
The Diggs-Rhodes matchup should be a lot of fun, and it highlights the list of former Vikings who will be in action this weekend. Rhodes won't shadow Diggs, but the two should see a lot of each other in a game that has sneaky shootout potential. Here are all of the former Vikings on active rosters or coaching staffs to keep an eye on in the wild card round.
Bills vs Colts, 12:05 p.m. Saturday, CBS
- Bills WR Stefon Diggs
- Bills DC Leslie Frazier
- Colts CB Xavier Rhodes
Seahawks vs. Rams, 3:40 p.m. Saturday, FOX
No former Vikings.
Washington vs. Buccaneers, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, NBC
- Washington QB Taylor Heinicke
- Washington OC Scott Turner
It sounds like Alex Smith will get the start at quarterback for Washington, but Heinicke could see action if Smith gets banged up. Also, the Buccaneers don't have former Vikings, but they do have former Minnesota Gophers Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tyler Johnson.
Titans vs Ravens, 12:05 p.m. Sunday, ESPN/ABC
- Titans TE MyCole Pruitt
- Titans FB Khari Blasingame
- Ravens DE Yannick Ngakoue (the Vikings' 2020 sack leader in just six games)
It would be pretty funny if Ngakoue had a huge postseason and helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl.
Saints vs. Bears, 3:40 p.m. Sunday, CBS/Nickelodeon/Prime
- Saints RB Latavius Murray
- Bears KR/WR Cordarrelle Patterson
Unfortunately, starting Saints guard and former Viking Nick Easton was placed on injured reserve and won't play in this game. Murray and Patterson should play important roles, though.
Steelers vs. Browns, 7:15 p.m. Sunday, NBC/Peacock
- Browns HC Kevin Stefanski (not coaching due to positive COVID test)
- Browns STC Mike Priefer (will serve as acting head coach)
- Browns S Andrew Sendejo
- Browns WR Alexander Hollins
- Browns QB Case Keenum
- Browns LB Elijah Lee
- Browns DT Sheldon Richardson
- Steelers OL Danny Isidora
As you can see, the Browns easily lead all playoff teams in Vikings connections. It's a brutal blow that Stefanski, who is one of the leading NFL Coach of the Year candidates in his first season as a head coach, won't be able to participate in the Browns' first playoff game in 18 years. Instead, it'll be another former Viking in Priefer who takes over head coaching duties for Cleveland. Of the six players listed, only Sendejo and Richardson are likely to play in this game.
Looking ahead to the divisional round and the No. 1 seeds, the Chiefs have former Vikings OL Mike Remmers while the Packers have former Gophers linebacker Kamal Martin.
Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis. Also, click the follow button in the upper right-hand corner of this page (mobile users, tap the bell icon – you may have to click ‘News’ first) and follow me on Twitter.