Access Vikings

Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


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Craig: Quick reaction to Vikings' 17-16 loss to Buffalo

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated October 19th at 4:48pm 279718852

My initial reaction from Buffalo, where the Vikings lost 17-16 on a 2-yard pass from Kyle Orton to Sammy Watkins with two seconds left?

When did I wake up in 2013?

The four-minute offense and the two-minute defense collapsed late in the same game and the Vikings walked off the field shaking their heads following a game-losing touchdown. Sounds like Chicago, Cleveland and Dallas from last season. And sort of like Baltimore, although that was the wildest scoring exhibition by both teams at the end of a game in the history of the NFL.

Because the Vikings couldn’t close the deal, a lot of good performances get lost as the team falls to 2-5. For instance:

. Outside linebacker Anthony Barr took an even bigger step toward proving he’s going to be one of the better linebackers in the league. His pass defense on Watkins on second-and-goal in the red zone was the kind of play that an instinctive, quick player with really long arms can make.

. Never have I seen two offensive linemen leave the game for good on the same play until center John Sullivan and right guard Vladimir Ducasse did so in the first half. That put second-string center Joe Berger and third-string guard Mike Harris in the game. They actually played pretty well, which helped Jerick McKinnon rush for 103 yards against the league’s No. 1-ranked run defense. The Bills hadn’t allowed a 20-yard rush all season until McKinnon broke two tackles during a 29-yard run.

. Teddy Bridgewater did a nice job bouncing back from two interceptions. But I fear that he is starting to sense pressure even when it’s not there. I saw that on a deep incomplete pass to Cordarrelle Patterson in the first half. But who can blame him. The offensive line played better today that last week, when Bridgewater was sacked eight times. But back-to-back sacks after getting that first-and-goal at the 7 tells you the line — particularly the tacklwes — still has a long way to go to live up to expectations.

So where do the Vikings go from here now that they’re 2-5. Well, the played well enough for most of today’s game to make you believe they can win the next two games at Tampa Bay and home to Washington. If they can get to the bye at 4-5, they will have stabilized the sting that people are feeling after they botched a game they should have won today.

Halftime report: Vikings 13, Bills 10

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 19th at 2:02pm 279713302

At the half, the Vikings have a 13-10 lead over the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Kicker Blair Walsh nailed a 55-yard field goal with 15 seconds left to give the Vikings the lead.

The Good: The Vikings defense has played well given the speed the Bills have on offense. It has forced three turnovers – two fumbles and an interception — and has brought pressure on pass downs. The Vikings only have one sack to show in the stat sheet, but quarterback Kyle Orton has been consistently knocked down.

The two biggest errors made on defense have resulted in points for the Bills. Rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins scored on a 26-yard touchdown pass during the first play of the drive. He beat cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who has allowed his fourth touchdown this season according to Pro Football Focus. Bills running back C.J. Spiller broke off a 53-yard run after the linebackers failed to fit the run properly, leading to a field goal on the drive.

The Bad: Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t performed well once again. He’s thrown two interceptions in the first half after getting picked off three times last week against the Lions. Bridgewater has also held onto the ball a little long on plays, missing open receivers in the process.

After his second interception, which led to Watkins’ touchdown on the next drive, Bridgewater drove the Vikings down the field to take the lead. A five-play, 60-yard drive was capped when Bridgewater threw his first career touchdown pass to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

The Ugly: Both teams have been decimated with injuries. The Vikings are out of offensive linemen at the moment with injuries to center John Sullivan (concussion) and right guard Vladimir Ducasse (knee). Sullivan has been ruled out, while Ducasse is questionable. Joe Berger has filled in at center, while Mike Harris has lined up at right guard. The Bills saw both of their running backs carted off. C.J. Spiller (shoulder) and Fred Jackson (groin) have both been ruled out, leaving the Bills with just Boobie Dixon and Frank Summers in the backfield.

John Sullivan (concussion) out, Ducasse (knee) questionable

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 19th at 2:01pm 279711902

Two of the Vikings offensive linemen suffered injuries on the same play in the first quarter against the Bills.

Center John Sullivan will not return due to a concussion, while right guard Vladimir Ducasse is questionable with a knee injury. They both left the game on the first play of the Vikings’ third drive following linebacker Anthony Barr’s fumble recovery. McKinnon gained three yards on the play, but Sullivan and Ducasse headed for the sideline with 3:49 left in the opening quarter.

Joe Berger has replaced Sullivan at center, and Mike Harris has filled in at right guard for Ducasse, who replaced Brandon Fusco this season at the position. Fusco is on injured reserve with a torn pectoral and is out for the year.

Chad Greenway, Sharrif Floyd active vs. Bills

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 19th at 10:52am 279707572

Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway will be active for the first time in three weeks after recovering from a rib injury. He will start on Sunday against the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Greenway was a full participant at practice all week but listed as questionable on Friday. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who was also listed as questionable, is also active after dealing with an elbow/ankle injury.

Defensive end Corey Wootton will be out with a back injury, allowing rookie defensive end Scott Crichton to be active for the second time this season. Linebacker Gerald Hodges is also out with a hamstring injury he suffered last week against the Lions.

Here’s the complete inactive list for both teams:

Vikings

FB Zach Line

LB Gerald Hodges

LB Brandon Watts

G David Yankey

G Austin Wentworth

TE Kyle Rudolph

DE Corey Wootton

Bills

CB Ross Cockrell

S Kenny Ladler

RB Bryce Brown

LB Ty Powell

T Cyrus Kouandjio

WR Marcus Easley

WR Marquise Goodwin

Craig: Week 7 Picks & Power Rankings

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated October 19th at 6:56am 279702632

What would you rather do on a Sunday morning than wake up early and read weekly picks and power rankings involving 32 teams that basically are of equal strength and ability to beat, lose to or tie anyone on any given Sunday, Monday, Saturday, Thursday (and some day, when the revenue ceiling needs to be extended to a gazillion bazillion dollars, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday as well)?

CRAIG’S NFL POWER RANKINGS
BEST OF THE BUNCH
1. Chargers (5-1)
Why:
Assuming the Chiefs don’t pull an upset today in San Diego, we should be able to stick with early MVP front-runner Philip Rivers, the No. 3-ranked defense and those league-low two giveaways for at least four more days. Then San Diego travels to Denver for what will be the best game of the season to that point.

THE REST

2. Broncos (4-1); 3. Cardinals (4-1); 4. 49ers (4-2); 5. Eagles (5-1); 6. Cowboys (5-1); 7. Seahawks (3-2); 8. Colts (4-2); 9. Patriots (5-2); 10. Panthers (3-2-1); 11. Bengals (3-1-1); 12. Ravens (4-2); 13. Lions (4-2); 14. Packers (4-2); 15. Browns (3-2); 16. Bears (3-3); 17. Giants (3-3); 18. Texans (3-3); 19. Bills (3-3); 20. Titans (2-4); 21. Chiefs (2-3); 22. Saints (2-3); 23. Steelers (3-3); 24. Dolphins (2-3).

THE VIKINGS
25. Vikings 2-4 (Last week: 24):
The Vikings fell another spot after failing to compete at home against the Lions. It’s amazing that a road team can put together one solid four-minute drive to start the game and then protect that lead by doing nothing offensively for 56 minutes. Add it up and you have a 17-3 outcome, not to mention one of the dullest NFL games in recent memory. Having lost four games by double digits, the Vikings could tumble further down the rankings. Of course, that also would require some of the seven stinkers below them — particularly Atlanta, which got mauled by the Vikings — to start winning some games.

THE REST OF THE REST
26. Falcons (2-4); 27. Rams (1-4); 28. Redskins (1-5); 29. Jets (1-6); 30. Raiders (0-5); 31. Jaguars (0-6).

WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Buccaneers (1-5):
Welcome back, Tampa Bay. The Bucs missed the bottom rung so much that they managed to allow the words “Joe Flacco” and “could set the NFL record for touchdown passes in a single game” to be uttered together in the same sentence during the first half of last week’s game. Last week’s Worst of the Bunch, Oakland, showed a strong pulse against the Chargers. So we’ll push them up a couple of notches and slide the Bucs back to the bottom.

THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE HOPEFUL

1, Honestly, three reasons might be stretching it at this point. But, looking long-term, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater appears to have the personality to use painful experiences such as last week to improve. So even if the Vikings lose at Buffalo today, there’s something to gain from Bridgewater’s first NFL road start.

2, The defense is much better than last season. Yeah, we know. That’s not saying much. It has improved from 32nd in points allowed last season (30.0) to 20th (23.8). Mike Zimmer’s schemes, calls, adjustments and teaching techniques are making a difference. But it would help if the defense played better coming out of the gate.

3, Blair Walsh has quietly stabilized his game. He has made 11 of 13 field goal attempts, including 2 of 2 from 50 yards and beyond. Opponents also have been able to return only four of his kickoffs.

THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE NERVOUS

1, The Vikings haven’t been able to provide a safe environment for their quarterback. That’s the nice way of saying the offensive line is getting the QB clobbered. There have been 14 sacks the past two games. Keep that up and Christian Ponder will be starting again real soon.

2, Not sure if you’ve heard this the few million times that it’s been stated, but this team is struggling with getting the ball to Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson could help the situation by getting open more often.

3, Buffalo won at Detroit, which won at Minnesota. Also, the Lions’ defensive line has 14 ½ sacks, a total that’s two fewer than Buffalo’s defensive line.

THE PICKS

VIKINGS
Vikings plus-5 ½ at Bills: Bills 24, Vikings 17.

Why: We picked the Vikings here last week because we clearly overestimated their offensive line’s ability to perform against one of the best defensive fronts in the league. So we’re not going to make that mistake again. Especially with the Vikings being on the road.

Last week: Lions minus-1 ½ at Vikings: The pick: Vikings 27, Lions 24. The final: Lions 17, Vikings 3. Vikings pick record: 3-3.

UPSET SPECIAL

Saints plus-2 ½ at Lions: Saints 31, Lions 28

Why: Wow, this guy just won’t learn his lesson when it comes to not trusting the Lions. Yeah, that’s a risky thing to keep doing. But it’s also hard to picture Drew Brees falling to 2-4.

Last week: Packers minus-3 ½ at Dolphins. The pick: Dolphins 24, Packers 21. The final: Packers 27, Dolphins 24. Record: 1-5.

THE REST
Bengals plus-3 at Colts: Colts by 6

Seahawks minus-6 ½ at Rams: Seahawks by 10

Falcons plus-7 at Ravens: Ravens by 14

Dolphins plus-3 at Bears: Bears by 7

Browns minus-5 ½ at Jaguars: Jaguars by 3

Panthers plus-6 ½ at Packers: Packers by 7

Titans plus-5 at Redskins: Redskins by 3

Chiefs plus-4 at Chargers: Chargers by 7

Giants plus-6 ½ at Cowboys: Cowboys by 3

49ers plus-7 at Broncos: Broncos by 3

Texans plus-3 at Steelers: Steelers by 6

Cardinals minus-3 ½ at Raiders: Cardinals by 7

Record: Last week/overall: 8-5-1/49-35-1. Versus spread: Last week/overall: 10-4/40-45.

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Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Chicago 6:00 PM
Cleveland
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Washington
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
New York
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Charlotte 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Memphis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Edmonton
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19

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