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.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— The Vikings should focus on improving their offense in the offseason.
— The Vikings have waived backup OT J’Marcus Webb.
— Teddy Bridgewater has been one of the league’s most accurate quarterbacks.
— OLB Chad Greenway is the team’s Community Man of the Year.
— The Vikings would have the 11th pick if the season ended today.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
— Starkey Foundation (@starkeycares) December 16, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— The Dolphins seem to be going in the wrong direction under coach Joe Philbin.
— Important lessons were learned about the Dolphins in their lackluster season.
— The Dolphins have long odds of making the playoffs, but it’s possible.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings are back at Winter Park today to get ready for this weekend’s trip to Miami. Practice is at 12:50 p.m. Beforehand, Bridgewater and coach Mike Zimmer will chat with reporters.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
As my colleague Michael Rand wrote yesterday, the Vikings reportedly had interest in trading for QB Jay Cutler back in 2009, but Cutler ultimately wound up with the Bears. Who knows how serious the Vikings were about Cutler, but it is fun to think about how differently history would have played out had the Vikings made a move for Cutler instead of luring Brett Favre out of retirement.
The Vikings put offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb on waivers Tuesday.
The five-year veteran was signed on Nov. 25 when the team put Phil Loadholt on season-ending injured reserve.
Earlier Tuesday, Webb tweeted that he was thankful for being on the team.
Webb missed a key block on Sunday that enabled Detroit’s Jason Jones to block Blair Walsh’s 26-yard field goal attempt in the Vikings 16-14 loss to the Lions.
Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.
339.9 — yards allowed per game by the Vikings in Mike Zimmer’s first season.
Considering how the Vikings fared defensively a year ago and all the new faces that forced them to bring in, it seemed unlikely that Zimmer, their first-year coach, would be able to take the Vikings from 31st in the NFL in total defense to a top-10 unit. But with a strong finish these final two games, he might just do it. The Vikings enter Week 16 tied for 11th in the league in total defense, allowing 339.9 yards per game (last season the Vikings allowed 397.6 yards per game). They are just 43 total yards behind the Chargers, who rank ninth. So that top-10 ranking is very much in reach.
17 — pass break-ups for cornerback Xavier Rhodes, tied for fourth in the NFL.
Rhodes played well against the Lions, particularly star wide-out Calvin Johnson, but for the first time in a while, the second-year corner didn’t get his hands on the ball. It was his first game without a pass break-up since October, snapping a streak of five straight games with at least one. Still, he has broken up at least one pass in nine of his last 11 games, giving him 17 total pass break-ups this season. That ranks fourth in the NFL behind Bradley Fletcher of the Eagles, Vontae Davis of the Colts and Buster Skrine of the Browns. And it’s more than double the next Vikings player on the list.
75.6 — quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s accuracy percentage in his first season.
Accuracy was considered to be one of Bridgewater’s biggest assets coming out of college, and so far in the NFL, he has usually been on target, too. The rookie ranks seventh in accuracy percentage, a stat from Pro Football Focus that accounts for things such as dropped passes and throwaways, unlike raw completion percentage. They say Bridgewater has been accurate on 75.6 percent of his throws, just ahead of guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. And since Week 9, only Drew Brees and Joe Flacco have been more accurate.
seven — total sacks allowed by Vikings offensive linemen in the past five weeks.
Since the Week 10 bye week, the Vikings offensive line has allowed 52 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, which is tied for 18th in the NFL. That’s actually a significant improvement for that banged-up group. In the first 10 weeks of the season, they surrendered 118 total pressures, third most in the league. The difference is about three fewer pressures per game. Not all pressures are created equally, of course. In those first nine games, offensive linemen were responsible for 24 sacks, according to PFF. Over the past five, the linemen were at fault for only seven sacks.
minus-59 — the Vikings’ point differential in their five divisional games in 2014.
I wrote in today’s paper about the Vikings falling to 0-5 against their NFC North rivals. They kept things close in rematches against the Packers and Lions, but overall, they have been outscored, 120-61, in their five divisional games this season. That’s a point differential of minus-59 in the division. The Vikings, meanwhile, are 6-3 against teams not in their division, outscoring those teams by a combined 39 points. They play their final NFC North game in the season finale. Considering how the dysfunctional Bears are playing, the Vikings probably shouldn’t be 0-fer for much longer.
Every Tuesday, we’ll analyze the Vikings draft chances for the 2015 NFL Draft
The Vikings minuscule playoff chances vanished before they even took the field last week. The Rams lost to the Cardinals last Thursday, wiping away the Vikings’ only (long shot) scenario of stealing the sixth seed.
Now that we can officially stop mentioning playoffs in this blog, the Vikings sit at 6-8 after losing 16-14 to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. Here’s how it impacted their draft spot if the season ended today with record, strength of schedule tiebreaker (if necessary) and upcoming opponent listed in parentheses:
The Vikings still hold the 11th overall pick if the season ended despite the loss. They’re guaranteed a top 20 draft at this point, but they can’t pick no higher than seventh with two games remaining.
What will favor the Vikings at the end of the season will be their strength of schedule, the first tiebreaker to determine the draft order. They currently have the fifth lowest strength of schedule percentage among teams currently holding a top 20 pick. It’s not expected to change much given that the Vikings have played four teams with winning records — the Lions, Packers, Patriots and Bills. Their next two opponents, the Dolphins and Bears, sit at 7-7 and 5-9.
So here are your draft scenarios if the Vikings win or lose in Miami:
If the Vikings lose: They’d pick no worse than 16th heading into the season finale next week against the Bears. That could drop even lower depending on how Week 16 plays out.
If the Vikings win: It gets a little tricky. With one game separating the Falcons, who hold the No. 7 right now, and the Rams, who have the 12th pick, it’s difficult to predict what would be the Vikings’ best pick scenario. What is certain though is if the Vikings win and the Falcons, Giants, Bears and Panthers all lose (which is certainly possible), the Vikings will not have a shot at a top 10 pick.
So you might want to keep an eye on those four teams over the weekend if you’re hoping for a Vikings top 10 pick in 2015.
Chad Greenway has been selected as the Vikings’ Community Man of the Year for 2014.
Since joining the Vikings in 2006, the outside linebacker has volunteered with several local organizations, including Memorial Blood Centers, Sanford Health, University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, Fuel Up To Play 60, The Salvation Army, Taste of the NFL, United Way and Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota.
In 2009, Greenway and his wife, Jenni, started the Lead The Way Foundation to provide seriously ill and physically challenged children throughout the Twin Cities “with daily support and life-changing experiences.” Since its inception, Greenway’s foundation has raised more than $1.3 million.
Greenway is one of 32 NFL team representatives vying for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award. The winner will be named at the Super Bowl.
This is the second time Greenway has been selected as the Vikings’ Community Man of the Year. He also won the award in 2011.
Yesterday, Greenway was named as a finalist for the inaugural NFL Sportsmanship Award.
|Tennessee||12/18/14 7:25 PM|
|Philadelphia||12/20/14 3:30 PM|
|San Diego||12/20/14 7:25 PM|
|Minnesota||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Baltimore||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Atlanta||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Kansas City||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|New England||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Giants||12/21/14 3:05 PM|
|Buffalo||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Indianapolis||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Seattle||12/21/14 7:30 PM|
|Denver||12/22/14 7:30 PM|
|Memphis||83||4th Qtr 2:44|
|Milwaukee||31||2nd Qtr 7:44|
|Houston||6||1st Qtr 9:05|
|Indiana||7||1st Qtr 9:44|
|Dallas||0||1st Prd 2:23|
|Stephen F Austin||66|
|Winthrop||44||2nd Half 11:08|
|New Mexico St||42||2nd Half 5:23|
|San Diego St||43||2nd Half 7:28|
|Eastern Mich||37||2nd Half 8:00|
|Loyola Marymount||50||2nd Half 3:27|
|Incarnate Word||67||2nd Half 5:40|
|Central Arkansas||28||1st Half 2:51|
|Howard||19||1st Half 3:56|
|Portland||9||1st Half 15:45|
|Grambling St||10:00 PM|
|Nevada||12/20/14 10:00 AM|
|Utah State||12/20/14 1:20 PM|
|(23) Utah||12/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Western Mich||12/20/14 4:45 PM|
|South Alabama||12/20/14 8:15 PM|
|BYU||12/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Marshall||12/23/14 5:00 PM|
|Navy||12/23/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Central Mich||12/24/14 11:00 AM|
|Fresno State||12/24/14 7:00 PM|
|(21) Miss State||66||FINAL|
|(1) South Carolina||69||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||91||FINAL|
|Sam Houston St||51|
|North Texas||5||1st Half 3:39|