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.
Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd has been ruled out due to a knee injury against the Jets. He didn’t play much in the second half due to the injury, which has lingered over the last few weeks.
Floyd was limited last week to just a pass rusher on third downs in the victory against the Panthers. He was used mainly in nickel formations against the Jets before exiting with the injury. Floyd finished the game with a tackle.
Vikings left guard Charlie Johnson was carted off into the locker room during the third quarter with a right leg injury but questionable to return against the Jets.
Johnson had his leg caught underneath running back Matt Asiata on the play and immediately signaled to the sideline for assistance. Johnson limped off the field noticeably with assistance before he was placed on a cart.
He’s undergoing X-rays on his right leg in the locker room.
Former Jets offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse has replaced Johnson at left guard. The Vikings have just two Week 1 starting offensive linemen on the field: left guard Matt Kalil and center John Sullivan.
Vikings linebacker Gerald Hodges tied for the fastest score in franchise history on a 27-yard interception returned for a touchdown 12 seconds into the game.
Hodges picked off Jets quarterback Geno Smith on the first play from scrimmage, tying wide receiver Percy Harvin (now playing for the jets) scoring a 105 yard kickoff returned for a touchdown against the Lions on Sept. 30, 2012.
Hodges received the start with rookie linebacker Anthony Barr sidelined with a knee injury.
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. Packers (9-3)
Why: Let’s see, since they ended October with a loss in New Orleans, the Packers went 4-0 in November while scoring 158 points, including back-to-back games with 50 or more for the first time in franchise history. And, oh yeah, Aaron Rodgers didn’t throw a pick for a month and capped things off last week by beating the then-best team in the league, New England, and Tom Brady.
2. Patriots (9-3); 3. Seahawks (8-4); 4. Broncos (9-3); 5. Eagles (9-3); 6. Colts (8-4); 7. Lions (8-4); 8. Chargers (8-4); 9. Bengals (8-3-1); 10. Ravens (7-5); 11. Cowboys (9-4); 12. Bills (7-5); 13. Falcons (5-7); 14. Cardinals (9-3); 15. Dolphins (7-5); 16. 49ers (7-5); 17. Browns (7-5); 18. Rams (5-7); 19. Texans (6-6); 20. Saints (5-7); 21. Steelers (7-5); 22. Chiefs (7-5); 23. Bears (5-8).
24. Vikings 5-7 (Last week: 24): At the very least, the Vikings are beating most of the teams they should. Crushing the Panthers at home last week gave them a 5-2 record against teams that currently have a losing record. Unfortunately for the Vikings’ playoff hunt, or lack thereof, is the fact they’re 0-5 against teams that currently have a winning record. The Vikings are the only team in the league without a win against a team that currently has a .500 record or better. With the Jets on the schedule today, the Vikings will have to wait until next week’s trip to Detroit to try and break through.
THE REST OF THE REST
25. Jaguars (2-10); 26. Buccaneers (2-10); 27. Redskins (3-9); 28. Panthers (3-8-1); 29. Titans (2-10); 30. Jets (2-10); 31. Giants (3-9).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Raiders (1-11): After being forced to move the Raiders up into the low 20s last week (they beat the Chiefs and our No. 1 rule here is you can’t rank lower than a team ya just beat the week before), we’ve moved Oakland back into a more familiar setting. The Raiders followed up their win by getting nipped 0-52 at St. Louis.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE HOPEFUL
1, Four letters: J-E-T-S … JETS, JETS, JETS!!! The Vikings are 5-2 against lousy to lousier teams. The Jets at home will be their lousiest foe of the year.
2, Special teams coach Mike Priefer. The Vikings go 453 games without returning a blocked punt for a touchdown. Priefer spends a week devising a way to exploit subtle flaws in Carolina’s punt protection. And then the Vikings become the second team in NFL history to block and return punts for touchdowns in the same half. It’s just another nugget on Priefer’s successful resume.
3, All four opening-day starters in the secondary have started every game and played all 74 snaps in last week’s win. Yes, coach Mike Zimmer is a whiz with the X’s and O’s, and a fixer of wayward DBs. But Leslie Frazier might still be here if he had a secondary stay this healthy this far into a season.
THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE NERVOUS
1, Yeah, it’s a dead horse. But we’ll put another boot on it this morning. Cordarrelle Patterson getting lapped by Charles Johnson is a major concern. At a time when Patterson should have taken great strides under Norv Turner, he’s been benched because he’s playing nowhere near as good as Johnson. Patterson was a first-round pick of the Vikings last year. Johnson was a seventh-round pick of the Packers last year. And Johnson wasn’t even with the Vikings until late September.
2, Running back Jerick McKinnon went on injured reserve this week after missing two games. Small running backs who cost teams third round draft picks and plop on injured reserve with back injuries are a big concern when it comes to building lasting foundations through the draft.
3, Linebacker Anthony Barr likely won’t play today because of a knee injury. Any playing time missed for this raw but immensely talented player isn’t good for his development.
Jets plus-6 at Vikings. The pick: Vikings 28, Jets 21
Why?: The Jets are 31st in turnover differential. They’re 2-10. They’re on the road. Their coach, Rex Ryan, will be fired roughly 10 seconds after the season ends. Yeah, they can run the football. But we’re sensing an effort similar to the 35-point loss to the Bills in Detroit a couple weeks ago.
Last week: Panthers plus-2 ½ at Vikings. The pick: Vikings 27, Panthers 21. The final: Vikings 31, Panthers 13 Vikings picks: 9-3.
Colts minus-3 ½ at Browns. The pick: Browns 33, Colts 31
Why?: ESPN will not be happy. After losing its appeal to overturn Browns coach Mike Pettine’s decision not to start Johnny Football, ESPN will sit helplessly by as Boring Brian Hoyer rewards Pettine’s decision to start the only quarterback who has given the Browns a spark of sustained life and national relevance in about 25 years. Johnny is the future. But for the first time in about 25 years, the Browns have a present.
Last week: Bengals minus-3 ½ at Buccaneers. The pick: Buccaneers 27, Bengals 24. The final: Bengals 14, Buccaneers 13. Record: 4-9.
Ravens plus-3 at Dolphins: Dolphins by 6
Steelers plus-3 at Bengals: Bengals by 7
Texans minus-5 at Jaguars: Texans by 7
Giants pick at Titans: Giants by 3
Panthers plus-10 at Saints: Saints by 7
Buccaneers plus-9 ½ at Lions: Lions by 3
Rams minus-2 ½ at Redskins: Rams by 7
Bills plus-10 at Broncos: Broncos by 3
Chiefs plus-1 at Cardinals: Chiefs by 3
49ers minus-8 at Raiders: Raiders by 3
Seahawks plus-1 at Eagles: Seahawks by 3
Patriots minus-3 ½ at Chargers: Patriots by 6
Falcons plus-12 ½ at Green Bay: Packers by 10
Record: Last week/overall: 7-6/105-70-1. Versus spread: Last week/overall: 6-7/87-89.
Jerick McKinnon’s season is officially over. The Vikings have placed the promising rookie running back on injured reserve with a lower back injury.
McKinnon had been dealing with the injury since the middle of November, when he hurt himself lifting weights at the team facility. McKinnon played a couple of games with the injury, but he sat out last week’s win over the Panthers and was ruled out again for tomorrow’s game against the Jets.
According to a league source, McKinnon will get a procedure done on his lower back that will shut him down for about eight weeks. That would mean he could return by the start of spring workouts.
McKinnon played 11 games for the Vikings this season, including six starts, and leads the team with 538 rushing yards on 113 carries but no touchdowns. He added 27 catches for 135 receiving yards.
The Vikings drafted McKinnon, a former triple-option quarterback at Georgia Southern, in the third round of May’s NFL draft, thinking that he would be a pass-catching change of pace from star back Adrian Peterson. But when Peterson was put in limbo after a child abuse charge, McKinnon took on a larger role, spelling veteran Matt Asiata at first before taking over as the starting back in Week 6.
With McKinnon now out for the season and with Peterson awaiting word on whether an arbitrator will overturn his season-ending suspension — a ruling on Peterson’s appeal could come sometime next week — the Vikings plan to go with a committee approach with Asiata, Joe Banyard and Ben Tate.
Head coach Mike Zimmer has said he will stick with the hot hand, assuming there is one.
The Vikings promoted defensive end Justin Trattou from the practice squad to fill the open spot on the 53-man roster. And they bought back safety Ahmad Dixon to the practice squad to replace him.
|Buffalo||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Dallas||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Indianapolis||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Jacksonville||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|San Diego||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Jets||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Chicago||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Philadelphia||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|New Orleans||12/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Carolina||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Detroit||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Oakland||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Arizona||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|St. Louis||12/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/28/14 7:30 PM|
|TBA||1/3/15 2:00 AM|
|TBA||1/3/15 2:00 AM|
|Atlanta||70||4th Qtr 10:29|
|New York||14||1st Qtr 3:34|
|Dallas||4||3rd Prd 10:28|
|Philadelphia||1||3rd Prd 5:14|
|Anaheim||1||3rd Prd 2:59|
|Chicago||2||2nd Prd 9:18|
|Edmonton||0||1st Prd 12:28|
|San Jose||1||1st Prd 14:19|
|Kennesaw St||21||2nd Half 15:40|
|Colorado State||29||2nd Half 13:07|
|New Mexico St||32|
|Portland||45||2nd Half 6:36|
|Wayland Baptist||44||2nd Half 10:57|
|Bristol University||44||2nd Half 9:06|
|Sacramento St||47||2nd Half 11:52|
|Utah Valley U||38|
|Southern Utah||14||1st Half 10:47|
|SD Christian||7||1st Half 14:00|
|San Diego St||11|
|(15) Arizona State||36||FINAL|
|(25) Nebraska||17||3rd Qtr 15:00|
|Texas A&M||12/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Oklahoma||12/29/14 4:30 PM|
|Arkansas||12/29/14 8:00 PM|
|Notre Dame||12/30/14 2:00 PM|
|(13) Georgia||12/30/14 5:45 PM|
|Maryland||12/30/14 9:00 PM|
|(9) Ole Miss||12/31/14 11:30 AM|
|(21) Boise State||12/31/14 3:00 PM|
|(8) Miss State||12/31/14 7:00 PM|
|(10) Georgia Tech|
|(19) Auburn||1/1/15 11:00 AM|
|(7) Michigan State||1/1/15 11:30 AM|
|(16) Missouri||1/1/15 12:00 PM|
|(2) Florida State||1/1/15 4:00 PM|
|(5) Ohio State||1/1/15 7:30 PM|
|Houston||1/2/15 11:00 AM|
|Iowa||1/2/15 2:20 PM|
|(11) Kansas State||1/2/15 5:45 PM|
|Washington||1/2/15 9:15 PM|
|East Carolina||1/3/15 11:00 AM|