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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Halftime report: Saints 13, Vikings 6

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated September 21st at 2:32pm 275935241

The Saints lead the Vikings 13-6 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at halftime. Quarterback Matt Cassel has been ruled out with a toe injury he suffered in the second quarter.

The Good: Somehow it’s a close game. After the Saints jumped out to a 13-0 start, it appeared the game would get ugly in a hurry. But the Vikings held the Saints offense scoreless in the second quarter and hit two field goals to draw within a possession.

It was also the NFL debut of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who replaced Cassel in the second quarter. The toe injury occurred on a five yard scramble with 14:47 left in the first half. Bridgewater led the Vikings to a field goal on his opening drive due to a 41-yard dump off to running back Matt Asiata.

Cassel finished 5 of 10 for 53 yards. Bridgewater is 3 of 5 for 46 yards.

The Bad: Saints quarterback Drew Brees had about as perfect of a first half as you’ll see from a quarterback. He’s picked apart the Vikings secondary, going 12 of 14 for 123 yards and a touchdown. He executed an 11-play, 80-yard drive to start the game that lasted 5:24. The Vikings allowed seven first downs on the drive as the Saints gained positive yardage on every play. The Vikings contained the offense in the second quarter, but they started in a huge deficit because of Brees.

The Ugly: The Vikings defensive line has improved as the game progressed, but the offensive line has been terrible in pass protection. Regardless of who has been at quarterback, Bridgewater and Cassel haven’t benefited from a clean pocket with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan dialing up different blitzes. On Bridgewater’s first drive, the Vikings settled for a field goal mainly due to Bridgewater tripping over left tackle Matt Kalil on 1st and goal. While it might be the only sack the Vikings have allowed so far, the Saints have been getting a lot of hurries and hits on the Vikings quarterbacks.

Greenway active versus Saints despite broken hand

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated September 21st at 12:03pm 275929741

Vikings outside linebacker Chad Greenway is active for today’s game against the New Orleans Saints despite a broken left hand and a rib injury that prevented him from practicing Wednesday and Thursday. That means Greenway will keep his consecutive games played streak alive.

Wide receiver Charles Johnson, who was signed to the 53-man roster yesterday, will not suit up.

Also inactive are quarterback Christian Ponder, cornerback Shaun Prater, outside linebacker Brandon Watts, guard David Yankey, wide receiver Rodney Smith and defensive end Scott Crichton.

Running back Mark Ingram and linebacker David Hawthorne are among the notable inactives for the Saints. Also inactive are safety Marcus Ball, fullback Erik Lorig, cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, wide receiver Nick Toon and defensive tackle John Jenkins.

Craig: Week 3 NFL Picks & Power Rankings

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated September 21st at 8:42am 275925821

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. Broncos (2-0)
Why:
Like we said last week, Seattle was so clearly the best team in the league, it was bound to lose at San Diego. That’s how this league rolls. And that’s what happened. We’d take any one of our top seven teams as the best team in the league, at least for this week. Right now, it’s Denver, but that could and probably will change after the Broncos’ trip to Seattle today.

THE REST

2. Eagles (2-0); 3. Cardinals (2-0); 4. Chargers (1-1); 5. Seahawks (1-1); 6. Bengals (2-0); 7. Falcons (2-1); 8. Packers (1-1); 9. Bills (2-0); 10. Dolphins (1-1); 11. Patriots (1-1); 12. Panthers (2-0); 13. Bears (1-1); 14. 49ers (1-1); 15. Texans (2-0); 16. Jets (1-1); 17. Ravens (1-1); 18. Cowboys (1-1); 19. Titans (1-1); 20. Steelers (1-1); 21. Browns (1-1); 22. Saints (0-2).

THE VIKINGS
23. Vikings 1-1 (Last week: 15):
Last week’s 30-7 loss didn’t prove that the Vikings can’t win without Adrian Peterson. But it did prove that they can’t win without him while they’re turning the ball over four times and giving up blocked field goals that are returned for touchdowns. The defense played fairly well, but didn’t make any plays on short fields, which added to the blowout.

THE REST OF THE REST
24. Lions (1-1); 25. Redskins (1-1); 26. Colts (0-2); 27. Rams (1-1); 28. Jaguars (0-2); 29. Chiefs (0-2); 30. Raiders (0-2); 31. Giants (0-2).

WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Buccaneers (0-3):
Well, we had the Rams down as the worst team in the league a week ago. But the Bucs made one heck of a case to change that by A, losing at home to the Rams in Austin Davis’ NFL starting debut; and B, Getting humiliated 56-14 at Atlanta on Thursday.

THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE HOPEFUL

1, The Saints’ running game will be without Mark Ingram. A week ago, the Vikings couldn’t shake the Patriots out of a game plan designed to run the ball and throw quick passes from short drops on manageable downs and distances.

2, The return of special teams coordinator Mike Priefer should guarantee that there won’t be a special teams snap that comes with only nine Vikings players.

3, Quarterback Matt Cassel is an up-and-down quarterback. He was as down as down can be a week ago. He should be more likely to protect the ball better this week.

THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE NERVOUS

1, A 2.8-yard average per carry without Peterson a week ago wasn’t a good sign for the future.

2, The game is in New Orleans, it’s the home opener and, oh yeah, the Saints are winless and in desperate need of a victory.

3, Last week’s inability to stop the run made it so much more difficult for coach Mike Zimmer’s creative defense to be effective with pressure and takeaways on third downs.

THE PICKS

VIKINGS
Vikings plus-10 at Saints. The pick: Saints 28, Vikings 21.

Every sign there is points to a lopsided Saints victory. After initially picking 35-17, we’ll dial it back to a close contest in which the Saints fail to cover. In the NFL, it’s always dangerous to pick a team when EVERY sign points to them having a fairly easy day.

Last week: Patriots minus-3 at Vikings. The pick: Patriots 21, Vikings 17. The final: Patriots 30, Vikings 7. Record: 1-1.

UPSET SPECIAL

Ravens minus-1 ½ at Browns. The pick: Browns 24, Ravens 21

Why: If the Browns were able to pressure Drew Brees in a big upset at home last week, they should be able to put some heat on Joe Flacco in what wouldn’t be nearly as big of an upset at home today. Last week: Jaguars plus-6 at Redskins: The pick: Jaguars 24, Redskins 23. The final: Redskins 41, Jaguars 10. Record: 0-2.

THE REST
Chargers plus-2 at Bills: Chargers by 3

Cowboys minus-1 at Rams: Cowboys by 7

Redskins plus-6 ½ at Eagles: Eagles by 3

Texans minus-2 ½ at Giants: Giants by 3

Titans plus-7 at Bengals: Bengals by 3

Packers plus-2 ½ at Lions: Lions by 3

Colts minus-7 at Jaguars: Colts by 3

Raiders plus-14 at Patriots: Patriots by 7

Steelers plus-3 ½ at Panthers: Steelers by 3

49ers minus-3 at Cardinals: Cardinals by 7

Broncos plus-5 at Seahawks: Seahawks by 7

Chiefs plus-4 at Dolphins: Dolphins by 7

Bears plus-2 ½ at Jets: Jets by 3

Record: Last week/overall: 6-9/12-18. Versus spread: Last week/overall: 5-10/9-21.

Vikings sign WR Johnson to their 53-man roster

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated September 20th at 3:11pm 275885521

The Vikings have filled the vacant spot on the 53-man roster created when running back Adrian Peterson was placed on the exempt list. They did so by signing wide receiver Charles Johnson — not to be confused with starting left guard Charlie Johnson — from the Browns’ practice squad.

The team had a need for a wide receiver after letting suspended wide-out Jerome Simpson go.

Johnson, who is in his second year in the league, played his college ball at Grand Valley State. He was drafted by the Packers in the seventh round in 2013 and was on Green Bay’s practice squad last season when Cleveland signed him to its active roster. He did not play in a NFL game, though.

He spent all of training camp and the 2014 preseason with the Browns, who, as you probably remember, employed Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner in the same capacity last season.

The new guy will wear No. 12.

Vikings' Greenway optimistic he'll play Sunday

Posted by: Christopher Miller Updated September 19th at 7:26pm 275800431

Linebacker Chad Greenway, who has a broken left hand, will be a game-time decision when the Vikings play at New Orleans on Sunday.

Greenway practiced on Friday at Winter Park, and briefly huddled with coach Mike Zimmer and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman afterward. Greenway, who also has been on the injury report because of a rib injury, seemed optimistic he might be ready for the game.

Defensive tackle Sharif Floyd (shoulder) and right offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) should be ready to start in the Saints game, Zimmer said.

Zimmer briefly addressed the team dropping receiver Jerome Simpson, who was scheduled to return from a three-game suspension Monday. Simpson was cut after it discovered Thursday that he had been cited for possession of marijuana and an open bottle during a July traffic stop. His current suspension was his second for violation of the NFL’s substances of abuse policy.

“Every situation is different,” Zimmer said, adding the team “will do what’s in their best interest.”

Simpson’s locker was empty.

With running back Adrian Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list following his indictment in Texas on child abuse charges, the Vikings do have an open roster spot. Zimmer said it would eventually be filled, but he wasn’t certain when that would happen.

He was eager to turn the team’s focus to Sunday’s game against the Saints (0-2), as was Greenway, who was asked about distractions.

“We need to understand our jobs, but also understand it’s in a hostile environment against a team that is desperate,” Greenway said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on, and we have to prep our guys, who haven’t been in this situation, to help focus on their jobs.”

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Cleveland - WP: C. Allen 4 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: G. Holland 3
Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda 5
Kansas City - WP: D. Duffy 2 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Carrasco 0
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 4 FINAL
Toronto - WP: J. Happ 14
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Bassitt 2 FINAL
Detroit - LP: K. Lobstein 0
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 1 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Houston 3 Top 8th Inning
Texas 4
St. Louis 7 Bottom 7th Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Arizona 5 Bottom 7th Inning
Minnesota 1
LA Angels 1 Bottom 1st Inning
Oakland 0
San Francisco 1 Bottom 1st Inning
Los Angeles 0
Colorado 0 Top 2nd Inning
San Diego 1
Chicago 24 3rd Qtr 11:23
NY Jets 13
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
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Baltimore
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NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
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San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Detroit 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 0 2nd Prd 20:00
Philadelphia 0
Washington 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Minnesota 0 3rd Prd 5:24
Winnipeg 2
St. Louis 2 3rd Prd 20:00
Dallas 1
Anaheim 1 2nd Prd 7:02
Colorado 2
Colorado 0 1st Prd 11:03
Anaheim 2
Los Angeles 1 1st Prd 10:01
Arizona 1
Arizona 9:30 PM
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(15) Arizona State
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Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
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(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
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Purdue
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Rutgers
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(19) Wisconsin
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Boston College
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Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
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Pittsburgh
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Virginia
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Navy
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Michigan
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Kansas
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Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
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Air Force
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Clemson
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Toledo
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ULM
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(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
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Iowa State
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Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35

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