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.
Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.
69 — number of Eddie Lacy’s rushing yards that came after contact on Sunday.
The bruising Packers running back did a lot of his damage against the Vikings after contact. Again. According to Pro Football Focus, 69 of Lacy’s 125 rushing yards Sunday came after contact. Lacy forced the Vikings to miss five tackles. Back in Week 5, 52 of Lacy’s 105 rushing yards came after contact. He forced three more missed tackles in that game. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Lacy has now rushed for 229 total yards after contact in his four career games against the Vikings.
four — Packers punts on Sunday, as many as their past three games combined.
The Packers were 6-for-11 on third down, averaged 5.8 yards per play and were 3-for-3 in the red zone. But there is a stat that proves the Vikings defense made it difficult at times for them, at least more difficult than previous opponents had. The Packers had punted just four times in their previous three games. The Vikings convinced them to bring out punter Tim Masthay four times, including on the first drive of the game. The Packers hadn’t punted in the first quarter since Week 6.
zero — sacks or quarterback hits allowed by Kalil in the loss to the Packers.
For the first time all season, Kalil didn’t allow his quarterback to hit the ground. The embattled left tackle allowed three hurries against the Packers, but no sacks or quarterback knockdowns. With Kalil stabilizing the left side, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked just twice. But, as has always seemed to be the case with Kalil this season, there was some bad. Kalil was flagged three times for 35 yards. He has now been penalized eight times this season, according to ESPN.
54 — yards allowed in coverage by Josh Robinson against Green Bay’s wide-outs.
Robinson got picked on by the Bears in Week 11, but he responded with a solid performance against the Packers and their talented receivers. The cornerback was targeted 10 times by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and allowed six of the throws to be completed, but they were usually underneath the coverage. Jordy Nelson had five catches for 44 yards against him and Davante Adams had one for 10. It should be noted that fellow cornerback Xavier Rhodes was even better.
five — consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass for Bridgewater.
It took four games for the rookie quarterback to throw his first NFL touchdown pass. But after he hit wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson for his first back in the Bills game, Bridgewater has made a habit of throwing the ball into the end zone for scores. Bridgewater has now thrown at least one touchdown pass in five straight games and the two he threw against the Packers were a career high. His TD-INT differential was 6-4 in those games, but he is still a negative in that stat on the season.
Every Tuesday, we’ll analyze the Vikings draft chances for the upcoming NFL Draft.
Apologizes for not updating the Vikings draft chances last Tuesday with the NFL announcing Adrian Peterson’s suspension, but we’re back! And it’s time for…wait, where did all the red pills go?
Two weeks, two losses. The reality that the Vikings, at 4-7, will be draft bound has swept throughout the Twin Cities. Most of you are here to see where they belong in the draft order, but to appease our entire audience and those still clinging to their blue pills, the Vikings have a 0.03 percent chance of making the playoffs.
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
Yes, Lloyd Christmas, in your fabricated reality, we are saying there’s a very, very, tiny chance.
But back in the real world, the Vikings sit in last place in the NFC North and have a top 10 pick at this moment. Here’s how the order looks with record, strength of schedule tiebreaker (if necessary) and upcoming opponent listed in parentheses:
If the season ended today, the Vikings would have the ninth overall pick, edging out the Saints and Rams with the same record due to a lower strength of schedule percentage. A loss against the Panthers, who sit with the eighth overall pick right now, would move the Vikings, at worst, one spot up in the draft order.
Strength of schedule will change weekly as teams progress through the final five games of the season. The remaining five opponents for the Vikings at this point are 23-32-1 (.427), so their strength of schedule could dip a little more by the end of the season.
It’s also noteworthy that the Falcons, who sit in first place in the terrible NFC South, would have the ninth overall pick at this point if they didn’t hold a playoff spot. They’re 4-7 with a .430 strength of schedule percentage, which is lower than the Vikings at this point.
Yes, Lloyd, the Vikings would have a shot at the playoffs if they played in the NFC South this year. But, they don’t.
We’re going to need a refill on red pills.
Meanwhile, here are a few “Big Boards” to tickle your draft fantasies for the time being. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Ducks QB Marcus Mariota as the top player on his list, but CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang currently has USC DE Leonard Williams as the top prospect in college football at the moment.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— The Vikings lost RT Phil Loadholt for the season with a torn pec.
— Backup OT Mike Harris says he is ready to step in for Loadholt.
— LT Matt Kalil apologized to the media, but not that Vikings fan.
— Head coach Mike Zimmer says he does not count moral victories.
— Charles Johnson led all Vikings receivers in playing time Sunday.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
MY HEART GOES OUT TO MIKE BROWN’S FAMILY! MY THOUGHTS & PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU! #PRAYING4PEACE
— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) November 25, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Panthers DB Josh Norman is not a fan of CB Captain Munnerlyn.
— The Panthers are hoping for another rebirth against the Vikings.
— The Panthers need to keep feeding rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
Vikings players have the day off. Several of them, including C John Sullivan and DT Tom Johnson, will spend it at an early Thanksgiving meal at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Sacks and pressures were the big issue for Kalil until recently. Now penalties are a problem for him, too. Kalil was flagged three times Sunday against the Packers for 35 yards. He has now been penalized eight times this season, according to ESPN. That’s the seventh-highest total in the NFL.
A few tidbits from Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s press conference on Monday:
“I think Phil is a great person,” Zimmer said. “He’s very conscientious, works hard, he’s got a great heart. So that’s just part of football. Obviously we’ll miss him. But we’re not going to let it hold us back from what we’re trying to get done.”
The Vikings are exploring their options, but Zimmer said Harris will probably fill in at right tackle against the Panthers.
“He was wrong in what he did,” Zimmer said. “We appreciate 99.9 percent of the fans, they’re great for us and he should have conducted himself in better manner. It’s a good lesson for all of us. I know that in the past there have been times when I’ve been upset with people, too, but they pay money to go watch us play and watch us perform so they have a right to express their opinion. We just have to keep our composure and not let things get out of hand, I think.”
“I thought [Banyard] did some good things,” Zimmer said. “His yards after contact was good, had some good runs; had a good run on that third down. Caught the ball a couple times, the ball wasn’t exactly in the right place and made some catches. He continued to help keep drives alive.”
“I’m pleased with his progress and where he’s going,” Zimmer said. “He studies really hard. He’s still a young, young guy in the development of where I think his football career can go. But it’s nice to have a guy that you can say, ‘Hey, you’ve got this guy and let’s go.’”
Vikings offensive tackle Mike Harris replaced Phil Loadholt at right tackle for the offense’s final nine snaps during the 24-21 loss to the Packers on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Now, he might be replacing Loadholt for the remaining five games. There’s a report out on Monday that Loadholt will be out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. He’ll be the second starting offensive lineman the Vikings will lose for the season, along with right guard Brandon Fusco, but it comes with an opportunity for Harris to play a significant role.
“The team is counting on me to perform, so I’m excited for the opportunity,” Harris said. “It’s a great privilege to start in the NFL and just got to take it how it is.”
Harris said Loadholt’s injury was unfortunate given it’s someone he looks up to in the locker room. It occurred with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter, prompting Harris to see some rare snaps on offense.
“It was pressure time,” Harris said. “We needed to score at that moment, and I hadn’t played really; was a little stiff, but thought I went in and did an OK job. But watching film right now and there’s definitely some things I need to work on so this week I’m going to take everyday, starting Wednesday, to prepare and get ready for a good opponent on Sunday.”
If the Vikings opt to replace Loadholt will Harris on Sunday against the Panthers, it will be his 13th career start through three seasons. Harris, 25, spent his first two seasons with the Chargers and was a rookie during offensive coordinator’s final season as the Chargers head coach in 2012.
“I can just build on my career,” said Harris on the possibility of starting. “It’s a great opportunity to start in the NFL at any position so it’s been a while since I’ve played but I’m just going to take it and go play hard. I know my team is counting on me to perform so that’s just what I’m going to take it as and just enjoy it for what it is. It’s unfortunate for Phil because he’s out, but I have to go in there and not miss a beat because he’s a great tackle.”
|Cleveland||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Washington||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Tennessee||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|San Diego||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Giants||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Oakland||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|New Orleans||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Carolina||11/30/14 12:00 PM|
|Arizona||11/30/14 3:05 PM|
|New England||11/30/14 3:25 PM|
|Denver||11/30/14 7:30 PM|
|Miami||12/1/14 7:30 PM|
|Mount St Marys||49||FINAL|
|Miss Valley St||52||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||45||FINAL|
|New Mexico St||78|
|Utah Valley U||60||FINAL|
|San Diego St||59|
|(6) TCU||6:30 PM|
|Northern Ill||11/28/14 10:00 AM|
|Nebraska||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Western Ky||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|UCF||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Houston||11/28/14 11:00 AM|
|Akron||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Ball State||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Buffalo||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Toledo||11/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Arkansas||11/28/14 1:30 PM|
|Navy||11/28/14 2:00 PM|
|(13) Arizona State||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|Stanford||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|(21) Colorado State||11/28/14 2:30 PM|
|Virginia||11/28/14 7:00 PM|
|East Carolina||11/28/14 7:30 PM|
|North Texas||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Old Dominion||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|(16) Georgia Tech||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Kentucky||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|So Carolina||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|West Virginia||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Rice||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Michigan||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|(7) Ohio State|
|Purdue||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Illinois||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|Cincinnati||11/29/14 11:00 AM|
|NC State||11/29/14 11:30 AM|
|Syracuse||11/29/14 11:30 AM|
|Louisiana||11/29/14 11:30 AM|
|Utah||11/29/14 12:00 PM|
|Texas State||11/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Idaho||11/29/14 1:00 PM|
|Wyoming||11/29/14 2:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||11/29/14 2:00 PM|
|UAB||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(4) Miss State||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(18) Ole Miss|
|Notre Dame||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(10) Michigan State||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(22) Minnesota||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(5) Baylor||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|Florida||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State|
|Rutgers||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|San Jose St||11/29/14 2:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Tennessee||11/29/14 3:00 PM|
|Kansas||11/29/14 3:00 PM|
|(11) Kansas State|
|Connecticut||11/29/14 3:00 PM|
|BYU||11/29/14 3:30 PM|
|ULM||11/29/14 5:00 PM|
|Middle Tennessee||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|Hawaii||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|Wake Forest||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|Pittsburgh||11/29/14 6:00 PM|
|(15) Auburn||11/29/14 6:45 PM|
|(3) Oregon||11/29/14 7:00 PM|
|Utah State||11/29/14 9:15 PM|
|(25) Boise State|
|Washington||11/29/14 9:30 PM|
|Nevada||11/29/14 9:30 PM|
|Hamilton||11/30/14 5:00 PM|
|East Tenn St||69||FINAL|
|(22) West Virginia||83|
|Mount St Marys||73|
|William & Mary||56|
|(16) Michigan State||79|
|Utah Valley U||49||FINAL|
|(7) Texas A&M||93|
|Long Beach St||69||FINAL|
Poll: Which NFL game do you most want to sneak away to watch on Thanksgiving?