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.
Viking head coach Mike Zimmer said after today’s 20-9 loss to the Saints that starting quarterback Matt Cassel broke multiple bones in one of his feet while scrambling out of the pocket in the second quarter. Cassel is out indefinitely and his broken foot could threaten to sideline him for the season.
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater made his NFL debut after Cassel limped off the field and was carted to the locker room. He completed 12 of his 20 attempts for 150 yards and no turnovers.
“I thought he was very composed. I didn’t see any panic,” Zimmer said. “I believe that he’s going to be pretty good.”
Three other Vikings starters and a key reserve left with injuries, a couple of them potentially major.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph has a groin injury and will undergo more tests tomorrow. Right guard Brandon Fusco has a shoulder injury that also has the team concerned.
Outside linebacker Chad Greenway started despite a broken hand, but it was his existing rib injury that shut him down early today. Cornerback Josh Robinson left the game with a hamstring injury. Not sure if it’s the same one from the preseason or how serious the injury is.
Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel has been ruled out with a toe injury he suffered in the second quarter. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater replaced Cassel with 12:15 left in the first half.
The injury occurred on a five-yard scramble with 14:47 left in the first half where Cassel was slow to get up. He was later carted into the locker room. Cassel finished the game 5 of 10 for 53 yards.
Bridgewater went 3 of 5 for 46 yards in the first half, leading the Vikings to a field goal on his first drive. Most of his yards in the first half came on a 41-yard dump off to running back Matt Asiata to put the Vikings in field goal range. Bridgewater also had five rushes for 23 yards.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
|NY Mets - LP: B. Colon||2||FINAL|
|Washington - WP: T. Roark||4|
|Baltimore||5||Bottom 9th Inning|
|Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura||7||FINAL|
|Cleveland - LP: D. Salazar||1|
|Seattle - LP: F. Hernandez||2||FINAL|
|Toronto - WP: R. Dickey||10|
|Chicago WSox||3||Bottom 9th Inning|
|Philadelphia - LP: C. Hamels||0||FINAL|
|Miami - WP: H. Alvarez||2|
|Pittsburgh - WP: G. Cole||3||FINAL|
|Atlanta - LP: A. Wood||2|
|Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers||1||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto||3|
|Tampa Bay||6||Bottom 9th Inning|
|Houston||0||Bottom 7th Inning|
|St. Louis||3||Top 8th Inning|
|Arizona||1||Top 7th Inning|
|LA Angels||0||Bottom 1st Inning|
|San Francisco||0||Bottom 1st Inning|
|Colorado||0||Top 2nd Inning|
|NY Giants||9/25/14 7:25 PM|
|Buffalo||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Tennessee||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Carolina||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Tampa Bay||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Miami||9/28/14 12:00 PM|
|Jacksonville||9/28/14 3:05 PM|
|Atlanta||9/28/14 3:25 PM|
|Philadelphia||9/28/14 3:25 PM|
|New Orleans||9/28/14 7:30 PM|
|New England||9/29/14 7:30 PM|
|San Jose||0||2nd Prd 4:52|
|Arizona||1||1st Prd 10:45|
|Texas Tech||9/25/14 6:30 PM|
|(24) Oklahoma State|
|Appalachian St||9/25/14 6:30 PM|
|(11) UCLA||9/25/14 9:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Middle Tennessee||9/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Fresno State||9/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|(25) Kansas State|
|Tennessee||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Vanderbilt||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Wyoming||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|(9) Michigan State|
|Northwestern||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|TCU||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Iowa||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Tulane||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|So Florida||9/27/14 11:00 AM|
|Colorado State||9/27/14 11:30 AM|
|Western Mich||9/27/14 11:30 AM|
|Maryland||9/27/14 12:30 PM|
|Akron||9/27/14 12:30 PM|
|Bowling Green||9/27/14 2:00 PM|
|Arkansas||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|(6) Texas A&M|
|Kent State||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Western Ky||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Minnesota||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Wake Forest||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|FIU||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Florida State||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Miami-Ohio||9/27/14 2:30 PM|
|Colorado||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Texas||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Temple||9/27/14 3:00 PM|
|(16) Stanford||9/27/14 3:15 PM|
|TX-San Antonio||9/27/14 4:00 PM|
|South Alabama||9/27/14 4:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||9/27/14 5:00 PM|
|(22) Ohio State|
|Rice||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|Missouri||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|(13) So Carolina|
|Boise State||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|North Carolina||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|Central Mich||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|Troy||9/27/14 6:00 PM|
|New Mexico St||9/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Memphis||9/27/14 6:30 PM|
|(10) Ole Miss|
|Duke||9/27/14 6:30 PM|
|Texas State||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|Washington St||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|(8) Notre Dame||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|(7) Baylor||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|UNLV||9/27/14 7:00 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Illinois||9/27/14 8:00 PM|
|Oregon State||9/27/14 9:30 PM|
|Nevada||9/27/14 9:30 PM|
|San Jose St|
|Montreal||9/26/14 6:00 PM|
|Saskatchewan||9/26/14 9:00 PM|
|Hamilton||9/27/14 5:30 PM|
|Brt Columbia||9/27/14 8:30 PM|