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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Five Vikings stats that stand out for Week 16

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 16th at 1:17pm 285978781

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.

Vikings NFL Draft Order: Week 16

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 16th at 7:05pm 285971211

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:

  1. Tampa Bay (2-12) (.467) (vs. Green Bay on Sunday)
  2. Tennessee (2-12) (.503) (at Jacksonville on Sunday)
  3. Jacksonville (2-12) (.538) (vs. Tennessee on Sunday)
  4. Oakland (2-12) (.571) (vs. Buffalo on Sunday)
  5. Washington (3-11) (.469) (vs. Philadelphia on Saturday)
  6. New York Jets (3-11) (.536) (vs. New England on Sunday)
  7. Atlanta (5-9) (.495) (at New Orleans on Sunday)
  8. New York Giants (5-9) (.505) (at St. Louis on Sunday)
  9. Chicago (5-9) (.519) (vs. Detroit on Sunday)
  10. Carolina (5-8-1) (vs. Cleveland on Sunday)
  11. Minnesota (6-8) (.482) (at Miami on Sunday)
  12. St. Louis (6-8) (.536) (vs. New York Giants on Sunday)

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.

Greenway named Vikings' Community Man of Year

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 16th at 10:59am 285968341

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.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: NFC North has been unkind, Teddy learns on the fly and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 16th at 7:03pm 285936511

Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— The Vikings are still looking for their first NFC North win of the season.

— Coach Mike Zimmer is glad QB Teddy Bridgewater is learning on the fly.

— The NFLPA is officially suing the NFL on RB Adrian Peterson’s behalf.

— LT Matt Kalil fared better against the Lions the second time around.

— OLB Chad Greenway is up for the NFL’s new sportsmanship award.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— Dolphins coach Joe Philbin’s future in Miami is in serious doubt.

— Philbin says he is only concerned with the Vikings, not his future.

— Miami’s playoff hopes have dwindled with back-to-back losses.

— The Dolphins opened up their passing game in their latest loss.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

It’s Tuesday, so Vikings players have the day off. They’ll be back in the building tomorrow.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Rookie wide receivers are making an impact across the league, and it’s not just first-rounders like Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. Mid-round picks such as Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant have made some plays, too. The Vikings, despite having 10 picks, did not take a wide receiver. The position wasn’t a major need, but it was one of the deepest receiver classes in recent memory.

Mike Zimmer glad Teddy Bridgewater's learning by playing

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 15th at 3:42pm 285870871

Once quarterback Matt Cassel was placed on injured reserve three games into the year, the Vikings season was mainly about the growth of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and how he adjusted to the NFL.

He jumped into the mix faster than anticipated with Cassel’s foot injury, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is saying that Bridgewater’s on-the-job training will benefit the quarterback, the offense and the organization down the road.

“I really think you learn best from playing,” Zimmer said. “That’s what I believe, and I’m glad that he’s playing. …What I was nervous about at the beginning of the year was I didn’t want to get him beat up, I didn’t want to get him gun-shy, I didn’t want to get him a bunch of bad outings where he didn’t have the confidence and that attitude that he was going to do the things that he’s doing.”

Another concern Zimmer had with Bridgewater making his first start four games into his career was his health. The Vikings have gradually lost three starting offensive linemen and shuffled around at every position except left tackle Matt Kalil, who has been inconsistent, and center John Sullivan.

Bridgewater is tied with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the eighth most sacks taken in the NFL this season with 32. Zimmer believes the protection has improved as of late with Bridgewater sacked a combined six times against a good Jets and Lions defensive line.

“I’m glad that we’re keeping him upright,” Zimmer said. “You can think back, and I know it’s just my belief, you think back on some of the quarterbacks that have had to play as rookies or been playing as rookies and got the heck beat out of them and they haven’t made it. So that was the most important thing to me to start this season is that we take care of him and when it’s time, it’s time.”

It’s evident Bridgewater has made gradual strides over the course of this season, with many learning experiences along the way in 10 career starts. The latest occurred in a 16-14 loss to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, when the Vikings offense couldn’t score in the second half and missed out on two opportunities in the final four minutes to take the lead.

“I think in the long run his playing and going through all these experiences and getting a chance to play against Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit will be a big factor for us in the future because he’s been through these things now,” Zimmer said. “It’s not new. If he wasn’t playing, that fourth quarter[against the Lions], the things that happened in the ballgame, maybe next year we’re in the same boat and he’s learning from it then as opposed to learning from it now.”

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Philadelphia 24 FINAL
Washington 27
San Diego 38 FINAL
San Francisco 35
Minnesota 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Phoenix 99 FINAL
New York 90
Portland 114 FINAL
New Orleans 88
Utah 86 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Atlanta 104 FINAL
Houston 97
San Antonio 93 FINAL
Dallas 99
Indiana 73 FINAL
Denver 76
Milwaukee 102 FINAL
LA Clippers 106
Arizona 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Colorado 5 FINAL
Buffalo 1
Philadelphia 7 FINAL
Toronto 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Montreal 4
Washington 4 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Tampa Bay 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Florida 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
NY Rangers 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Chicago 2 FINAL(SO)
Columbus 3
Nashville 6 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 5
Calgary 2 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
St. Louis 2 FINAL(OT)
San Jose 3
VA Commonwealth 68 FINAL
Cincinnati 47
Charlotte 78 FINAL
Georgetown 81
SMU 62 FINAL
Michigan 51
Louisville 76 FINAL
Western Ky 67
Mount St Marys 45 FINAL
American Univ 46
Abilene Christian 33 FINAL
Boise State 77
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
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IUPUI 71
Ohio State 74 FINAL
North Carolina 82
Massachusetts 65 FINAL
Providence 85
Syracuse 77 FINAL
Villanova 82
Citadel 61 FINAL
Virginia Tech 64
Belmont 73 FINAL
Fairfield 61
St Bonaventure 69 FINAL
Binghamton 51
Montreat 64 FINAL
Campbell 90
Delaware 74 FINAL
Fair-Dickinson 76
South Florida 62 FINAL
Florida State 75
Vanderbilt 60 FINAL
Georgia Tech 65
SC State 71 FINAL
Houston 63
Missouri 59 FINAL
Illinois 62
Truett-McConnell 55 FINAL
Jacksonville 84
Toledo 83 FINAL
McNeese State 69
Elon 71 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 64
Drexel 68 FINAL
Penn State 73
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Rutgers 68
Albany 64 FINAL
Yale 60
PSU-Beaver 74 FINAL
Longwood 106
Eastern Ill 60 FINAL
Indiana State 56
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Butler 73
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Memphis 78
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Oregon 83
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Florida 63
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James Madison 71
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Michigan State 64
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Santa Clara 72
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Texas State 90
Purdue 63 FINAL
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Prairie View 44 FINAL
Sam Houston St 61
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Akron 92
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Central Conn St 76
Hofstra 77 FINAL
Columbia 82
Boston Univ 62 FINAL
Dayton 78
Iona 81 FINAL
George Mason 86
Valparaiso 75 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 72
Texas A&M 64 FINAL
Kansas State 71
Morgan State 69 FINAL
Manhattan 73
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Marist 58
East Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 66
Richmond 65 FINAL
Pepperdine 63
La Salle 67 FINAL
Towson 53
Incarnate Word 110 FINAL
UMKC 104
CS-Bakersfield 59 FINAL
Idaho State 50
Iowa 44 FINAL
Northern Iowa 56
Milwaukee 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 61
Long Beach State 68 FINAL
Texas 78
TX-San Antonio 57 FINAL
TCU 88
SE Missouri St 67 FINAL
Arkansas 84
Lehigh 84 FINAL
Arizona State 81
New Mexico 69 FINAL
New Mexico St 67
Oklahoma 67 FINAL
Washington 69
Utah Valley U 61 FINAL
Weber State 73
Jacksonville St 60 FINAL
Northern Colorado 69
St Edwards 55 FINAL
Grand Canyon 81
NC State 69 FINAL
West Virginia 83
TX A&M-CC 75 FINAL
CS-Northridge 68
Cal Poly 50 FINAL
Gonzaga 63
Fresno State 68 FINAL
Pacific 71
Montana State 60 FINAL
Portland 87
Ball State 57 FINAL
San Diego St 70
South Dakota St 68 FINAL
Utah State 65
Stanford 77 FINAL
BYU 79
Utah 59 FINAL
UNLV 46
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
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Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
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Virginia Tech
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(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Livingstone 77 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Dartmouth 70
Georgia Tech 65 FINAL
St Francis-NY 59
Auburn 49 FINAL
St Johns 56
East Tenn St 56 FINAL
Jacksonville St 57
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Detroit 57
Cal-Irvine 42 FINAL
Wright State 80
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Kennesaw St 50
(7) Stanford 40 FINAL
(11) Tennessee 59
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Central Michigan 45 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 80
Nebraska Omaha 50 FINAL
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FIU 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 83
Houston 65 FINAL
Nicholls 47
St Thomas Aquinas 45 FINAL
Army 70
St Bonaventure 72 FINAL
Niagara 60
Texas State 57 FINAL
Stetson 75
George Mason 65 FINAL
ULM 53
Grambling 38 FINAL
Kansas State 61
Missouri 79 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Robert Morris 59 FINAL
Cornell 70
Air Force 44 FINAL
Abilene Christian 80
Hampton 53 FINAL
James Madison 85
American Univ 64 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 52
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 68
Tenn Tech 49 FINAL
NC A&T 54
Presbyterian 45 FINAL
NC Central 33
Penn 58 FINAL
Drexel 67
Lipscomb 38 FINAL
Xavier 62
Vermont 40 FINAL
Green Bay 60
Charleston Southern 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 80
Ohio Christian 62 FINAL
Akron 97
Jacksonville 62 FINAL
Murray State 80
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Iona 58
Indiana 88 FINAL
Oakland 61
Indiana State 64 FINAL
SMU 55
Denver 51 FINAL
Purdue 65
TX-San Antonio 48 FINAL
Texas Tech 64
UCF 57 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Campbell 66 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 55
Florida A&M 67 FINAL
SE Louisiana 69
Northwestern St 61 FINAL
Jackson State 62
Lehigh 61 FINAL
Arizona State 81
Valparaiso 65 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 77
Liberty 60 FINAL
Minnesota 74
Wofford 60 FINAL
North Florida 68
Montana State 61 FINAL
Washington St 82
Marshall 56 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 69
Morgan State 40 FINAL
Chattanooga 55
Northeastern 65 FINAL
Harvard 67
Furman 51 FINAL
(15) Georgia 58
(18) Michigan State 65 FINAL
(9) Baylor 84
Ohio U 52 FINAL
Massachusetts 59
Prairie View 48 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 86
Toledo 64 FINAL
Southern Ill 48
High Point 57 FINAL
(12) Nebraska 83
Winthrop 20 FINAL
Wichita State 66
William Jewell 59 FINAL
UMKC 51
Louisiana Tech 52 FINAL
Utah 67
Southern Utah 51 FINAL
Gonzaga 70
Hawaii 85 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 76
San Jose St 62 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Northridge 65 FINAL
San Diego State 54
Norfolk State 36 FINAL
East Carolina 65
Saint Peters 49 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 59
Arizona 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 72
Northwestern 92 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 44
Oral Roberts 52 FINAL
Wisconsin 70
Florida Atlantic 44 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
La Salle 76 FINAL
Georgia State 68
(16) Oregon State 73 FINAL
Nevada 50
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
Villanova 49
Delaware 59 FINAL
Cincinnati 67
Troy 75 FINAL
Tennessee St 71
Saint Louis 68 FINAL
Utah Valley U 66
Washington 74 FINAL
UC-Riverside 71
Pacific 43 FINAL
Long Beach St 53
Old Dominion 69 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 63
Austin Peay 62 FINAL
Montana 83
Lewis-Clark State 48 FINAL
Idaho 74
(21) Miss State 73 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 36

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