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: Vikings 17, Dolphins 7

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 21st at 1:43pm 286502691

The Vikings lead 17-7 at halftime over the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Kicker Blair Walsh made an 18-yard field goal with two seconds left in the first half to give the Vikings a two-score lead.

The Good: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater connected with wide receiver Greg Jennings once again for a 21-yard touchdown. Jennings ran a good route to gain separation from cornerback Brent Grimes, and the rookie quarterback had perfect placement on the pass.

It’s Jennings’ fifth touchdown this season and fourth in the last five games. He had just four touchdowns last season as the Vikings rotated through quarterbacks Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman.

It’s Jennings’ only catch in the game, however. Bridgewater went 7 of 11 for 118 yards and a touchdown.

The Bad: The Vikings had a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. If this situation doesn’t sound familiar, it should. They had the same lead last week against the Lions and lost 16-14.

The Dolphins responded to Jennings’ touchdown with a 12-play, 92-yard drive that lasted 6:41 and ended with a 14-yard touchdown catch by tight end Dion Sims.

Running back Lamar Miller has carried the Dolphins offense with 104 total yards on 11 carries and four receptions.

The Vikings did a good job of scoring a field goal right before halftime, however, to extend their lead.

The Ugly: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had the biggest blunder of the first half when safety Harrison Smith intercepted his screen pass attempt. Smith blitzed off the right edge, the same side of the Dolphins’ screen play. Tannehill was hurried by Smith, who jumped up to bat the pass and ended up making the catch.

Smith has five interceptions this season. He could’ve had another interception in the first half, but Smith dropped a pass thrown right at him. Tannehill is 16 of 24 for 160 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Vikings' Kyle Rudolph out; David Yankey active vs. Dolphins

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 21st at 11:27am 286497431

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph will be out with an ankle/knee injury against the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday.

Rudolph has been active just eight times through 15 games. He recovered from sports hernia surgery in November, but Rudolph hasn’t looked the same since he returned. Rhett Ellison will start for Rudolph.

Safety Robert Blanton is active, but he will not start. He was listed as questionable on Friday with an ankle/knee injury. Andrew Sendejo will receive his second straight start at strong safety. Sendejo had a solid game last week against the Lions.

Rookie guard David Yankey will be active for the first time this season. Up until this game, Yankey was the only drafted rookie not to suit up. The Vikings have spent the entire season developing the Stanford product in what would be similar to a “redshirt” season in college.

Here’s the complete inactive list for both the Vikings and Dolphins:

Vikings
S Ahmad Dixon
CB Shaun Prater
FB Zach Line
LB Anthony Barr
OT Carter Bykowski
OG Charlie Johnson
TE Kyle Rudolph

Dolphins
RB Rishard Matthews
RB Daniel Thomas
S Don Jones
LB Chris McCain
OG Dallas Thomas
OG Nate Garner
WR Matt Hazel

Greenway expected to play after death of his father

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 21st at 10:20am 286496651

Vikings outside linebacker Chad Greenway is expected to play against the Dolphins today, two days after his father, Alan, lost his battle with leukemia.

Greenway was excused from practice Friday to travel back to South Dakota to see his father. His father passed away later that night.

Greenway is with the team here in Miami, and all indications are that he will play.

The nine-year veteran is second on the team with 91 tackles despite missing three games earlier this season due to broken ribs.

Craig: Week 16 Picks & Power Rankings

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated December 21st at 7:43am 286492921

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. Seahawks (10-4)
Why:
Well, it certainly took them long enough to come around to form, but the defending champions are once again looking like the best team in the league. For this week, at least. (See: Patriots, Packers, Broncos, Cardinals …) We know the Seahawks have the QB to get the job done. And tossing Percy overboard hasn’t hurt anything but Percy’s career. But the Seahawks are back on top because of this number: 6.8. That’s the average point total of the opponent during Seattle’s current four-game winning streak.

THE REST

2. Patriots (11-3); 3. Broncos (11-3); 4. Cardinals (11-3); 5. Cowboys (10-4); 6. Colts (10-4); 7. Lions (10-4); 8. Bills (8-6); 9. Packers (10-4); 10. Steelers (9-5); 11. Bengals (9-4-1); 12. Ravens (9-5); 13. Chargers (9-6); 14. Chiefs (8-6); 15. Saints (6-8); 16. Rams (6-8); 17. Texans (7-7); 18. Dolphins (7-7); 19. Redskins (4-11); 20. Eagles (9-6); 21. Bears (5-9).

THE VIKINGS
22. Vikings 6-8 (Last week: 21):
The Vikings don’t have a signature win. They haven’t beaten a team that currently has a winning record or even a .500 record. But that doesn’t mean coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t have the program heading in the right direction. The defensive schemes are proving to be effective and Norv Turner’s work with rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is paying off. The offense naturally struggled to find an identity after Adrian Peterson was removed from the team. Over time, that identity has become a spread-it-out passing attack with Bridgewater making quick throws to avoid pressure. Last week’s effort in Detroit showed the players believe that the coaches know what they’re doing.

THE REST OF THE REST
23. Panthers (5-8-1); 24. Giants (5-9); 25. 49ers (7-8); 26. Browns (7-7); 27. Falcons (5-9); 28. Jets (3-11); 29. Jaguars (3-12); 30. Raiders (2-12); 31. Buccaneers (2-12).

32. Titans (2-13)

WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Titans (2-13):
Last week’s Worst of the Bunch just rose up and beat the Eagles. So we shot them up high enough to rank ahead of the Eagles (No. 1 rule in these rankings: You can’t rank higher than a team you just lost to the week before). Looking for a void to fill at the bottom, we invited the Titans to come on down after laying down low enough to lose to the Jaguars on Thursday. Yeah, they tell us there was an NFL game on Thursday. Who knew?

THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE HOPEFUL

1, Norv Turner and Teddy Bridgewater are developing an offensive identity. Who knows if Adrian Peterson will return next season. With him and Bridgewater together, the Vikings could be something special offensively. Without Peterson, the Vikings struggled to establish an identity. When they realized they couldn’t be a running team and Bridgewater began to get comfortable, Turner started putting in more five-wide, shotgun sets to let Bridgewater make quick decisions and throws to avoid pressure.

2, The defense is playing with a lot of confidence and trust in Zimmer’s schemes and philosophy. When the Vikings led 14-0 last week, the Lions hadn’t even registered a first down.

3, Xavier Rhodes showed last week that he has the makings of a future full-time shutdown corner. Couple that with Harrison Smith at free safety and very good things could happen for this defense.

THREE REASONS FOR VIKINGS FANS TO BE NERVOUS

1, Blair Walsh isn’t a major concern because he has been so consistent over a longer period. But his current funk suggests he’s overthinking things.

2, Lingering knee injuries for young big fellas like Sharrif Floyd tend to be worrisome. This was his chance to step out of Kevin Williams’ shadow. And while Floyd did show flashes of standout play, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Williams rarely missed playing time.

3, As far as today’s game goes, the Vikings again will need to run the ball somewhat effectively to help protect Bridgewater from a strong pass rush on the road. Can the Vikings muster a decent running game without a feature back and a beat-up offensive line?

THE PICKS

VIKINGS
Vikings plus-6 ½ at Dolphins. The pick: Vikings 27, Dolphins 24.

Why?: The Dolphins are fading fast, having lost two straight and three of their last four. In the past month, they’ve mustered only a three-point win over the Jets. Miami is 3-3 at home, although the Dolphins have had a tough home schedule. This is one of the more up-and-down teams. The Vikings aren’t the better team, but the guess here is they’ll play harder and pull off the upset.

Last week: Vikings plus-7 ½ at Lions. The pick: Lions 21, Vikings 7. The final: Lions 16, Vikings 14. 11-3.

UPSET SPECIAL

Vikings plus-6 ½ at Dolphins. The pick: Vikings 27, Dolphins 24

Last week: Packers minus-4 ½ at Bills. The pick: Bills 34, Packers 31. The final Bills 21, Packers 13. Record: 5-10.

THE REST

Chargers plus-1 at 49ers: Chargers by 7

Eagles minus-7 ½ at Redskins: Eagles by 10

Packers minus-10 ½ at Buccaneers: Packers by 14

Lions minus-7 at Bears: Bears by 3

Falcons plus-6 at Saints: Saints by 7

Patriots minus-10 at Jets: Patriots by 17

Chiefs plus-3 at Steelers: Steelers by 7

Browns plus-2 ½ at Panthers: Panthers by 3

Ravens minus-5 ½ at Texans: Ravens by 3

Giants plus-5 at Rams: Giants by 3

Bills minus-5 ½ at Raiders: Raiders by 3

Colts plus-3 at Cowboys: Cowboys by 10

Seahawks minus-8 at Cardinals: Seahawks by 10

Broncos minus-3 at Bengals: Bengals by 3

Record: Last week/overall: 9-6/124-81-1. Versus spread: Last week/overall: 7-8/104-102.

'Very minor' knee surgery ends Barr's season early

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated December 19th at 5:15pm 286385531

Anthony Barr’s season rookie season officially ended Thursday night when he was told he needs what coach Mike Zimmer described as a “very minor procedure” to repair a knee injury that has sidelined him the past two games.

Zimmer wouldn’t reveal the exact nature of the injury, saying only that, “it’s very similar to a slight meniscus tear.

“It should be nothing. It really should be nothing. He’ll be getting going again. He’s a great kid. I don’t think it will be an issue at all.”

Barr said he hurt the knee before the Panthers game on Nov. 30. He left that game because of the injury, but doesn’t think he suffered any further damage by trying to play on it.

“I’ve been trying each week to go out that, but it hasn’t been right,” Barr said. “So it’s time to fix it up. … Nothing is torn.”

Asked to assess his rookie season, the ninth overall draft pick said, “I thought it was decent. I would say it was a B, B-minus. Something like that.”

Asked what improvements he’ll be focusing on after he recovers, Barr said, “We could sit here and talk about that all day. It’s a long list. I just want to get better as a player, as a leader and hopefully make strides for next week.

“I don’t think [surgery] is going to slow me down [for next year]. My season just ended a little earlier than everybody else’s. Just got to continue to improve and I have the whole offseason to do that. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field.”

Zimmer said Barr will have the surgery soon. He’ll continue to sit in on meetings, as he has the past two weeks.

“He’s going to be so much further ahead of where he was when the rookies got here,” Zimmer said. “So I think really the sky is the limit for him.”

Barr was leading the team in tackles with 99 at the time of the injury. He also had four sacks, four tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hits, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, including one that he forced and returned for a touchdown to beat the Buccaneers in overtime.

“He played great,” Zimmer said. “He’s a good football player. He’s a good kid who studies hard and does everything right. He’s very conscientious, hard-working, can’t wait, he’s already excited about getting this fixed and getting back to playing.”

Zimmer said the Vikings will decide next week whether to put Barr on injured reserve and use his roster spot to acquire another player for the season finale against the Bears.

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Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
Boston 88 FINAL
Washington 101
Orlando 102 FINAL
Charlotte 94
Memphis 103 FINAL
Miami 95
Indiana 110 FINAL
Brooklyn 85
New Orleans 100 FINAL
Chicago 107
Atlanta 70 4th Qtr 10:29
Milwaukee 68
Philadelphia 32 3rd Qtr
Utah 44
New York 14 1st Qtr 3:34
Sacramento 24
Minnesota 9:30 PM
Golden State
NY Islanders 3 FINAL(SO)
Buffalo 4
Detroit 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
New Jersey 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Boston 2 FINAL
Columbus 6
Winnipeg 4 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 4 3rd Prd 10:28
St. Louis 3
Philadelphia 1 3rd Prd 5:14
Nashville 3
Anaheim 1 3rd Prd 2:59
Arizona 1
Chicago 2 2nd Prd 9:18
Colorado 2
Edmonton 0 1st Prd 12:28
Calgary 1
San Jose 1 1st Prd 14:19
Los Angeles 0
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 61 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Kentucky 58 FINAL
Louisville 50
Northern Ky 55 FINAL
Northwestern 76
UAB 58 FINAL
North Carolina 89
IUPUI 55 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Santa Clara 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 73
Oakland 56 FINAL
Maryland 72
Gonzaga 87 FINAL
BYU 80
Mercer 77 FINAL
Georgia 86
San Francisco 77 FINAL
Pacific 71
Wright State 55 FINAL
Ohio State 100
Presbyterian 65 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Brescia 42 FINAL
Western Ky 89
Tennessee St 46 FINAL
Tennessee 67
Kennesaw St 21 2nd Half 15:40
Illinois 63
Colorado State 29 2nd Half 13:07
New Mexico St 32
Portland 45 2nd Half 6:36
San Diego 49
Wayland Baptist 44 2nd Half 10:57
Utah State 56
Bristol University 44 2nd Half 9:06
Weber State 90
Sacramento St 47 2nd Half 11:52
Utah Valley U 38
Southern Utah 14 1st Half 10:47
UNLV 27
SD Christian 7 1st Half 14:00
San Diego St 11
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 17 3rd Qtr 15:00
(24) USC 24
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 64 FINAL
Houston 50
BYU 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 87 FINAL
Portland 65

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