Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said injured running backs Adrian Peterson (foot sprain) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) will not practice today and probably won't practice until Friday, if at all. He also said he's more hopeful that Gerhart will be able to practice on Friday than Peterson.
Frazier said Peterson already has assured him that he'll be ready to play, but added that the team will "err on the side of caution," keeping in mind Peterson's long-term value and the fact that the team is mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture at 3-9-1. Frazier also said Peterson would have to practice on Friday before the team would play him in the game on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Frazier officially announced Matt Cassel as the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Eagles at Mall of America Field. It will be Cassel's fourth start of the season and second straight start. It will be the first time he's started after losing a start the previous week. But his turnover-free effort in the wild 29-26 loss at Baltimore on Sunday was enough to earn a second straight starting opportunity. Cassel is 1-2 as a starter, but did play the second half of the comeback win over the Bears two weeks ago.
Christian Ponder, who has been cleared from the concussion that sidelined him last week, will serve as the backup. Josh Freeman will be the No. 3 QB.
In other news, tight end John Carlson still has not passed the concussion protocol and cannot practice until he does.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and guard Brandon Fusco (knee) are day-to-day, Frazier said.
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 (11-1)
Why: Time for a math test. What do you get when add up the league’s No. 1 pass defense, a top-3 running game, a top-3 passer rating and the second-best turnover ratio? Answer: The best team in the league and soon-to-be No. 1 seed in the NFC.
2. Patriots (9-3); 3. Broncos (10-2); 4. Panthers (9-3); 5. 49ers (8-4); 6. Saints (9-3); 7. Eagles (7-5); 8. Bengals (8-4); 9. Lions (7-5); 10. Chiefs (9-3); 11. Cardinals (7-5); 12. Colts (8-4); 13. Dolphins (6-6); 14. Ravens (6-6); 15. Cowboys (7-5); 16. Giants (5-7); 17. Chargers (5-7); 18. Rams (5-7); 19. Jaguars (4-9); 20. Steelers (5-7); 21. Titans (5-7); 22. Raiders (4-8).
23. Vikings 3-8-1 (Last week: 28): Adrian Peterson is on pace for 1,611 yards rushing. He has 3,305 yards in his past 28 games, an average of 118 per game. The Vikings’ record in those 28 games: 13-14-1. That’s how important it is for the Vikings to find some consistent composure at the quarterback position.
24. Bears (6-6); 25. Jets (5-7); 26. Packers (5-6-1); 27. Falcons (3-9); 28. Buccaneers (3-9); 29. Redskins (3-9); 30. Bills (4-8); 31. Browns (4-8)
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Texans (2-11): Cleveland temporarily wrestled this spot away from Houston when it lost at home to the Jaguars last Sunday. But the Texans really stepped up by falling for the 11th straight game at Jacksonville on Thursday. Last Dec. 23, then-Texans coach Gary Kubiak was 12-2 heading into that day’s home game against the Vikings. His next 17 games: 3-14, including a loss to the Vikings. Kubiak’s slide ended with his firing on Friday.
Vikings plus-6 ½ at Ravens. The pick: Ravens 34, Vikings 24.
When you’re old enough to remember Bud Grant coaching pre-1985, it always feels strange saying the Vikings are at a disadvantage outdoors in cold weather. The Ravens aren’t the team that won last season’s Super Bowl. But they’re very good at home and they’re in the playoff chase.
Last week: Bears plus-1 at Vikings: The pick: Vikings 28, Bears 17. The final: Vikings 23, Bears 20 OT. Record: 7-4-1, 6-6 vs. the spread.
Chiefs minus-3 at Redskins. The pick: Redskins 28, Chiefs 23.
Why?: Kansas City’s 9-0 start has become a confidence-shaking 0-3 slide. The collars are probably getting a little snug in K.C.
Last week: Saints plus-4 ½ at Seahawks: The pick: Saints 38, Seahawks 35. The final: Seahawks 34, Saints 7. Record: 4-9.
Browns plus-11 ½ at Patriots: Patriots by 7.
Raiders plus-2 ½ at Jets: Jets by 3.
Colts plus-6 ½ at Bengals: Bengals by 7.
Panthers plus-3 at Saints: Saints by 7.
Lions plus-2 ½ at Eagles: Eagles by 7.
Dolphins plus-3 at Steelers: Steelers by 6.
Bills plus-2 ½ at Buccaneers: Buccaneers by 3.
Titans plus-12 at Broncos: Broncos by 14.
Rams plus-6 ½ at Cardinals: Cardinals by 3.
Giants plus-3 at Chargers: Chargers by 7.
Seahawks plus-2 ½ at 49ers: 49ers by 3.
Falcons plus-3 at Packers: Packers by 7.
Cowboys pick at Bears: Cowboys by 7.
Record: Last week: 8-5; 6-7 vs. the spread. Overall: 101-76-1; 79-94-4 vs. the spread.
Vikings cornerback Chris Cook revealed after practice that the NFL, according to Cook's agent, has fined him "something like $26,000" for making contact with an official and being ejected after giving up a 46-ayrd touchdown pass in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Bears.
"My agent already appealed it," Cook said. "We'll see what happens. Most of the guys in here don't think it will be reduced, but we'll see."
Cook said he's learned from the incident and his ensuing talk with coach Leslie Frazier, who obviously wasn't happy to lose one of his starting corners, especially considering the secondary already was undermanned because of injuries and last week's release of A.J. Jefferson.
"I know I have to keep my composure; that's basically what [Frazier] told me," Cook said. "I was just frustrated with some things in the game and lost my composure. I can guarantee it will not happen again."
Cook said he was most upset about what he thought was offensive pass interference two plays before he was ejected.
"I know it was pass interference, but I'm not a referee, so it's not my call to make," Cook said. "The ball was literally falling into my lap and my arm was being grabbed and I couldn't get my arm up. I was frustrated about that, and they turn around and score and it made me even more mad. I let my emotions get the best of me. I know I can't act like that, especially towards an official."
As for making contact with the official, Cook said it was minor.
"I kind of touched his arm, but it wasn't really like I was trying to push him on the ground or something," Cook said. "They made it seem like I was trying to push him on the ground. But I just got up and said, `That was bull' about the play a few plays before. But I can't really do anything about what they call within the game. I have to be a man about it and move on to the next play."
Cook also was asked what's at stake for him over the final four games. His contract is up at the end of the year.
"Your guy's guess is as good as mine," he said. "My future, that's really the thing that's at stake for me. It's a contract year for me. I've had a pretty rough year by my standards. I just have to go and ball out these last four games."
Updated injury report:
Six Vikings did not practice. They were RB Adrian Peterson (groin), CB Josh Robinson (sternum), TE Kyle Rudolph (ankle), S Jamarca Sanford (ankle), LB Larry Dean (knee) and QB Christian Ponder (concussion). DE Jared Allen (finger) and LB Chad Greenway (wrist) were limited.
Two Ravens did not practice. They were DE Elvis Dumervil and S Brynden Trawick, both because of ankle injuries.
Every Tuesday morning, we take a look at where the Vikings would pick in the 2014 NFL Draft if the season ended today.
Note: The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule where the team with the worst strength of schedule percentage wins the tiebreaker and gets a better pick. Strength of schedule is based off the win percentage of a team’s opponents, so there’s two ways to calculate it during the season. One would be to factor in a team’s entire 16-game schedule, or the other method would be to tally the records of games already played (the method used in this blog). At the end of the year, both methods will result in the same SOS percentage.
A Tuesday after a win surely meant the Vikings would slide in the current draft projection order, but two teams in front of them also won.
The Vikings are just outside the top five at the moment with the 23-20 overtime win over the Bears. Here’s how the draft order looks right now (records and strength of schedule, if necessary, in parentheses):
They’re still not in a bad position for a possible top five pick, but again that tie against the Packers isn’t helping out their situation. If the Vikings’ would’ve lost, their strength of schedule would be adjusted from .514 to .521.
The Vikings and Redskins would have the same strength of schedule percentage. The next tiebreaker is division records, but they bypass that since they’re not in the same division. The third tiebreaker is conference records, which applies in this situation because they’re both in the NFC.
The Redskins sit at 1-8 against the NFC at the moment. The Vikings would go from 2-7-1 to 2-8 with the hypothetical Packers loss. So here’s how the draft order would look in that situation:
They’d jump three spots to third at the moment, with one of those conference wins against the Redskins. With four weeks left, it’ll be fun to see how this plays out.
The Rams-Redskins trade for quarterback Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL Draft doesn’t look so bad now for St. Louis.
Three men with loose ties to the Vikings have made the cut from the list of 126 candidates to the list of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014.
Tony Dungy, who won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, used a standout four-year stint as Vikings defensive coordinator (1992-95) to launch his head coaching career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Colts. The former Gophers quarterback was an undrafted free agent signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1976. He switched to defensive back and won a Super Bowl as a player in Pittsburgh.
Dungy is one of three first-year eligible candidates to make the semifinalist list. The others are former Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison and former Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones.
Two other semifinalists have ties to the Vikings. Kicker Morten Anderson ended his career with the Vikings in 2004. And running back Roger Craig did the same with a two-year stint in 1992-93.
Other first-time semifinalists are former Cowboys and Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson and former Raiders guard Steve Wisniewski.
The list of 25 semifinalists will be trimmed to 15 and announced on Jan. 8. Those 15 and the two Seniors Committee candidates -- Claude Humphrey and Ray Guy -- will be voted on by the full Selection Committee on Feb. 1 in New York, site of the Super Bowl.
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