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.
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.
The morning after the Vikings 23-20 overtime win over the Bears, we take a look at the snap distribution on offense and defense
Offense: 86 snaps
QB Matt Cassel – 61 snaps (played 71% on offense)
QB Christian Ponder – 25 (29%)
Ponder left the game due to concussion symptoms right before halftime, but the offense was more effective under Cassel, who’s responsible for all three wins this season.
Cassel went 20 of 33 for 243 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He finished with an 80.7 quarterback rating. Ponder was 3 of 8 for 40 yards.
RB Adrian Peterson – 78 (91%)
FB Jerome Felton – 38 (44%)
RB Toby Gerhart – 7 (8%)
It took the Vikings five possessions to take advantage of the Bears worst-ranked run defense in the NFL. But once they started, they relied heavily on the shoulders of Peterson, who had 35 carries for 211 yards (both season highs).
Peterson was healthy enough where the team didn’t use Gerhart as much compared to last week against the Packers where Peterson played 65 of the team’s 81 snaps (Gerhart spotted him on 14 plays).
Wide Receiver/Tight End
TE John Carlson – 78 (91%)
WR Greg Jennings – 50 (58%)
WR Cordarrelle Patterson – 48 (56%)
TE Rhett Ellison – 45 (52%)
WR Jerome Simpson – 40 (47%)
WR Jarius Wright – 31 (36%)
TE Chase Ford – 10 (12%)
WR Joe Webb – 5 (6%)
Something about Cassel brings out the best in Jennings. He caught his third touchdown this season, all thrown by Cassel, and led the team with seven receptions for 78 yards. Jennings had just one catch for two yards with Ponder. Carlson also had a solid game with four receptions for 61 yards.
Patterson started over Simpson for the third straight week and received a season-high 48 snaps. He’s had over 40 reps in three straight games, but the rookie finished with one catch for four yards. Patterson did, however, score on a 33-yard run in the second quarter
G Charlie Johnson – 86 (100%)
C John Sullivan – 86 (100%)
T Phil Loadholt – 86 (100%)
G Brandon Fusco – 86 (100%)
T Matt Kalil – 86 (100%)
As it’s been for most of the season, the starting unit played the entire game against the Bears. Cassel and Ponder were sacked a combined five times in the game (Bears defensive end Julius Peppers had 2.5 sacks), but the Vikings ran for 283 yards.
Defense: 66 snaps
DE Jared Allen – 58 (88%)
DE Brian Robison – 56 (85%)
DT Kevin Williams – 45 (68%)
DE Everson Griffen – 33 (50%)
NT Letroy Guion – 29 (44%)
NT Fred Evans – 22 (33%)
DT Sharrif Floyd – 21 (32%)
The front line had three of the team’s four sacks (Allen, Robison and Floyd) and hurried Bears quarterback Josh McCown six times.
Guion had five fewer snaps than he did in his return last week against the Packers (34). Evans, who had 17 reps last week, played more as a result.
LB Audie Cole – 66 (100%)
LB Chad Greenway – 64 (97%)
LB Marvin Mitchell – 20 (30%)
LB Larry Dean – 2 (3%)
Although he was suited up on the sideline, linebacker Erin Henderson did not play for a second consecutive game. He missed last week's game due a personal issue, which was revealed Henderson was arrested for an alleged DWI on Nov. 19.
Cole replaced Henderson last week in his first career start and has played the entire game in consecutive weeks. He had nine tackles and a pass deflection.
Greenway left the game during the overtime session due to a wrist injury he’s played through for over a month, but he only missed two plays. He tied for a team-high 10 tackles, three for loss, and a sack.
FS Andrew Sendejo – 66 (100%)
CB Xavier Rhodes – 66 (100%)
SS Jamarca Sanford – 66 (100%)
SS Robert Blanton – 45 (68%)
CB Chris Cook – 43 (65%)
CB Marcus Sherels – 24 (36%)
Rhodes put together another good game with six tackles, one for loss, and a nice pass deflection in the end zone against Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Cook was ejected for making contact with an official after allowing a 46-yard touchdown to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the third quarter. It left a thin unit to rely on Sherels, who typically plays a spot corner, to play opposite of Rhodes and Blanton as the nickel corner.
Jeffery broke the Bears’ franchise record with 249 receiving yards. He also had 12 receptions and two touchdowns, both against Cook.
The Vikings have a 13-7 halftime lead over the Packers at Lambeau Field. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson scored on a one-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left in the half to give the Vikings their first lead. He has 14 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The good: Vikings linebacker Audie Cole made the most of his first career start during the first half. He recorded his first career sack on the first play of the game and led the team with five tackles (four solo).
The Vikings also didn’t commit a penalty in the first half. The Packers have two for 20 yards.
The bad: The Vikings defense didn’t tackle well again, particularly against Packers running back Eddie Lacy. He broke tackles on practically every carry, dragging defenders in the process. Lacy has 13 carries for 62 yards
Vikings offensive tackle Matt Kalil couldn’t handle Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who had two sacks in the first half. Kalil hardly made any contact with Matthews on his first sack. Ponder was sacked three times in the first half.
The ugly: Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien looked like Johnny Manziel on his six-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Vikings defensive end Brian Robison bit on Tolzien’s pump fake, then Vikings defensive tackle Letroy Guion whiffed at Tolizen’s video game spin move while he dived into the end zone.
Tolzien went 7 of 15 for 98 yards. He also had two carries for 25 yards and a touchdown.
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 (9-1)
Why: The Chiefs were undefeated and allowing just 12.3 points per game. Then they played Peyton Manning, who, ho-hum, throws for 323 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and a 94.1 passer rating in a 27-17 victory.
2. Seahawks (10-1); 3. Panthers (7-3); 4. Chiefs (9-1); 5. Patriots (7-3); 6. Saints (9-2); 7. 49ers (6-4); 8. Giants (4-6); 9. Cardinals (6-4); 10. Eagles (6-5); 11. Rams (4-6); 12. Colts (7-3); 13. Bengals (7-4); 14. Bears (6-4); 15. Steelers (4-6); 16. Lions (6-4); 17. Raiders (4-6); 18. Bills (4-7); 18. Dolphins (5-5); 20. Cowboys (5-5); 21. Packers (5-5); 22. Jets (5-5); 23. Ravens (4-6); 24. Chargers (4-6); 25. Browns (4-6); 26. Buccaneers (2-8); 27. Titans (4-6).
28. Vikings 2-7 (Last week: 22): The loss in Seattle kind of sums up where the Vikings are as a franchise. They had enough talent to be competitive early on against the best team in the NFC. But when things got tense in the second half, the quarterback fell apart and the team followed.
THE REST OF THE REST
29. Redskins (3-7); 30. Jaguars (1-9); 31. Texans (2-8).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Falcons (2-9): The Vikings aren’t the only 2012 playoff team doing a face plant. Our bottom two teams – 4-17 this year – were 19-2 at this time a year ago.
Vikings plus-4 at Packers. The pick: Vikings 24, Packers 21.
The Packers are finding out just how easy it is to be average when you go 21 years between quarterbacks who aren’t Hall of Fame-bound. And that newfound running game isn’t quite as effective without Aaron Rodgers on the field. Without Rodgers in the game to play with his favorite toy – the Vikings’ pass defense – the Vikings could control this game with Adrian Peterson. Plus, can’t you just hear fans complaining about how a win over the Packers will hurt next year’s draft selection?
Last week: Vikings plus-12 ½ at Seahawks: The pick: Seahawks 35, Vikings 21. The final: Seahawks 41, Vikings 20. Record: 6-4, 4-6 vs. the spread.
Panthers minus-4 ½ at Dolphins: Dolphins 27, Panthers 24.
Why?: The Dolphins are 2-1 since the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito/bullying fiasco blew up on them. NFL teams have a way of not being distracted when we all predict they’ll be distracted. They also have a way of losing when they’ve won six in a row, like the Panthers have.
Last week: Lions minus-2 ½ at Steelers. The pick: Steelers 28, Lions 21. The final: Steelers 37, Lions 27. Record: 4-7.
Bucs plus-9 at Lions: Lions by 10.
Jaguars plus-10 at Texans: Texans by 7.
Chargers plus-4 ½ at Chiefs: Chiefs by 7.
Steelers plus-1 ½ at Browns: Steelers by 7.
Bears plus-1 at Rams: Bears by 7.
Jets plus-3 ½ at Ravens: Ravens by 7.
Titans minus-1 at Raiders: Raiders by 3.
Colts plus-2 ½ at Cardinals: Cardinals by 7.
Cowboys plus-2 ½ at Giants: Giants by 7.
Broncos minus-2 at Patriots: Patriots by 3.
49ers minus-5 ½ at Redskins: 49ers by 7.
Record: Last week: 10-4; 9-3-2 vs. the spread. Overall: 88-64; 66-81-4 vs. the spread.
For this week's edition of "Behind Enemy Lines," we reached out to Tyler Dunne, Packers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Here are five questions we posed to Tyler in advance of Sunday's Vikings-Packers game at Lambeau Field:
1.The Packers had 55 rushing yards against the Giants. How has quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ absence affected the run offense?
That’s been really a huge adjustment for this offense. This time last year, they were trying to get teams out of those two-deep looks. They wanted the safety to come into the box to help the passing game and now they can’t get that safety out of the box. They’re getting eight, nine guys in the box trying to stop [Packers running back] Eddie Lacy. The rookie hasn’t been able to find much running room these past couple weeks.
Without Rodgers in there, it makes a huge difference. And Aaron Rodgers is really good at audibling to certain run plays. [Packers quarterback] Scott Tolzien has got just so much on his plate. It’s really difficult for him to do that right now. I think that’s really what the team’s challenge is right now is trying to run the ball against teams that know they’re going to run.
2.Tolzien started calling audibles in the third quarter of the Giants game. Was there a noticeable difference that he started on Sunday compared to replacing quarterback Jason Campbell against the Eagles?
I think it was a big difference in that they definitely had a conservative game plan to run to set up the pass. They didn’t put too much on his plate in terms of changing plays and going no huddle, but he did more as the game progressed. A lot of those deep passes did open up. [Packers head coach] Mike McCarthy said that he’s never had a quarterback complete that many deep balls in the game, all his deep balls in the game. It worked.
It’s just the turnovers. That’s really been his issue right now. In both games, he had a huge interception that just changed the complexion of the game.
3.Do you recommend bringing earplugs for Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings’ reception when he returns to Lambeau Field?
I think Greg Jennings kind of benefits from all the other craziness going on in Green Bay right now with everything at quarterback, the injuries and the significance of this game. Nobody has really been talking about Greg Jennings, or at least as much as they were before the game going into Minneapolis. But Packers’ fans can be a pretty fickle bunch. They’re not going to forget the offseason. Personally, I don’t think Greg Jennings did anything to abrasive, but this team is a religion for fans. Anytime a player crosses the border to Minnesota or anytime a player speaks out against their team, they don’t forgive and they don’t forget. I imagine it’ll be pretty loud.
4.Linebacker Clay Matthews has played the last two games with a club after missing four weeks due to a broken right thumb. How has he looked while playing with a club?
He looked better this past game. He did have movement in his four fingers, but it was still difficult for him to grab, clutch and clutch. He had a sack, but he’s still not the Clay Matthews he wants to be. He has figured out a way to play with the cast as it gets smaller and smaller but a broken thumb, it’s not like you can just cut loose and do everything you want to do regardless of the cast.
It’s still an adjustment for him but really they need him out there. They don’t have a lot of better options. I’d understand if they had somebody else in there that can play, but Nick Perry has been injured. He was coming out before he broke his foot earlier this season. Mike Neal, a converted defensive end, was really good for a while but his body has kind of worn out a little bit. They’ve been given him rest at practice.
5.Four defensive backs on the injury report this week. Is there a concern of depth at the position for Sunday’s game?
I remember [Packers defensive back] Tramon Williams just a couple weeks ago telling me this was the deepest cornerback group he’s ever been around. This is a guy who played with Charles Woodson and Al Harris too. And so he kind of chuckled and said, ‘Yeah, I guess we’re going to find out exactly how deep we are.'
Sam Shields (hamstring) has really been shutting guys down this season. Casey Hayward (hamstring) might be done for the season. The injury list just keeps getting bigger and bigger and longer and longer [Packers defensive backs James Nixon (knee) and Micah Hyde (groin)]. It’ll be interesting to see who’s healthy out there.
I think luckily they play [Vikings quarterback] Christian Ponder instead of Drew Brees, but Ponder still might be able to take advantage of some things if he’s got a healthy receiving core.
Prediction: Packers 24, Vikings 16. They win, but I don’t think it’ll be a pretty game.
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