Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
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.
Looking ahead to next season ...
The Vikings’ schedule for 2013 is set, thanks to their second-place finish in the NFC North.
The Vikings will play every team in the NFC East and the AFC North, will face the second-place teams in the NFC South (Carolina) and NFC West (Seattle), and will play each NFC North opponent twice.
The game against Pittsburgh in London on Sept. 29 counts as a Vikings home game.
Other home opponents are Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, Carolina, Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago. Road opponents are Dallas, N.Y. Giants, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Seattle, Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago.
Adrian Peterson’s pursuit of the NFL rushing record made him an easy choice for the Pro Bowl.
And the man who paves the way for Peterson, fullback Jerome Felton, is headed to Honolulu as well.
Peterson and Felton were joined on the NFC Pro Bowl squad by teammates Blair Walsh, a rookie kicker, and defensive end Jared Allen.
The teams were named on Wednesday night. The game is Jan. 27 in Honolulu; players whose teams make the Super Bowl will not play in the Pro Bowl, meaning there will be several replacements before the game.
Here are the complete rosters.
Peterson is 208 yards away from the NFL record of 2,105, set by Eric Dickerson in 1984, entering the season finale Sunday against the Packers.
“It just goes to show when you put your faith in God and you put in the work, you can accomplish great things,” said Peterson, who made a remarkable comeback from major knee surgery.
Said Felton, who was signed as a free agent before the season: “I felt like it was something I could achieve if I was able to land in the right spot and Minnesota has been that place for me. When you have a back like Adrian Peterson, running the ball is going to be your identity.”
Peterson and Allen, who has an NFL-high 115 sacks since 2004, were both chosen for their fifth Pro Bowls.
“This time around it’s extra special because I’ve had to battle through some injuries,” Allen said.
Walsh set an NFL record with nine field goals of 50 yards or longer, and heard about his selection from special teams coach Mike Priefer.
“ I got the news this afternoon from Coach Priefer, which was appropriate because he put a lot on the line when the Vikings drafted me and I owe him so much for the season that we’ve had,” Walsh said. “It’s been an unbelievable year and I hope that it’s not done for a long while yet.”
The Vikings’ final two opponents for 2013 will be set following Sunday’s game.
They will play each team in the NFC East and AFC North next season.
The Vikings’ home games will be against Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, the NFC South team that finishes in the same position as the Vikings (currently New Orleans), Green Bay, Detroit and Chicago. The Sept. 29 game in London against Pittsburgh also counts as a home game.
Road games will be at Dallas, the N.Y Giants, Baltimore, Cincinnati, the NFC West team that finishes in the same position as the Vikings (currently Seattle), Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago.
Longwell kicks in
Former Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell broke his Twitter silence Sunday afternoon to laud his replacement, Blair Walsh. Longwell, who was bothered by never making the Pro Bowl, clearly thinks Walsh should be the NFC kicker as a rookie.
His series of tweets read: "I've purposely not commented on any football stuff this entire year so let me make my first one now. I've seen many great seasons go unrewarded by not getting voted to Pro Bowl. But if @BlairWalsh3 does not get voted in this year it will prove system is broke! What more can the guy do?? Accuracy, 9-9 50+ yarders, Kickoff touchbacks and a game winner in his first career game!!"
Walsh is third in the NFC with 128 points, second in field goal percentage (behind Dallas’ Dan Bailey) and set an NFL record with his ninth field goal of 50 yards or more on Sunday.
Adrian Peterson’s quest for the NFL rushing record has taken center stage. But there is another pretty good running back to watch in this weekend’s Vikings game: Arian Foster.
Entering this week’s games Peterson has a league-best 1,812 rushing yards, and is within Eric Dickerson’s NFL-record 2,105. But Foster, who first came to the Texans as an undrafted free agent, has put up some strong numbers, too.
Foster is fourth in the league with 1,313 yards. Now, to show just how much Peterson has lapped the field this season, those 1,313 are precisely the same number Peterson has had since Week 7.
Still, Foster’s numbers are impressive. His 1,493 yards from scrimmage is fifth in the league – Peterson’s 2,023 is No. 1 – and if Foster scores a TD this week he will become the sixth player in NFL history to score 50 TDs in his first 50 NFL games.
“The scheme they run really fits what he does well,” Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said of Foster. "He’s really patient, good at finding cut-back lanes. They throw the ball well out of the play-action game and bootleg game, and that serves Foster well in the run game as well.”
The Vikings have seen their share of good running backs this season, going up against five of the top 10 NFL rushers this season in Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (second), Washington’s Alfred Morris (third), Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin (fifth), Tennessee’s Chris Johnson (seventh) and Frank Gore of San Francisco (ninth). Lynch ran for 124 yards, Morris had 57, Martin 135, Johnson 24 and Gore 63.
And now they get Foster.
Houston coach Gary Kubiak said he saw some similarities between Foster and Peterson.
“The thing about Adrian is that he has the home run speed,” Kubiak said. “Arian is one of those guys where it seems, the more he carries it, the stronger he gets. These are two guys who, the more they touch it, the more difficult it is to tackle them. Just two great players.”
(Almost) no comment
Christian Ponder’s marriage was not something many Vikings players wanted to discuss in the locker room.
Some, like center John Sullivan and guard Brandon Fusco, simply changed the subject.
“My focus right now is just going and grabbing some lunch and relaxing before practice,” safety Mistral Raymond said. “That should be dealt with somewhere else.”
Fullback Raymond Felton said he heard about it in the media like everybody else. Reaction? “I congratulated him,” Felton said. “Several people have congratulated him. So, obviously, whatever makes him happy we want that for him. It was a big day for him, and we’re happy for him.”
Of course, if anyone was going to have a little fun about the situation, it was punter Chris Kluwe, who wondered openly where he might find a gift registry. As for the present he planned on buying?
“Maybe a tea cozy,” he said.
Wins, not records
After winning NFC special teams player of the week honors for the second time this season, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh talked about winning, not records.
Specifically when he was asked whether he thought about making the Pro Bowl in this, his rookie season. “Yeah, it would be awesome, but that’s not my main goal right now.”
Walsh hit all five of his field goals last week, three in the 50-yards-plus range. He is now 8-for-8 from that distance, which ties him with Morten Andersen and Jason Hanson for most field goals of 50 or more yards in a season. He is one away from holding that record alone.
“I’m just wishing we win,” Walsh said. “I don’t’ care about the records. My whole deal with the records is that they’re meant to be broken. It would be nice to have, but I’d rather win.”
Walsh is 29-for-32 on field goals this season and is fourth in the NFC in scoring among kickers. He said the snap and hold has been perfect for every attempt this season, and that his three misses were entirely his fault.
So the question is, in a dome, in ideal circumstances, what does he think his limit is? “I think 65 (yards) and in I can at least give it a realistic shot,” he said.
Doing his part
Felton said he, along with the linemen and the rest of the team, are pulling for Peterson to break Dickerson’s record. But will he feel he earned a part of that record should it happen?
“A little bit,” he said. “I’ll be able to tell my grandkids about it. So, obviously, I think it’s important for our whole team. And the most important thing is getting wins. But when Adrian is successful that helps our team. That’s what we’re focused on.”
Meanwhile, it appears the work Felton has done has probably put to rest the question of whether Peterson prefers a fullback or running out of one-back sets. Felton said he’d seen a stat that indicated the Vikings gain better than 7 yards per rush with a fullback and 3-plus yards out of one-back sets.
There are a lot of questions about the Vikings, and there were a lot of answers today on Dan Wiederer's noon Live Chat.
You can read the transcript here, and Dan will answer a lot of other questions later on the Access Vikings blog as well.
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