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.


Week 9 Picks and Power Rankings: Vikings No. 17

Posted by: Mark Craig under On the road, Vikings, Bears, Lions, NFC, Packers, Super Bowl, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Phil Loadholt Updated: November 2, 2012 - 10:15 AM
What else would you rather do on a Friday morning than watch a poor man swing away at his weekly NFL Picks and Power Rankings? We’ll even throw in some extra purple with Three Reasons for Optimism and Three Reasons to Go `Uh-Oh.’
 
Power rankings
TOP THREE
1, Falcons (7-0)
Last week: No. 1.
Comment: They’re not overwhelming in any one category and have no shot of going 16-0, even though seven of their final nine games are against teams that currently have a losing record. But the Falcons are steady. They rank third in third-down conversions and third in fewest giveaways (seven).
 
2. Giants (6-2)
Last week: No. 2.
Comment: Doesn’t it feel like a Manning vs. Manning Super Bowl is destined? Pick a Manning and I’ll take the other one and be happy. But let’s not forget the players around Archie’s boys. The Giants rank first in sacks allowed per pass play and are tied with the Bears for most interceptions on defense (16).
 
3. Bears (6-1)
Last week: No. 3.
Comment: No. 1 against the run AND six interception returns for touchdowns? What’s an opposing offense to do? Well, the Vikings will find out when they have to play the Bears twice in 14 days later this month and early next month.
 
BOTTOM THREE
30. Panthers (1-6)
Last week: No. 28.
Comment: Five of Carolina’s six losses have been by fewer than seven points. But the Panthers keep losing. And losing. And Cam Newton and that offense keeps regressing.
 
31. Jaguars (1-6)
Last week: No. 31.
Comment: You know you stink when people are patting you on the back after losing by only nine points. Jacksonville’s somewhat competitive 24-15 loss at Green Bay doesn’t lift it from its No. 31 spot. The Jags rank last in seven of the league’s main offensive categories, including scoring.
 
32. Chiefs (1-6)
Last week: No. 32.
Comment: I’m guessing that Romeo Crennel won’t be NFL Coach of the Year? Seven games, six losses and not a single second with a lead in regulation.
 
 
NFC NORTH
3. Bears (6-1)
Last week: No. 3.
Comment: Chicago should be able to win at Tennessee on Sunday, but then things get interesting with consecutive games against Houston at home and the 49ers in San Francisco.
 
4. Packers (5-3)
Last week: No. 4.
Comment: Even with the Packers having to play at Soldier Field next month, the Bears can’t feel too comfortable with that 1 ½-game lead on Green Bay. Not the way Aaron Rodgers plays regardless of who’s on the receiving end of his passes.
 
17. Vikings (5-3).
Last week: No. 17.
Comment: Can the Vikings weather this 1-2 stretch and stay competitive during a brutal second half of the season? Or will they be this year’s version of last year’s Buffalo Bills. Like the Bills, the Vikings shocked the league by starting 4-1. Like the 2011 Bills, the Vikings lost their eighth game to fall to 5-3. That’s where the Vikings have to hope the comparison ends. The Bills lost their next six games en route to a 6-10 finish.
 
19. Lions (3-4)
Last week: No. 27.
Comment:  The Lions are 1-3 on the road, but should be able to win at Jacksonville. That would put them back at .500 heading to Minnesota.
 
 
THE REST
 
5.    Texans (6-1); 6. 49ers (6-2); 7. Ravens (5-2); 8. Patriots (5-3); 9. Broncos (4-3); 10. Steelers (4-3); 11. Dolphins (4-3); 12. Seahawks (4-4); 13. Colts (4-3); 14. Buccaneers (3-4); 15. Redskins (3-5); 16. Cowboys (3-4); 18. Raiders (3-4); 20. Chargers (3-4); 21. Titans (3-5); 22. Bills (3-4); 23. Eagles (3-4); 24. Bengals (3-4); 25. Cardinals (4-4); 26. Rams (3-5); 27.     Saints (2-5); 28. Browns (2-6); 29. Jets (3-5).
 
VIKINGS
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
1, Peterson seems unstoppable: Defenses line up essentially in a 5-2 front with an outside linebacker as a stand-up end. They sneak safeties into the box. Their linebacker blitz on running downs and distances because they want to clog lanes to stop Adrian Peterson. And yet, with very little help from the passing game, Peterson leads the NFL in rushing at the midway point of a season in which he’s coming off a knee reconstruction. That 300-yard game he keeps talking about? It could happen if opponents ever had to respect the Vikings’ passing game.
 
2, The `no-respect’ factor: This is a classic NFL bounce-back scenario. Team A plays a horrendous game and loses at home to a 2-4 team on a short week. Team A is written off by essentially everybody. With extra time to rest and prepare, Team A explodes in a prideful performance. Then Team A stands in the locker room and belittles everybody who picked against them, forgetting that those same people picked them the week before when they played like complete mutts. The Vikings have the added incentive of being told daily that playing in Seattle is like spotting the Seahawks 21 points and letting them play with 15 starters on each side of the ball. I’m taking Seattle, but I can feel the, “Nobody gave us a chance” interviews coming.  
 
3, Seattle’s third-down woes: Yes, Tampa Bay was 30th in third-down conversions when they came into the Metrodome and converted five straight during a back-breaking 16-play, 87-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Seattle ranks 25th (32.7 percent). Rookie QB Russell Wilson is calm beyond his years and experience, but he’s also completing only 50.8 percent of his third-down passes. He also ranks 21st in third-down passer rating (76.2)
 
 
THREE REASONS TO GO `UH-OH’
1, Gap control on defense: Maybe the Vikings are right and they’ll suddenly correct their many mistakes in run defense. Everybody will man their gap and all the cracks will be sealed. But three straight games of poor run defense suggests a trend. Perhaps guys are out of their gaps because the fellas on the other side are knocking them out of their gaps once in a while. It’s hard to accept the run-stopping rhetoric coming from Winter Park when Marshawn Lynch is coming up on Sunday.
 
2, Ponder is (still) stacking the stinkers: He hasn’t played another game since last week’s Picks and Power Rankings. But we’ve had seven more days to dissect the Bucs fiasco and Ponder was, well, terrible. The opinion here is Ponder played five “winning” caliber games to start the season. But he’s now played three straight that weren’t. The Bucs loss was hardly his fault alone. The protection was terrible and the route running did him no favors either. But Ponder missed some easy throws, forced a deep pass to Jerome Simpson when Percy Harvin was open right in front of him and failed to pull the trigger and throw to a wide-open Kyle Rudolph over the middle against an all-out blitz. Ponder needs to get better, but it’s hard to picture that happening at Seattle.
 
3, Offensive line regressing:
Overall, the offensive line has been an improvement over last season. But the line was confused and overmatched against Tampa Bay. And it wasn’t just the blitz that caused Ponder problems. The Vikings had problems with four-man rushes and even gave up a sack on a three-man rush late in the game. Rookie left tackle Matt Kalil had trouble when the Bucs overloaded to his side. Right tackle Phil Loadholt got beat too often. And one particular play against a four-man rush left Ponder running for safety because both Loadholt and right guard Brandon Fusco whiffed on their men.
 
 
THE PICKS
Seahawks 24, Vikings 13: Yeah, @stribDW and I might be standing in CenturyLink Field on Sunday evening, dumbfounded once again by a Vikings’ outcome. Like the Bucs game last week, this one seems pretty clear-cut. Unfortunately for those of us attempting to pick NFL games, the clear-cut choice that time was the Vikings. A no-doubter, at least heading into the first of those three straight three-and-outs. And we all know how that one turned out from there. The Vikings are 1-2 on the road and I just don’t see them being able to handle the noise and chaos that comes with CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks are 3-0.
 
Record picking Vikings games: 3-3.
 
Overall Record Last Week: 7-6. Vs. Spread: 7-6.
 
Record Season: 54-38. Vs. Spread: 40-47-3.
 
DEN minus-3 ½ at CIN: Broncos by 3.
ARI plus-11 at GB: Packers by 7.
MIA minus-2 at IND: Colts by 3.
BAL minus-3 ½ at CLE: Browns by 3.
BUF plus-10 at HOU: Texans by 14.
DET minus-4 at JAC: Lions by 6.
CHI minus-3 ½ at TEN: Bears by 7.
TB plus-1 ½ at OAK: Buccaneers by 3.
PIT plus-3 ½ at NYG: Giants by 7.
DAL plus-4 at ATL: Falcons by 7.
PHI plus-3 at NO: Saints by 7.
 
UPSET SPECIAL
CAR plus-3 ½ at WAS.
 
Panthers 27, Redskins 23:  The Panthers’ last four losses have come by a combined 12 points to the undefeated Falcons in Atlanta, Seattle, Dallas and the 6-1 Bears in Chicago. The Redskins have lost two straight and are still only 1-2 at home. Time for Cam to steal a few highlights from RG3.
 
 
Last week: NO plus-6 at DEN. Prediction: Saints 33, Broncos 30. Actual: Broncos 34, Saints 14.
Record: 3-4.

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Chicago 11/27/14 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 11/27/14 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 11/27/14 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Atlanta 48 3rd Qtr 8:14
Washington 46
Golden State 38 2nd Qtr 5:44
Miami 54
Detroit 22 1st Qtr 2:07
Milwaukee 24
Sacramento 21 1st Qtr 2:59
New Orleans 11
Chicago 8:00 PM
Denver
Winnipeg 1 2nd Prd 7:50
Columbus 1
Ottawa 0 1st Prd 8:54
St. Louis 0
Los Angeles 1 1st Prd 7:40
Nashville 1
Edmonton 7:30 PM
Dallas
Colorado 8:00 PM
Arizona
New Jersey 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Calgary 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Fresno State 52 FINAL
East Carolina 58
Morgan State 73 FINAL
Elon 74
Purdue 82 FINAL
Missouri 61
Hawaii 62 FINAL
Marist 55
Liberty 57 FINAL
North Florida 77
MD-Eastern Shore 55 FINAL
Bucknell 58
Western Carolina 70 FINAL
Georgia State 85
BYU 121 FINAL
Chaminade 85
Evansville 62 FINAL
Green Bay 64
Alabama 47 2nd Half 8:25
Arizona State 47
UT Martin 45 2nd Half 13:34
Bethune-Cookman 36
SE Missouri St 40 2nd Half 8:09
Bowling Green 46
NC Central 39 2nd Half 8:22
Cincinnati 45
Fair-Dickinson 33 2nd Half 15:09
Columbia 34
Citadel 33 2nd Half 10:23
Florida State 43
Houston 48 2nd Half 9:56
Harvard 62
William Peace 53 2nd Half 7:49
High Point 74
Texas-Arlington 28 2nd Half 11:27
Kentucky 68
St Francis-NY 47 2nd Half 8:41
La Salle 55
Boston Univ 49 2nd Half 11:34
New Hampshire 51
Chicago State 42 2nd Half 9:03
Oakland 56
Ark-Pine Bluff 45 2nd Half 11:40
Ohio 46
Hartford 0 2nd Half 9:59
Quinnipiac 34
Saint Peters 47 2nd Half 11:55
Rutgers 34
Jackson State 43 2nd Half 14:00
St Bonaventure 46
Long Island 48 2nd Half 7:55
Saint Josephs 51
Hofstra 49 2nd Half 11:09
South Florida 42
Western Ky 41 2nd Half 11:21
Stony Brook 46
Loyola-Maryland 22 2nd Half 11:51
Syracuse 42
Penn 46 2nd Half 15:24
Temple 56
Detroit 55 2nd Half 11:40
Toledo 55
Tennessee St 24 2nd Half 7:53
Virginia 66
Northern Iowa 50 2nd Half 14:43
Virginia Tech 35
Western Ill 39 2nd Half 6:03
William & Mary 75
Ohio Valley 50 2nd Half 7:52
Wofford 68
Toccoa Falls 32 2nd Half 6:42
Presbyterian 60
Mount Ida 43 2nd Half 9:49
UMass Lowell 74
Kansas State 30 2nd Half
Arizona 31
Binghamton 23 2nd Half
Army 38
Central Arkansas 24 2nd Half
Char Southern 41
Howard 31 2nd Half
UMBC 26
VA Commonwealth 35 2nd Half
Oregon 27
Arkansas 33 2nd Half
SMU 22
Jacksonville St 23 1st Half 9:18
Alabama A&M 7
TX A&M-CC 10 1st Half 9:31
Bradley 12
Eastern Ill 16 1st Half 7:02
Creighton 28
St Xavier 23 1st Half 8:22
Ill-Chicago 28
Northern Ariz 18 1st Half 6:42
Middle Tennessee 19
Nebraska Omaha 23 1st Half 10:14
Nebraska 16
Akron 22 1st Half 11:03
Penn State 12
NC A&T 10 1st Half 9:28
Saint Louis 13
Columbia International 7 1st Half 15:45
SC State 13
Troy 17 1st Half 9:01
Southern Miss 19
St Francis-PA 16 1st Half 7:32
Texas 25
Northwestern St 10 1st Half 10:07
Texas Tech 19
Loyola-Chicago 19 1st Half 7:50
TX-San Antonio 21
Southern U 19 1st Half 8:00
Tulane 19
Norfolk State 16 1st Half 8:28
Vanderbilt 23
Jarvis Christian 11 1st Half 8:33
Abilene Christian 18
MN-Crookston 17 1st Half 7:15
North Dakota St 25
Lamar 18 1st Half 8:58
Arkansas State 21
IUPUI 9 1st Half 10:11
Drake 20
San Francisco 7:30 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Miami-Florida 8:00 PM
Charlotte
Air Force 8:00 PM
Colorado
Boise State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Louisiana 8:00 PM
Oral Roberts
Buffalo 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Maryland 8:30 PM
Iowa State
Northwestern 8:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Villanova 9:00 PM
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Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
San Diego St
Bristol University 9:05 PM
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Miami-Ohio 21
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(6) TCU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
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Iowa
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(19) Marshall
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(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
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(8) Georgia
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(24) Louisville
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(11) Kansas State
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California
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Ga Southern
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Texas-El Paso
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Fresno State
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Duke
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Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
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Kent State 58
Robert Morris 75 FINAL
Coppin State 58
UMKC 48 FINAL
Western Ill 71
Manhattan 48 FINAL
La Salle 61
UC Santa Barbara 34 FINAL
Arizona 61
Santa Clara 69 FINAL
LSU 67
Tulsa 67 FINAL
Texas Southern 64
SE Missouri St 57 FINAL
Ole Miss 58
Air Force 35 FINAL
Army 79
Towson 59 FINAL
UMBC 54
St Bonaventure 56 FINAL
Penn State 54
Texas-El Paso 43 FINAL
Kansas State 72
Cheyney 38 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 63
Johnson C. Smith 45 FINAL
NC A&T 76
Winthrop 71 FINAL
NC Central 63
USC Upstate 50 FINAL
SC State 60
Quinnipiac 53 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 112
Buffalo 49 2nd Half 0:35
(8) Duke 84
Washington St 59 2nd Half 7:07
Hampton 46
Bryant 58 2nd Half 6:56
Brown 50
Vermont 38 2nd Half 10:10
Central Conn St 46
St Francis-NY 44 2nd Half 3:42
NJIT 40
(21) Rutgers 61 2nd Half 13:10
Wagner 41
IUPU-Ft Wayne 49 2nd Half 9:16
Coastal Carolina 63
Fairleigh Dickinson 45 2nd Half 11:57
Monmouth 45
Jacksonville 34 2nd Half 12:06
UCF 48
SIU-Edwardsville 44 2nd Half 11:56
IUPUI 62
Duquesne 62 2nd Half 11:19
Howard 45
Fordham 43 2nd Half 5:21
Delaware 40
Saint Josephs 53 2nd Half 6:23
Drexel 69
Liberty 45 2nd Half 7:08
Elon 46
New Hampshire 28 2nd Half 8:00
Penn 62
Valparaiso 48 2nd Half 7:58
Akron 80
Grambling 45 2nd Half 9:30
Georgia Tech 77
Western Ky 36 2nd Half 12:17
(12) Louisville 70
Arizona State 40 2nd Half 9:29
Miami-Florida 44
Charleston Southern 34 2nd Half 11:48
Florida 55
Georgia Southern 31 2nd Half 11:03
(22) Georgia 70
Tenn Tech 50 2nd Half 8:41
Mercer 54
Hillsdale 37 2nd Half 16:24
Eastern Michigan 46
Ohio U 61 2nd Half 8:08
Northern Ky 26
Gardner-Webb 44 2nd Half 13:17
Appalachian St 46
Bucknell 45 2nd Half 9:08
Youngstown St 55
Lafayette 51 2nd Half 11:57
Rider 28
Lehigh 54 2nd Half 6:56
Saint Peters 52
George Mason 45 2nd Half 9:04
Navy 58
High Point 44 2nd Half 5:47
Davidson 64
Old Dominion 56 2nd Half 6:15
Virginia Tech 48
SW Assemblies 36 2nd Half
Houston Baptist 43
LSU-Alexandria 27 2nd Half 17:45
Northwestern St 52
Wofford 23 2nd Half
Jacksonville St 26
ULM 6 1st Half 9:59
(25) Miss State 22
Morgan State 7 1st Half 11:21
(20) Oklahoma St 6
Lyon 9 1st Half 9:30
Central Arkansas 25
Lamar 13 1st Half 9:07
Texas State 20
Mobile 11 1st Half 7:06
SE Louisiana 24
St Edwards 15 1st Half 9:30
Stephen F Austin 8
Lipscomb 19 1st Half 7:46
Murray State 21
UAB 17 1st Half 7:46
Loyola-Chicago 12
Northern Iowa 9 1st Half 10:22
(17) Iowa 9
Southern U 10 1st Half 11:42
Minnesota 29
Harvard 16 1st Half 12:21
Holy Cross 9
Colorado 8:00 PM
Denver
Portland State 8:00 PM
Oregon
Montana State 8:00 PM
San Diego
Idaho 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Pepperdine 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
Boise State
Nevada 9:30 PM
San Francisco
Yale 10:59 PM
Alaska-Anchorage

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