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.


Chat OT: Harvin's health, Winfield's resurgence, Ponder's upside

Posted by: under On the road, Vikings, Bears, Lions, Vikings offense, Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Percy Harvin Updated: November 21, 2012 - 12:32 PM

If you missed my live Vikings chat on Tuesday afternoon, you can check in here and read the back and forth in full. In addition, each week I will attempt to go overtime, bringing good questions I didn’t get around to answering on the chat here to the Access Vikings blog for discussion. Here are Tuesday’s leftovers. Save them for the day after Thanksgiving if you must.

Question 1: I don't believe Percy Harvin won't play in Chicago this weekend due simply to soreness in his sprained ankle. That dude is tougher than nails and wants to compete worse than anyone. I gotta believe they'll just tape that ankle up and let him go. What do you think?

I think the same way. By kickoff Sunday, Harvin will have had 20 full days between games, a lengthy break that will have given him plenty of time to treat that sprained left ankle. With a division game and so much at stake and also knowing how antsy Harvin always is, I just don’t see him sitting this one out. Unless, of course, there’s some sort of significant setback at practice this week. And you’d have to believe, the Vikings will take it easy on him this week as a precaution.

Stay tuned for our updates from Wednesday’s practice.

Question 2: Vikings 24, Niners 13. Niners 32, Bears 7. I think this one is in the bag. Am I wrong?

Ah, yes. The good ol’ transitive property. Which we all know doesn’t work in the NFL. But if you’re looking for all the common opponents the Vikings and Bears have had to this point, let’s have a little fun with this.

  • Jaguars: Vikings win 26-23 at home in Week 1; Bears win 41-3 on the road in Week 5. --> Bears plus 25
  • Colts: Vikings lose 23-20 on the road in Week 2; Bears win 41-21 at home in Week 1 --> Bears plus 23
  • 49ers: Vikings win 24-13 at home in Week 3; Bears lose 32-7 on the road in Week 11 --> Vikings plus 36
  • Lions: Vikings win 20-13 on the road in Week 4 and 34-24 at home in Week 10 (average score 27-19); Bears win 13-7 at home in Week 7 --> Vikings plus 2
  • Titans: Vikings win 30-7 at home in Week 5; Bears win 51-20 on the road in Week 9 --> Bears plus 8

By my count, the Bears are plus 18 overall. Divide that by five opponents. And you find Chicago is plus-3.6. So basically, anticipate a 24-20 Chicago win.

Question 3: It seemed like Antoine Winfield found the fountain of youth this year – fewer snaps, staying over the slot in the nickel defense and thus remaining closer to the line of scrimmage. But since Cook went down, he's had to play more. Is that decreasing his effectiveness?

Aside from Adrian Peterson, no Viking has impressed me more in 2012 than Winfield. The guy is a true pro and one of the most respected players in that locker room. At 35, he’s still playing at a high level and even drawing some chatter as a possible Pro Bowler this year. I don’t buy the notion that Cook’s absence the past two games has decreased Winfield’s effectiveness. He was pretty darn solid in the last outing against Detroit and continues to be a menace in run support. We’ll see if Winfield can stay fresh down the stretch here. But the coaching staff gives him a lot of down time during the week, understanding that they need him fresh on Sundays.

Keep an eye on Winfield the rest of the way. Not so much out of fear that Winfield will wear down but with an understanding that he won’t be around forever. And it’s wise to appreciate just how good a player he is while he’s still around – and excelling.

Question 4: Why do so many fans act as though RG3, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, etc., have so much going for them when their respective teams are NO better than the Vikings in Christian Ponder's first full season?

Question 5: There is a guy named Ryan Mallett sitting in New England. He has a HUGE gun for an arm, he’s accurate and looked great in preseason games. Will the Vikings ever go after this guy?

Move over Dwayne Bowe. We have our first “Why aren’t the Vikings trying to get Ryan Mallett?” question. I just wanted that noted for fun and am not about to spend any more time on that topic. I’ll give the questioner the benefit of the doubt and let him off the hook with the idea that the question may have been somewhat facetious.

But as for that first question, well, that one goes a little deeper. And it’s well documented that I think the most vocal Ponder naysayers are susceptible to premature judgment and can’t allow for even the idea that he will continue to grow as a quarterback and could one day emerge as the real catalyst of the Vikings’ offense.

The kid needs time and patience to test himself and the Vikings coaching staff and front office is doing a great job with managing that situation.

That said, if you can’t see the difference between RG3 and Ponder with a simple eye test, then I’m not sure I can help you. Griffin has only three interceptions in his first 10 starts. (Ponder had 13 picks.) Griffin has completed 67.1 percent of his passes in his first 10 starts. (Ponder had a .544 completion percentage through his first 10 starts). Griffin has a total of 18 TDs in his first 10 starts (12 passing, six rushing). Ponder had 13.

Anyway, to make a long story short, it’d be hard to find anyone with extensive football knowledge who would claim that Ponder had a brighter future than Griffin or Luck. Those two simply are a notch above Ponder in terms of athleticism and talent.

The biggest worries with Ponder come from those stinker games. Like the 58-yard afternoon and 35.5 rating against Arizona in Week 7. Or the 44 net passing yards and 37.3 rating in Seattle. Those drastic dips really don’t settle the anxiety of the fan base. And to date, Griffin hasn’t had a major stinker like that. And now, he’s coming off an effort in a 31-6 thrashing of Philadelphia in which he went 14-for-15 for 200 yards and four TD passes. That marked his fourth game this year with a rating above 100. (Ponder has five such games in twice as many starts).

Luck has had a few dips himself. He had three picks last week in New England, three picks in a season-opening loss in Chicago and was erratic in a 35-9 road loss to the Jets. His rating this season of 77.2 is well below Ponder’s (85.2). That said, Luck has thrown for 280 yards or more seven times. (Ponder has two such games in twice as many starts.) So it’s easy to deduce that Luck seems to be the more prolific quarterback.

Ponder may be in the same ballpark with Dalton when it comes to ability and upside. Dalton aided a playoff charge in 2011 as a rookie and has been pretty solid throughout 2012. He’s 14-12 as a starter. And while that’s not exactly a Canton credential, that kind of early success buys extra time and votes of confidence from all around.

Luck and Griffin get that extra time and those votes of confidence based on where they were picked and their obvious upside.

Ponder? In order to buy himself more time from an always jittery fan base, he needs to continue proving he’s getting better and making the Vikings’ offense better as a whole. Leading a charge to eight wins this season would be a big step in the right direction.

But overall, Ponder also needs to understand that his slumps cannot be as dramatic as they have been in his first two years. His recent funk drew twice as much worry because the end of his 2011 season was such a spill. He’ll also have to proceed knowing there’s a chunk of the fan base that will never be satisfied with anything he does. It’s just part of it.

Question 6: Who do you think needs to step up most these last six games for this team to make the playoffs?

I’ll give you a handful of names.

  • Ponder: The obvious one.
  • Jared Allen: Look, Adrian Peterson is doing his job as a superstar carrying the offense. Now it’s time for Allen to deliver on a similarly high level. There’s no greater opportunity than against a shaken offensive line in Chicago this weekend.
  • A.J. Jefferson: The third-year corner will have to do his part in slowing Brandon Marshall twice in the next three weeks. He’ll also be tested in two games against Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay and will see Andre Johnson in Houston in Week 16. Chris Cook's broken arm was a major setback to a secondary that was on the rise. It's up to Jefferson to keep things humming.
  • Letroy Guion: Assuming his turf toe issue doesn’t linger, the nose tackle will have to prove he’s as good as the coaching staff believes he can be. He’ll play a big part in making sure the run defense stays solid.
  • Brandon Fusco: His play has been ordinary at best for the past month-and-a-half with back-up Geoff Schwartz seeing more time at right guard. The Vikings offense needs stability up front. And that means Fusco has to do his part to keep it together.

 

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Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 3 3rd Prd 3:35
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 3rd Prd 17:54
Edmonton 1
San Jose 4 2nd Prd 7:52
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 59 1st OT 5:00
Kansas 59
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 2nd OT 0:05
Northwestern 82
Villanova 69 2nd Half 0:33
Creighton 67
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
NJIT 51 FINAL
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
TCU 45 FINAL
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
UNLV 61 FINAL
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57

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