VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.
It’s been a rough few weeks for the Minnesota Vikings. A tough opening schedule combined with some pretty heavy off the field distractions and The Purple find themselves 1-2 with one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL heading into TCF Bank Stadium this weekend.
Oh, did I mention that three starters went under the knife this week as well?
The Atlanta Falcons come to Minnesota this weekend with a record of 2-1 on the season. Having scored a league best 103 points through the first three weeks, the Falcons high powered offense is led by and unshaken quarterback Matt Ryan and their über talented wide receiver Julio Jones.
Ryan enters Week 4 with the second most passing yards in the league (965) and the third most touchdown passes this season (7). With passer rating of 105.1, Matt’s on field play helped lead the Falcons to a blowout 56-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one week ago.
With confidence riding high, the guy they call “Matty Ice” strolls into Minnesota to face a defense that is surprisingly ranked in the top half of the league already. But you don’t get a nickname like Matt Ice for no reason. Ryan’s cool, calm and collected persona has aided the Falcons on many occasions throughout his career and his late game heroics have made him a man of legend in Atlanta.
Pressure situations don’t get to Matt Ryan. Throughout his career, he has led the Falcons on 24 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. His 22 game winning drives between 2008 and 2012 were the most by a quarterback in his first five seasons since 1966.
Ryan’s situational records speak for themselves as well. Ryan has led the Falcons to a 36-2 record when he records a passer rating of 100-or-better. He has the team at 20-1 when he throws three-or-more touchdowns.
As the franchise records continue to stack up for Ryan within the Falcons organization, it’s increasingly clear that containing Matt Ryan and trying to fluster Matty Ice will be one of the keys for the Vikings if they want to win on Sunday.
Aiding Ryan along the way has been superstar wide receiver Julio Jones. Like Ryan, Jones is coming off of a gigantic game last week against the Bucs (9 catches, 161 yards and 2TDs).
Looking back at some of Jones’ career numbers, it becomes incredibly clear why Julio is playing with such a high level of confidence.
Throughout the span of his three-year NFL career, Jones is averaging 83.8 yards and 5.3 receptions PER GAME! His 15.7 yards per catch average ranks him at fifth among receivers with at least 175 catches since 2011. And he’s at it again this year with 23 catches and a league leading 365 yards.
The interesting thing to note about the Jones/Ryan connection is that they look for each other often in first down situations. Already this season, Ryan has looked to jump start the offense and catch a defense off guard by hitting Jones early on first down 16 times through three games.
A deep threat with dynamic open field moves, Jones is a perfect compliment to Ryan at quarterback and, when healthy, the duo is one of the most dangerous in the league.
I don’t mean to act like this is a secret family recipe to beating the Falcons, but stopping Matt Ryan and Julio Jones is a great place to start. It’s unlikely that you will completely stop them, so start with slowing them down and then take advantage of a Falcons secondary that is very susceptible to yielding points of their own and you’re off to a good start.
Yesterday morning we all woke up with Adrian Peterson as one of our “favorite” football players. Sure he has his personal issues off the field, just as we all do, but on the field, he was the man. Then the news breaks yesterday afternoon and terms like “reckless negligence” and “child abuse” begin to be thrown around pretty loosely. By the end of the night, when the actual story starts to form, we’re left with a perplexing situation, a couple of them in fact.
What’s your stance on corporal punishment? What should the government’s stance on corporal punishment be? How does the NFL react to something like this? How do fans react to something like this?
There are many specific questions that all lead towards one that envelopes them all. Where do we go from here?
What a difference a day can make. Since the news of alleged child abuse broke yesterday afternoon, Adrian has gone from scheming a way to beat the Patriots on the field to long phone calls with his lawyer attempting to avoid potential jail time. The least of his worries may be coming from a league that, amidst one of their worst weeks in history, is ready to throw down the hammer on offenders if only just to prove a point.
On the heels of the Ray Rice situation the NFL has enacted and put into place a more strict, cut and dry policy against domestic abuse. The policy states that a player could be subject to six games without pay after a first offense and that mitigating circumstances could push the penalty longer.
In its infancy, the focus of this policy has been directed towards violence against women. The video release of Ray Rice’s elevator tirade made it all the more real and incredibly necessary this week. But to a person with some semblance of common sense, child abuse would likely fall under the umbrella of domestic abuse as well which means that, pending the outcome of the investigation, Adrian could be facing a six game penalty from the league.
For this week, the Vikings did the right thing and on their own volition deactivated Peterson from their game against the Patriots.
At least the NFL doesn’t have a whole lot on their plate right now.
We all know that’s actually not the case and Peterson’s situation likely rounded out what will forever go down as one of the worst week’s in the history of the league.
With Goodell’s feet firmly placed against the fire already, he will be forced to act on this Peterson case and the fallout will likely pin Adrian as his sacrificial lamb.
But the new NFL policy was not developed for this sort of a situation. It was put in place to protect women from an epidemic of domestic abuse that was and is running through a league of overly empowered, testosterone driven men. But if the policy protects adult women from the men in their lives, it would only make sense that it also protects young children, four-year-old boys, from those same men.
There is still a lot that we have to learn about this case as it goes through court system. Peterson, who turned himself in to Houston police last night, has an uphill battle to fight against not only the prosecutors but a society enraged by violence and empowerment from professional athletes.
Corporal punishment has long been a hot button topic of conversation in this country. Generations of past were raised with spankings, belts and paddles as a regular part of their childhood. It was simply part of life. But it might be time for our country, as a nation, to instill some level of federal distinction on what is and what isn’t considered child abuse.
No matter your view on spanking, when yesterday’s news broke about Adrian beating his 4-year old son with a tree branch, how did it make you feel?
If you’re anything like me, your eyebrows were raised. If you’re from the south, where punishment via switch is a little more common, it may have seemed like nothing to you…at least until the pictures came out. When those photos depicting the wounds left on the poor 4-year old boy came out, I hope that the opinion changed for everybody. There’s no way you will convince me that it wasn’t too far and we all should have jumped up and been outraged. Red backsides were present in my Minnesota childhood, but bruises and lacerations are when you’ve crossed the line.
As a boy who witnessed my own parents mentally struggle with their own corporal punishment dilemma, and saw first hand the shift from spankings, away from “hitting” their kids and towards other forms of punishment, isn’t it time that America puts some sort of standard together?
I’m not calling for the outlawing of spankings, but when part of the country thinks it’s okay to hit your child with a stick and the other is outraged by it, truly how united are we?
As I mentioned above, there’s a lot more to this story that will play out and answer some of these questions for us. By all accounts, Adrian is cooperating with authorities in Houston as we speak. He’s not running from the situation and he’s not denying that the wounds in question were left there by him. But as this continues to play out, as Adrian re-assesses his actions, as the NFL attempts to handle the situation and as the court system determines the difference between corporal punishment and child abuse, I hope that we as a society are paying attention. I hope that conversations are being had about all of these situations. We are a nation that has long since learned from the mistakes of our past and unfortunately for them, the mistakes of celebrities play out in the public far too often. I hope that we can learn from this, change the way we operate, if only a little, and stand up tall on the other side better people, better families and a better nation.
There seems to be conflicting news lately regarding Adrian Peterson’s ability to suit up for the first game of the 2012 regular season. Peterson himself believes he’ll be in the lineup, and head coach Leslie Frazier hasn’t ruled it out. Other published reports, however, suggest that opening the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list is a realistic possibility. There are some technical details related to the different types of PUP lists that I won’t get into here (basically, if Peterson is placed on the preseason, or active, PUP list, all it means is that he can't practice with the team, and it leaves open the possibility that he could ultimately wind up on the regular season PUP list, which would mean he'd have to miss a minimum of six games).
LeagueSafe’s Paul Charchian, while appearing on the Paul Allen show on KFAN 100.3 FM a few weeks back, raised the idea that putting Peterson on the PUP list could possibly be the best option the Vikings have. By doing so, the team would effectively be protecting Peterson from himself. By all accounts, AP is a freak of nature, and he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery from the torn ACL he suffered late last year. He’s such a fierce competitor, it wouldn’t shock anyone to see him suit up in Week 1. But what if he’s not fully healed? What if he can’t cut like he’s used to, and as a result he re-injures himself? And, if he’s truly not 100 percent healthy (by team doctor standards, not his own), why would the Vikings risk putting him on the field?
It’s a sticky situation, for the sole reason that doing what’s best for the organization in the long haul (i.e. giving Peterson a mandatory 6-game vacation at the beginning of the season) would be an admission that the team doesn’t have realistic intentions of fielding a competitive team in 2012. You and I both know it’s a rebuilding year, but the Vikings would never admit that – not before the season has even begun. And you can bet Leslie Frazier, with his job on the line, isn’t going to admit that (which is another concern, really… if Peterson says he’s healthy, Frazier has every motivation to believe him and put him on the field immediately).
For the sake of argument, let’s look at the first six games of the 2012 schedule and analyze what kind of impact not having their best offensive player on the field might have on the team’s win-loss record.
Week 1 (vs. Jaguars): The Jaguars stunk last year. They were 1-7 on the road. They’ll enter 2012 with a second-year quarterback (Blaine Gabbert) who was even less impressive than the Vikings’ own second-year guy. If you’re looking for a strength, though, it’s probably their defense. Jacksonville finished 11th in total defense, and ninth against the run. Only three teams allowed less than the 3.8 yards per carry (YPC) surrendered by the Jaguars in 2011. A healthy Peterson would give the Vikings offense a huge boost against a solid Jags front seven, but this is still a home game the Vikings should win even if the capable Toby Gerhart is forced to carry the load.
Week 2 (at Colts): The NFL schedule-makers did the Vikings another favor with a Week 2 matchup against the rebuilding Colts. Indianapolis was easily the worst team in the NFL last year, and this will be the second career start for rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. Jared Allen might kill the kid, and the Colts spent the offseason surrounding Luck with offensive weapons while completely ignoring a defense that allowed nearly 27 points per game. Only two teams allowed more than the 144 rushing yards allowed per game by the Colts in 2011. For the second week in a row, it’s a defense Toby Gerhart is perfectly capable of exploiting, and it seems fair to say that if the Vikings lose, it won’t be because they couldn’t get their ground game going.
Week 3 (vs. 49ers): This is a loss either way. The 49ers are good. Their defense is even better. Opposing running backs scored just two touchdowns on the Niners last year, and only one back ran for more than 76 yards against them. It’s the kind of game a rare talent like Peterson can have a huge impact on, but if you think the 2012 Vikings can realistically beat a team that was a couple of botched kick returns away from the Super Bowl last year, I’ve got some land in Arden Hills I can sell you.
Week 4 (at Lions): Peterson destroys the Lions. In his career, he’s averaged 99 rushing yards per game and scored eight times in nine matchups. Ideally, against a high-powered Lions offense the Vikings game plan would focus on grinding out yards on the ground and keeping Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson off the field. A full-strength Peterson would obviously be ideal in this scenario, but the Vikes employed the same strategy successfully with Gerhart late last year. During a wild 34-28 loss that ended on the infamous and controversial Joe Webb non-facemask penalty in the waning seconds, Gerhart gained 90 yards on a healthy 4.7 YPC. That’s not to say Peterson wouldn’t have gone for 150 yards on the same 19 carries, but the Vikings were obviously able to move the ball on the ground despite not having AP at their disposal. Plus, like the 49ers game in Week 3, a road game against a 2011 playoff team isn’t a game you’re expecting to win anyways.
Week 5 (vs. Titans): This is where it starts to get tricky. The Titans weren’t a playoff team last year, but they went 9-7 and had a top-10 defense in terms of points scored against (a shade under 20 per game). But their run defense was mediocre, at best – they gave up nearly 130 rushing yards per game at a clip of 4.5 YPC. For a non-playoff team like the Vikings, a home game against a slightly above average team is the type of game you absolutely must win to begin to turn things around. Dynamically talented players like Peterson are the types of players that tip the scales in a game like this. Without him, I feel much less confident of a Purple victory.
Week 6 (at Redskins): Well, isn’t this fitting? The final game Peterson would miss if placed on the regular season PUP list would be a rematch with the team that injured him in the first place, in the same building. If Peterson were in uniform, you can bet the revenge factor would be high, and he’d be very motivated to exorcise the injury demons in a big way. The Redskins are also in re-building mode, however, and they weren’t very good last year. You probably remember that the Vikings somehow beat the Redskins on Christmas Eve last year, without Peterson and without Ponder, both of whom left the game early with injuries. Gerhart gained over 100 yards on just 11 carries, and Joe Webb tossed two touchdown passes to lead the improbable win. Like the Week 5 win over Tennessee, a road tilt against a non-playoff team breaking in a rookie quarterback seems winnable on paper, and again it’s the type of game where a healthy Peterson might very well mean the difference between a win and a loss.
By my count, the first four games of the season should result in two wins and two losses, no matter if Peterson plays or not. The difficulty is that Weeks 5 and 6 both seem like winnable games, but perhaps not if the team is missing its most explosive player.
That assumes Peterson is 100% healthy, though, and even if he is ready for Week 1 it’s highly unlikely he’ll be his usual, explosive self. Most running backs aren’t back to their previous level of play until the second season after their injury, and some are never the same.
I don’t envy the Vikings front office on this one. If their star player, who they’re paying $8 million this year, declares himself healthy in training camp, it will be nearly impossible to keep him off the field. While going the PUP route would erase the temptation to put him in game action before he’s truly ready, it feels like an unrealistic scenario. The best course of action would probably be to carry him on the active roster, but don’t suit him up until Week 5. If he’s even 90 percent of his old self, having him on the field in Weeks 5 and 6 might be the difference between a 4-2 start and a 2-4 start.
Christian Peterson is the Director of Operations at LeagueSafe. He is a contributing writer for Vikings.com and a co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on KFAN 100.3 FM. Follow Christian on Twitter: @CP_ChristianP
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