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.

Posts about Packers

VikesCentric: Plenty to skol about

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: May 11, 2012 - 1:50 PM

To "skol" is to salute -- to toast with a drink to good health. You know the word from the Vikings' fight song, yet I'm guessing you never use it in daily conversation. In light of what happened in St. Paul on Thursday, however, it might be time to expand your vocabulary with the ol' Norse term.

 
After all, there's plenty to skol about.
 
Following 10-plus years of frustrating fits and starts in the state legislature, the Vikings are finally going to get their new stadium. Thursday's victories in the house and senate marked the biggest win the Vikings have had, well, maybe ever.
 
As Green Bay Packers fans would be quick to point out, a legislative victory doesn't quite compare to a Super Bowl victory. But beleaguered Vikings fans will take what they can get. And a piece of legislation that careens through the dilapidated state capitol and saves your favorite team from moving to Los Angeles, Montreal, or wherever, counts as a pretty huge victory. If the Vikes would have left town, any faint hope of a Super Bowl championship would have left with them.
 
Skol!
 
The passion of Vikings fans was on full display at the State Capitol the last few weeks as dozens of face-painted, helmet-adorned troops invaded the rotunda and filled the email inboxes of every legislator.
 
Despite this 11th-hour rally of Purple Pride, I can't help but think Vikings fans have been forced to hold their passion in check just a little over the past year or two. Not because of any lack of allegiance or disgust over a 3-13 record. Vikings fans are a pessimistic lot for good reason. Take that negative fatalistic attitude and mix in a healthy dose of concern about whether the team would be packing up for Hollywood and it's understandable why you might have reined in your emotional ties to the team. It's an innate protection mechanism: you can't let yourself get too attached to someone or something you fear might soon be gone.
 
I'm guessing there are a lot of perfectly-rabid Vikings fans who, over the past 12-18 months, have considered buying that Adrian Peterson jersey for their kid, and then thought to themselves, "But the Vikings could be playing in Los Angeles in a few years so what's the point?"
 
Or maybe you were going to plunk down your hard-earned money for season tickets, or get a Viking car flag, or paint the backyard shed purple and gold. "But it looks like they're going to be gone, so why do it? They'll never pass a stadium bill."
 
That little Debby Downer voice of fate in the back of your head that's prevented you from going all-in with your Vikings fanaticism… it's been vanquished.
 
Skol!
 
No longer will you have to think to yourself, "Matt Kalil sure looks like a beast. He'll be protecting Christian Ponder's blind side for the next 10 years… with the Los Angeles Vikings (sad trombone)." Not anymore.
 
So go ahead and paint that shed purple and gold. Heck, paint your garage, too... and slap a Vikings logo Fathead on the door. Buy that Peterson jersey, send him some healthy thoughts for his knee (some skol vibes if you will), and then get a Percy Harvin jersey, while you're at it.
 
It's skol time.
 
The questions surrounding where the Vikings will play and if they'll stay in Minnesota are over. The new questions are much more fun. Questions like: when exactly will they put a shovel in the ground to start building the new place? Who's the lucky one that gets to push the button to implode the Metrodome? What exactly will the new stadium look like? Will it have a retractable roof? Will the new plaza evoke wonderment? How much room will there be for tailgating? When will the new place get a Final Four or a Monster Truck "Bash"? How about a Super Bowl?
 
Vikings fans, you can breathe easy. The team you've loved through four Super Bowl losses and then some isn't going anywhere.
 
Indeed, if I know Vikings fans like I think I do, there's a LOT of skolling going on right now.
 
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData and co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on KFAN 100.3 FM.
 
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Observations on the absurd stadium debates

Posted by: Updated: May 10, 2012 - 10:58 PM

Let me start by saying I’m about as apolitical as a person can get. Just about everything about politics turns me off. It feels, mostly, like a bunch of people who think they’re smarter than they are making petty arguments and self-serving agreements that wind up helping or hurting large numbers of people. Yet somehow, it works. It’s worked for about 236 years, in fact, so well that the United States is easily the best and most powerful country in the world.

I’m also a die-hard Viking fan and ardent supporter of the new stadium. With that as a preamble, I have been following the legislative machinations over the Vikings stadium issue over the past three days with infinitely more interest than any other political event, well, ever. While at times mind-numbingly boring, at the same time it’s somehow been absolutely fascinating.

My first observation is that, apparently, being well-educated about an issue is not a prerequisite for being elected and, ultimately, casting a legislative vote. That may be harsh, but I was struck by the sheer idiocy of many of the arguments, both for and against, the proposed stadium. I understand that much of the posturing and the bringing forth of ludicrous proposed amendments is a political tactic employed by legislators on both sides of the issue, but some of it most certainly isn’t. It’s both frightening and shocking to see how ill-informed some of the legislators were on the issue at hand.

For example, here are just a few of the absurdities that occurred during the initial debates in the House and Senate on Tuesday and Wednesday:

  • One congresswoman stood up and declared her desire to add an amendment that would require that every Vikings game be carried on television for free for every citizen of Minnesota. The NFL’s blackout rules and the television networks be damned, by law we were going to force every game to be on free T.V. for everyone! During her argument, she made vague reference to “rumors” about the NFL starting their own network. Hate to break it to you, ma’am, but the NFL Network debuted in 2003.
  • A legislator made reference to “Zygi Wolf.”
  • Another railed against the expansion of gambling one minute, only to subsequently propose an amendment that would have created an online lottery.
  • There was an attempt to make the Vikings a publicly-owned entity, like the Green Bay Packers. NFL rules no longer permit public ownership of their franchises – it’s been disallowed since the 1980s.
  • Late on Wednesday night, a legislator stood up and confused the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs with Saks 5th Avenue.
  • Within a span of a few hours, the Senate added a requirement for a Minneapolis referendum to approve the stadium plan, only to revoke it, then they passed an amendment that would have dramatically increased the amount of user fees in the bill, only to have the same amendment voted down on a re-vote only moments after it had been approved.
  • One of the main proponents of the bill held up a sign saying “Help!” as one of his colleagues proposed yet another hare-brained amendment. In a refreshingly candid revelation, a representative stood up late in the House debates on Tuesday and said, “People are watching, and see how stupid we look.” Amen, brother.

And that’s just a tiny fraction of the shenanigans that occurred during the combined 20-plus hours of debate on the stadium bill in both houses of the Minnesota legislature. Eventually, it got to the point where it wouldn’t have been a surprise if someone had raised an amendment proposing that the Vikings be allowed to play with 15 players on the field, or another forcing the Packers to trade Aaron Rodgers to the Vikings. Many of these legislators evidently believe they can do just about anything they want.

To be fair, there were more than a few very intelligent and well-spoken people arguing on both sides of the debate. But generally speaking, it’s nothing short of astonishing that these are the people who are making decisions on not only the stadium, but on far more important issues. I can only hope that they are less ignorant when it comes to things like health care and education.

Somehow, despite all the senseless time-wasting, absurd amendment proposing, and petty political maneuvering, the democratic process actually worked. On Thursday afternoon as the final minutes wound down just prior to the final vote, a Senator stood up and made an impassioned speech about how the end result of the hours of debate was something to be proud of; a bi-partisan effort that resulted in a brand new stadium that will keep an important piece of Minnesota culture around for another 30 years.  It was almost enough to make me forget about all of the ridiculous stuff that happened in the preceding 48 hours. Almost, but not quite.

In a way, though, he was right. The process certainly wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was shockingly ugly. Thomas Jefferson would roll over in his grave if he saw legislators fumbling their way through parliamentary procedures, ill-prepared speeches, and un-researched proposals while grown men wearing purple and gold face paint chanted rallying cries from outside the door; all of it unfolding in front of the world on television and on the internet. But the end result of it all was a compromise between the state and the owners of the Vikings that some will hate and others will love, but that ultimately represents what most of the citizens of Minnesota seem to have wanted.

Where else in the world can a dude wearing purple-and-gold zebra-striped Zubaz with a painted face, two yellow ponytails, a leather vest, and a nordic helmet with matching horns help dictate what happens at the highest levels of government? Only in America.

Christian Peterson is the Director of Operations at LeagueSafe.com. He is also a contributing writer at Vikings.com and a co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on KFAN 100.3 FM.

Follow Christian on Twitter: @CP_ChristianP

VikesCentric: Fire Frazier?

Posted by: Updated: November 22, 2011 - 12:22 AM

Bud Grant retired as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 27, 1984. His replacement was a fiery ex-Marine named Les Steckel, who had never been a head coach at any level but leap-frogged longtime offensive coordinator Jerry Burns in the line of succession to Grant's throne.

Steckel charged into the role like a man dying to prove he deserved the promotion. The Vietnam vet turned training camp into boot camp, Mankato serving as a poor man's Parris Island. Veterans began to rebel on Day 1, when Steckel kicked things off with an Ironman competition – an extreme obstacle course that claimed victims with pulled hamstrings, acute exhaustion and vomitus projectilius.

It went downhill from there.

After a 2-2 start, the 1984 Vikings finished 3-13. They might have lost their final 12 games if not for 42-year-old Jan Stenerud, who hit a 53-yard field goal at the final gun to beat Tampa Bay 27-24 at the Metrodome. That snapped a five-game losing streak in which the Vikings lost by an average of less than a touchdown.

Victory No. 3 didn't exactly give the Purple momentum. Over the final six weeks, the Fightin' Steckels were outscored 241-79, an average score of roughly 40-13. Steckel got the axe and Grant returned for one more season before handing the reins to Burnsie, launching an era best remembered for profane press conferences, Big Knockers and booing Bob Schnelker.

This trip down memory lane is timely because – judging by the activity of the #firefrazier Twitter hashtag on Sunday – many fans are wondering if Leslie Frazier's head coaching career will mirror Steckel's one-and-done blip on the radar of Vikings history. It's a legitimate question – Frazier needs another victory just to match the franchise's 1984 nadir, and with Adrian Peterson sidelined by a high ankle sprain, an offensive line held together by baling twine and rubber bands, and a secondary rivaling only the U.S. Congress in both job approval and competence, that third victory will be hard to come by.

Can Frazier survive a two-win rookie season, or even a three- or four-win campaign? If you're inclined to draw comparisons to Les Steckel, then your answer will be determined by how the 2011 Vikings finish the season.

The Purple played their worst six quarters of the season in their loss at Green Bay and the first half of Sunday's debacle against Oakland. The second-half rally against the Raiders merely served as a spray of Febreze on the raging tire fire that the 2011 season has become.

But if that second-half performance becomes the norm rather than the exception the rest of the year, Frazier's job is probably safe.

Nothing stinks more than a team that has quit on its coach. Burns was fired after his 1991 Vikings mailed in a 27-7 loss to the Packers in the season finale at the dome. Ten years later, Dennis Green was canned after a 33-3 home loss to Jacksonville dropped the Vikings' record to 5-9. Brad Childress got his pink slip last year after the Packers dismantled the Purple 31-3 for Minnesota's seventh loss in 10 games.

In each case, the players had clearly tuned out the head coach, whose act had worn thin after varying levels of success. Frazier doesn't have that success to fall back on, but he's still a rookie coach who will be given a bit more rope by the owners who don't want to admit a mistake if they don't have to.

Again, let's review Les Steckel's final six games as the Vikings' head coach: 

Packers 45, Vikings 17
Broncos 42, Vikings 21
Bears 34, Vikings 3
Redskins 31, Vikings 17
49ers 51, Vikings 7
Packers 38, Vikings 14

If Leslie Frazier's final six games follow a similar pattern, it's even money that he joins Steckel as the only one-year head coaches in Vikings history. But if Frazier can inspire his players to display even the slightest hint of backbone down the stretch, look for him to get a second chance to show why the Wilfs hired him in the first place.

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, contributor to the Maple Street Press Vikings 2011 Annual (on newsstands now!), and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press.

 

VikesCentric: Greg Jennings cannot be stopped

Posted by: Updated: November 10, 2011 - 8:49 PM
In his last three games against the Vikings, Aaron Rodgers has completed 71 percent of his passes for an average of 310 yards per game. He's tossed nine touchdown passes and thrown just two interceptions.
 
This isn't that surprising considering Rodgers is currently on pace for one of the greatest statistical seasons of all time.
 
It's also not surprising that Greg Jennings - Rodgers' obvious No. 1 receiver - has done a lot of the damage during the same three-game span. In those three games, Jennings has hauled in 20 receptions for a total of 373 yards and five touchdowns. Rodgers has connected on 69 percent of the 29 passes thrown Jennings' way. To put that in a little bit of perspective, all the other Packers wideouts combined have only caught 28 balls for 362 yards and one touchdown in the last three matchups.
 
Put a different way, Rodgers has averaged 8.4 yards per attempt when throwing to wideouts not named Greg Jennings. He's averaged 12.9 yards per attempt when tossing it to No. 85.
 
All of which begs the question; why not game plan specifically to stop Jennings? Sure, the Packers boast arguably the most talented and deep corps of wide receivers in the NFL. No. 2 wideout Jordy Nelson has scored five touchdowns and averages 19.7 yards per catch (the 4th-highest average in the league). James Jones has scored touchdowns in four of his last five games. Jermichael Finley is one of the most dangerous pass-catching tight ends in the business.Yet the Vikes have proven over the recent three-game stretch of Green-and-Gold dominance that they can stop the secondary receivers... or at least slow them down.
 
But they can't stop Jennings, and I'm not sure they've made much of an effort to alter their game plan to do so. For every pass attempt on which a wideout is the intended receiver, Pro Football Focus tracks which defender was in coverage. Their detailed game-charting data reveals a somewhat disturbing trend; the Vikings have seemingly ignored the fact that Jennings is the man to stop.
 
The data is somewhat skewed by the 33-27 loss a few weeks ago, when the Vikings' top two cornerbacks were either injured or in jail. Chris Cook had been doing an admirable job of shadowing top opposing wide receivers like Vincent Jackson and Calvin Johnson earlier this year, and may have been employed in a similar manner against Jennings in Week 7 had he been available. Without Cook or their top cover corner, Antoine Winfield, the Vikings had no chance to stop Jennings or anyone else (and they didn't, as you probably noticed when Jennings literally walked into the end zone at the end of a 79-yard touchdown strike on which he simply wasn't covered). 
 
But in the two losses last year, in which Jennings had 13 catches for 226 yards and four touchdowns, a healthy Winfield was rarely matched up with Jennings. In fact, he was listed as the defensive back in coverage on passes thrown towards Jennings just three times. He caught one of those passes for 15 yards. Against all other Vikings defenders in those two games, Jennings and Rodgers connected 12 out of 16 times for 211 yards and four touchdowns. 
 
One thing we know the Vikes can't (or shouldn't) do is put Asher Allen on an island against the Packers No. 1 wideout. In the last three Vikings-Packers games, Allen was the player in coverage on eight of the passes that were targeted for Jennings, who caught six of them for 102 yards and three touchdowns. And that (correctly) doesn't include the aforementioned 79-yard touchdown when Husain Abdullah blew his assignment after Allen let Jennings go down the right sideline.
 
Cook is out again this week, but Winfield is expected back after a four-game absence due to a neck injury. For reasons I don't pretend to know or understand, the Vikings don't typically use Winfield to shadow any one player. Other elite cornerbacks like Darrelle Revis, Charles Woodson, and Champ Bailey are frequently used in this way, but perhaps Winfield is only comfortable on one side of the field. Or perhaps the Vikings feel he's better utilized inside against slot receivers on obvious passing downs, which is how they've been using him for the past couple of years. 
 
There's no guarantee that Winfield would be able to completely shut down Jennings, Revis Island style, nor that Rodgers wouldn't simply throw for 300 yards to some combination of Nelson, Jones, Finley, Donald Driver, or Randall Cobb if Jennings had been sucdessfully eliminated by Winfield. But given how badly the Vikes have been burned by Jennings in the recent past, isn't it at least worth experimenting with the idea of having Winfield shadow Jennings all over the field? Wouldn't it make sense to at least attempt to take away Rodgers' best and most explosive weapon and force him to beat you with less talented players?
 
At the very least, it's worth keeping a close eye on Jennings on Monday night. Will the Packers move him around or stick him on the right side, where he tends to play most of his snaps? When the Packers go to three- and four-wide offensive sets, where does Winfield line up? Will he stay on the outside receiver, or will the Vikings continue to move him inside? And if you see No. 85 in Green and Gold matched up one-on-one against No. 21 in purple (Allen), be afraid. Be very afraid.
 
Christian Peterson is the Operations Manager at LeagueSafe.com. He is a contributor to Vikings.com and is a co-host on the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on Saturday Mornings on KFAN 100.3 FM.

VikesCentric: Do the Vikings have any chance at Lambeau?

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: November 9, 2011 - 5:32 PM

Last Wednesday, when I was on KFAN with Paul Allen, he was already looking 12 days down the road past the bye week to Monday night's game against the Packers in Green Bay. I couldn't really blame him since he's the "voice of the Vikings" and the team had the week off. Why not look down the road a bit? After all, there was nothing very worthwhile to look back on from the first half. 

However, I was a little caught off-guard when PA not only looked ahead but suggested that the Vikings might be able to beat the Packers and then run the table.
 
Now, I know Paul drinks a lot of Purple Kool-Aid (I'm pretty sure it's in his contract) and I know he lives and dies with the Vikings. But I assumed he was being a little tongue-in-cheek with this particular bit of speculation. I played along and said the Vikings could give the Pack a game if they played them as well as they did in Week 7 at the dome when they only lost by six.
 
I went on with PA again this Wednesday and, and even though he didn't bring up his fanciful notion that the Vikings might pull the massive upset this Monday, I could tell he was fired up. Then I saw his "Bits and Boredom" post for Wednesday over on KFAN.com where he once again speculates how tremendous it would be if the Vikings won the rest of their games.
 
As you can see from the link, just above the post is a clip of Gary Wright's 1976 classic "Dreamweaver."
 
Yeah, PA is dreaming and he knows it.
 
No one in their right mind can seriously think the Vikings are going to make a playoff run this season, to say nothing of their chances of "running the table." Not a chance. But do the Vikings have a shot of defeating the Green Bay Packers in prime time to end their 14-game winning streak? Any chance at all?
 
I certainly don't think they do. Nor do the Vegas odds-makers who have installed the Super Bowl champs as a two-touchdown favorite.
 
Based on the "on any given Sunday... or in this case, Monday" rule, however, the Vikings have a shot. Anyone has a shot of beating anyone else, I suppose. So what is the Vikings' perfect recipe for winning on Monday night?
 
I can think of only a few scenarios that don't have something to do with an injury that knocks Aaron Rodgers out of the game – which I would never root for, and not just because Rodgers is on a few of my fantasy football teams. Rodgers might be the best player in the NFL right now and – even if you despise the Green and Gold, as I suspect a high percentage of those reading this blog do – he is darn fun to watch if you call yourself a football fan. He's having a season for the ages. Any defeat of the Packers that doesn't include Rodgers would be a hollow victory. Let's not go with the injury scenario.
 
So how do the Vikings beat the Packers with Rodgers at the helm?
 
The most obvious answer might be to keep the ball away from him as much as possible. Despite the Packers' feeble pass defense, no team has been able to out-point their fast-break offense this season. The Chargers tried to last week, but fell short.
 
Playing keep-away might be the only way.
 
And if any team is uniquely qualified to play keep-away, it's the Minnesota Vikings. They have the NFL's best running back, fresh off his bye week. Give Adrian Peterson 30 carries. Give Toby Gerhart 10. Give Percy Harvin a handful. Run, run, run, and run the clock down. Long drives will give the Packers fewer chances to score and keep the Vikings defense fresh. It's an age-old strategy – one that every team that has faced the Packers this season has undoubtedly already considered.
 
Sounds great in theory, huh?
 
A win over the dreaded rivals from the East on Monday night in an otherwise joyless season might be enough to do the unthinkable: put a smile on the faces of Vikings fans.  In reality, though, I think we'll have funding approved for a new Vikings stadium before this team beats the Packers again.
 
Vikings fans: suspending reality for a moment, what is your dream scenario for beating the Packers on Monday night? Share your winning recipe for the Vikes in the comments section below.
 
Bo Mitchell is VP of content at SportsData and co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on Saturday mornings on KFAN 100.3 FM.
 
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: It doesn't feel like Packers week

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: October 19, 2011 - 10:00 PM

Wait a minute… this is "Packers Week," isn't it?

Yep, I just double-checked: the Vikings absolutely host the Packers at Mall of America Field this Sunday afternoon at 3:15.
 
Normally, Packers Week in Vikings territory is filled with back-and-forth taunting and braggadocio across the state line -- or in some cases even across the office or across the living room. The Vikings/Packers border battle is the biggest rivalry in Minnesota sports and one of the biggest in the NFL, but you'd never know it this week.
 
Whether by some odd design or coincidence, Vikings fans find themselves distracted by shiny objects in the days leading up to Sunday's showdown, namely: a new starting quarterback and the prospect of a shiny, new stadium. 
 
Perhaps it's a good thing the focus is elsewhere. Frankly, the Vikings/Packers rivalry isn't really much of a rivalry right now. On paper it's a sizeable mismatch.
 
Just two years ago, during Brett Favre's first season with the Vikings, the intra-divisional feud was at its zenith. Who will ever forget that Bizarro-World Monday night in October of 2009 when Favre played as a Viking against the Packers for the first time? The buzz was off the charts and the prime time contest drew record ratings.
 
The Vikings swept the Packers in 2009 en route to the NFC Championship game. The Packers reciprocated in 2010, and one-upped the Vikes by sweeping them en route to a Super Bowl championship. The second game of the series in 2010 – a 31-3 blowout by the Packers at the Metrodome – was the final straw for Brad Childress. It also signaled a hiatus in the heated rivalry.
 
Vikings/Packers will become a true rivalry once again, in time, provided the Vikings get a new stadium in the Twin Cities rather than relocating to Hollywood.
 
(Side note: by mentioning a new stadium not once, but twice, I have virtually ensured that at least 95 percent of the comments below will not be about the Vikings/Packers, but will instead be anti-stadium rants.)   
 
For now, however, even the most ardent Vikings fan can't boast with a straight face that they have a shot of beating the snot out of the Packers on Sunday. Yeah, I know, I know, "on any given Sunday…" but let's be serious.  On paper, this doesn't look like much of a game.
 
Starting with that four-touchdown loss to the Packers last season, the Vikings have won just four of their last 14 regular season games. Meanwhile, including last year's postseason, the Packers have won the last 12 times they have taken the field. The Packers are the only undefeated team in the NFL right now and they lead the league in points.
 
So what's the worst thing that could happen for Vikings fans this Sunday? It's not another four- or five-touchdown blowout. I would argue the worst thing that could happen to the Vikings is having the Packers treat them like they did the Rams last Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Packers raced to a 28-3 halftime lead over the Rams last week, and then… stopped trying. They took the foot off the gas and toyed with the Rams in the second half like a dog plays with its food.
 
It was almost as if they felt sorry for the Rams so they showed some mercy. It was kinda sad.
 
If this Sunday's game gets that out of hand – if even the Vikings' hated rivals from across the border don't consider them as a serious enough threat to put forth a full, 60-minute effort – then this season will have reached a new low.
 
Vikings fans can only hope it doesn't come to that.
 
Bo Mitchell is VP of content at SportsData and co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on Saturday mornings on KFAN 100.3 FM.
 
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

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