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.


Sneak peek: With Raiders invading, Vikings ship has too many holes to plug

Posted by: under Vikings, AFC, Packers, Leslie Frazier, Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier, Tarvaris Jackson Updated: November 15, 2011 - 10:38 PM

A snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for next Sunday’s game at Mall of America Field against the Raiders.

PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder needs to show marked improvement this week. No, no, no, we’re not advocating a full-fledged panicked exit from the Ponder bandwagon. The kid still has the requisite talent and composure to be a difference-maker for years to come. But it is worth pointing out that Ponder has only completed 50.5 percent of his passes this season and has a quarterback rating (69.8) that registers below mocked signal callers likes Arizona’s Kevin Kolb (77.8), Seattle’s Tarvaris Jackson (74.8) and Denver’s long-ago benched veteran Kyle Orton (75.7). Look, Ponder needs a lot of help around him – up front and in the receiving corps. But also remember he is facing his own steep learning curve. That was fully evident Monday at Lambeau Field as the Packers blitzed him early and often and rattled him into a night in which he went 16-for-34 for 190 yards with an interception. Ponder was 7-for-17 for 96 yards after halftime.
 
MOST PRESSING QUESTION
Which team has the advantage in turnaround time, the Vikings or Raiders?
 
The Raiders played on Thursday of last week, winning 24-17 in San Diego and then getting nine full days to rest and recover before their trip to Minneapolis. The Vikings? They get a shortened week to address a multitude of errors that surfaced during Monday night’s embarrassing 45-7 loss in Green Bay. But who knows? Maybe the quick turnaround will be a blessing. After all, the Vikings had 15 days between games after beating Carolina 24-21 in Week 8. And yet they returned after their bye week to deliver their biggest stinker of the season.
 
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Cullen Loeffler’s shoulder. The veteran long snapper suffered a rotator cuff injury Monday night. No big deal; he’s just a long snapper, right? Well, Loeffler has played in 126 consecutive games for the Vikings, including playoffs. You’d have to go back to the 2003 regular season finale to find a Vikings punt or field goal attempt that didn’t have Loeffler snapping. On the current roster, Jared Allen is the second-best long snapper. But the Vikings certainly would not ask him to take on that role if Loeffler’s injury were serious. They’re instead forced to scour the open market.
 
SCOUTING THE RAIDERS
In Oakland, it all starts with the running game. Through the first four games, Darren McFadden ran like a Pro Bowl star, accumulating 468 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The last three weeks, with McFadden sidelined and nursing a sprained foot, Michael Bush has sprung to life. Bush had 111 yards from scrimmage in Week 7, 129 yards in Week 9 then blew up for 242 total yards in last week’s win over San Diego. As a team, the Raiders have the NFL’s fourth best rushing offense (156.2 yards per game). They also now have quarterback Carson Palmer knocking the rust off and sparking a big to win the AFC West.
 
TRUE OR FALSE
The Vikings can win Sunday: True.
 
Amazingly, even after seeing Monday night’s 45-7 horror show in Green Bay, the oddsmakers still only have the Vikings pegged as one-point underdogs against the Raiders. Oakland, for what it’s worth, has already won road games this season at Denver, Houston and San Diego. So now we’ll learn a whole lot about the character that coach Leslie Frazier thinks he has on this team. So far, the Vikings have not handled their small samples of success well. They’ve followed each of their wins this season with wildly lopsided losses. But at least after the first blowout loss of the season – a 39-10 faceplant in Chicago – the Vikings came back and fought Green Bay to the wire in Week 7. They’ll need a similar effort Sunday.

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Atlanta - WP: E. Stults 4 FINAL
Detroit - LP: J. Chamberlain 2
Washington - LP: X. Cedeno 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Wacha 6
Philadelphia 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 18
Baltimore 6 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Miami - LP: D. Haren 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: R. Montero 7
San Diego 6 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
San Francisco 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 8
Colorado 2 FINAL
Oakland 11
LA Angels - LP: N. Tropeano 3 FINAL
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 5
Cleveland 4 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
Kansas City 11 FINAL
Texas 7
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Arizona 2
Toronto 7 FINAL
Houston 4
Minnesota - LP: C. Johnson 2 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Masterson 14
Boston 116 FINAL
Charlotte 104
LA Lakers 113 FINAL
Philadelphia 111
Houston 96 FINAL
Toronto 99
Milwaukee 88 FINAL
Atlanta 101
Sacramento 83 FINAL
Memphis 97
Utah 104 FINAL
Minnesota 84
Phoenix 86 FINAL
Portland 109
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Montreal 3
Vancouver 4 FINAL
St. Louis 1
Calgary 5 FINAL
Dallas 3
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Chicago 4
Edmonton 4 FINAL
Colorado 1
Buffalo 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
ULM 58 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 65
Dayton 70 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 91
(6) Tennessee 48 FINAL
(4) Maryland 58
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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