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 5 Picks and Power Rankings: Vikings go to 4-1

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, Bears, Lions, NFC, Packers, Super Bowl, Percy Harvin Updated: October 5, 2012 - 1:02 PM
What else would you rather do on a Friday 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, Texans (4-0)
Last week: No. 1.
Comment: Opponents have converted a league-low 25 percent of their third downs (12 of 48) against Wade Phillips’ bunch. That’s probably why they’re only scoring 14 a game against Bum’s boy.
 
2. Falcons (4-0)
Last week: No. 2.
Comment: Sometimes, it looks like Tony Gonzalez could play forever. The future Hall of Fame tight end continues to help Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ ball-control, quick-strike offense convert third downs at a 46.9 percent clip. Only Pittsburgh (56.3) has been more efficient on third downs.
 
3. Chargers (3-1)
Last week: No. 4.
Comment: Strange to see the Chargers rank higher in scoring defense (sixth) than scoring offense (14th). It’s good to have better balance, but it’s also still a concern that Philip Rivers put up only three points against the Falcons in Week 3.
 
BOTTOM THREE
30. Chiefs (1-3)
Last week: No. 25.
Comment: 0-2 at home and hosting the Ravens this week. Baltimore is fifth in scoring. The Chiefs are 31st in scoring defense and last in turnover margin (minus-13).
 
31. Saints (0-4)
Last week: No. 31.
Comment: At least the Saints are consistent. Who knows, if the fiasco continues, they might even be able to overtake the Browns’ stranglehold on No. 32. The defense doesn’t seem willing to stand in the way. It’s 31st in the NFL in first downs allowed (102). Only Tennessee (104) is worse.
 
32. Browns (0-4)
Last week: No. 32.
Comment: So what’s worse than starting 0-4 with a one-point loss to the Eagles, two tough division losses and a beatdown by Buffalo? A Week 5 road trip to play a Giants team coming off a loss.
 
NFC NORTH
8. Vikings (3-1).
Last week: No. 11.
Comment: @StribDW believes this lofty ranking is somehow connected to the gas fumes that pour into the Sid Hartman Media Center on daily basis at Winter Park. Perhaps. Or it could be the fact the Vikings have just dominated the line of scrimmage in back-to-back upsets that included a game in which they beat up a 49ers team that beat up the Packers in Lambeau. 
 
11. Packers (2-2)
Last week: No. 14.
Comment: The replacement officials weren’t the only ones from the NFL to hose the Packers. The schedule-maker got his licks in, too. A Thursday night game in Week 2. A Monday nighter at Seattle in Week 3. And now a three-game road trip. Houston is the only other team that has three consecutive road games on its schedule.  
 
12. Bears (3-1)
Last week: No. 16.
Comment: Jay Cutler and Mike Tice can’t get along during a 16-point prime-time victory at Dallas? Heaven help the Bears if this thing starts to unravel. Cutler did, however, have perhaps the best game of his career. So Tice is doing something right.
 
29. Lions (1-3)
Last week: No. 22.
Comment: The Lions are who we used to think they were. Did someone say 6-10? Or 5-11?
 
 
THE REST
4. Cardinals (4-1); 5. Eagles (3-1); 6. Ravens (3-1); 7. Bengals (3-1); 9. 49ers (3-1); 10. Broncos (2-2); 13. Rams (2-2); 14. Patriots (2-2); 15. Seahawks (2-2); 16. Cowboys (2-2); 17. Giants (2-2); 18. Redskins (2-2); 19. Jets (2-2); 20. Bills (2-2); 21. Buccaneers (1-3); 22. Jaguars (1-3); 23. Titans (1-3); 24. Steelers (1-2); 25. Colts (1-2); 26. Panthers (1-3); 27. Dolphins (1-3); 28, Raiders (1-3).
 
VIKINGS
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
1, Ponder’s 4 for 4: Like we said last week, we’ll keep this No. 1 until quarterback Christian Ponder puts up a clunker. Part of his impressive development in Year 2 is his full understanding of his team’s power-running identity. Power-running teams don’t sling the ball with hopes that the reward will miraculously outweigh the risk. Ponder’s understanding of that was on display during a win at Detroit in which he threw for only 111 yards and a 71.2 passer rating. To me, those lousy numbers are overshadowed by the fact he’s the only starting QB in the league without an interception. His streak of passes without a pick is 124, including 123 this year.
 
2, Those eight plays in the second half: The Lions trailed 20-6 and knew the Vikings were going to run the ball late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter. They put eight and nine men in the box. Yet the Vikings still ran the ball eight consecutive times for 38 yards and three first downs. As Ponder likes to say, “That’s huge!” If the Lions could do that, they’d win a Super Bowl with their passing attack. It would have been the perfect pound-it-out-with-a-lead drive had Blair Walsh not missed the 46-yard field goal attempt at the end of it.
 
3, Depth: We all thought the secondary was doomed when Jamarca Sanford had to start at strong safety for the injured Mistral Raymond last week. We all thought the nickel defense was doomed when Jasper Brinkley had to take over for the injured Erin Henderson the past two weeks. We all thought Marvin Mitchell couldn’t start for Henderson in back-to-back games in the base defense. Well, we were wrong. Sanford teamed with Harrison Smith last week to showcase the best safety play the Vikings have had in years. If Sanford keeps it up, Raymond is out of a starting job. As for Brinkley, he played so well that, for now, Henderson has lost his job in the nickel.  
 
THREE REASONS TO GO `UH-OH’
1, Favored by 5 1/2: A team’s expectations can’t change any more dramatically in four weeks than they have for the Vikings since the start of the season. Four weeks ago, they were a rebuilding team looking to 2013 while the bullies of the NFC North fought amongst themselves. Today, with three of their next four games at home, the Vikings are expected to head into November still atop the division. But what happens when a team that’s grabbed the league’s attention with consecutive upsets is the favored one.
 
2, Bracketing Percy: Until last week, it seemed as though Percy Harvin essentially was unstoppable. Even if the Vikings had to throw the ball to him five yards behind the line of scrimmage, Harvin was going to get his yards after the catch and move the chains. But the Lions slapped a bracket on him that took him out of the offense. Even the linemen were looking for those quick passes down the line of scrimmage. As teams look to duplicate the Lions’ approach, the pressure will mount on Ponder and Jerome Simpson to connect deep down the field. And that will open the Vikings up to more turnovers.
 
3, Inconsistent tight end production: This is a tight end-friendly offense with one of the best young tight ends in Kyle Rudolph and the team’s prized free-agent acquisition in John Carlson. One week, Rudolph looks like the league’s breakout player of the year. The next week, like last week, he goes long stretches without being targeted and ends up with two catches for 8 yards. Carlson, meanwhile, has been a huge disappointment. He’s been targeted three times and has one catch for minus-1 yard. If teams are able to take Harvin out of the game, the Vikings need consistent production and first downs out of their tight ends.  
 
 
THE PICKS
Vikings 24, Titans 17: The Vikings have shown the past two weeks that they can run the ball when two of the league’s better defensive fronts know they’re going to run the ball. Tennessee doesn’t have near the strength up front, ranking 27th against the run. This is a game the Vikings should control. Then again, this spot is on a three-game losing streak when it comes to predicting what the Purple will do. The Vikings are favored by 5 ½.
 
 
PHI plus-3 ½ at PIT: Steelers by 7.
GB minus-7 at IND: Packers by 10.
CLE plus-9 at NYG: Giants by 3.
MIA plus-3 ½ at CIN: Bengals by 10.
BAL minus-6 at KC: Ravens by 3.
SEA plus-3 at CAR: Panthers by 7.
CHI minus-4 ½ at JAC: Jaguars by 6.
DEN plus-6 ½ at NE: Patriots by 7.
BUF plus-9 ½ at SF: 49ers by 10.
SD plus-3 ½ at NO: Saints by 3 (Hey, they gotta win sometime, right?).
HOU minus-8 at NYJ: Texans by 10.
 
Record Last Week: 9-4. Vs. Spread: 5-8.
 
Record Season: 22-19. Vs. Spread: 16-21-2.
 
 
UPSET SPECIAL
ATL minus-3 at WAS:
Redskins 30, Falcons 28: RGIII goes Matty Ice with a last-minute drive as the NFC loses its last undefeated team. If that and everything else above happens (which, of course, it won’t), the Vikings, Falcons, Cardinals and 49ers would be tied atop the conference with 4-1 records. Just like we all figured after five weeks, eh?
 
 
Last week: NO plus-7 at GB. Prediction: Saints 31, Packers 28. Actual: Packers 28, Saints 27.
Record: 2-1.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 111 2nd OT 0:02
San Antonio 109
Milwaukee 54 3rd Qtr 6:57
Portland 55
Houston 33 2nd Qtr 6:33
Denver 47
Indiana 44 2nd Qtr 2:54
LA Clippers 46
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 1 2nd Prd 8:44
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
NC A&T 55 FINAL
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
TX A&M-CC 73 FINAL
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 60 1st OT 0:11
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 56 2nd Half 3:35
Cal Poly 53
Central Arkansas 47 2nd Half 10:38
New Mexico 56
Howard 34 2nd Half 10:07
Pepperdine 36
Portland 29 2nd Half
UNLV 28
CS-Northridge 16 1st Half 9:14
Oregon 17
Grambling St 6 1st Half 8:17
Washington 28
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
UNLV 84
NC A&T 70 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 26 2nd Half 8:45
San Francisco 43
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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 Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT