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 10 Picks & Power Rankings: Bears, Packers 2-3

Posted by: Mark Craig under Vikings, Bears, Lions, NFC, Packers, Leslie Frazier, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin Updated: November 9, 2012 - 8:18 AM
What else would you rather do on a Friday morning 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, Falcons (7-0)
Last week: No. 1.
Comment: Proving you no longer have to run the ball and stop the run – at least in the regular season – the Falcons rank 25th in rushing and 24th against the run. Not sure I’d want those numbers in a playoff game against the 49ers.
 
2. Bears (7-1)
Last week: No. 3.
Comment: Charles Tillman said he wouldn’t play against the Texans at home on Sunday. Now, he says he will play. Either way, it should be his choice. The dude’s wife is having a baby and, yes, there’s actually something more important than the NFL. (Start … angry … emails … now). The Bears have 28 takeaways and are plus-16 in the turnover ratio. Is this 1985?
 
3. Packers (6-3)
Last week: No. 4.
Comment: Want to know why Vikings coach Leslie Frazier doesn’t want to even entertain the thought of resting Percy Harvin against the Lions at home on Sunday? Because the next three games are at No. 2 Chicago, at No. 3 Green Bay and home against No. 2 Chicago. As usual, the bodies are falling quickly in Green Bay. And, as usual, GM Ted Thompson has provided the depth to handle it.
 
BOTTOM THREE
30. Eagles (3-5)
Last week: No. 23.
Comment: The Dream Team plays host to America’s Team on Sunday in a game that should remind everyone of the stress that’s caused when your team vastly overrates itself. The loser advances to play the Jets.
 
31. Jaguars (1-7)
Last week: No. 31.
Comment: Jacksonville has had five home games. They’ve lost by 20, 17, 38, 17 and 17. Wow, wow, wow, wow and wow.
 
32. Chiefs (1-7)
Last week: No. 32.
Comment: The Chiefs are 0-4 at home, a league-worst minus-20 in turnover margin and, um, … ah, they just stink all the way around.
 
 
NFC NORTH
2. Bears (7-1)
Last week: No. 3.
 
3. Packers (6-3)
Last week: No. 4.
 
14. Lions (4-4)
Last week: No. 19.
Comment:  Detroit back from the dead, thanks to its Jacksonville booster shot. That was the last dose of Vitamin J(aguar) for the NFC North for the next four years. Jacksonville was 0-4 and outscored by 67 points against the NFC North this season. It definitely was all downhill after the Jags managed to blow that three-point lead with 38 seconds left in regulation at the Metrodome in Week 1.
 
18. Vikings (5-4).
Last week: No. 17.
Comment: So you’re Leslie Frazier and you beat the Lions six weeks ago. But you won because your team returned two kicks for touchdowns to overcome a passing game that netted 100 yards. And now Percy Harvin can barely walk, let alone run 105 yards with the opening kickoff. And the Lions haven’t allowed a kickoff past the 35-yard line or a punt longer than 18 yards the past four games. What do you do? Worry. A lot. If the Vikings lose on Sunday, it could be the trap door that sends them straight to the NFC North basement for a third straight year.
 
 
THE REST
 
4.    Texans (7-1); 5. 49ers (6-2); 6. Steelers (5-3); 7. Giants (6-3); 8. Ravens (6-2); 9. Patriots (5-3); 10. Broncos (5-3); 11. Colts (6-3); 12.     Saints (3-5); 13. Buccaneers (4-4); 15. Seahawks (5-4); 16. Dolphins (4-4); 17. Chargers (4-4); 19. Cowboys (3-5); 20. Bengals (3-5); 21. Panthers (2-6); 22. Redskins (3-6); 23. Rams (3-5); 24. Raiders (3-5); 25. Titans (3-6); 26. Bills (3-6); 27. Cardinals (4-5); 28. Browns (2-7); 29. Jets (3-5).
 
 
VIKINGS
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
1, Peterson, Peterson, Peterson: Adrian Peterson has no air support and his storm-trooping through eight- and nine-man fronts, leading the league in rushing with 957 yards and ranking second in average per carry (5.7). Before they played Peterson, the Seahawks were giving up an average of 3.7 yards per carry. Peterson smacked them with a 10.7-yard average. If QB Christian Ponder ever puts his shoulders back, raises his head, cracks a smile and starts letting the ball fly again, Peterson could go for 2,000 yards.
 
2, Special teams: Besides booming 35 touchbacks and making 19 of 20 field goal attempts, including 5 of 5 from 50 yards and beyond, rookie Blair Walsh also is keeping the special teams remarkably healthy. Think about it. The Vikings have only had to cover 12 kickoffs. Twelve in nine games. Opponents are averaging only 6.6 yards per punt return with a long of 27.
 
3, Dome followed by a bye week: The Lions found their running game at Jacksonville last week. But it was Jacksonville. Detroit could, or should, be a good team for the Vikings to play at home the week before a bye. A struggling run defense should be able to handle Detroit’s typically meager running attack. If that’s accomplished, there will be a lot of third-and-long situations. Third-and-long mixed with Jared Allen, the Metrodome and the Lions usually works out in favor of the Vikings. And a win heading into the bye preserves the season a little bit longer.
 
 
THREE REASONS TO GO `UH-OH’
1, Ponder, Ponder, Ponder: The streak of positivity surrounding Ponder at the start of the season has hit a well-deserved stretch of negativity. From this angle, Ponder has stacked four straight stinkers on top of what I’d call five “winning” performances. Although he threw for only 111 yards at Detroit in Week 4, he managed the game well, didn’t throw a pick and made a nice deep throw under pressure late in the game to get a key first down. Even in the loss at Indy in Week 2, he had a “winning” performance because of how he led the team to a tying touchdown late in the game. But the past four games have been bad. And Ponder’s body language suggests he’s been broken. Games like Sunday are when we find out what kind of QB the Vikings really have.
 
2, Harvin’s ankle: The Vikings can say what they want, but Harvin’s ankle isn’t passing the eyeball test. He’s not playing on Sunday. It’s hard to imagine just how bad the passing game will be without Harvin. That’s why Frazier will cling to the hope that Harvin can play right down to the final second before turning in his game-day inactives.
 
3, Letroy Guion’s toe:
Stopping the run starts with the tackles not giving ground. Once the line of scrimmage is pushed even a yard or so downfield, everything starts to break down. Linebackers can’t flow, bodies start banging into each other and, well, you saw what happened last week when the Seahawks ran for 195 yards. Going overlooked behind Harvin’s injury this week is nose tackle Letroy Guion’s turf toe. He’s missed practice and is in danger of not playing. That’s not good for a team that’s trying to correct a four-week stretch of poor run defense.
 
 
THE PICKS
Vikings 28, Lions 21: Just not buying back into the Lions at this point. The Vikings should be able to stop the running game and we all know they can run the ball no matter what. That should give them a lead. And once they stop the run and get a lead, the Lions will be throwing on third-and-long. That’s when the Metrodome and Jared Allen will get to bond at a high decibel level while Matthew Stafford picks rubber pellets out of his teeth. The Vikings are 2-point underdogs.
 
Record picking Vikings games: 4-3.
 
 
BUF plus-11 at NE: Patriots by 14.
NYG minus-4 at CIN: Giants by 7.
SD plus-3 at TB: Bucs by 6.
DEN minus-4 at CAR: Panthers by 3.
TEN plus-6 at MIA: Dolphins by 3.
NYJ plus-6 at SEA: Seahawks by 17.
DAL minus-1 ½ at PHI: Eagles by 3.
STL plus-11 ½ at SF: 49ers by 7.
HOU plus-1 at CHI: Bears by 3.
KC plus-12 ½ at PIT: Steelers by 20.
 
Overall Record Last Week: 11-2. Vs. Spread: 9-4.
 
Record Season: 65-40. Vs. Spread: 49-51-3.
 
 
UPSET SPECIAL
ATL minus-2 ½ at NO.
 
Saints 31, Falcons 28:  The Saints obviously will struggle to stop Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense. But Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense can score points. New Orleans is at home and it’s desperation time. The Falcons have a four-game lead in the division and haven’t exactly dominated despite their 8-0 record.
 
Last week: CAR plus-3 ½ at WAS. Prediction: Panthers 27, Redskins 23. Actual: Panthers 21, Redskins 13.
Record: 4-4.

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 98 FINAL
Phoenix 106
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
UMBC 56
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
SMU 63 FINAL
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 84 FINAL
Washington 74
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 71 FINAL
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 58 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
UNLV 75
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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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