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 11 Picks & Power Rankings: Pack climbs to No. 2

Posted by: Mark Craig under Quarterbacks, Vikings, Bears, Lions, NFC, Packers, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin Updated: November 16, 2012 - 8:51 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, Texans (8-1)
Last week: No. 4.
Comment: Since their 42-24 loss at home to Green Bay, the Texans are 3-0 with a 30-point win over the Ravens and a grind-it-out victory at Chicago.
 
2. Packers (6-3)
Last week: No. 3.
Comment: Yeah, the Packers beat the No. 1 team by 18 points less than a month ago. But do you really expect NFL Power Rankings to make any sense? The Packers also lost to the Colts. And the Colts lost to the Jaguars. So maybe the Jaguars are the best team, eh?
 
3. Falcons (8-1)
Last week: No. 1.
Comment: Obviously, they aren’t done just because they lost at New Orleans last week. NOBODY wants to play the Saints right now. But the only way this team will be taken seriously is if it finally produces in the playoffs.
 
BOTTOM THREE
30. Eagles (3-6)
Last week: No. 30.
Comment: Andy Reid will be coaching the Browns in about two months. Will he keep Chilly as his offensive coordinator?
 
31. Chiefs (1-8)
Last week: No. 32.
Comment: The Chiefs led a game in regulation! Until they lost – again – in overtime. But, hey, Romeo’s guys showed some life in Pittsburgh. So we’ll bump them up a notch.
 
32. Jaguars (1-8)
Last week: No. 31.
Comment: At least Jacksonville didn’t lose last week. But all good things, including bye weeks, must come to an end.
 
 
NFC NORTH
2. Packers (6-3)
Last week: No. 3.
 
4. Bears (7-2)
Last week: No. 2.
Comment: Thirty takeaways and eight touchdowns defensively. Think about that. Through nine games in 1985, the Bears also had 30 takeaways but only two defensive touchdowns. Wow.
 
15. Vikings (6-4)
Last week: No. 18.
Comment: Win over the Lions saved the season. At least until Dec. 2. To keep the season alive beyond that, the Vikings need to win one of their next three games. That won’t be easy since they play the Bears in Chicago, the Packers in Green Bay and the Bears back home.
 
19. Lions (4-5).
Last week: No. 14.
Comment: We buried the Lions prematurely a few weeks back. But they play the Packers Sunday and the Texans at home on Thanksgiving. That could be a 4-7 hole the Lions won’t climb out of.
 
 
THE REST
 
 
5. Ravens (7-2); 6. Steelers (6-3); 7. 49ers (6-2-1); 8. Patriots (6-3); 9. Broncos (6-3); 10. Saints (4-5); 11. Colts (6-3); 12. Giants (6-4); 13. Buccaneers (5-4); 14. Seahawks (6-4);
16. Cowboys (4-5); 17. Bengals (4-5); 18. Rams (3-5-1); 20. Titans (4-5); 21. Chargers (4-5); 22. Bills (4-6); 23. Dolphins (4-6); 24. Panthers (2-7); 25. Redskins (3-6); 26. Raiders (3-6); 27. Cardinals (4-5); 28. Browns (2-7); 29. Jets (3-6).
 
 
VIKINGS
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
1, Ponder bounced back: QB Christian Ponder no longer looks like a child who dropped his ice cream cone in the sand. After a four-game personal slump that also helped drag the Vikings from 4-1 to 5-4, Ponder completed 75 percent of his passes to nine people not named Ponder in Sunday’s win over the Lions. He had two touchdowns, no turnovers and his highest passer rating (114.2) since Week 2. To me, Ponder has now had six games in which he has played winning football (the first five games and last Sunday). That’s pretty good considering this is a team that was expected to win six games at most.
 
2, Adrian Peterson is an MVP front-runner: Only 15 running backs have won league MVP. Quarterbacks have won it 35 times. So the odds are against Peterson winning MVP. Of course, the odds against him rushing for a league-leading 1,128 yards and a 5.8-yard average through nine games were even greater when his left knee was blown up last Christmas Eve. This has the feel of a 2,000-yard, MVP-caliber season.
 
3, Healthy roster: While the Packers seem to ship players off to injured reserve every week or so, the Vikings remain amazingly healthy. Of course, the Packers are OK so long as Aaron Rodgers remains healthy. But it is amazing to think that the Vikings will come out of their bye with a 6-4 record and only one opening-day starter (cornerback Chris Cook) unavailable to face the Bears. Receiver Percy Harvin and nose tackle Letroy Guion are expected back next week.
 
THREE REASONS TO GO `UH-OH’
1, The schedule: The Vikings head into their next three games needing to win one to stay above .500. And even if they do that, chances are they’d have to win at least two of their final three games to even have a chance of making the playoffs. Can the Vikings go 3-3 against this schedule?: at Chicago, at Green Bay, home against the Bears, at St. Louis, at Houston, home against the Packers.
 
2, Run defense: Sorry, but holding a woeful Lions running game to 60 yards does not erase the concerns about the run defense. Detroit is the only team in the league without a rush of 20 yards or more. So the Vikings’ run defense wasn’t really tested. But it will when it faces the Bears twice in the next three weeks. That’s when we’ll find out if the Vikings’ run defense is back or whether it’s still the shaky unit that allowed an average of 165.8 yards in the four games leading up to last week’s win over the Lions.
 
3, Turnover margin: Helmets off to the Vikings for being able to win six games with a minus-4 turnover margin. They’re one of only three teams in the bottom 10 in turnover margin to have a winning record. But look out because five of the final six games are against teams that have a positive turnover margin. That includes the Bears (plus-14) twice, the Packers (plus-4) twice and the Texans (plus-10) once.
 
THE PICKS
Vikings off:
 
Record picking Vikings games: 5-3.
 
 
PHI plus-3 ½ at WAS: Redskins by 6.
GB minus-3 ½ at DET: Packers by 7.
ARI plus-10 at ATL: Falcons by 3.
TB minus-1 ½ at CAR: Panthers by 4.
CLE plus-7 ½ at DAL: Browns by 3.
IND plus-9 ½ at NE: Patriots by 10.
JAC plus-15 ½ at HOU: Texans by 10.
CIN minus-3 ½ at KC: Chiefs by 3.
NO minus-5 at OAK: Saints by 14.
SD plus-7 ½ at DEN: Broncos by 3.
BAL plus-3 ½ at PIT: Ravens by 7.
CHI off at SF: 49ers by 7.
 
Overall Record Last Week: 6-5-1. Vs. Spread: 4-8.
 
Record Season: 71-45-1. Vs. Spread: 53-59-3.
 
 
UPSET SPECIAL
NYJ plus-3 ½ at STL:
 
Jets 16, Rams 10 OT: You think the Jets are a circus now? Get a load of them after Tim Tebow comes off the bench to win at game in OT. 
 
Last week: ATL minus-2 ½ at NO. Prediction: Saints 31, Falcons 28. Actual: Saints 31, Falcons 27.
Record: 5-4.

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Philadelphia 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 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
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 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
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
LSU 78 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 45
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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 Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

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