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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NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota 2 Top 8th Inning
Baltimore 3
Philadelphia 7 Bottom 9th Inning
NY Mets 2
Miami 4 Bottom 9th Inning
Atlanta 0
Boston 0 Top 9th Inning
Tampa Bay 7
Cleveland 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Kansas City 0
Detroit 5 Top 9th Inning
Chicago WSox 4
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado 1 Top 8th Inning
Arizona 0
Chicago Cubs 1 Bottom 5th Inning
St. Louis 1
Los Angeles 0 Bottom 5th Inning
San Diego 1
Milwaukee 0 Bottom 4th Inning
San Francisco 0
Oakland 0 Top 4th Inning
LA Angels 0
Washington 2 Bottom 3rd Inning
Seattle 0
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 10 4th Qtr 14:00
(4) Oklahoma 47
Stephen F Austin 16 4th Qtr 13:13
(20) Kansas State 45
Fresno State 13 3rd Qtr 4:21
(15) USC 45
Southern Miss 0 3rd Qtr 5:02
Miss State 42
Texas-El Paso 24 3rd Qtr 9:45
New Mexico 7
North Texas 0 3rd Qtr 8:42
Texas 28
(1) Florida State 17 3rd Qtr 15:00
Oklahoma State 10
(14) Wisconsin 10 2nd Qtr
(13) LSU 7
Idaho 0 Delayed 14:50
Florida 0
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 2nd Half 25:00
Chicago 0
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77
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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 Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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