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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Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns 5
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
Philadelphia - LP: M. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati 0 Bottom 1st Inning
St. Louis 0
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 1 3rd Prd 19:38
Columbus 3
Calgary 7:00 PM
Edmonton
Edmonton 0 1st Prd 12:42
Calgary 0
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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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 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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