Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
Vikings cornerback Chris Cook’s day ended abruptly in the third quarter when he made contact with an official.
Cook gave up an incredible 46-yard touchdown catch to Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery with 5:24 left in the third quarter to give the Bears a 20-10 lead. After the play, Cook made contact with an official, leading to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty and an ejection.
It was the second touchdown Cook allowed to Jeffery, who scored on a 80-yard touchdown on the second play of the second half.
Marcus Sherels replaced Cook as the right cornerback with Robert Blanton remaining as the nickel cornerback. The Vikings were thin at the position heading into the game with a fractured sternum injury to Josh Robinson.
Jeffery broke the Bears’ franchise record for receiving yards in the third quarter. He has 10 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns after three quarters.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was ruled out due to concussion symptoms. Matt Cassel will finish the game at quarterback.
The Vikings have a 7-6 halftime lead over the Bears at the Metrodome. Quarterback Christian Ponder is being evaluated for concussion symptoms and his return is questionable. Matt Cassel took the final snap of the half at quarterback.
The good: Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson became the first rookie in Vikings history to score a touchdown in three different ways (rushing, receiving and kickoff return). Patterson completed the feat on a 33-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. Patterson, lined up in the backfield, broke two tackles on the toss play to complete a five-play, 90-yard drive in 2:33.
The Vikings have 107 rushing yards on 17 attempts against the worst run defense in the NFL.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes also had a nice half covering Bears wide recievers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. He deflected a pass covering Marshall in the end zone in the first quarter.
The bad: Linebacker Chad Greenway had a positive defensive play taken away on a Robert Blanton penalty in consecutive week. The safety was called for offsides in the first quarter when Greenway intercepted Bears quarterback Josh McCown. Last week against the Packers, Blanton was called for holding on a sack by Greenway.
The ugly: Quarterback Christian Ponder was ineffective on third down throughout the first half. The Vikings were 0-for-5, and Ponder was sacked on the first three third down attempts. He went 1 of 2 for two yards on the other two third down attempts.
Ponder was drilled on his only completed third down pass with 1:12 left in the half. He went into the locker room to be evaluated for concussion symptoms after the play. Cassel received a loud ovation as he took the final for the final play of the half.
Good morning from Mall of America Field. The Vikings just released their inactives for today's game against the Chicago Bears and there are no real surprises.
Their inactives: quarterback Josh Freeman, cornerback Josh Robinson, offensive guard Jeff Baca, offensive tackle Mike Remmers, tight end Kyle Rudolph, wide receiver Rodney Smith and defensive tackle Chase Baker.
The Bears inactives are quarterback Jay Cutler, safety Major Wright, safety Anthony Walters, linebacker Lance Briggs, tackle James Brown, tackle Jonathan Scott and defensive end Cornelius Washington.
What would you rather do on a Saturday morning than wake up early and read weekly picks and power rankings involving 32 teams that basically are of equal strength and ability to beat, lose to or tie anyone on any given Sunday, Monday, Saturday, Thursday (and some day, when the revenue ceiling needs to be extended to a gazillion bazillion dollars, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday as well)?
CRAIG'S NFL POWER RANKINGS
BEST OF THE BUNCH
1. Seahawks (10-1)
Why: Now that the Broncos have two losses, including a blown 24-0 lead against the Patriots last week, the Seahawks are the obvious No. 1 team. So obvious, in fact, that you might want to put some money on the Saints this week. Remember, nothing in the NFL is ever as good or as bad as it seems. Seattle, right now, is the best team in the league, riding a six-game winning streak and coming off a bye. They have some issues in the secondary, but they also have the deepest secondary in the league. Note to the rest of the NFC: You better catch ‘em during the regular season because this team will be especially tough to beat at CenturyLink Stadium in the playoffs.
2. Patriots (8-3); 3. Broncos (9-2); 4. Panthers (8-3); 5. Saints (9-2); 6. 49ers (7-4); 7. Cardinals (7-4); 8. Chargers (5-6); 9. Chiefs (9-2); 10. Eagles (6-5); 11. Rams (5-6); 12. Bengals (7-4); 13. Lions (7-5); 14. Ravens (6-6); 15. Cowboys (7-5); 16. Giants (4-7); 17. Colts (7-4); 18. Steelers (5-7); 19. Bills (4-7); 20. Buccaneers (3-8); 21. Titans (5-6); 22. Dolphins (5-6); 23. Bears (6-5); 24. Raiders (4-8); 25. Jets (5-6); 26. Packers (5-6-1); 27. Browns (4-7).
28. Vikings 2-8-1 (Last week: 28): The Vikings had trouble describing how a tie against Green Bay should feel. Four days later, the Lions helped them locate the correct feeling (lousy) by beating the Packers by 30 while outgaining them in total yards, 561-126.
THE REST OF THE REST
29. Jaguars (2-9); 30. Redskins (3-8); 31. Falcons (2-9).
WORST OF THE BUNCH
32: Texans (2-9): Houston was 9-2 last year when the Vikings showed up in town and beat them 23-6. Since that game, the Texans are 3-11. They’ve lost nine straight. And the ninth loss last week came against Jacksonville. So, yeah, that pretty much deserves at least one week at the bottom of the steaming heap of bad teams.
Bears plus-1 at Vikings. The pick: Vikings 28, Bears 17.
Yeah, it’s always risky to pick against Josh McCown when he’s playing the Vikings. He’s 2-0 with a somewhat memorable season-ending, game-winning, knock-the-Vikings-out-of-the-playoffs touchdown pass to Nate Poole as a member of the lowly Cardinals in 2003 (See: “Noooooooooooo!”). But Adrian Peterson looks to have put his hamstring and groin issues behind him. The Vikings rediscovered their running game against a terrible run defense in Green Bay a week ago. And now they face an even more horrendous run defense – ranked No. 32 ½ in a 32-team league – that’s beat up and allowing close to 200 yards per game the past five weeks. The feeling here is the Vikings are still playing hard enough to punish a beat-up Bears defense while controlling the game.
Last week: Vikings plus-4 at Packers: The pick: Vikings 24, Packers 21. The final: Vikings 26, Packers 26. Record: 6-4-1, 5-6 vs. the spread.
Saints plus-4 ½ at Seahawks: Saints 38, Seahawks 35.
Why?: Big Monday Night Football stage with giant playoff implications. The assumption is the Seahawks can’t lose at home in this situation. Assumptions are a bad thing when trying to make any sense of the NFL. Look for Drew Brees and a much, much, much-improved Saints defense to make the biggest statement of the year to date in the NFC.
Last week: Panthers minus-4 ½ at Dolphins: The pick: Dolphins 27, Panthers 24. The final: Panthers 20, Dolphins 16. Record: 4-8.
Titans plus-3 ½ at Colts: Colts by 6.
Broncos minus-5 at Chiefs: Broncos by 7.
Jaguars plus-7 at Browns: Browns by 3.
Buccaneers plus-7 ½ at Panthers: Panthers by 3.
Cardinals plus-3 at Eagles: Cardinals by 7.
Dolphins plus-2 at Jets: Dolphins by 3.
Falcons plus-3 ½ vs. Bills in Toronto: Bills by 7.
Rams plus-8 at 49ers: 49ers by 3.
Patriots minus-7 ½ at Texans: Patriots by 14.
Bengals plus-1 at Chargers: Bengals by 3.
Giants minus-1 ½ at Redskins: Redskins by 3.
Record: Last week: 5-7-1; 7-6 vs. the spread. Overall: 93-71-1; 73-87-4 vs. the spread.
Both Vikings defensive back Xavier Rhodes and wide receiever Joe Webb were full participants for the first time this week. With Rhodes playing Sunday, it helps solidify one of the Vikings’ corner spots in a depleted secondary facing Bears wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
“We’re pretty thin in the secondary and playing with a lot of guys that are out of position that you don’t really want to play as much as we’re having to play them because it does affect your special teams as well," Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said. "To have Xavier back, that’s a big deal.”
Frazier said Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will also play on Sunday despite missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Fraizer said Peterson looked fine in his return to practice on Friday.
“Just trying to rest that groin a little bit and let him get treatment,” Frazier said. “Not 100 percent but not to the point where it’s worse than it was when we played Green Bay.”
Vikings safety Harrison Smith practiced for the first time since suffering a turf toe injury against the Panthers in Week 6. While he’s able to practice, Smith isn’t eligible to return off injured reserve until Dec. 15 against the Eagles.
“He really looked pretty good,” Frazier said. “I was telling [Vikings head athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman a little bit ago that that rule is a good rule but man I wouldn’t mind if he could play this week, because he moved around well enough where you had no qualms putting him in the ballgame.”
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