Staff Directory 10644686

Mark Craig

Reporter/Columnist | Vikings/NFL
Phone: 612-673-7011
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Mark Craig has covered college or pro football for 27 of his 31 years as a sports writer at the Canton (Ohio) Repository (1987-99) and Star Tribune. He is in his 24th season of covering the NFL. He is one of the 48 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.   

A native of Northeast Ohio, Craig covered the Cleveland Browns from 1991 until they left for Baltimore in 1995. When they returned as an expansion team in 1999, Craig left to cover Gophers football for the Star Tribune. He co-authored two books on the Browns and is the author of the Vikings book "100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."
Recent content from Mark Craig
Nick Foles and the Bears, on a four-game losing streak, face the Packers on Sunday.

Mark Craig's Week 12 NFL picks against the spread

Did the Bears figure out how to beat the Packers during their bye week? Our NFL Insider says yes and predicts other Thursday and Sunday winners.
Gary Kubiak and quarterback Kirk Cousins are working closely for the first time this season with Kubiak in his first season as offensive coordinator f

Vikings' loss to lowly Cowboys unexpected, but don't blame Kubiak

The team's offensive coordinator was on his game in utilizing his key weapons.
Mike Tomlin, 48, is 143-74-1 in his 14th season as Steelers coach on what appears to be Hall of Fame career. For comparison, ex-Steelers coach Bill Co

Steel yourself for Mark Craig's Week 11 NFL power rankings

Pittsburgh remains unbeaten and keeps its edge over Super Bowl champion Kansas City.
Kirk Cousins had the ball stripped by Dallas’ Donovan Wilson, but the officials neglected to call Wilson’s helmet-to-helmet hit on the Vikings qua

Mark Craig's five extra points: Loss is double damaging

1 Helmet-to-helmet on Cousins strip?Mike McCarthy won his first coach's challenge as first-year leader of the Dallas Cowboys. It came with 10:57 left in the…
Cowboys safety Steven Parker taunted Vikings cornerback Kris Boyd after Boyd’s penalty negated his fourth-down reception on a fake punt.

Boyd has day to forget with back-to-back penalties, dropped interception

Kris Boyd made a huge mistake to draw a penalty on a fake punt in the second quarter that would have extended a Vikings drive.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer

Zimmer's 'stick together' message sparked Vikings' rebound

With a 1-5 start, Mike Zimmer had to adjust his ways with a team full of young players. Now 4-5, the question is how much further can the Vikings go?
Will football fans see a confetti-filled Lombardi Trophy ceremony this season?

By dreaming big, NFL could finish season with a December we'd remember forever

It feels less like the final two months of the NFL season will be played as scheduled because of the coronavirus. So pro football writer Mark Craig has a plan he'd like to share with Commissioner Roger Goodell and fans.
The Dolphins have won five in a row, the past three with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback.

Mark Craig's Week 11 NFL picks against the spread

The league's five longest winning streaks are likely to continue this week.
Justin Jefferson of the Vikings ran past Bears cornerback Buster Skrine (24) on Monday night.

Jefferson says Vikings have 'found that energy' during turnaround

A three-game win streak with three home games coming up has pumped new life into the Vikings. Rookie Justin Jefferson and others talked about the change.
Vikings defenders swarmed the Bears’ Cordarrelle Patterson on Monday night in Chicago.

Mark Craig's Week 11 NFL power ratings: Vikings moving up

The Steelers still lead the way, with the Chiefs close behind.
Vikings safety Harrison Smith intercepts a pass with teammates Jeff Gladney (20) and Anthony Harris (41) nearby.

Mark Craig's Vikings-Bears five extra points

Five takeaways from Monday's game in Chicago: Cordarrelle Patterson as a returner and a runner, Harrison Smith's pick, Bill Lazor's zero luck and points off turnovers.
Things did not go well for Tom Brady against the Saints last Sunday. What’s in store for this week’s Carolina game?

Mark Craig's Week 10 NFL picks against the spread

Last week’s Upset Special — Saints over Bucs — sure has gone to someone’s head. So he’s now thumbing his nose toward Vegas and picking…
Minnesota Vikings right guard Pat Elflein (65) at practice Oct. 28 at the TCO Training Center in Eagan.

Vikings release right guard Elflein as Cutting, Ham return

Pat Elflein became expendable once rookie second-round draft pick Ezra Cleveland proved he could handle moving from his natural position at left tackle to right guard.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has found the end zone an NFL-leading 13 times this season in seven games.

Vikings' Cook nears rare milestone against stalwart Bears defense

With one rushing touchdown on Monday, Dalvin Cook will become the fourth player to score at least one rushing TD in his first eight games to start a season.
Titans linebacker Derick Roberson brought down Bears quarterback Nick Foles on Sunday in Nashville.

Even in Chicago, Vikings should outclass Bears' brutal offense

Yes, the Vikings are 2-10 in their last 12 trips to Chicago. Yes, they play particularly awful there in prime time. But there's a reason the Vikings are favored to beat the Bears.
Josh Allen and the Bills beat Seattle on Sunday to solidify their lofty ranking.

Mark Craig's Week 10 NFL power rankings

The Steelers survived in Dallas for their third consecutive road victory and remain on top.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) dove into the end zone for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Mark Craig's five extra points from Vikings-Lions

Five takeaways from Sunday's game include the rules, the rookie and the coach Mike Zimmer will miss.
The Steelers, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, are the only unbeaten team in the NFL entering Week 9.

Revisiting preseason predictions and handing out NFL midseason awards

The Steelers, the last unbeaten team, and the Seahawks garner accolades at the season's halfway point.
The Saints are getting healthier around quarterback Drew Brees.

Mark Craig's Week 9 NFL picks against the spread

Enjoy Week 9, fellow NFL guessers.The league is throwing some head-scratching coin-flippers at us this week. In some of the more evenly matched contests of…
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins made his way off the U.S. Bank Stadium field after throwing an interception Oct. 18 vs. Atlanta.

'Play smart and get a win': Vikings look to avoid historically bad start at home

Now in their 60th season, the Vikings have started 0-3 at home just four times: 1962, their second season; 1967, Bud Grant's first season; 1972, the year Fran Tarkenton returned; and 2020, the year a nasty global pandemic prevented fans from attending.
Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson

Run-first offense? Rookie receiver Jefferson good with blocking duties

Unlike his predecessor, Stefon Diggs, rookie Justin Jefferson sounded like he believed what he was saying when he talked about his enthusiasm for blocking opponents.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook plowed through the Green Bay defense for 163 yards rushing on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Vikings figure it out: Cook can't take a break for offense to thrive

Earlier in the season, there were key situations in which star running back Dalvin Cook wasn't on the field. Now coach Mike Zimmer is saying, 'We're going to have to ride this guy.'
Defensive end D.J. Wonnum (98) got more playing time after the Vikings traded Yannick Ngakoue to Baltimore.

Vikings stay quiet at trade deadline passes

The Oct. 22 trade of Yannick Ngakoue to the Ravens was the team's biggest swap during the season.
Joe Haden and the Steelers beat the Ravens on Sunday.

Mark Craig's Week 9 NFL power rankings. Where are Vikings now?

Pittsburgh is the NFL's only unbeaten team and an easy No. 1 choice. But where did the Vikings land after beating the Packers?
Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks stopped a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams in the third quarter.

Mark Craig's five extra points from Vikings-Packers

Five takeaways from Sunday's game: Eric Kendricks, Irv Smith, Jeff Gladney, Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer make the list.
Two pass interference calls by the Packers on the same Vikings possession — the first by Jaire Alexander on Justin Jefferson — kept a TD drive mov

Refs stick it to 'Tank for Trevor' fans with calls against Packers

Vikings fans with an eye to the 2021 NFL draft were in good position Sunday until the officials decided to pick up a late flag and the Packers couldn't complete a comeback.
Falcons receiver Julio Jones celebrated one of his two TDs in Atlanta’s 40-23 rout of the Vikings on Oct. 18. One Viking watched him, two turned awa

Vikings among six teams on pace for franchise record in points allowed

There are pitiful defenses all over the league, including the Vikings, who are giving up 32 points per game — more than Les Steckel's team.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer greeted Packers counterpart Matt LaFleur after the 2020 season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium, won by Green Bay 43-34.

Packers, sizzling under Matt LaFleur, take on fizzling Vikings

The Packers are 18-4 in their past 22 regular-season games, one of the best records for a new coach in NFL history.
Patriots quarterbacks Cam Newton, left, and Jarrett Stidham.

Mark Craig's Week 8 NFL picks against the spread

Going 12-2 straight-up and landing the Upset Special makes a fella feel kind of smart. Until he realizes how much dumber he is than the…
Defensive end Everson Griffen.

Vikings get to see Everson Griffen earlier than expected

This week the pass rusher was traded from Dallas, the Vikings' Week 11 opponent, to Detroit, the Vikings' Week 9 opponent.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Mark Craig tracks seven NFL turnarounds

And taking a peek at the formidable NFC West.
Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams and Adam Thielen are three of the top-rated receivers in the NFL this season.

Receivers will be first rate, even if this Vikings-Packers match-up isn't

Pro football's wide recover position is in very good hands throughout the NFL, and three of the best -- young and old -- will be on the field Sunday when the Vikings play at Green Bay.
Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski, left, missed a 45-yard field goal attempt against the Steelers in the final seconds Sunday.

Mark Craig's Week 8 power rankings: Battle of top teams coming up

Pittsburgh moved into the No. 1 spot by beating the Titans in a battle of undefeated teams, and has another stiff challenge this weekend.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is coveted by many teams, but only one will lose enough to get him. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Tank for Trevor? Vikings primed to join crowded race for No. 1 pick

Will the Vikings careen down the slippery slope of NFL ineptitude to have a shot at taking Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall draft pick? How bad would they need to be?

Todd Bowles has Bucs looking fearsome on defense

Last Sunday's smothering of Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated Packers was a coaching masterpiece that has the Buccaneers defensive coordinator back on the rise in NFL circles.

Mark Craig's Week 7 NFL picks against the spread

Other than bombing the Upset Special, going 5-9 against the spread and pitching and 0-fer-the NFC North, last week's picks went swimmingly.
Ex-Minnesota Vikings linebacker Matt Blair, pictured at his home in 2015, died Thursday at age 70.

Former Vikings great Matt Blair dies at age 70, likely linked to CTE

Including playoffs and two Super Bowls, Blair played 173 games. Only Scott Studwell and Roy Winston played more games at linebacker in Vikings history.
The Steelers are having fun this season.

Mark Craig's Week 7 power rankings: Steelers near top, Vikings not

How close is Pittsburgh to having the best team in the NFL? Mark Craig tells you that and more in this week's power rankings.
The Falcons’ Julio Jones took a short pass on fourth down and turned it into a 40-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It was his second score of th

Five extra points: Leadership, fourth-down woes and Julio Jones

Five takeaways from Sunday's Vikings loss to the previously winless Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick won’t need much FitzMagic against the Jets on Sunday.

Mark Craig's Week 6 NFL picks against the spread

Picking last week's Upset Special — FitzMagic over SanTragic as an 8-point underdog — was as easy as Russell Wilson driving 94 yards in two minutes.
Aaron Rodgers of the Packers (left) and Tom Brady of Tampa Bay have split the first two meetings of their NFL careers. The third one is Sunday.

Sunday's Hall of Fame battle: It's Brady vs. Rodgers in rare match-up

All eyes will be on the 43-year-old Tom Brady and the soon-to-be 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers when they meet for just the third time in their first-ballot Hall of Fame careers.
Atlanta Falcons then-assistant head coach/passing game coordinator Raheem Morris, here in 2019, is now head coach.

Winless Falcons, with new coach, could try the unexpected vs. Vikings

GM Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn — architects of Atlanta's Super Bowl team just three and a half years ago — are out. The Vikings are prepared for anything come Sunday against the new-look Falcons.
Vikings offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland (72) has earned the opportunity for more playing time at guard.

Rookie Cleveland pushing for more playing time on Vikings line

Ezra Cleveland's NFL debut could come this weekend against Atlanta because embattled second-year guard Dru Samia didn't practice and is on the Vikings' injury report.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll threw a challenge flag Sunday and it paid off.

Seattle's Carroll shows Vikings how the red flag can be a game-changer

Coaches lose their challenges more than they win them. But sometimes when they're right, the winning goes beyond reversing the play in question.
Dalvin Cook practiced last week. If he practices this week, the Vikings have a better chance to rise up the rankings after Sunday.

Mark Craig's Week 6 power rankings: The Vikings are where?

Two AFC teams -- the Ravens and the Chiefs -- ride atop the rankings.
Sure, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had been there before, on the tail end of game-winning drives in the red zone. This triumph came after his t

Five extra points: Wilson's zone, Zimmer's gamble, Samia's penalties

The guy whose red-zone interception lost Super Bowl XLIX in the closing seconds is still one of the best red-zone quarterbacks in NFL history.
Brad Childress in 2010.

Former Vikings coach Brad Childress is recovering from COVID-19

Childress retired "for good" after last season. Recently, several members of his family were hit by the coronavirus. "This was a good time to retire," he said.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers have won two in a row after an 0-2 start.

Mark Craig's Week 5 NFL picks against the spread

Will any of the other five unbeatens lose this week? No.
Vikings punter Britton Colquitt at practice Thursday.

An under-the-radar problem for the Vikings? Punting

Britton Colquitt's early struggles haven't helped a decimated Vikings defense.
Eric Kendricks

Kendricks kneeling for national anthem draws little attention

Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, who isn't alone among Vikings players now kneeling during the anthem, was succinct when asked Thursday why he does it.
Cleveland Browns' head coach Kevin Stefanski talks with Nick Chubb, left, Kareem Hunt and Baker Mayfield during the game earlier this season.

Ex-Vikings coordinator Stefanski leads extreme Cleveland turnaround

A rookie head coach on a three-game winning streak while averaging 39.3 points? Doing that during a pandemic that wiped out offseason training, canceled the preseason and shortened training camp? Can Kevin Stefanski keep it going?
Bobby Marshall, the first Black player in the NFL, grew up in Minneapolis.

A century ago, Bobby Marshall made history in NFL's first game

On Sept. 26, 1920, two weeks before Fritz Pollard made his debut with the Akron Pros, Bobby Marshall, a Black lawyer from Minneapolis, played both ways at end as his Rock Island (Ill.) Independents blanked the visiting St. Paul Ideals 48-0.
Running backs Mike Boone (23) and C.J. Ham (30) were jubilant after a special-teams trip on which a Boone hit forced a Texans fumble, leading to a fie

Mark Craig's Five Extra Points: Genius or dunderhead?

For most fans, the offensive coordinator is a dunderhead when his team loses and a genius when it wins. Sunday, Gary Kubiak was a genius.
Quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are among the seven unbeaten teams entering Week 4.

Mark Craig's Week 4 NFL picks against the spread

Week 4 should be easier to pick than Week 3. Of course, that’s not saying much. (See: last week’s 7-8-1 record, for gosh sakes!) Several…
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins on Sunday against the Titans.

Cousins can't shirk being held up to expectations of elite quarterbacks

The five highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL have combined to lead their teams to a 14-1 record. No. 6 on the list is Kirk Cousins, whose Vikings are 0-3.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) dove on the top for a one yard touchdown in the third quater

Mark Craig's five extra points from Vikings/Titans

Five takeaways from Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Adam Thielen

Mark Craig's Week 3 picks against the spread

Only two underdogs won last week. The guess here is five will win this week, including the Packers and one other you may see as a big surprise.
Todd Downing, seen here in 2017, got his break in coaching from Mike Tice.

Eden Prairie's Downing goes from driving NFL coaches to becoming one

This is Todd Downing's 20th NFL season. He's 40 years old. The former Eden Prairie quarterback has been grinding away half a lifetime since entering the league as essentially an airport chauffeur for the family of Vikings owner Red McCombs.
Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak at practice last week.

Kubiak takes blame for Cousins' poor play: 'The kid had no place to go'

Count Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak among those accepting a chunk of the blame for Kirk Cousins' awful play during the Vikings' 0-2 start this season.
San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa was carted off the MetLife Stadium field on Sunday.

After five 49ers are injured, NFL must investigate new stadium turf

September is traditionally a month filled with injuries in the NFL. Still, the new turf at MetLife Stadium, where San Francisco played the Jets, needs to be investigated.
After another promising drive and start, containing Colts running back Jonathan Taylor consumed far too much of the Vikings’ day in Indianapolis.

Five Extra Points: Vikings fizzle without showing any sizzle

Five takeaways following Sunday's 28-11 Vikings loss in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Colts' Jonathan Taylor runs against the Vikings' Eric Kendricks during the first half

Colts embarrass Vikings defense with run after run after run

The offense's problems may hog the attention, but the roots of Sunday's Vikings loss were established when the defense couldn't do anything to stop the Colts.
Colts quarterback Philip Rivers

Mr. Unpredictable: When Rivers throws, anything can happen

Colts QB Philip Rivers, in his 17th season, has it all. Anything — good, bad or ugly —- can happen Sunday vs. the Vikings because you never really know what to expect when Rivers drops back to pass.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was sacked eight times against Washington on Sunday. It won’t get easier in Week 2.

Mark Craig's Week 2 NFL picks against the spread

OK, so we didn't see those three Mitchell Trubisky fourth-quarter touchdown passes coming. Here's what Mark Craig thinks is coming in Week 2.
Colts quarterback Philip Rivers drops back to pass as offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo blocks against Jaguars defensive end Dawuane Smoot

Vikings have work cut out against Colts' outstanding offensive line

Pro Football Focus rates Indianapolis' starting five the best in the NFL.
Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and quarterback Kirk Cousins at practice on Thursday.

Kubiak admits Vikings offense 'got ugly' despite 34 points vs. Packers

A recap of the Vikings' six offensive snaps during the second quarter of the Vikings' season-opening loss shows how bad things got during the first half.
Vikings wide receiver Tajae Sharpe eyed up the ball but was unable to make the catch pressured by Kevin King during the third quarter

Five Extra Points: Cousins should have gone to Thielen on 4th down

Going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Packers' 39-yard line was a daring call that Gary Kubiak talked Mike Zimmer into. The end result was not ideal.
Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander sacked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in the endzone for a safety in the second quarter.

Despite 34 points, failures on offense also played big role in loss

The Vikings on Sunday set a team record for a franchise that's 60 years old: 18 minutes, 44 seconds. That's how long — or, actually little — the Vikings' offense held the ball.
Ifeadi Odenigbo

Vikings' Odenigbo using his 'Fools Gold' tweet as motivation

Ifeadi Odenigbo was believed to have been the odd man out heading into Sunday's season opener against the Packers, then Danielle Hunter went on IR.
About 5,000 Chiefs fans were allowed to watch a training camp practice last month at Arrowhead Stadium. About 18,000 will be at Thursday’s season op

Can the NFL season beat the pandemic? We'll find out starting tonight

Will the NFL really be able to maneuver through a worldwide pandemic, playing 256 regular-season games, 12 playoff games and making it to the end of Super Bowl in Tampa in February?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass during an NFL football training camp practice Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP

Power rankings to playoff predictions: Mark Craig previews the NFL season

The NFL returns to live action Thursday night in Kansas City. Here are Mark Craig's story lines, teams and players to watch as the NFL embarks on a new season amid pandemic and racial strife.
Vikings rookie receiver Dan Chisena is expected to be a special teams contributor this season.

Chisena's speed and versatility win him spot on Vikings' roster

The former Penn State track runner, the only undrafted rookie to make the initial 53-man roster, played receiver, defensive back and special teams during camp.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer called Gary Kubiak, above, the “best thing” that’s happened to him in Minnesota.

Vikings' Gary Kubiak finds a healthy balance as an offensive coordinator

Kubiak knows the toll of head coaching jobs, so he's happy just being Mike Zimmer's sidekick.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Yannick Ngakoue took to the field for practice at the TCO Performance Center, Friday, September 4, 2020 in Eagan, MN.

Ngakoue says joining the Vikings is a 'breath of fresh air'

The new defensive end is ready to team with Danielle Hunter to give the Vikings the best edge-rushing tandem in the NFL.
Chad Beebe at Vikings practice Tuesday at TCO Performance Center in Eagan.

Vikings receiver Beebe hopes changes will help him avoid injury bug

Chad Beebe, an undrafted free agent from Northern Illinois, missed most of last season after ankle surgery. For most of the past year, he's been on a new diet in hopes of getting his body right.