Thursday Injury Report Released

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 31, 2009 – 2:57 pm

Some good news on the injury front for the Vikings: TE Visanthe Shiancoe (thigh) was able to participate in practice on a limited basis after sitting out of Wednesday’s workout.

DT Jimmy Kennedy (thumb) was not able to practice with the team and also sat out Wednesday’s practice.

There were no other changes to the  injury report from Wednesday to today. To view today’s full report, click here.

There were a few changes to the Giants injury report. After missing yesterday’s practice, WR Mario Manningham (shouler) was limited on Thursday. DT Chris Canty (knee) went from being limited on Wednesday to missing Thursday’s workout.

QB Eli Manning (foot) was limited on Wednesday but was a full participant today. DE Justin Tuck (knee) was not on the Wednesday injury report but appeared on Thursday’s and did not practice.

The Giants placed both RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) and CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) on injured reserve. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, who would be the first choice to replace Jacobs in the lineup, missed a 2nd straight day of practice with ankle and knee injuries.

There were no other changes to the Giants injury report.

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Vikings Rush Defense Still In The Mix For #1 Ranking

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 31, 2009 – 11:21 am

In 2008 the Vikings finished the season ranked #1 against the run, which made them the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger  to rank #1 against the run in 3 consecutive seasons (2006-2008). Their quest to duplicate the feat once again in 2009 got off to a rocky start, but quickly turned around and eventually the Vikings had the #2 ranked rushing defense in Week 12.

Now, however, after games against the Cincinnati Bengals (119 net rushing yards) and the Carolina Panthers (124), the Vikings defense has slipped a bit down to 4th in the NFL.

But, as the NFL is nearly set for its final week of the regular season, there is a chance the Vikings can climb up further in the rankings. And there’s an outside shot they could stake claim to the #1 ranking once again.

Here’s a look at the top 4 rushing defenses:

Team                     Yards Allowed Yards Per Game

1) Green Bay      1,285                    85.7

2) Cincinnati       1,316                    87.7

3) Pittsburgh      1,339                     89.3

4) Minnesota     1,359                     90.6
The first hurdle in front of the Vikings is their opponent, the NY Giants, who rank 12th in rushing offense with a 120.1-yard average per game. Helping the Vikings cause this week is that starting RB Brandon Jacobs is out for the Giants. While Ahmad Bradshaw is more than a capable starter, the Giants will be without their tandem plus Bradshaw is dealing with ankle and foot injuries.

If the Vikings are able to contain the Giants running game, they’ll have a legitimate chance to move up to #2 in the rankings and a very outside chance at moving up to #1.

The Steelers (#3) play at Miami on Sunday. The Dolphins have the league’s 4th-ranked rushing attack (142.1 yards per game). The Bengals (#2) play at the NY Jets, who have the NFL’s top-ranked rushing attack at 166.6 yards per game. Sitting 20 yards behind the Steelers and 43 yards behind the Bengals, the Vikings have a shot to move up (if they can take care of their own business against New York).

Green Bay, however, seems to have a pretty good hold on the #1 spot. They are 74 yards ahead of the Vikings through 15 games and they play at Arizona on Sunday. The Cardinals have the NFL’s 26th-ranked attack at 96.4 yards per game. While it’s possible the Vikings could leap ahead of Green Bay, it seems unlikely because of how much Arizona likes to pass the ball.

Even if the Vikings aren’t able to move up the rankings this week, their 2009 effort is nothing at which to scoff. They extended their streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to 36 games before Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart broke it up and they are tied with New England for the fewest rushing TDs allowed with 4.

Over the past 3+ seasons (2006-now), the Vikings have given up a total of 4,759 rushing yards, the lowest mark in the NFL over that time and opponents are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry over the same stretch, which is tied with the Baltimore Ravens for #1 in the NFL as well.

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Late-Season Cram Session

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 31, 2009 – 8:52 am

Most high school and college students are not in school at this time, instead enjoying Winter Break. So there aren’t many students packed into libraries cramming for tests and exams.

But while schools are on a break, the NFL is heating up and heading to the most important time of the season. The Vikings, for example, are preparing for their most important game of the season with the NFC’s #2 seed on the line. And they’re preparing for the game while in a short week because of their game last Monday night in Chicago.

In other words, the Vikings are cramming as they study the Giants and prepare for Sunday’s regular season finale. But while speaking with reporters on Wednesday at Winter Park, Vikings QB Brett Favre, drawing on his 19 years of experience in the NFL, didn’t sound like a player concerned with how he and his teammates and coaches would prepare.

Favre also makes a good point in that the Vikings are certainly not the only or the first team whose had to prepare for such an important game on a short week.

“You just got to do it,” he said. “You got to do it. We’re not the only ones that have had to.

“It’s tougher,” Favre continued. “But I’ve played 19 years and you have to be able to overcome physical and mental challenges. To me a week like this, mentally it’s talking yourself into ‘come out here like we just won the game.’ I say that and people can get the wrong impression, but it’s (the Chicago loss) over. It’s done with.

“It’s a short week. There is a lot riding on this game, as there was this past week. Everyone feels sorry for themselves, but we have to find a way to dig deep and go do it. That’s the way I’ve always done it.”

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December Is Finally Over

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 31, 2009 – 7:32 am

Today is New Year’s Eve Day, which means that tonight people will gather to celebrate the memories from 2009 and usher in a brand new year – 2010.

But Vikings fans and everyone here at Winter Park should celebrate for a different reason as well – the month of December is finally over.

No team in the NFL should be happier to get out of this month than the Vikings, who have lost 3 of 4 games in the past month and saw middle LB E.J. Henderson go out for the season with a fractured leg on December 6 at Arizona. The Vikings entered December in prime position for the NFC’s #2 seed and with a solid chance at catching the Saints for home-field advantage. Now, the Vikings exit December needing a win this week and a Philadelphia loss to get a 1st-round bye.

On the morning of the Vikings-Cardinals game, we blogged about how the going would get rougher for the Vikings in December after going 3-0 in November to climb to 10-1 overall. And it did. The Vikings had a challenging stretch of games this month, including consecutive contests against division winners (Arizona and Cincinnati), 3 prime time games in 4 weeks (all on the road) and back-to-back prime time games at Carolina and at Chicago.

So as you gather tonight to celebrate with family and friends, make a toast to the month of January. After all, we’re so happy it’s finally here.

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Wednesday Injury Report Released

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 3:25 pm

The Vikings and Giants have each released their initial injury reports for the week.

For the Vikings, 2 players – DT Jimmy Kennedy (thumb) and TE Visanthe Shiancoe (thigh) – were held out of practice on Wednesday. Five other players appear on the report as limited participants; they are: S Eric Frampton (ankle), G Steve Hutchinson (shoulder), C John Sullivan (knee), DT Pat Williams (elbow) and CB Antoine Winfield (foot).

You can view the entire Vikings injury report (thrilling, we know) by clicking here.

The Giants have a much longer list. We’ve learned already today that RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) won’t be playing. Five other members of the team were held out of practice and 5 more were limited, including QB Eli Manning (foot).

Other Giants who were limited – DT Chris Canty (knee), WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), DT Fred Robbins (lower leg) and G Rich Seubert (knee). Those held out of practice were RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankles/foot), WR Mario Manningham (shoulder), T Kareem McKenzie (knee), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) and CB Corey Webster (knee).

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Two Sides To The Coin

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 2:23 pm

Unless you’ve been living in seclusion for the past few weeks, you’re aware that the Vikings could finish the regular season anywhere from the NFC’s #2 seed to the conference’s #4 seed.

The difference in those positions is significant because the #2 seed will watch Wild Card Weekend from the comforts of home while the #4 seed will be on their home turf battling it out against a wild card team.

Obviously the preferred position is the #2 seed, primarily because of the 1st-round bye that accompanies it, right? Well, oddly enough, 4 of the last 8 teams to play in a Super Bowl also played on Wild Card Weekend and 3 of those 4 wild card teams actually won the NFL title.

So while conventional wisdom says having a bye and a week to rest is the way to go, there’s also an angle that suggests there’s a benefit to playing in the 1st round of the playoffs.

Asked about this dilemma today during his regular Wednesday meeting with reporters, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress acknowledged the benefits of having a bye and the benefits to be gained by playing in the 1st round.

“Just that collective take a breath and heal up a little bit and be fresh, that’s the upside of that,” he said of having a bye in the 1st round. “And the upside of the other one is that you continue to play. You’ve played a game the week before somebody that has a bye, so they’ve been off the field a little bit…if there’s any rustiness that occurs from that time off.

“And obviously those teams that are playing somebody that had a bye, they’re coming in with some ups because they won the week before and they won in a playoff setting the week before.”

In the end though, I think it’s silly to suggest any player, coach or team would actually prefer to play on Wild Card Weekend as opposed to having a bye. After all, you can’t be eliminated from the Super Bowl tournament while you’re enjoying a 1st-round bye.

Childress seemed to agree.

“There are two sides to the coin,” Childress opined. “The biggest part of that is the ability to not to play a game at the end of the week and the wear and tear that your body goes through.”

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Vikings Offense Spreads The Wealth

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 12:36 pm

There is still one regular season game to be played, but this year’s Vikings offense is already the most productive unit head coach Brad Childress has had in Minnesota. The Vikings currently have 5,587 total yards, which is more than the previous Childress/Vikings high of 5,379 (2007).

Setting the standard for total yardage this year was a product of a drastic improvement in the passing game. And that improvement in the passing game was a product of the old adage “many hands make light work.”

According to Elias Sports Bureau, this year’s Vikings team joins only the 1983 Cowboys as teams with 6 players who have 40+ receptions. Accomplishing such a feat is the product of the team’s offensive system and its steady improvement under Childress as well as the weapons in that offensive system continuing to develop.

But Childress also pointed out on Wednesday that the Vikings ability to spread the ball around so well is also due to having a veteran QB under center who knows what to do and when to do it.

“It speaks to him (QB Brett Favre) being an equal-opportunity thrower,” Childress said. “Sometimes there’s the perception that he’s singled out Sidney Rice. Sidney’s done a great job of working himself open. He’s (Favre) relied on him to be able in one-on-one situations to put the football up and Sidney’s made a bunch of plays.

“But by the same token, he (Favre) knows his way around this system to where he knows where a backside number four (receiver) is. And that’s a huge thing, to be able to progress (through reads).”

Childress explained that progressing through reads sounds easy at face value but that often times young or inexperienced QBs struggle with this facet of the game. Favre clearly doesn’t struggle with progressing through his reads, as the 6 players with 40 receptions stat proves. Most telling in that stat, perhaps, is the fact that 2 of those 6 receivers are RBs.

It also helps that Favre has run a similar offensive system for 19 seasons and there probably isn’t a situation that’s foreign to him.

“As I always say, he (Favre) knows where all the bones are buried so you better be alive on the backside,” Childress said. “If you’re not back there working, you’re not going to see the football very often. So it keeps everybody with a stake in the action.”

Vikings players with 40+ receptions
77- Sidney Rice (WR)
53- Percy Harvin (WR)
53- Bernard Berrian (WR)
49- Visanthe Shiancoe (TE)
42- Adrian Peterson (RB)
42- Chester Taylor (RB)

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Giants RB Jacobs To Miss Sunday’s Finale

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 11:24 am

NY Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin told reporters today that starting RB Brandon Jacobs will miss this Sunday’s Vikings-Giants regular season finale due to a knee injury.

It’s also being reported that he’ll have surgery on the knee next week.

According to the Giants official website, RBs Ahmad Bradshaw, Gartrell Johnson and Danny Ware will likely share the workload in Jacobs’ absence.

Jacobs rushed for a team-high 835 yards in 15 games.

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Farwell Earns Long-Deserved Honor

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 11:05 am

Vikings LB and special teams ace Heath Farwell has been a productive player for the franchise over his 5 seasons, twice being named special teams MVP and consistently being among the team leaders in special teams tackles.

This year Farwell has been recognized as the outstanding special teams player that he is by being named to his first career Pro Bowl, an honor he certainly doesn’t take lightly.

“I want to thank the fans, the coaches and the players for helping me achieve one of my career goals of being named to the Pro Bowl,” Farwell said on Tuesday. “To be voted on by your peers is a prestigious individual honor.”

The honor for Farwell is especially significant this year because he’s having another solid season after coming back from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2008 season. Farwell is the unquestioned leader of the Vikings kick coverage units, something that is evident on the field with his actions but also off the field with his words.

“Several guys on the team deserve this award, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent them and the Minnesota Vikings,” Farwell said. “This is something I’ve worked for my entire career, and to do it after suffering a season-ending injury the year prior makes it even more special.

“But none of the individual accolades compare to the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl, so we’ll continue to focus all of our energy toward that end.”

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Setting The Table For The NY Giants

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 30, 2009 – 8:29 am

For the 2nd consecutive season, the Vikings will close out their regular season schedule by hosting the NY Giants at Mall of America Field. And also for the 2nd consecutive season, the Giants enter the season finale against the Vikings with no competitive implications on the line.

Last year in Week 17, New York came to Minnesota with their playoff position solidified. As a result, they pulled several starters in the 2nd half and the Vikings ultimately won the game with a 50-yard FG at the buzzer by Ryan Longwell.

This year in Week 17, the Giants are eliminated from playoff conversation. But don’t expect them to pull starters in the 2nd half to ease the Vikings path to victory. They were embarrassed last week in a 41-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers at home in the final Giants game at Giants Stadium. Then Tom Coughlin was at a loss for words in his postgame press conference. Then he and his players apologized to the fans the following day. Then a Giants alumni player crushed the team for their effort.

Needless to say, the Vikings do not expect the Giants to come in here, roll over and hand the Vikings a victory.

And this is a victory the Vikings need in order to secure a 1st-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Having lost 3 of their last 4 games, the Vikings have relinquished control of the #2 seed to the Philadelphia Eagles. If the Eagles win at Dallas on Sunday afternoon, they get the NFC’s 2nd seed. But if the Eagles falter on the road and the Vikings win at home, the #2 seed goes to the Purple.

While the trio of losses over the past month is a buzzkill, it was encouraging to see QB Brett Favre and Co. get things going in the right direction during the 2nd half of Monday night’s loss to the Bears. The Vikings scored 30 points in the 3rd and 4th quarters and completed a 17-point  comeback before falling just short in overtime. As disappointing as the effort and outcome was in the 1st half Monday night, I’d say the effort and outcome was even more encouraging in the 2nd half.

The Giants, whose defense ranks 10th overall and offense ranks 6th, will pose as a stiff challenge, though. QB Eli Manning is having a career season and RB Brandon Jacobs is a beast who won’t shy away from the Vikings 4th-ranked rushing defense.

On Sunday at noon the Vikings will have a chance to prove that the recent downturn in production is a mirage and the 30-point, 2nd-half outburst against the Bears is reality. And if they can do that, they’ll have a shot at the NFC’s #2 seed and a bye during Wild Card Weekend.

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