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Vikings, Patriots Issue Wednesday Injury Reports

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 2:23 pm

QB Brett Favre (foot/ankle) and G Steve Hutchinson (quadriceps) were held out of practice on Wednesday, according to the Vikings initial injury report of the week. The Vikings listed 7 others on the report and New England has 6 players listed on their report.

S Husain Abdullah, who suffered a concussion 2 weeks ago, was a full participant as was CB Chris Cook (knee). T Chris DeGeare (ankle), DT Letroy Guion (hamstring), CB Lito Sheppard (hand), C John Sullivan (calf) and DT Pat Williams (quadriceps) were all limited.

For the Patriots, QB Tom Brady (right shoulder) was the only player listed on the report who was a full participant. S Patrick Chung (knee), S Jarrad Page (calf), WR Matthew Slater (ankle), RB Fred Taylor (toe) and NT Vince Wolfork (not injury related) did not participate.


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Childress Talks QBs

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 11:16 am

The hot topic at head coach Brad Childress’ regular Wednesday press conference today was of course the status QB Brett Favre’s injured ankle. Childress fielded several questions on the matter and although there is no new information to discuss, here’s a brief rundown of what was said.

Childress was first asked what the general plan was regarding getting Favre back on the field. The Vikings head coach said there was a plan to do that but that “the biggest part of the plan is rehabbing that thing and getting it back to where he’s mobile.”

Mobility is the key here for Favre and his chances for playing this Sunday. Childress has said multiple times that he doesn’t want his QB to be a “sitting duck” in the pocket for opposing defenses to attack and that it’s always important for a player to be able to protect himself, whether he’s a QB or any other player on the field.

Childress indicated during the press conference that Favre will not practice on Wednesday and he sent the same message to Boston-area reporters in a conference call earlier on Wednesday. Favre’s injury history with the ankle, the fact that he’s currently in a walking boot and his absence from practice on Wednesday don’t add up to be encouraging news for the QB’s prospects of playing on Sunday. But at this point nothing should be ruled out.

“I wouldn’t put it past him,” Childress responded when asked if Favre could play with this injury. “He’s going to make the push, like all of our guys do, to Sunday. It’s work for a lot of these guys to get to the point where they feel like they can (play). But I don’t have a crystal ball or anything like that.”

So if Favre is unable to play it will be Tarvaris Jackson’s turn to step up in the future Hall of Famer’s stead. Jackson has been the starter in Minnesota before, with mixed results. He does have a winning record as a starter and his teammates have expressed confidence in him recently. Jackson has terrific arm strength and he brings a certain trait to the Vikings offense that Favre doesn’t – mobility.

“As ready as he’s ever going to be,” Childress responded when asked to describe Jackson’s readiness should he be put into action Sunday. “As I’ve said before, he’s taken more (reps) than most backup quarterbacks. Aside from having a hundred starts, he’s as ready as he’ll ever be.”

Ultimately the decision of whether Favre will play or not hinges on a number of factors and it won’t be known – at least publically – one way or the other until much later in the week. The bottom line, though, is Childress will put statistics and starting streaks and personal feelings aside to make the best decision possible for the team.

“We’ll do what’s best for us to win a football game on Sunday,” Childress said. “That’s hands-down what my motives will be.”


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Analyzing Vikings-Patriots Special Teams Matchups

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 9:19 am

In setting the table for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots I mentioned that one of the best matchups will be on special teams. This area of the game is often overlooked, but it could make a huge difference in any given week.

Drilling even deeper here, the best 2 matchups happen to be when the Vikings kick off and when the Vikings punt. So, let’s take a quick look…

When the Vikings kick off: New England uses WR Brandon Tate as their primary kickoff returner and he’s been excellent so far in 2010. Tate is averaging 31.7 yards per kickoff return and he’s taken 2 returns to the house for TDs. Conversely the Vikings kickoff coverage team has been solid this season. Because he can’t boom the ball through the endzone regularly, the Vikings emphasize placement of kicks and this will be key on Sunday.

Also key on Sunday will be the 10 guys running down the field in coverage for the Vikings. Generally speaking, this area has been good this season and certainly improved from seasons past. The Vikings yield 23.7 yards per kickoff return, which is middle of the road in terms of NFL rankings, but that includes a pesky 86-yard return. Anyway, they’ll need to be at their best on Sunday to slow down Tate.

From a raw numbers standpoint, the Patriots have the edge here. But Longwell and Co. will certainly have a plan for Sunday and it’ll be a matter of executing that plan and not missing tackles.

When the Vikings punt: The edge in this department goes to the Vikings. P Chris Kluwe is having another marvelous season, as he’s ranked #2 in the NFL with a 41.8 net average and he also has 11 punts downed inside the 20. Just as important, though, is the fact that Kluwe and the punt coverage team are allowing a league-low 3.1 yards per punt return and only 11 of Kluwe’s 28 punts have been returned; opposing returns have called 9 fair catches. These stats indicate a couple of things: 1) Kluwe is doing a good job of directional kicking and hang time and 2) the coverage guys are doing a nice job of surrounding the returner and bringing him down quickly.

New England counters with a nice returner in WR Julian Edelman. Both Tate and Wes Welker have logged punt returns, but Edelman has taken the majority of them and when he does New England gets 13.4 yards per return, which would rank 4th best in the NFL if it qualified. Edelman has yet to call for a fair catch and although he doesn’t have a return TD yet, he does have a long return of 34 yards, so you know he’s got the moves to make it happen.

This is a good matchup and one to watch on Sunday; the Vikings have a slight edge here.


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Setting The Table For New England

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 7:47 am

Time to put the loss to Green Bay in a box and turn the focus to this weekend’s game against the New England Patriots, as the Vikings prepare for their 2nd consecutive road game and their 3rd game away from home in the last 4 weeks. The Vikings last traveled to New England in 2002 and the last time these teams played it was the Patriots who came away with a resounding 31-7 win.

So the Vikings have some demons to exercise as they battled the Patriots on Halloween. They’re off to a disappointing 2-4 start, have an injured starting QB, had a game taken away from them last weekend in Green Bay and face a team that dominated them last time. Sounds like a good time for a win.

It won’t be easy, though, as New England boasts a 5-1 record – tied for the best mark in the NFL – and is also in the midst of a 4-game winning streak. The Patriots have logged consecutive 23-20 wins over the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers and they’ll be looking for a 5th straight victory before they hit the road for consecutive road games at Cleveland and at Pittsburgh.

The strength of New England’s team is their head coach – Bill Belichick – and QB – Tom Brady. Belichick has won 71% of his games and 3 Super Bowls since signing on as head coach in 2000 and Brady has been the man guiding the offense nearly the whole time. Brady has a career passer rating of 93.5, but this year he’s got that number up to 96.0 thanks to a 66.2% completion rate and a pristine 11-4 TD/INT ratio.

New England’s offense is operating a bit differently than in years past, though, and that’s because of the trade that sent WR Randy Moss to Minnesota just a few weeks ago. The trade leaves Wes Welker as the only WR left from the record-setting 2007 offense, but Welker is certainly nothing to scoff at. He’s coming off seasons in which he’s had 112, 111 and 123 receptions and he’s also coming off an ACL injury from last year. So far this year, Welker has 37 receptions and 3 TDs and he’s the one to keep an eye on out of that WR corps.

Defensively, the Patriots no longer have those familiar names such as Teddy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison or Ty Law. Instead, they have some young up-and-comers such as LB Jerod Mayo, CB Devin McCourty and S Brandon Meriweather. To this point New England has had less than ideal results with these young players. The Patriots are ranked 28th in overall defense and 22nd in scoring defense. But don’t doubt Belichick and his system. This group of players and New England’s scheme has the capability to shut down any offense.

Special teams-wise, the Patriots feature a nice kicker in Stephen Gostkowski, a solid punting game and an outstanding return game that features WR Brandon Tate (31.7-yard kickoff return average with 2 TDs) and WR Julian Edelman (13.2-yard punt return average). In reality, the Vikings special teams versus the Patriots special teams might be the best matchup of the game. I know that’s not a lot of fun for fans to read or watch, but that might be the case.

There are the basics for this week’s matchup with New England. It should be fun to break it down in more detail throughout the week. Be sure to stay tuned here for more updates and analysis. And also stay tuned here to watch Brad Childress and Brett Favre press conferences later in the morning.


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Winter Park Wednesday Returns

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 27, 2010 – 6:56 am

Last week our buddy and Voice of the Vikings Radio Network Paul Allen debuted what we’re calling “Winter Park Wednesdays,” a bit where he broadcasts his weekday 9-noon show on Am 1130 KFAN right from Sports Authority Studios at Winter Park on Wednesdays.

The experiment was a hit last week so it’s happening against this week and should be a ton of fun.

Last week I joined PA at 9:20 to talk Vikings football and I’ll be doing the same today, so tune in to KFAN around that time and join the conversation. Also, vikings.com’s very own Ryan Cardinal will be on right after me for extended Vikings talk and then some deep Gopher hockey analysis as well.

 


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Week 7 NFC North Roundup

Posted by cjsiewert on October 27, 2010 – 6:31 am

The 28-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers comes as a tough setback for the Vikings who dropped their 4th game of the season – not to mention the defeat was delivered by a divisional foe, dropping the Purple 1 game further back in the NFC North standings.

Although the loss to the Packers was a setback, the Vikings got some help from a future opponent on Sunday afternoon to keep the divisional race open for contention. The Washington Redskins defeated the NFC North leading Chicago Bears 17-14 in a game worthy of the center ring at a circus.

The matchup between the Bears and Redskins was a back-and-forth battle, but not one that sent the score back-and-forth. Rather, the turnovers continued to trade from one team to the other. The Bears committed 6 turnovers (4 INTs, 2 fumbles) while the Redskins gave up 3 (2 INTs, 1 fumble).

Bears QB Jay Cutler continued his struggles behind a mediocre offensive line completing 26 of 40 passes for 281 yards, 1 TD and 4 INTs for a passer rating of 54.3.  Cutler completed 4 passes for 92 yards and a TD to DeAngelo Hall, but the only problem is that Hall is a CB for the Redskins.

The Chicago loss drops the Bears to 4-3 and now they share the NFC North lead with Green Bay. The Bears will move into their bye week and will travel to Buffalo on Nov. 7 to square off against the Bills. The Packers will travel to New York this Sunday for a matchup against the AFC East leading Jets.

The Detroit Lions stood idle at 1-5 in Week 7 with their bye and will host the Redskins at Ford Field this Sunday.

For the Vikings, the loss to the Packers gives many critics reason to believe the playoffs are slipping out of reach. But the fact of the matter is the Vikings still stand just 1 game behind the Bears and Packers in the loss column and have 4 more head-to-head matchups against NFC North opponents – 2 against the Bears and 1 with both the Lions and Packers.

In the 50-year history of the Vikings, the men in purple have started the season with a 2-4 record 7 times (prior to 2010) and have made the playoffs once during those 7 seasons. The 1999 Vikings under the direction of head coach Dennis Green reached the playoffs by winning 8 of their last 10 games after starting the season 2-4. Green’s squad made the First-Round Playoffs and defeated the Dallas Cowboys 27-10 at the Metrodome, but fell to the St. Louis Rams in the Divisional Playoffs by a score of 49-37.

An interesting side note from the 1999 Divisional Playoff loss to the Rams is Vikings WR Randy Moss hauled in an impressive 9 receptions for 188 yards and 2 TDs.


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