Vikings, Falcons Release Initial Injury Reports

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 23, 2011 – 4:37 pm

The Vikings and Falcons each issued their first injury reports of the week in advance of their Week 12 showdown. And both injury reports look like a typical Week 12 injury report in the NFL – filled with lots of names.

For the Vikings, the following players did not practice: CB Chris Cook (not injury-related), S Husain Abdullah (concussion), RB Adrian Peterson (ankle), TE Kyle Rudolph (quad) and TE Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring). Limited in Wednesday’s practice were LB Erin Henderson (hamstring), G Anthony Herrera (knee), QB Christian Ponder (knee) and WR Percy Harvin (ribs). Full participants in practice were DT Christian Ballard (hamstring), LT Charlie Johnson (achilles) and S Jamarca Sanford (shoulder).

For the Falcons, DE John Abraham, TE Tony Gonzalez and C Todd McClure were held out of practice with “not injury-related” designations. Also sitting out from practice were CB Brent Grimes (knee), CB Kelvin Hayden (toe) and WR Julio Jones (hamstring). Limited in practice were LT Sam Baker (back), G Justin Blalock (ankle), LB Curtis Lofton (ankle), S William Moore (quad) and DT Corey Peters (knee).

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Harvin’s Opportunities, Production On The Rise

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 23, 2011 – 11:20 am

If Adrian Peterson is unable to play this Sunday, it’ll be Toby Gerhart who steps into the starting RB role and will shoulder much of the burden typically handled by the NFL’s best RB. While obviously no one wants to see Peterson miss a game, Vikings fans should be anxious to see what Gerhart – selected by the Vikings with a 2nd-round pick in 2010 – can do in a prominent offensive role.

But there’s also another dynamic to the Vikings offense which should be grabbing the attention of Vikings followers – Percy Harvin’s increasing opportunities and production. Yes, Gerhart is the “next man up” in a scenario where Peterson doesn’t play, but the trend in the Vikings offense also tells you that Harvin is poised to see an increased role.

Even with Peterson in the lineup, Harvin’s opportunities have increased over the last 4 games. Here are the number of touches-yards-TDs (not including kickoff returns) Harvin has had since Christian Ponder made his first start on October 23 against the Green Bay Packers: 4-23-0; 8-77-1; 9-70-0; 11-94-1. Also, the number of times he’s been targeted in each game as not declined: 3;5;8;8.

It’s clear that getting Harvin more involved in the offense has been a priority of the Vikings since Week 7, and that effort has even increased coming out of the team’s bye in Week 9. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier spoke on this subject Monday, following his team’s loss to the Raiders in a game in which Harvin had 11 touches for 94 yards and 1 TD.

“One of the things coming out of the bye, is we wanted to come up with more ways to get Percy the football,” Frazier explained. “That’s what we have been trying to do and that’s what we wanted to do yesterday. The fact that Adrian wasn’t in the ball game created more opportunities for Percy, being such a focal point of our offense. But that’s one of the things we want to be able to do; get the ball in Percy’s hands in a variety of ways.”

Being productive in a variety of ways is the strongpoint of Harvin’s skill set. In 2009 as a rookie, Harvin established the Vikings record for the most combined yards with 2,081 (1,156 kickoff returns, 790 receiving, 135 rushing). Then in 2010, Harvin finished 2nd in the NFC and 5th in the NFL with 1,908 combined net yards.

Whether on ground or in the air, Harvin is a dynamic playmaker who will take pressure off of Gerhart should he take over for Peterson in the short-term.

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A Look At The Atlanta Falcons

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 23, 2011 – 8:39 am

The Vikings are back on the road this weekend and will fly south to tussle with the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The Falcons boast a 6-4 record, are in 2nd place in the NFC South, and are coming off a 23-17 win over the Tennessee Titans at home.

Home for the Falcons is the Georgia Dome, a place where they’ve won 16 of their last 21 regular season games. The Vikings haven’t played Atlanta on the road since 2005 – a 30-10 loss – and have logged a 1-1 record against the Falcons since 2007.

There will be a lot of familiarity when the Vikings and Falcons clash on Sunday. Vikings WR Michael Jenkins played for the Falcons from 2004-10, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave was an assistant coach in Atlanta from 2006-10, and Vikings WRs coach George Stewart held the same position for the Falcons from 2003-06. In addition to that, former Vikings DE Ray Edwards is now a starter for Atlanta’s defense. Edwards had 8.5 sacks for the Vikings in 2009 and 8.0 more in 2010, but so far this season for the Falcons he has just 2.0.

The Falcons entered the 2011 season with high expectations. They won their division in 2010 and, consequently, hosted a home playoff game. The Green Bay Packers marched into the Georgia Dome and steamrolled the Falcons, though, which prompted the franchise to make a few slight adjustments before making another run at the Lombardi Trophy this season. The highlight of Atlanta’s offseason came during the draft when they traded up from the bottom of the first round to the sixth spot so they could select WR Julio Jones. Typically a run-leaning offense, the move to acquire Jones infused the offense with another aerial threat and it also laid the foundation for sky-high expectations in 2011.

Atlanta got off to an uneven start this season, moving to 3-3 after a Week 6 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Two more wins sandwiched around a bye got the Falcons to 5-3, and things were looking good for head coach Mike Smith’s team. But then the New Orleans Saints came to town, solved the Georgia Dome hex and took control of the division with a 26-23 overtime victory. The Falcons defeated Tennessee the following week, and will now look to log consecutive victories while hosting the Vikings on Sunday.

If Atlanta is to defeat the Vikings, they’ll have to do so without Jones. The 1st-round pick is dealing with a hamstring injury and said earlier this week he’s unsure if he’ll be able to play on Sunday. The Falcons have plenty of weapons even if Jones doesn’t play. They feature one of the NFL’s best RBs in Michael Turner, who ranks 5th in the NFL with 888 rushing yards and also has 8 rushing TDs. When Atlanta attacks through the air, TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Roddy White are the primary targets. Gonzalez and White have combined for 104 catches and 10 TDs already this season.

Guiding the Falcons offense is Matt Ryan, a 4th-year veteran who is completing 60.8% of his passes. Ryan’s career TD-INT ratio is 81-44, an impressive mark, and in 2011 that ratio is 15-10. He’s a composed and poised passer in the pocket who prefers to stand in and throw in the face or pressure rather than escape and get work done on the run.

It’s fair to call the Falcons offense a balanced attack. Atlanta has 361 passing attempts and 291 rushing attempts, and they’ve scored 15 TDs through the air compared to 10 on the ground. The Falcons have the NFL’s 12th ranked total offense and the 14th-ranked scoring offense.

Defensively, the Falcons are better than the statistics say. Their head coach is a former defensive assistant coach for the Ravens and Defensive Coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Atlanta has the 15th ranked total defense and is ranked just 26th against the pass, but only San Francisco is better against the run. Atlanta employs a 4-3 scheme that features solid starters across the board. Edwards and 4-time Pro Bowler John Abraham anchor the team’s pass rush from the DE position, while a trio of young LBs – Curtis Lofton, Stephen Nichols and Sean Witherspoon – hold things down in the middle of the field. In the secondary, the Falcons feature Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes – one of my favorite restricted free agents from last offseason – at CB and then Thomas DeCoud and William Moore at safety.

That’s a quick look at the Falcons, as the Vikings begin their on-field preparations today and work toward their Week 12 showdown with the Falcons this Sunday. We’ll have plenty more today and throughout the week, so stay tuned to for everything Purple.

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Reminder: “Vikings Country” Featuring Jared Allen Is Live At Mall Of America Tonight

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on November 23, 2011 – 4:59 am

As is the case each Wednesday during the NFL season, fans can head to Mall of America tonight from 6:30 to 7 to check out “Vikings Country,” a weekly radio show hosted by Mike Mussman and co-hosted by either Jared Allen or Chad Greenway.  Tonight, Allen is the co-host.

The show will be broadcast live from the Sky Deck Sports Grille and Bar at Mall of America – located on the fourth floor, east side – every Wednesday during the regular season and will air on KFAN (FM 100.3); the show will also be aired on Fox Sports North at 11:00 a.m. every Sunday. Allen and Greenway will alternate weeks as co-hosts of the show with Mussman, and the Vikings Street Team will be at each broadcast giving away great prizes.

Fans are encouraged to attend the live broadcast each week at the Sky Deck Sports Grille and Bar, where they will enjoy a state-of-the-art restaurant and entertainment facility that features high definition TV’s, quality billiards, 12 lanes of bowling and a great menu of beverages and food.

Allen will co-host the following nights: tonight, Dec. 7, and Dec. 21.  Greenway will co-host on Nov. 30, Dec. 14, and Dec. 28.

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