10 Takes Through 10 Games

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 20, 2012 – 11:36 am

On Wednesday we’ll throw our entire focus toward Sunday’s contest against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Before we do that, though, let’s take one last chance to reflect on what’s happened over the first 10 games of the Vikings season.

This was the topic of last week’s Wobcast, as I explained my 10 takes through 10 weeks…

10. Vikings are in the playoff hunt!
A strong 4-1 start and a key win against Detroit heading into the bye has placed the Vikings in the mix for a playoff spot in the NFC. It’s quite a treat for Vikings fans to be in this position after watching their team go 9-23 the past 2 seasons. Kudos to GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Leslie Frazier for turning this organization around and heading in the right direction. The Vikings are 6-4 overall, 2-0 in the division and 4-3 in the NFC. If the playoffs started right now, the Vikings would miss it because of tie-breakers to Seattle and Tampa Bay. But the playoffs don’t start right now, so we’ll get to see if the Vikings can overcome a few teams over the next 6 weeks.

9. Dome-field advantage has returned
The Vikings were just 1-7 at home last year and suffered to a 3-13 season. This year, the Vikings dome-field advantage has returned. They are 4-1 in home games, and a big reason for that is the Mall of America Field crowd. Frazier compliments Vikings fans after each game and is genuine in his praise. He’s coached against and played against the Vikings in that building and respects the difference the home crowd can make. Good job, fans. Thanks for helping us gain that incredible dome-field advantage.

8. Youth, health has led to improvement in pass defense
The Vikings pass defense has taken a huge step forward in 2012. They were 26th in yards allowed last season and were 14th in that category after 10 games this season. What’s been the key? It’s been health and youth. CBs Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook missed 21 games combined last season, but this year they both started and remained healthy for most of the team’s first 10 games. Cook is dealing with an arm injury now, but young guys are stepping up in his absence. AJ Jefferson and this year’s 3rd-round pick – Josh Robinson – have filled the void well. Also, Harrison Smith is playing the safety position like we haven’t seen in years from a Vikings safety.

7. Percy has no mercy on opposing defenses
Simply put, I think Percy Harvin is the most dangerous offensive weapon among non-QBs in the NFL. He has 100 touches through 10 games – that’s receptions, rushes and returns – and he’s averaging 13.4 yards per touch with 5 TDs. Harvin is the best kickoff returner in the NFL, one of the best receivers in the NFL, and a good runner. There are not many (any?) better all-around threats in the NFL.

6. Vikings special teams have been outstanding, and deserve more credit
– Often times special teams is the neglected phase of football. But special teams has not been neglected by the Vikings, and in fact I’d submit that special teams has been key to the Vikings success this year. Heck, the Vikings special teams basically single-handedly won a game this year – Detroit – Week 4. A bunch of credit goes to Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer and assistant special teams coach Chris White for the work they’ve done together over the past two seasons. Through 10 games, the Vikings ranked 2nd in average drive start, 4th in kickoff return, 2nd in touchbacks on kickoffs and 9th in punt return. Special teams is something fans complain about when it’s going poorly, but forget about when it’s going well. Let’s take a moment during to appreciate the Vikings special teams play to this point. Bravo, guys.

To see the final 5 takes, which includes bold talk about Adrian Peterson and Blair Walsh, check out last week’s Wobcast.

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A Look Around The NFC North

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 20, 2012 – 7:32 am

Week 11 is officially in the books and the NFC North is now set for what should be a dramatic and exciting final six-game stretch. Every team in the division has had their bye and every team has played 10 games. Let’s take a look at where each team stands as we approach the final stretch of the 2012 regular season…

Chicago Bears
The Bears have been NFC North leaders for most of the season, but after their loss to San Francisco on Monday Night Football they no longer control the division. After starting 7-1, the Bears have lost consecutive games to quality teams (Houston, San Francisco) and now sit at 7-3, including 1-1 in the division. And it doesn’t get any easier for the Bears down the stretch, as they’ll play the Vikings twice in three weeks with Seattle sandwiched between. Then, they host the Green Bay Packers (more on them below) in Week 15 before closing out the season with consecutive road games at Arizona and Detroit. Chicago’s defense is one of the League’s best, but the offense must turn things around if they want to remain in the playoff picture. QB Jay Cutler missed this past week’s game (concussion) and the offensive line just allowed 6 sacks to the 49ers defense.

Green Bay Packers
There might not be a hotter team in the NFL right now. The Packers have won five consecutive games, a stretch that includes a thrashing of the AFC’s best team – the Houston Texans – in Week 6 and a gutty 24-20 win on the road over Detroit last week. The winning streak has them at 7-3 (2-0 in the NFC North) and has vaulted them to a tie atop the division with Chicago. Just as Chicago and Minnesota will do, the Packers will enter a key stretch of their season over the next three weeks, as they travel to play the NY Giants this Sunday before hosting the Vikings and Lions in Week 13 and Week 14. Then Green Bay closes the season with a home game vs. Tennessee sandwiched between road trips to Chicago and Minnesota.

Minnesota Vikings
Speaking of Minnesota, the Vikings come out of their bye with a 6-4 record (2-0 in the NFC North) and a challenging stretch of games staring them in the face. It begins this week in Chicago, continues next week in Green Bay, and then advances to a home game against the Bears followed by consecutive road games in St. Louis and Houston before a season finale at home against Green Bay. Yes, that slate of games is a brutal stretch. But it’s also good news because it means the Vikings control their own destiny. They are currently one game behind both Chicago and Green Bay, but they have four games against those opponents, which gives them an opportunity to methodically work their way into the playoff picture and perhaps even a division title. It all starts this week in Chicago.

Detroit Lions
What a difference five minutes can make. With 5:21 to play in the 4th quarter, the Lions led the Packers 17-14 and had a 1st and goal from the Green Bay 10. A TD would’ve sealed the victory and reestablished the Lions as a playoff contender. Detroit couldn’t find the end zone, though, and settled for a FG and 6-point lead instead. Just 2.5 minutes later, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers lofted a pass toward WR Randall Cobb in the end zone, and Green Bay took a 21-20 lead. Detroit couldn’t muster a game-winning drive of their own, and the air was let out of their 2012 season. They were close to overcoming a poor start to the season (1-3 into a Week 5 bye) with three wins in four games from Week 6 to Week 9, but two straight losses to the Vikings and Packers has ended any thought of a comeback. The loss to Green Bay dropped Detroit to 4-6, a record that includes a devastating 0-4 mark in the division. Detroit is now relegated to a spoiler role within the division (they have one game remaining against both Chicago and Green Bay) and also to trying to generate momentum to carry into 2013.

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Sullivan To Host Thanksgiving Meal At Amplatz Children’s Hospital

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 20, 2012 – 5:38 am

Vikings C John Sullivan will host an early Thanksgiving meal for young patients and their families – roughly 100 people – at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. The event will take place on Tuesday afternoon and will be hosted in a Vikings-themed room within the hospital.

In addition to the early Thanksgiving meal, the event will include several of Sullivan’s teammates visiting patients and their families who were unable to attend the dinner. Those who will join Sullivan include: Matt Kalil, Mark Asper, Troy Kropog, DeMarcus Love, Tyrone McKenzie and others.

The early Thanksgiving meal is a tradition that was initiated by former Vikings G Steve Hutchinson and his wife, Landyn. Hutchinson now plays for the Tennessee Titans, and Sullivan has stepped up to carry on the tradition. Since being drafted by the Vikings in 2008, Sullivan has been one of the most active Vikings in the community, and he’s dedicated much of his time away from the field toward reaching out to children’s hospitals.

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