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Vikings Pro Bowlers React To Honor

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 26, 2012 – 6:16 pm

JARED ALLEN
“When you work so hard at your craft, it’s great to be recognized by your peers for that effort. This time around it’s extra special because I’ve had to battle through some injuries. But while the personal honors are great, the real reason we play this game is to win a championship, so I’m even more proud of the guys in the locker room who have put in the time and the effort to get to where we are as a team.

JEROME FELTON
“This honor means so much to me. Just to be in the NFL means a lot to me, but to be voted to the Pro Bowl by your peers, the coaches and the fans, that is something that is always in the back of your mind as a player, but to have it come true means so much. I felt like it was something I could achieve if I was able to land in the right spot and Minnesota has been that place for me. I knew when I came here to visit as a free agent that the team was committed to running the football and that was not going to change. When you have a back like Adrian Peterson, running the ball is going to be your identity. I’m just happy I’ve been able to contribute to the team this year and Adrian’s season.”

ADRIAN PETERSON
“This is a blessing. It’s a great achievement to be honored by the guys you play against every week. It just goes to show when you put your faith in God and you put in the work, you can accomplish great things. I’m also thankful that Jerome was selected, but I’m disappointed that none of the guys up front were chosen. Those guys have contributed so much to the team’s success and to my success; they are all Pro Bowlers to me.”

BLAIR WALSH
“As soon as I was drafted it was a goal for me to achieve to the highest level. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by great people, from Coach Mike Priefer to Chris Kluwe and Cullen Loeffler. They’ve made my transition into the NFL and with Minnesota so smooth. I got the news this afternoon from Coach Priefer, which was appropriate because he put a lot on the line when the Vikings drafted me and I owe him so much for the season that we’ve had. It’s been an unbelievable year and I hope that it’s not done for a long while yet.”


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Four Vikings Receive Pro Bowl Nods

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 26, 2012 – 6:05 pm

The results are in, and 4 Vikings have been named Pro Bowlers.

This year’s Vikings Pro Bowlers are:

DE Jared Allen – For the 5th time as a Viking (in as many seasons) and for the 7th time in his career, Allen has double-digit sacks. Coming off a 22.0-sack season in 2011, almost any number would represent a decrease this season. But Allen has come back from his near-record sack total a season ago to post another strong total in 2012 with 11.0 through 15 games. Allen has 3 multi-sack games this season and he’s registered a sack in 8 of the team’s 15 games, including 2.0 sacks in last week’s win over the Houston Texans. This will be the 5th Pro Bowl of Allen’s career.

FB Jerome Felton – It can be hard to measure a FB’s impact on an offense. But if you’ve watched Vikings football this season, it’s not been hard to notice how well Felton is playing as a lead blocker for Adrian Peterson. You’ll read more about Peterson below, and keep in mind that Felton is a big part of that success. The Vikings rank 3rd in rushing this season and 1st in yards per carry. Also, the Vikings 2,417 rushing yards as a team, the Vikings rank 3rd in franchise history and are 217 rushing yards away from setting the franchise record (2,634 – 2007).

RB Adrian Peterson: He leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,898) and scrimmage yards (2,023). He’s also tied for 2nd in rushing TDs with 11. Peterson is averaging 6.0 yards per carry, has tied Barry Sanders for 50-yard runs in a season with 7, is one 150-yard game shy of the NFL record and is 102 yards shy of the 2,000-yard mark and 208 yards shy from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105. This is Peterson’s 5th Pro Bowl appearance.

K Blair Walsh – He’s been the NFL’s best kicker this season, going 32 of 55 (94.1%) on FGs this season, including a perfect 9 of 9 from 50+. His 9 FGs from 50+ yards are a team and NFL single-season record. He’s 3 FGs shy of tying Gary Anderson’s team record for FGs in a season, and he’s already set a new rookie scoring record (128) and a single-season record for touchbacks (49).


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A Win The Size Of Texas: Vikings Top Houston, Win 3rd Straight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 23, 2012 – 5:41 pm

They say everything is bigger in Texas. And that includes NFL upsets. The Vikings earned a huge one on Sunday in the Lone Star State.

The Vikings marched into Reliant Stadium in Houston as 9-point underdogs to the Texans and proceeded to control the game from start to finish along the way to a convincing 23-6 victory that keeps them very much alive in the NFC playoff race.

After holding the Texans to a FG on their first possession, the Vikings responded by driving 78 yards in 8 plays to capture their first score of the game. The drive included a 20-yard dash by Adrian Peterson on the first play, a 27-yard catch-and-run by TE Kyle Rudolph on the third play and a 32-yard perfectly-placed floater from Christian Ponder to Michael Jenkins on 3rd and 6 from the Houston 34. Ponder found Rudolph from 3 yards out on 2nd and goal to finish the drive, and the Vikings led 7-3 midway through the opening quarter.

The teams exchanged punts on each of their next possessions, and then Houston started putting together another nice series near the end of the 1st quarter. But on 2nd and 7 from the Minnesota 28, RB Arian Foster took a handoff and was popped by Vikings LB Jasper Brinkley. Foster coughed up the ball, and Vikings CB AJ Jefferson was there to recover it. The turnover ruined a scoring chance for Houston and led to a Blair Walsh 56-yard FG roughly 5 minutes later; that FG for Walsh set an NFL record for 50-yard FGs in a season (9).

The Vikings extended their lead to 13-3 before halftime, and carried with them into the locker room momentum that would only grow in the 2nd half.

After driving 52 yards in 8 plays and converting a key 3rd and 10 from midfield, the
Vikings offense stalled at the Houston 21. Walsh came on to salvage the drive, converting his third FG of the game and giving the Vikings a 16-3 lead early in the 2nd half.

Neither offense could muster much production the rest of the 3rd quarter, but the Vikings were okay with that because they held a commanding lead and their defense was a step ahead of Houston’s offense all day. Even after a Vikings turnover on a J.J. Watt strip-sack gave Houston possession near midfield, Matt Schaub and Co. continued to be stymied by the Vikings defense.

Exchanged punts continued in the 3rd and early stages of the 4th quarter, finally setting the stage for Ponder to dagger the Texans. The Vikings took possession at their own 36 following a 65-yard punt by Houston. Ponder hit Rudolph for 9 yards on 1st down, then scrambled for 29 yards two plays later to bring the Vikings to the Houston 27. Peterson and Toby Gerhart carried the ball on the Vikings next 5 plays, and then Ponder found Jarius Wright on a shallow crossing pattern to convert a key 3rd-down conversion. A facemask penalty was tacked on, giving the Vikings a 1st and goal from the 3. Gerhart plunged in from there on the next play, finishing a 10-play, 64-yard drive and essentially finishing the Texans for the day.

The Vikings forced a fumble on the next series when Harrison Smith punched the ball from QB T.J. Yates, who had come on to replace starter Matt Schaub. The Vikings recovered and were able to run out the clock from there.

Ponder finished the day with a box score of 16-30 for 174 yards with 1 TD and 0 INTs. He played efficient, smart football, often times avoiding the disastrous play and frequently making a clutch throw to pick up a 1st down or take advantage of busted coverage. Peterson, who entered the game 294 yards from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing mark of 2,105 yards, finished the day with 86 tough yards on 25 grinding carries. He is now 102 yards from the 2,000-yard mark and 207 yards from Dickerson’s record.

The Vikings defense put forth a sensational, dominating effort in limiting a Houston offense that averaged 25.5 points per game coming into the contest to no TDs and just 6 points during the entire game. Schaub was frustrated and ineffective all day, completing 18 of 32 passes for 178 yards with no TDs or INTs. Foster, the AFC’s leading rusher, finished the day with 15 yards on 10 carries; he left the game due to an irregular heartbeat, according to the Texans, and did not return. Smith was the Vikings leading tackler and he also had a forced fumble, while he, Jared Allen, Fred Evans and Antoine Winfield collected sacks.

A key moment in the game came late in the 3rd quarter and was registered by the Vikings defense. A 12-yard completion from Schaub to Kevin Walter put Houston on the Vikings 1. From there, though, Houston was unable to punch it in. Schaub threw incomplete on 1st down, #2 RB Ben Tate was stonewalled by Chad Greenway and Kevin Williams on 2nd down, and then Evans sacked Schaub on 3rd down. Houston had to settle for a FG, but it was a momentous victory for the Vikings at that point to surrender just the 3 points. The Texans never got closer than their own 40-yardline from there on out as the Vikings professionally put away their 3rd straight win.

The win is the Vikings 9th of the season, an impressive number considering they were 3-13 a year ago. With the win, the Vikings began their trek back to Minnesota with an extra bounce in their step and knowing they’ll have a shot to make the playoffs next week with a win over the Green Bay Packers at Mall of America Field and perhaps a little help from other teams in the NFC.


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Current Vikings Set To Support E.J. Henderson’s “Adopt-A-Family” Holiday Event

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 18, 2012 – 6:53 am

E.J. Henderson is no longer chasing quarterbacks and tackling running backs for the Vikings, but he continues to make a difference in the Minnesota community. Henderson, a standout for the Vikings defense from 2004-2011, will be joined by several current Vikings on Tuesday evening to bring smiles to the faces of 36 local families.

Jared Allen, Jasper Brinkley, Fred Evans and Kevin Williams will brighten the Holiday season for the families by taking them on a shopping spree at the downtown Minneapolis Target store. This is the fourth annual E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation-sponsored event, and it’s the third time that Allen has supported Henderson’s event.

While a player for the Vikings, Henderson was one of the organization’s most community-conscious player and in 2010 he was named the Vikings Community Man of the Year.

About the E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation
The E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation (EJHYF) is a 501(c)(3) organization that serves urban youth in the Twin Cities area.  The mission of the E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation is to provide opportunity and encouragement to urban youth through academic, life skills and athletic programs developing each student in mind, body and soul.  The EJHYF’s goal is to provide youth with the skills to become responsible members of their communities and find success in their future.  The organization uses a three-prong approach that emphasizes the importance of strong Mind, Body and Soul.


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Emptying Out The Vikings-Bears Notebook

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 11, 2012 – 4:51 pm

On Wednesday morning the NFL calendar is going to flip from Week 14 to Week 15, which means now is the time to empty out the notebook from last weekend’s victory over the Chicago Bears. Here are a few of my final thoughts…

Jared Allen’s Effort
In the NFL, it’s not often that we feel compelled to credit a player for giving maximum effort. But that’s what I’m going to do here. The Bears had a 1st and 10 from their 15, and they handed the ball of to RB Matt Forte. Going wide right, Forte turned the corner and began sprinting down the right (Vikings) sideline. Jared Allen, having lined up on the opposite side of where the play was heading, saw Forte break contain and began sprinting. He took an aggressive angle, and after several moments of all-out sprinting, Allen finally angled Forte off and pushed him out of bounds. Unfortunately, Forte had stepped out of bounds an instant before Allen shoved him, so the officials flagged him for unnecessary roughness and enforced a 15-yard penalty. But you can hardly blame Allen, after sprinting about 60 yards across the field, to not have the wherewithal to stop on a dime and refrain from pushing Forte out of bounds after catching him.

It was a great play by Allen because he could easily have never taken off to try and catch Forte and instead relied on a teammate closer to Forte to take a less aggressive angle and still catch him before he broke away. Instead, Allen took it upon himself to be the one to catch Forte. The end result was nowhere near ideal because the 15-yard penalty tacked on to the 36-yard run set the Bears up with a 1st and 10 from the Vikings 34, but Allen and Co. were able to force a punt just 3 plays later. Plus, the effort Allen gave is a good indication that this team is playing hard and giving everything it has to make a late-season push.

Final Word (For Now) On Ponder
I basically explained this in the Monday Morning Mailbag, but it’s my belief that the hyper-analysis on Ponder and the angst over whether he can be the QB of the future in Minnesota should subside momentarily to the more team-centric and relevant issue of the Vikings push to the playoffs. There’s no question Ponder needs to improve his play – he will be the first to acknowledge that. The sub 100-yard passing outings are hard for fans to stomach given the fact that Ponder was the 12th overall pick and is being groomed to be a franchise quarterback. But if you can refrain from analyzing Ponder through that lens and instead focus on what Ponder and the Vikings need to do to win games this season, you’ll be a happier Vikings fan and you’ll be better able to A) appreciate the season Adrian Peterson is having and B) appreciate the fact that the Vikings are playing meaningful games in December for the first time since 2009.

AP For 2K?
Can he get to 2,000? Adrian Peterson has 1,600 yards rushing through 13 games and needs to average 133.3 yards per game over the final 3 to reach the 2,000-yard mark. Only 6 other RBs in NFL history have done it. I think Adrian will get there, and if he does it will be an impressive accomplishment on a number of levels. Obviously he’s coming back from the knee injury. But also, he’s doing it while the Vikings have struggled to move the ball through the air and while Percy Harvin has been unavailable due to injury. And, if Peterson reaches 2,000, he’ll have done it after facing 3 consecutive Top 15 rushing defenses over the final few weeks of the season.

Jerome Felton Having a Pro Bowl-Caliber Season
A couple of big-name free agent acquisitions haven’t worked out according to plan for the Vikings. But there’s another free agent the team acquired this past offseason who has worked out better than most imagined.

It’s FB Jerome Felton. The guy is playing out of his mind and is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. He’s worthy of your Pro Bowl vote.

I was glad to see Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier mention Felton in his press conference on Monday.

“Jerome at the fullback position is an unsung hero,” Frazier said. “We’re playing a lot more two-back than we played a season ago and it’s really helped us. We went into this offseason saying that we wanted to be able to find a fullback to really be a lead blocker for Adrian because we felt like some of his best runs have come when he had a lead blocker. Now he might differ from that, but you put the tape on and you see that’s true. Jerome has done a terrific job of doing everything we’ve asked him to do as a lead blocker and he’s had a lot to do with the success we’ve had running the football.”

Sherels, Burton To Step Up If Jefferson Can’t Go
CB A.J. Jefferson suffered a concussion near the end of Sunday’s win over the Bears, leaving the Vikings even more short-handed at the position. Starter Chris Cook is already out, of course, so that means Brandon Burton and Marcus Sherels will have to step up if Jefferson isn’t able to play on Sunday in St. Louis. As for Cook, he can start practicing with the team on a more regular basis and could return as soon as next week against the Houston Texans.


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5 Vikings-Bears Storylines To Watch This Week

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 5, 2012 – 7:32 am

The Vikings rugged post-bye schedule continues this week as they prepare to conclude their season series against the Chicago Bears by hosting them at Mall of America Field on Sunday. Both the Vikings (6-6) and Bears (8-4) are coming off losses last week, but both are very much in the NFC playoff hunt.

Chicago won the earlier matchup between these two teams back on November 25, a 28-10 victory that was never really in question after the 1st quarter. The Vikings figure to put forth a better effort this week as they return to play at home for the first time since November 11 and as they look to gain ground on a division opponent and keep pace with a handful of other teams vying for playoff positioning.

Here are 5 Vikings-Bears storylines to chase this week…

1. Pressure On Christian Ponder Mount
Christian Ponder completed 75% of his passes for 221 yards with 2 TDs and no INTs the last time he played at home – a 34-24 victory over the Detroit Lions. In two road games since then, Ponder is just 35 of 68 (51.4%) for 278 yards with 2 TDs and 3 INTs. Last week in Green Bay, Adrian Peterson ran for 210 yards and the Vikings defense and special teams groups played well enough to win, yet a sputtering passing game prevented the Vikings from putting the game out of reach and the Packers were able to log a comeback victory. Pressure is mounting on Ponder to snap out of his drought and show the signs of promise he displayed earlier in the season when he wasn’t turning the ball over and was one of the League’s highest-rated passers. The Bears will surely go “all-in” to stop the Vikings elite rushing attack, which means they’ll dare Ponder to beat them.

2. Key Players From Both Teams On The Injury Report
It’s not uncommon for injury reports to fill up this time of year, and the Vikings and Bears will most certainly not be exceptions this week. Percy Harvin has missed the last 3 games due to an ankle injury and his status bears monitoring all week. Also, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier disclosed on Monday that DE Jared Allen underwent an MRI for a back ailment. Expect other odds and ends to show up on the report as well, such as the shoulder injuries LB Jasper Brinkley and TE Kyle Rudolph have been dealing with, knee swelling for RT Phil Loadholt and a rib injury for C John Sullivan.

The Bears are no different. Three players – WR Earl Bennett (concussion), LB Brian Urlacher (hamstring) and CB Tim Jennings (shoulder) – left last week’s loss to Seattle; Urlacher is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. Three other starters – WR Devin Hester (concussion), WR Alshon Jeffery (knee) and G Chris Spencer (knee) – missed last week’s game but are hopeful to return this week in Minnesota. LB Lance Briggs and RB Matt Forte both played last week but are both dealing with ankle injuries, CB Charles Tillman is battling an ankle injury as well, and both DT Stephen Paea and G/C Edwin Williams are playing through shoulder injuries.

3. Vikings Must Contain Bears WR Brandon Marshall
He didn’t get into the end zone against the Vikings two weeks ago, but don’t let that fool you – Brandon Marshall was a thorn in the Vikings side all game. Several times the Vikings had Chicago in unfavorable 3rd-down spots, and several times Marshall bailed the Bears out with a great grab in traffic or a few extra yards after the catch. Marshall had 12 catches against the Vikings two weeks ago and he had another 10 for 165 yards last week against Seattle. Two numbers that illustrate Marshall’s importance to the Bears passing game are 91 and 138: Marshall has 91 receptions in 138 targets this season, while the next highest Bears receiver in each category is 30 receptions for Forte and 43 targets for Bennett.

4. Bear Trap: Can Chicago Stop Adrian Peterson?
It’s not a good week for Chicago to lose their middle LB because they are set to face the NFL’s best RB at a time when he’s playing at perhaps his highest level. Adrian Peterson is the NFL’s rushing leader by 308 yards, has logged 6 straight 100-yard rushing games, is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and is on pace for 1,928 yards (a career best). He nearly single-handedly defeated the Packers last week, and you can count on him trying to do the same to the Bears this week. Even without Urlacher, the Bears have a formidable run defense and will be up for the challenge to stop Peterson. Yes, the Bears will be up for the challenge. But so is Peterson.

5. Rematch: Vikings DL vs. Bears OL
In the matchup two weeks ago between Minnesota and Chicago, many expected the Vikings defensive line to embarrass the Bears offensive line. The Bears were coming off a Monday Night Football beatdown at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in which QB Jason Campbell was sacked 6 times. Chicago’s offensive line responded, however, and allowed just 1 sack in Cutler’s return to the lineup. Entering this game, the matchup still favors the Vikings on paper. Only three teams have permitted more sacks than the Bears, and the Vikings pass rush at home can overwhelm teams. As we saw two weeks ago, though, this Bears offensive line has the ability to respond.


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5 Vikings-Packers Storylines To Follow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 28, 2012 – 7:29 am

The 2012 version of the twice annual border battle rivalry between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers commences this week at Lambeau Field, as the 7-4 Packers will host the 6-5 Vikings. Sunday’s game will be the first of two between the teams in four weeks and it marks the latest in a season that these teams have played the first game in the season series.

The week leading up to Vikings vs. Packers is always fun because there is so much on the line on game day, regardless of records or time of year. As we anticipate Sunday’s game, here are five Vikings-Packers storylines to follow this week…

1. Vikings Look To Remain In Playoff Chase
Sunday’s game at Lambeau is not “do or die” for the Vikings with regard to their playoff outlook. But there’s no denying how important a win would be to the Vikings as they look to stay in the hunt for not just a Wild Card berth, but also a division title. Last week’s loss in Chicago dropped the Vikings two games behind the Bears, but there are still five to go (including this week in Green Bay) and the Vikings get one more shot at the Bears. On top of that, the Bears have a tough game against the Seahawks at home this weekend and they also have games remaining against the Packers and at the Detroit Lions.

Regardless of how the Bears do this week against Seattle, the Vikings can move into a tie with the Packers at 7-5 with a win.

2. Packers On The Rebound After Blowout Loss To Giants
Last week’s Sunday Night Football game featured a matchup between the last two Super Bowl champions – the Packers and the NY Giants. But just one of the teams looked super, and it wasn’t Green Bay. The Giants logged a 38-10 victory. As such, the Vikings aren’t the only team in this week’s NFC North showdown coming off a thorough loss. A quick look at the game’s stats doesn’t yield an obvious reason for Green Bay’s lackluster showing, but New York did capitalize on two specific stats that likely led to the final outcome: the Giants were +2 in turnover ratio and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked 5 times. Expect Green Bay to make those two stats points of emphasis this week as they prepare for the Vikings.

3. Both Teams Dealing With Injuries To Key Players
The Vikings have been missing WR Percy Harvin since he sprained his ankle in a Week 9 loss at Seattle on November 4, and now all eyes will be on TE Kyle Rudolph and S Harrison Smith after they left last week’s loss against Chicago to be evaluated for concussions. In addition to that, both LB Jasper Brinkley and RB Adrian Peterson have shoulder ailments and RT Phil Loadholt is dealing with knee inflammation. None of those players have been ruled out for Sunday’s game, and in fact it’s entirely possible that they’ll all be available, but their statuses do bear monitoring as the week goes.

The Packers are dealing with their own injuries, as well. WR Greg Jennings, LB Clay Matthews and DBs Sam Shields and Charles Woodson all missed last week’s game with injuries. They’ve also lost players such as RB Cedric Benson, starting RT Bryan Bulaga, and LBs Desmond Bishop and Nick Perry to injury for extended periods of time and some even for the season.

4. Can Green Bay Contain Adrian Peterson?
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is the kind of player that can win a game for his team any week, no matter the matchup. Green Bay ranks 11th against the run this season, giving up 103.8 rushings yards per game. More impressively, though, is the fact that Green Bay has allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season. On the flip side, Peterson has six 100-yard games already this year, including 5 straight. And he’s the NFL’s leading rusher by 172 yards, is on pace for a career-high 1,798 rushing yards and loves running against the Packers.

5. Vikings Pass Rush Must Reemerge vs. Rodgers, Packers Offensive Line
Only one team (Arizona – 46) has allowed more sacks this season than the Packers (37). The bread and butter of the Vikings defense in recent seasons has been their pass rush. Huge advantage for the Vikings, right? You’d think so, but lately the Vikings pass rush has been contained. The Vikings have just 5 sacks in the past four games, and they rank just tied for 13th in sacks this season with 27. If the Vikings want to go into Lambeau Field and pull off this upset, they must get more pass-rushing production from their defense. The man to lead the charge is Jared Allen, who has 13.0 sacks against Green Bay in just nine career games.


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Peterson, 3 Other Vikings Lead In Pro Bowl Voting

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 14, 2012 – 3:04 pm

Adrian Peterson is the leading Pro Bowl vote-getter for the NFC at RB and is 5th among all NFL players, with 5 weeks of voting remaining. Three other Vikings – DE Jared Allen, KR Percy Harvin and LT Matt Kalil – also lead their respective positions in NFC Pro Bowl voting.

It’s great news that 4 Vikings lead their positions in the balloting, but that also means Vikings fans have work to do. Fans can click here to cast their ballots.

Blair Walsh is having the best season among NFC kickers, having converted 23 of 24 FGs (5 of 5 from 50+) and boasting 41 touchbacks already. TE Kyle Rudolph is 2nd among NFC TEs with 6 TD receptions, FB Jerome Felton is lead-blocking for the NFL’s leading rusher, John Sullivan has developed into one of the League’s finest centers, Chad Greenway is the NFL’s leading tackler and Antoine Winfield looks to have found the fountain of youth. Those are just a handful of Vikings who are deserving of Pro Bowl consideration.

Balloting will conclude on Monday, December 17 following the conclusion of Monday Night Football. The teams will be announced at 6:00 p.m. CT Wednesday, December 26 on NFL Network’s “Total Access.”

The AFC and NFC All-Star squads are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that represent the American Football Conference and National Football Conference in the Pro Bowl. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes on December 20-21.

The 2013 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 27, 2013 and televised live on NBC at 6:00 p.m. CT from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.


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7 Vikings-Lions Storylines To Follow

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

The Vikings began this season with wins in four out of their first five games. Since then, however, they’ve lost three of their last four and two in a row. It’s time to get back on the winning track, and to do so the Vikings will have to upend division rival Detroit for the second time this season.

It’s only Wednesday, so we have plenty of time to breakdown the matchups and analyze the trends. Here are seven Vikings-Lions storylines we’ll be chasing this week.

1. Harvin’s Ankle, Megatron’s Knee
Two of the NFL’s best WRs reside within this Vikings-Lions matchup, and they are both dealing with injuries. Vikings WR Percy Harvin leads the NFL in receptions with 62, but he injured his ankle in last week’s loss to Seattle. Harvin wouldn’t rule himself out for Sunday’s game, but he also called himself a “long shot” to play. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is widely regarded as the best receiver in the NFL, and he looked every bit the part in last week’s win over Jacksonville. Johnson had 7 receptions for 129 yards on the day, making a profound impact on the game even though he didn’t get into the end zone. Johnson missed practice all of last week with a knee injury, and although he doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy of missing the game on Sunday, it’ll be interesting to see how the knee ailment impacts his practice time this week and then his performance on Sunday.

2. Can Ponder Shake His Slump?
A beautiful beginning to the season, highlighted by a solid outing against San Francisco in which he generated 3 TDs, has turned into a dreadful slump for Vikings 2nd-year QB Christian Ponder. The slumping Ponder has thrown for fewer than 100 yards twice in the last three games and he now has 8 INTs in nine games after going through the first four games of the season without throwing it to the opposing team. I believe Ponder will emerge from his slump in a big way, and it could happen on Sunday.

3. Vikings Looking For Pass Rush Re-Emergence
No team has more sacks than the Vikings (74) since the start of 2011, but the Vikings also have just 2 sacks over the past two games. In order to slow down this Lions passing attack, the Vikings must pressure Lions QB Matthew Stafford. In five career games against the Vikings, Stafford has been sacked 20 times, including three times in each of the last three games. Last year, Vikings DE Jared Allen registered 6.0 sacks by himself against the Lions. On the flip side, the Lions have improved their pass protection this season and have allowed just 15 sacks through eight games, 10th-best in the League.

4. More Special Teams Fireworks?
The Vikings defeated the Lions earlier this year by a score of 20-13 in a game that was dominated by special teams. The Vikings won the game, yet didn’t score an offensive TD. Both Vikings TDs were on returns, with Harvin registering a 105-yard kickoff return and Marcus Sherels darting through and around the Lions coverage group for a 77-yard punt return TD on his birthday. At that point, the Lions had surrendered both a kickoff return TD and a punt return TD in back-to-back games. Since then, though, the Lions have not allowed a return TD. Can the Vikings find a way to gouge the Lions coverage groups again?

5. Peterson Gunning For 4th Straight 100-Yard Game
Adrian Peterson has given the phrase “back and better than ever” a whole new meaning. Just over 10 months removed from a major knee injury, Peterson is leading the NFL in rushing with 957 yards and also leads the NFL in yards per carry (5.7) among players with 100+ carries. And Peterson isn’t slowing down. He rushed for a season-high 182 yards last week in Seattle, giving him his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game. Can he make it four straight?

6. Glancing At The Standings
While it’s still too early to attach the “must-win” tag to this game, there’s no disputing this game’s importance to both Detroit and Minnesota’s playoff hopes. The loser of this game will be looking up at the three other teams in the NFC North and will do so with a losing record in the NFC. Both teams are 3-3 in NFC play, an important metric for tie-breaking purposes when it comes to awarding playoff spots after the regular season. Regardless of who wins and loses this game, both the Vikings and Lions have enough division games remaining that they control their own destinies. Even still, the fact remains that Sunday’s game is a big one in terms of placement in the NFC North standings.

7. Salute To Service
The NFL will continue its long history of honoring veterans and active duty members of the military with its annual Salute to Service campaign. For every point scored during the NFL’s 32 designated Salute to Service games, the League will donate $100 to each of its three core military non-profit partners – Pat Tillman Foundation, USO and the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).

The Vikings will participate in the Salute to Service campaign during Sunday’s game by incorporating several pre-game, in-game and halftime elements in its game production. Here are just a few examples…

The Honorary Viking will be Betty Strohfus, one of just over 1,000 American women who flew military aircraft during World War II; the Honorary Captain will be Sergeant Brian Neill, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who served in the Minnesota National Guard for a period of 23 years; a traditional riderless horse will cross through the end zone during a moment of silence and remain there through the National Anthem; during the National Anthem, the entire stadium will participate in a card stunt. The stunt will display a patriotic message and stars/stripes graphics. Fans should be in their seats 15 minutes prior to kickoff to ensure full-stadium participation;


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Adrian Peterson Dominates, But Vikings Fall In Seattle

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 5, 2012 – 1:13 am

Adrian Peterson was in prime form on Sunday afternoon, rushing hard and fast for 182 yards and 2 TDs on 17 carries. But his Herculean effort, which included a 74-yard run on the second play of the game, was not enough to overcome several Vikings shortcomings. The end result was a 30-20 victory for the Seahawks over the Vikings at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

From the opening kick through the 4th quarter, Peterson ran over and danced around a formidable Seattle defense and reminded everyone why he’s the best running back in the NFL. He averaged 10.7 yards per carry and had runs of 15, 16, 24, 28 and 74 yards, breaking multiple tackles on a play with regularity and showing no signs of a player who incurred such a serious knee injury last December.

The Vikings were off to a quick start thanks to Peterson’s 74-yard gallop on the game’s opening series. Two plays later, Peterson plunged in from a yard out to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead. But it unraveled from there, as Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch and rookie QB Russell Wilson capitalized on short fields (thanks to Seattle takeaways) and second chances (thanks to Vikings penalties).

The Seahawks got on the board following a Percy Harvin fumble on the Vikings second drive of the game, with Wilson finding WR Golden Tate for a 6-yard strike. The Vikings punted on their ensuing drive, and Seattle took a 14-7 lead with Wilson-to-Sidney Rice TD strike.

The Vikings responded, with Ponder driving his team 80 yards in 11 plays to watch Peterson score from 4 yards out to tie the game at 14. Blair Walsh tacked on 3 more points with a 36-yard FG that salvaged a drive after a sack on 3rd and 7 from the Seattle 11. The Vikings led 17-14 at that point, but saw that lead disappear after a masterful 12-play, 80 drive by Wilson and the Seattle offense that was capped by another Tate TD reception, the 3rd TD throw of Wilson’s day. The extra point was blocked by Kevin Williams, so Seattle took a 20-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Seattle used a 4-point edge in the 3rd quarter thanks to a Lynch TD (Walsh had a 55-yard FG, too) to take a 27-20 lead into the 4th quarter. The teams exchanged punts at the beginning of the 4th quarter, Seattle K Steven Hauschka split the uprights on a 40-yard try to make it 30-2-, and then the Vikings weren’t able to inch any closer for the remainder of the game.

Wilson finished going 16 of 24 for 173yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs. Lynch, the NFL’s 2nd-leading rusher behind Peterson, rushed for 124 yards and 1 TD on 24 carries.

While the Vikings were next to unstoppable on the ground, they struggled throwing the ball. QB Christian Ponder was 11 of 22 for 63 yards with no TDs and 1 INT. LBs Jasper Brinkley and Chad Greenway each registered 13 tackles and DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison were each credited with a .5 sack.

The loss drops the Vikings to 5-4 on the season as they get set this week to host the Detroit Lions at Mall of America Field before heading into their bye week.


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