Friday, August 28, 2015

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Just two short weeks ago, while prioritizing my view on the offseason needs of the Minnesota Vikings, I placed inside linebacker at the top of the list and wrote this sentence:

Audie Cole and Michael Mauti have plenty of fan support, but it just seems like they are not destined for stardom.

Well, maybe I jumped the gun a little there.  Maybe, just maybe, I underestimated how much perception could change over the course of two (or one, really) NFL football game.

In Week Seventeen, against an uninspired and lackluster Chicago Bears team, Audie Cole filled in for Chad Greenway and the results were genuinely impressive.  In fact, I would personally go so far as to say Cole had one of the best linebacker performances we’ve seen since Antoine Winfield’s prime (I still stand by my assertion that Winfield was more linebacker than corner).

Cole received a higher game grade (+7.8) from Pro Football Focus than Greenway ever has in his career and, from what I can tell, is the highest grade given to a player of the same position all year.  That, to say the least, is a pretty impressive “next man up” effort.

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Well, that’s a wrap, folks.

Mike Zimmer got his first NFC North victory and the Vikings were able to end the 2014 season on somewhat of a positive note.  Teddy Bridgewater has left us all pretty excited about the future and it appears like the Viking Ship is finally headed in the right direction.

We’ll soon get into our own little version of post-season awards here at VT, but for now you all have one more duty to fulfill.  Vote for your Week Seventeen Player of the Game below, but first here is a look at this season’s winners:

WEEK ONE:  Cordarrelle Patterson

WEEK TWO: Harrison Smith

WEEK THREE:  Harrison Smith

WEEK FOUR: Teddy Bridgewater

WEEK FIVE:  Harrison Smith

WEEK SIX:  Linval Joseph

WEEK SEVEN: Everson Griffen

WEEK EIGHT:  Anthony Barr

WEEK NINE:  Everson Griffen

WEEK ELEVEN: Charles Johnson

WEEK TWELVE:  Xavier Rhodes

WEEK THIRTEEN:  Everson Griffen

WEEK FOURTEEN:  Teddy Bridgewater

WEEK FIFTEEN:  Xavier Rhodes

WEEK SIXTEEN:  Teddy Bridgewater

The nominations for our final week of voting are…

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Long injury report (along with inactives list) for the Vikings.

NAME POSITION INJURY WED. THU. FRI. STATUS GAMEDAY
Barr, Anthony LB Knee DNP DNP DNP Injured Reserve N/A
Watts, Brandon LB Hamstring DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Yankey, David G None N/A Inactive
Dixon, Ahmad S None N/A Inactive
Josey, Henry RB None N/A Inactive
Prater, Shaun CB None N/A Inactive
Bykowski, Carter T None N/A Inactive
Greenway, Chad LB Knee DNP DNP DNP Questionable Inactive
Wright, Jarius WR Low Back DNP DNP LP Questionable Active
Rudolph, Kyle TE Ankle DNP DNP LP Questionable Active
Johnson, Charlie G Ankle LP LP FP Probable Active
Jennings, Greg WR Hamstring LP LP FP Probable Active
Exum, Antone S Knee LP LP FP Probable Active
Harris, Mike T Foot LP DNP LP Probable Active
Ford, Chase TE Foot LP LP FP Probable Active
Blanton, Robert S Ankle LP LP FP Probable Active
Sendejo, Andrew S T FP FP FP Probable Active
Floyd, Sharrif DT Knee FP FP FP Probable Active
Asiata, Matt RB Foot FP FP FP Probable Active

The Vikings are their starting linebacker corps and this will be quite the test against Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, who have a combined 2629 yards and 12 touchdowns—over 30 percent of the combined touchdowns and 53 percent of the combined offensive yards the Bears have put together. The rest of the inactives are either marginal players (Shaun Prater), newly added (Carter Bykowski, Henry Josey, Ahmad Dixon) or David Yankey.

With a starting linebacker corps of Gerald Hodges, Audie Cole and Jasper Brinkley (perhaps) expect the Vikings to be in nickel as often as make sense. Also, don’t be surprised if the Bears attempt to roll with two or one receiver on the field for as often as they can in order to force the Vikings to play all their linebackers instead of bringing Josh Robinson on and a linebacker off. Also notable, new promotion Josh Kaddu is active.

The linebacker problem is an enormous one, and if the Vikings lose, I wouldn’t be surprised if they swung the match in Chicago’s favor.

On the other hand, the Vikings seemingly do not have to rely on Vlad Ducasse with Charlie Johnson active and presumably starting.

Aside from that, we have Zach Line‘s first game as an active player, and a return of Yankey to the inactive list. Line will likely not see any snaps, and Yankey hasn’t done enough in workouts, evidently, to impress the Zimmer staff enough to see the field. It doesn’t help Yankey’s case that Charlie Johnson is active. Scott Crichton is active once more, but he doesn’t figure to see many snaps.

Expect Matt Asiata to carry the running game with occasional spells by Joe Banyard. Sharrif Floyd being active will help in a big way (and he was fully healthy this week) in the run game, but may not be enough to overcome the loss of linebackers.

The safeties will be Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo while the starting linebackers will be Gerald Hodges (SLB), Jasper Brinkley (MLB) and Audie Cole (WLB). Hodges will keep his spot replacing Anthony Barr while Cole is replacing Greenway.

NAME POSITION INJURY WED. THU. FRI. STATUS GAMEDAY
Clausen, Jimmy QB Concussion Out Out Out Out Inactive
Conte, Chris S Back DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Gould, Robbie K Right Quadricep DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Louis-Jean, Al CB Hamstring DNP Questionable Inactive
Lane, Austen DE None N/A Inactive
Leno, Charles T None N/A Inactive
Dunn. Brandon DT None N/A Inactive
Allen, Jared DE Ribs DNP DNP LP Questionable Active
Ratliff, Jeremiah DT Knee DNP DNP DNP Questionable Active
Bass, David DE Knee LP LP FP Probable Active
Long, Kyle G Hip LP LP FP Probable Active
Wilson, Marquess WR Knee LP LP FP Probable Active
Ferguson, Ego DT Ankle FP FP FP Probable Active

With Brandon Marshall on injured reserve, expect to see more runs, even with Marquess Wilson on the field (as detailed above). Checkdowns and routes designed for interior players (slot receivers, tight ends and running backs) will be a priority, with Chicago working to take advantage of the linebacker problems.

It will be a tougher game than it initially looked. It may finally be up to the offense, not the defense, to deliver.

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Well, the end is near.  Or the beginning… however you prefer to look at it.

Despite no playoff games in the near future, both the Vikings and Bears have plenty of storylines surrounding them in Week 17.  Get caught up and get primed for this final Vikings game of 2014 by browsing the very fine links below:

  • Catching up with former Vikings Brad Johnson and Chris Walsh is bound to be good time.
  • Mike Zimmer is going into Week 17 hoping to win his first divisional game as a head coach.
  • Teddy Bridgewater’s last four week’s have actually been statistically historic.
  • CFL standout and Cris Carter’s son and former Vikings tryout Duron Carter will be visiting with teams, including the Vikings, in an attempt to jump into the NFL.
  • It sure would be nice to have Cordarrelle Patterson turn in a nice game heading into this offseason.
  • Vikings football is almost over.  But Fantasy Draft is just heating up with great chances to win some cash.
  • Our edge rushers will be looking to dominate the Bears offensive line for the second time this season.
  • Like a season finale of Dexter, this game is all about who lives and who gets chopped.
  • Lists of possible free agent targets are so much fun to glance at this time of year.
  • Teddy Bridgewater is starting to stack up against other starting QB’s quite nicely.
  • Josh Robinson is excited to get another crack at the Bears who abused him the first time around.
  • Charles Johnson might be playing well enough to cause the Vikings to ignore wide receiver in the early rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft.
  • This is the last chance to evaluate the strong safety position and Captain Munnerlyn before an offseason of changes.
  • What one word would you use to describe Marcus Sherels?
  • Running backs coach Kirby Wilson is hoping to become an offensive coordinator sooner than later.
  • A game plan to topple Chicago and end 2014 on a positive note.
  • The new Vikings stadium is already selling tickets and making money.
  • Five things to keep track of during the season finale.
  • Fullback Jerome Felton plans to opt out of his contract following this season and become a free agent.
  • Blair Walsh is ranked 32nd in the NFL for field goal percentage, but he still thinks his future is bright.
  • If you are a stats and records type of fan then here are some fun figures to chew on before the game.
  • And now, your moment of Zen:

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The Minnesota Vikings have decided to put rookie linebacker Anthony Barr on injured reserve and have promoted linebacker Josh Kaddu from the practice squad, per Andrew Krammer at 1500ESPN:

Anthony Barr was having an excellent rookie season before his injury, and in particular showcased his range and developing instincts to help put together a surprisingly good defense. He will finish the season with four sacks, three pass deflections, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 55 solo tackles, 15 tackle assists and a fumble return touchdown.

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