Thursday, September 3, 2015

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After Teddy Bridgewater’s stellar performance against the New York Jets on Sunday, Teddy Bridgewater—a two-time winner of the Pepsi Rookie of the Week Award—is up for the award for a third time. Though last time, there were perhaps some questions about the relative merit of Bridgewater against players like Donte Moncrief and Tre Mason, he definitely played a big role in helping the team win.

This week, there should be little doubt that Teddy well deserves the consideration. From my player recap of the game:

Teddy Bridgewater is clearly progressing as a quarterback, with a very impressive game whose statistics undersell his contribution to the offense. An interception on a Hail Mary at the end of the half and a fumbled touchdown pass (that still scored points) take away from an outing that is closer to excellent than average. Though the Vikings offense struggled at times, it was rarely his fault—his biggest flaw in the game was excusable and corrected by the end of the game, which was a tendency to drop his eyes when moving away from pressure, biggest in the third down.

Still, he made some tremendous plays under pressure and made very few, if any mistakes. His decisionmaking after the snap was smart without being overly cautious. It seems like the pre-draft canard about his deep ball is fading by the wayside in these last two games, as both of his very deep attempts in this game were very good—a perfectly placed basket catch to Charles Johnson, followed by a shot under pressure and on the move that was a little underthrown but well-placed enough given the circumstances, not reeled in by Johnson.

The Vikings didn’t give Bridgewater the ability to showcase himself too much, opting to run on almost every first down with Matt Asiata instead of passing, but when he could make plays, he did. Of the eight incompletions Bridgewater is charged with, at least one was a throwaway and another was that Hail Mary interception mentioned above. A third was the deep ball to Johnson under pressure.

The biggest moment of the game seems like a touchdown that had little to do with Teddy, but Bridgewater checked out of the first play in response to a blitz look by the Jets and threw a screen with man advantage to his right—allowing Wright to run 87 yards for a touchdown.

If one were to wash away the Hail Mary interception and grant Teddy the touchdown that Charles Johnson fumbled at the goal line, his adjusted net yards per attempt rises from 9.7 adjusted net yards per attempt (higher than any other quarterback’s average this year) to 11.7, higher than all but 17 individual performances this year so far. His passer rating (117.7) rises to 145.6 in those circumstances, the ninth-highest individual performance this year.

Teddy was accurate, concise in his decisions, clean in the pocket and extraordinarily aware in the Vikings win. He looks like who the Vikings were developing him to be and the quarterback that the draft community fell in love with.

The other players Teddy will have to compete with are:

  • Derek Carr, earning a Pro Football Focus grade of +2.3, with a 28-attempt improbable win over their Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. Carr completed 22 of 28 (78.6 percent) of his passes, and averaged 9.1 yards per attempt. His passer rating was 140.2 and he had an adjusted net yards per attempt of 10.5. Though Teddy’s Hail-Mary and passer rating adjusted throws exceeded Carr, you shouldn’t be surprised if Carr got the nod.
  • Andre Williams, who earned a +0.8 grade that week from Pro Football Focus and 131 yards on the ground on 24 tries (5.5 yards a carry). he also gained 16 yards in the air.
  • Bene Benwikere, who though allowing 8 catches on ten targets, only allowed 48 total yards, along with an interception and two pass deflections, earning a Pro Football Focus score of +4.0, the second-highest of any cornerback this week.
  • Martavis Bryant, who earned a Pro Football Focus score of +0.7 by grabbing 109 yards on six targets (and four catches) for a touchdown.

You can vote here.

Be sure to vote for Teddy for both that award and the GMC Never Say Never award, which rewards players for heroic comebacks and gritty performances from behind to beat the odds. As a reminder, Teddy is eligible for the award for checking into the winning play against the zero-blitz the Jets were going to send, an 87-yard screen pass to Jarius Wright. He’s up against Andrew Luck, who led an insane comeback against the Cleveland Browns and Drew Stanton, who took the lead back from the Chiefs with four minutes left in their game.

As a reminder, Luck had to rally back after throwing two interceptions, and held off the lead because Brian Hoyer threw an interception to end the game—which otherwise would have resulted in a tie because Luck failed to convert the two-point conversion—while Stanton received the ball from an Alex Smith interception and led a drive from a short field (the Chiefs’ 42) in order to win. Alex Smith got the ball back with a minute to go in his own territory and threw four consecutive screens from his own 31.

Not that I’m biased. Vote for Teddy!

Even with only the smallest of playoff chances left to be hopeful for, the Vikings managed to give us another encouraging win that provides some hope for the future under Mike Zimmer.  This win wasn’t the prettiest of efforts, but the fact that there was so much effort is a nice sign.

Our past winners as voted on by all you good looking folks:

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

As you can see, the defense is unsurprisingly dominating this contest (9 of 12), with Harrison Smith and Everson Griffen tied for the lead with three awards each.

This weeks nominations are…

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The Vikings and the Jets have released their inactives lists for the game today. Injury report and inactive list below:

McKinnon, Jerick RB Low Back DNP DNP DNP Out IR
Barr, Anthony LB Knee DNP DNP DNP Doubtful Inactive
Price, Jabari CB Hamstring DNP DNP DNP Doubtful Inactive
Line, Zach FB Hip None Inactive
Watts, Brandon LB Knee None Inactive
Yankey, David G Neck None Inactive
Webb, J’Marcus T Ankle None Inactive
Crichton, Scott DE Rib None Inactive
Ellison, Rhett TE Ankle DNP LP LP Probable Active
Floyd, Sharrif DT Knee DNP LP LP Probable Active
Ford, Chase TE Hamstring/Foot LP LP FP Probable Active
Rudolph, Kyle TE Abdomen/Groin FP FP FP Probable Active

No huge surprises here, but it is a disappointment that Anthony Barr won’t be able to play for the Vikings, especially given that his replacement, Gerald Hodges, hasn’t been spectacular against the run. The Vikings are playing against a team that is historic in its commitment to the run, so that could end up interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see much of Josh Robinson today almost exclusively because the Vikings would rather have more linebackers on the field in order to deal with the Jets’ run emphasis and even cover for some of Hodges’ potential weaknesses in this area. At least Hodges has good range, even if it’s not the same as Barr’s.

All three tight ends are active, even if all three are injured. The Jets have given up 12 touchdowns to tight ends, so this may become relevant. On the other hand, they haven’t given up an unusual number of yards to tight ends, preferring to let receivers do damage against them.

Justin Trattou, the player just promoted from the practice squad to take Jerick McKinnon’s spot on the roster after he went on injured reserve, is active. Surprising, considering he plays the same position as Scott Crichton, but is ahead of him on the depth chart.

The Vikings have announced that Gerald Hodges will start at SLB, Matt Asiata at RB and Charles Johnson at WR.

Amaro, Jace TE Concussion DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Thomas, Josh DB Illness DNP FP FP Probable Inactive
Wilkerson, Muhammad DL Toe DNP DNP DNP Out Inactive
Dozier, Dakota OL None N/A Inactive
Simms, Matt QB None N/A Inactive
Powell, Walter WR None N/A Inactive
Johnson, Wesley OL None N/A Inactive
Cumberland, Jeff TE Illness DNP LP FP Probable Active
Folk, Nick K Hip DNP LP FP Probable Active
Kerley, Jeremy WR Illness DNP LP FP Probable Active
Salas, Greg WR Hamstring DNP DNP FP Probable Active
Colon, Willie OL Shoulder/Knee FP FP FP Probable Active
Johnson, Chris RB Knee FO FP FP Probable Active

No surprises. As noted earlier, it’s a good thing for the Vikings that Muhammad Wilkerson is out, as he’s arguably the best two-gapping player in the NFL. That doesn’t mean the Vikings are in the clear in regards to a run offense that doesn’t have Jerick McKinnon or Adrian Peterson, and instead will rely on an unimpressive and rotating set of running backs. The rest of the Jets’ run defense is very strong, and the Vikings will have to take to air in order to generate offense.

Amaro hasn’t been a factor this season, so his absence due to concussion won’t play a big role, especially because the Jets would have to pass for that to be the case.

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According to Chris Mortesen, Adrian Peterson is unlikely to play this year. In September, Mort reported that the NFL was going to be harsh with Peterson (correct) and that the team was done with Peterson (contested, but not proven to be correct or incorrect yet). We don’t know if they are, but if these are the same team sources, then Mort isn’t providing new information, and will have to be balanced against the other reports from Jason Cole and Mike Florio that the team is still optimistic about Adrian Peterson (unless they’re concerned about his playing health, per Jason La Confora). Aren’t sources great? Anyway, tweets below:

Two things: first I’m not surprised Adrian wouldn’t play in a scenario where he wins his appeal. There’s little point to playing a running back who hasn’t gone through conditioning, even if it’s Adrian Peterson, in a lost season where the Vikings are clearly all-in on evaluating their talent. Further, if the Vikings are concerned with his trade value, the small risk of injury would tank their plans (exacerbated by missing workout time, perhaps).

Beyond that, with little additional reward and some risk, the Vikings would further be risking public relations blowback by playing him sooner rather than later. By next year, the public relations impact will likely die down. Combined with the possibility of the legal team working against Peterson’s reinstatement, and there’s a good reason to believe the team isn’t invested in a 2014 return.

The second thing is that it would be classically Vikings for Adrian Peterson’s appeal to delay a suspension if he’s unsuccessful. That’s not surprising—he’s not suspended right now, merely on the Exempt list (still, somehow). It’s ridiculous and Peterson should get credit for these three games he’s missed, because he’s missing games now for a new reason entirely, not because of the initial violation of the conduct policy—procedural clarity shouldn’t come with this kind of cost.

For what it’s worth, Peter King thinks Peterson will win his appeal, and it will be up to the team to activate him:

With Peterson likely (but not certain) to be reinstated by a league appeals officer, Harold Henderson, next week, the ball would be in Minnesota’s court as to whether to activate him for the final three games of the year. We’ll hear lots about it this weekend, including whether the Vikings’ coaching side is on the same page with the Vikings’ front-office.

Percy Harvin and the J-E-T-S are coming to town and the Vikings are trying to remain at least statistically relevant in the playoff hunt.  A late-season run, with a little will-they-won’t-they drama, could be just what this organization needs heading into Mike Zimmer’s second season as head coach.

Here are some great links to keep you busy leading up to kickoff:


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