Friday, September 4, 2015

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I am obsessed with fantasy football.

Seriously, it’s almost unhealthy. And the amount to which this game consumes my life seems to grow year after year after year: with each season I seem to listen to the fantasy podcasts a little sooner, generate my cheat sheets earlier, purchase increasing amounts of printed publications, and subscribe to more fantasy websites. Seriously, it’s bad. But I’m not the only one. It’s estimated that approximately 41.5 million people play fantasy sports. That’s roughly 30 million more than a decade ago. And fantasy sports continue to explode.

In recent years, daily fantasy sports have become more popular. If you’re not familiar with daily fantasy sports, it’s essentially the same thing as regular fantasy, but you are not tied to a team of players for an entire season. Every week, or every day if you’re playing multiple sports, you can assemble a new team and enter contests. This has been my new thing this year. Of course, this is in addition to regular fantasy – that’s not going anywhere.

Okay, so why the history / back story on Fantasy Sports? Fantasy Hub, a daily fantasy football start-up that uses their games as charitable fundraisers, has teamed up with our very own Greg Jennings to offer everyone a chance to play against the Vikings veteran wide receiver in fantasy football. Not only are there prizes at stake, but all proceeds are charitable and will go to The Greg Jennings Foundation which provides academic resources for our youth.

So here’s the deal: entering the contest is absolutely free, no strings attached (I just did it myself!). $2.00 is donated by Fantasy Hub to The Greg Jennings Foundation for each free entry submitted. Additional entries can be purchased (for which money will also be donated) allowing you to make more teams and increase your chances at winning.

Once you sign up, you create a team by purchasing players to add to your roster. You have a $50k “salary cap” which you can allocate to different players as you see fit. Once you fill your lineup, you’ll wait until Sunday (December 14th, to be exact) and yell at the television because Tom Brady can most certainly hear you, and will definitely consider your strongly worded recommendation to pass the ball more frequently to Rob Gronkowski.

You seriously have nothing to lose other than the couple of minutes it will take to sign up and assemble your team. What do you have to gain other than helping out a great cause, you ask? Prizes! Prizes like autographed footballs, jerseys, two tickets to the Vikings / Bears game on December 28th and a personal phone call from Greg Jennings himself.  (Being 100% realistic though, you don’t have a shot at the tickets… Those will be mine.)

So head on over to Fantasy Hub and sign up for this awesome event to let Greg Jennings and Fantasy Hub know we support their cause and that our readers are no slouches when it comes to fantasy football.

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Greg Jennings partnered with WCCO anchor Amelia Santaniello to put together a counterterrorism informational video.

As a result, he won a Minneapolis Police Department Community Service Award. A personal favorite of mine on the roster, this only adds to his appeal. Jennings evidently is easy to work with on camera, as the Vikings’ official press release notes. Their story below:

J’Marcus Webb announced through his Twitter today that he’d been signed by the Vikings.

This isn’t a huge surprise. Though there were rumors the Vikings were considering Eric Winston, he was in New York this morning attempting to hammer out an agreement with Roger Goodell as the NFLPA president regarding the process for player discipline. Workouts typically happen on Tuesdays, so that would have been tough.

Webb was on the team last year as a backup tackle and did well in spot duty. Though his career in Chicago was bad, he was an above-average backup. He allowed one sack, one hit and two hurries in 55 pass-blocking snaps, which is not great, but good in the universe of backup offensive linemen and was a punishing run blocker. The Vikings let him go before free agency last year, but still see enough in him to bring him back over other options.

He should be familiar with the blocking scheme, as that hasn’t changed even with a new offensive coordinator.

With Phil Loadholt injured and out for the rest of the season, the Vikings sorely needed help on the offensive line, especially as they suffered an injury to Brandon Fusco earlier in the year and are unhappy with Vlad Ducasse (who can also play tackle). For now, the presumed starter at right tackle is Mike Harris, who worked with Norv Turner in San Diego.

Presumably, Loadholt will be put on IR to make room. The Vikings have yet to make an announcement.

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It is taught that the best endings to the best stories are supposed to be both inevitable and unpredictable.  The story of the 2014 Minnesota Vikings wasn’t a particularly good one and their playoff hopes, while inevitable, came to a very predictable ending on Sunday.

The loss to the Packers signals an end to any meaningful hope of a postseason appearance, but that makes this segment even a little more interesting than it previously was.  Now, with plenty of Vikings football left to watch, evaluating individual players is the first step in looking down beyond the coming offseason in hopes of a more satisfying sequel.

Past “Player of the Week” winners here at VT were voted on as such:

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

The nominations for this week are:

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Per Ian Rapaport, Phil Loadholt has torn his pectoral muscle and will need surgery. His season is through.

Loadholt left the game against the Packers with a sore shoulder and did not return. The Vikings said he was questionable to return and after the game said that Loadholt would need an MRI.

Though Loadholt hadn’t been performing up to the standard he had set for himself over the past two years, he had been adequate this season. He was, as always, a better run blocker than pass protector, but still was respectable enough in the pass protection game. His numbers (5 sacks allowed, 6 hits allowed and 22 pressures) are extremely poor, but his film was a little better than that—with the numbers suffering a bit because Teddy would hold on to the ball early on in the season.

Presumably, the tackle that filled in for Loadholt in the Packers game, Mike Harris, will fill in for him. With Matt Kalil already underperforming, Mike Harris—who only has significant snaps as a rookie in San Diego—can only add to the severe liability of the offensive line. Harris’ rookie year was even worse in protection than Kalil is now, allowing ten sacks five hits and 44 hurries in just over half a season of snaps—355. His game against the Packers wasn’t encouraging, but it’s fair to assume that a week of practice with the line can only help.

Harris as a guard and tackle this year has earned a -0.9 grade from Pro Football Focus in pass blocking in 35 pass blocking snaps, with 1 hit and 2 hurries allowed, which isn’t great. More alarmingly, he’s played with little awareness, though he hadn’t been terrible in the run game.

In all likelihood, Harris is better than he was, but it’s hard to imagine he’d be significantly better than Kalil (or we would have theoretically have seen him replace Kalil). With that in mind, the Vikings now officially have the worst pair of offensive tackles in football with a mediocre guard on the left and a backup’s backup on the right. There’s a good chance they went from having one of the best OLs in the NFL last year to the single worst.

Teddy Bridgewater has been pressured on a higher percentage of snaps than all but five quarterbacks this season, per PFF. He’s been hit or sacked on over nine percent of dropbacks, sixth-most of all quarterbacks. We’ll likely see that number rise by season’s end, even if the Vikings switch to a run-first offense with shorter pass drops.

Vikings may have to revert to seven-man protection, with Rhett Ellison earning quite a few snaps as a protector. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings, who rely on edge protection and deep drops in their passing game adapt to this significant blow.

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