Saturday, August 1, 2015

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The unknowns surrounding the 2014 season are currently many, with a struggling team potentially on the verge of a shakeup, but we now know who the Vikings will face throughout their schedule next season.

Of course, they will face their divisional foes twice each, which accounts for six games on the schedule.  Judd Zulgad of 1500 ESPN points out that next year’s opponents have now been solidified, however, and here are the results.

The Vikings will play their home games at TCF Bank Stadium while their new palace is being constructed.  Their home games will consist of:  Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, and the Washington Redskins.

The Vikings are currently 0-7 on the road in 2013, and they are hoping to break that streak this week in Cincinnati, but they are going to have to be more successful next season if they hope to return to the playoffs.  Their away opponents are:  Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Bucs, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and the St. Louis Rams.

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Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has helped the Vikings offense in his rookie season both on offense and special teams.  The Vikings gave a steep bounty to New England in exchange for the 29th overall selection in the 2013 Draft, but the trade got done and they were able to make Patterson their third first round selection of the day, and he immediately injected excitement into the offensive and special teams playbooks.

Thus far, Patterson has paid dividends to the Vikings in the form of 40 catches, 430 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns in addition to 50 yards and a touchdown on seven rushing attempts.  His addition, combined with the signing of Greg Jennings, created more legitimacy to the Vikings group of receivers which created a no-excuses scenario for the Vikings to finalize their evaluation of Christian Ponder.

In addition to his work on offense, Patterson has pretty easily been this season’s best kick returner, and the results are really showing.  Patterson has returned 36 kicks for 1,199 yards (a Vikings rookie record) with two more touchdowns.  As of late, opponents have sacrificed field position by kicking away from Patterson all together, which has set the offense up with huge advantages throughout the games.

Much of the pre-Draft debate surrounding the Vikings included names like Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins, Tavon Austin, and Patterson.  Allen has arguably been the best wide out, and possibly offensive player, this class had to offer and some of his recent quotes have raised eyebrows within the Minnesota fanbase.

Allen said his agent told him he had a “guarantee” the Vikings would select him in the first round, despite rumors that his poorly timed knee injury had doomed his draft stock.  The injury caused him to push back workout dates and eventually produced an underwhelming 40-yard dash time.  Allen indeed tumbled on Draft weekend and he ended up going to San Diego in the third round.  He was drafted 76th overall and was the eighth wide receiver taken in the class.

This season Allen has done wonders for the Chargers who clearly suffered in the absence of Vincent Jackson and needed a big, athletic wide out that could out-run and out-jump opposing defenders on a regular basis.  Allen has 63 catches for 931 yards and seven touchdowns.  He has done alright on special teams, as well, with 10 punt returns for a 8.4 yard average.

“It hurt me. Now it’s hurting them,” Allen said of the teams that passed on him. “It is what it is. I don’t dwell on it.”

The Vikings surely aren’t disappointed with the return they are getting on their Patterson investment, or any of their first round selections for that matter.  Still, Allen has been an all-out stud as a rookie, and one has to wonder how this all will look with a few more seasons in the past.  One thing that is for sure, the Chargers got a better value snagging Allen that late in the Draft, and they didn’t have to trade away additional picks to move up and get him.

How about you?  With hindsight being what it is, would you have done anything different if you were Rick Spielman and had a time machine programed for April of 2013?  Let me know in the comments section.

The Vikings were without their top two running backs, their most productive offensive lineman this season, and their starting cornerback duo.  As if the odds weren’t stacked enough against them, Minnesota had to play the potent offense of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, so expectations were minimal as fans filed into the Metrodome.

The Vikings, however, had no-names show up big on their way to a 48-30 beatdown of the Eagles.  Here are ten things I noticed about the game:

1.  NFL Network reported prior to the game that Matt Cassel would remain with the Vikings into 2014.  The understanding is that both Cassel and the Vikings have the option to void the second year of his contract following the season, so I was surprised to see such a concrete report come across the TV.  Cassel then proceeded to have one of the best games of his career.  He finished 26 of 35 for 382 yards and two touchdowns.  He threw one interception and took three sacks, but for the most part he was sharp and poised on his way to a 116.6 quarterback rating.  He also ran for 19 yards and another score.  These are the types of games we just never saw out of Christian Ponder and it is no wonder that Cassel’s future with the franchise suddenly looks far brighter than Ponder’s.  Jennings had never before, in his entire career, caught 11 passes in one game.

2.  Greg Jennings continued to show that he can better reward the Vikings for their investment when Cassel is at the helm.  His best game as a Vikings so far came to the tune of 13 targets, 11 catches, 163 yards, and a touchdown.  Jennings continues to be precise with his route running and the main difference lately seems to be that he now has a quarterback willing and able to take advantage of his talents.

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The Vikings will have to take on the Philadelphia Eagles without their star running back Adrian Peterson today, who suffered a foot injury last week in Baltimore.  They also won’t have his backup Toby Gerhart available as he is inactive today with a hamstring injury.

Running back Matt Asiata will start today and Joe Banyard, recently activated from the practice squad, will get the lion’s share of the action.

Their starting duo of cornerbacks are also out today.  Chris Cook (knee) and Xavier Rhodes (ankle) will not be suiting up.  The injuries and other issues have once again blown up the Vikings depth chart at cornerback, which seems to happen on an annual basis, and Marcus Sherels and Shaun Prater are going to be your starters today, according to 1500 ESPN.  Not an ideal situation for those holding out hope for an upset win, but certainly can’t hurt Minnesota’s possible run at a top-three draft selection.

Guard Brandon Fusco is also inactive and will be replaced by Joe Berger as the starting right guard.

The good news is that Harrison Smith has been activated for today’s game.Smith suffered an injury on October 13th and hasn’t played since.  It remains to be seen just how much playing time the Vikings are willing to give to their star safety, given the game is essentially meaningless, but Smith makes any game more fun to watch.

Don’t forget to join our VT Live Chat during today’s game.

If Leslie Frazier’s current record wasn’t enough to convince you that he is coaching his last games in Minnesota, then today’s report that the Vikings are already putting out feelers ought to do the trick.

According to Pro Football Talk, the Vikings have reached out to Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, who served as an assistant with the Patriots from 2007 to 2011.  He not only has some familiarity with Vikings rookie linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, but boasts a successful pedigree of two tight end sets and offensive innovation.

O’Brien seems like a logical candidate for the Vikings to check out, but the odds are long that he is the next head coach of the team.  His Penn State contract reportedly requires an NFL team to buy him out to the tune of $7.73 million.  There are also some unsubstantiated rumors floating around that O’Brien actually has no intent to once again join the NFL coaching ranks and wants to stay put.

The Vikings aren’t the only team to contact O’Brien.  The Houston Texans, who currently have a head coaching vacancy, have also reached out to the college coach.

If things get more serious regarding O’Brien we will more extensively explore who he is as a coach and a man.  In the meantime, this story is more about confirming that the Vikings appear poised to usher in a new era of Minnesota football by doing away with their current staff.

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