Archive for the Preview/Prediction Category


Evaluating Lindsey’s Vikings Predictions and Making More

If you are a Vikings fan you have to be enjoying this season as Minnesota sits atop the division with a 2 game lead, the Vikings have beaten the Packers twice and the team has suffered only one injury that has caused a key player to miss more than one game. Further reason to smile, the team comes out of the bye against the Detroit Lions. Yes, life is pretty good in Viking land.

Before the season began, I offered 5 predictions for the men in purple from the NFC North. As the Vikings have no game this week and I have been really enjoying the season the past two weeks it seemed like a good time to dust off what I said at the beginning of the season to evaluate my crystal ball gazing skills and to offer a few more predictions.

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Sunday Morning Under the Helmet: What to Watch for in NFL Week Eight

Week Eight is the halfway point in the NFL regular season. It has been an eventful first half full of surprises, shockers, and disappointments.

In the first half, we saw Tom Brady struggle, but then rebound. We saw the Denver Broncos go 6-0 and the Tennessee Titans 0-6.

We saw Cedric Benson emerge as a top running back and Jake Delhomme forget how to play. The Detroit Lions won a game and the St. Louis Rams are making their push for 0-16.

Those are just a few of the things we saw in the first half. What’s in store for the second half? More importantly what will we see in Week Eight?  Take a look:

 

Matchup of the Week: Minnesota Vikings (6-1) at Green Bay Packers (4-2)

Today, Brett Favre makes his return to Lambeau Field where he played for 16 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

On that field he won games, shattered records and built a great legacy.

As a Packer he was loved, and looked up to. He was the definition of a fan favorite.

Now, just two years after his ugly divorce from the team, Favre will step foot onto the Frozen Tundra once again. But this time he’s wearing Viking purple and could maybe, just maybe, hear some boos.

In their Week Four matchup at the Metrodome, the Vikings beat Green Bay 30-23 in what was the most watched cable television program ever.

In that game, Favre threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns. His counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, tallied 384 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

The difference in that game was the performances by the offensive lines.

Favre rarely had pressure on him and had plenty of time to stand in the pocket and make smart decisions and good throws. Rodgers didn’t quite enjoy the same protection, as he was sacked eight times and hurried even more.

If the Packers have any chance to tie the season series they will have to protect Rodgers much better this time around.

Since that Week Four battle the Vikings are 2-1 and coming off a heart-breaking 27-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in last weekend’s game of the week .

The Packers are 2-0 since Week Four including last week’s 31-3 stomping of the sad Cleveland Browns.

But all that is in the past now and doesn’t matter anymore.

Forget 6-1 vs. 4-2, forget all the Favre mania.

This is a midseason matchup between two division rivals with a playoff atmosphere.

 

Keys to the game

-Brett Favre’s nerves

-Which O-line protects their QB better

-Can Minnesota’s defense slow down Aaron Rodgers?

-Ryan Grant vs. Adrian Peterson

Predicition: Vikings win 23-20 in OT

 

 

Small Names, Big Games

Here, we will take a look at three non-superstars who will post big numbers in Week Eight.

 

Spencer Havner (TE, Green Bay)

With Jermichael Finley listed as doubtful with a sprained knee, the Packers could call on Spencer Havner to play a significant role in their offense vs. the Vikings this afternoon.

Last week, Havner caught two passes for 59 yards including a 45-yard touchdown in the second quarter. On the season, he has four catches for 89 yards and that one touchdown.

Havner, a converted linebacker, goes against the Vikings this afternoon and could have his fair share of success.

The Vikings defense has struggled against tight ends this season. On four occasions an opposing tight end has either led his team or was tied for the lead in receptions against Minnesota.

Those performances include Vernon Davis’ 96 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches in Week Three and Finley’s six receptions for 128 yards and one touchdown back in week four.

If Minnesota continues to struggle against tight ends, Havner could put up career highs this afternoon.

 

David Garrard (QB, Jacksonville)

Jaguars quarterback David Garrard has been inconsistent this season, but his Week Eight matchup makes him a candidate for a big game.

Garrard goes against the 0-6 Tennessee Titans who rank last against the pass.

In Week Four against the Titans, Garrard threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-17 blowout win.

Expect similar numbers from Garrard today.

 

Zach Miller (TE, Oakland)

In his last three games against San Diego, Raiders tight end Zach Miller has combined for 19 catches for 255 yards and a score.

Miller goes against those Chargers this afternoon and could put up big numbers yet again.

In seven games this season Miller has 23 receptions for 369 yards and one touchdown including a 139 yard performance in week six vs. Philadelphia and 96 yards vs. those Chargers in the season opener.

Miller also leads all NFL tight ends with a 16-yard per catch average.

 

Oth ers To Watch: LeSean McCoy (RB, Philadelphia), Johnny Knox (WR, Chicago), Vince Young (QB, Tennessee)

 

Upset Alert!: Oakland (2-5) over San Diego (3-3)???

Last week San Diego trounced the Kansas City Chiefs 37-7 and the Raiders got shut out by the New York Jets 38-0.

So clearly the Raiders aren’t favored in this game.

However, they will win.

Despite the fact that San Diego has won 12 straight over the Raiders, Oakland has held a fourth-quarter lead in two of the last three matchups between these two teams including a 20-17 lead until 18 seconds remaining in week one.

It’s quite obvious, but the Raiders are going to need to have success on offense and start scoring some points if they plan to beat the Chargers today.

Oakland is averaging a 31st-ranked 8.9 points per game, a simply embarrassing statistic.

They’re also last in yards per game and average passing yards. In rushing yards they rank 26th.

To have that much needed success on offense the Raiders need to begin with rushing the ball. They’ve showed potential on the ground and they have a chance to break out against the Chargers defense which ranks 28th against the run.

JaMarcus Russell will also be a key factor on offense for the Raiders. Russell has struggled this season throwing for 891 yards, two touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has also fumbled five times.

Russell hit the ultimate low last week when he was benched in favor of Bruce Gradkowski after he turned the ball over three times in the first half.

It’s up to the Raiders defense to give their team a chance to win. Because of their lack of a passing attack and their clear offensive strength being the run game, Oakland’s defense needs to keep the game close so their offense doesn’t have to call on Russell too often.

The Raiders’ defense ranks 25th in points allowed per game, 12th against the pass and 30th against the run.

San Diego loves to throw the ball and are fourth in the league in passing so Oakland’s secondary better be at their best today.

Phillip Rivers will likely look to attack Chris Johnson’s side of the field with All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomougha on the other side.

 

Keys for OAK

-Keep the game close

-Run the ball, run the ball, run…

-Stop Phillip Rivers and Vincent Jackson

-Protect the football, no turnovers!

Predicition: Raiders win 27-25

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Halloween Special: Silva Week Eight Picks

I will be breaking down every single football game this week. Like on NFL Playbook they break down every single game thats what i did that and my article is long so be ready for a show.

Matchups: Austin’s No Fluke

Six more teams go on byes in Week 8, three of which (New England, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati) have two or more every-week fantasy starters. With your lineup most likely down at least one stud, let’s try to find some sleepers by breaking down the entire weekend game by game.

Last Weeks Record (8-5) My Overall Record (24-17)

Let’s get cracking…

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The Song Remains The Same For The NFL

As another Sunday approaches for the NFL, one cannot help but recall certain themes that have transpired thus far. The days of parity appear to not be in play this season. With the Rams, Lions, Chiefs, Redskins, Browns, Raiders, Titans, and Buccaneers all struggling, as well as the Dolphins, Seahawks, and Panthers all with just two wins as well, it has become a case of the have and have-nots. The list of have-nots may be the deepest in recent memory for the league. Will things change after the new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon?  That is one tune waiting to be composed.

Was anyone really shocked to see Brett Favre fumble then throw away the game for the Vikings last week? It was about time if you ask me. We are talking about the NFL’s All-Time Turnover King. No player has thrown away the ball more in history than Favre, and he is just three fumbles away from tying Warren Moon for the record of most fumbles ever. With 313 interceptions and 158 fumbles, and counting, the Steelers decided to just let Brett be Brett last week. When you do that, you will win more than lose to him. Just be ready for the inevitable mistake. With a career average of 1.7 turnovers for every game he has played, it is a sound strategy.

Watching Larry Johnson bubble over with frustration, you have to wonder what is the biggest deal is. Is it his homophobic remarks, his rant on his new head coach, or his bemoaning the loss of cash? Johnson, some may say, had his mind destroyed along with his body with all those carries several years ago. Some may recall former Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil calling his character into question once. Johnson, a coaches son, realizes his career is coming to an end and that he will never again command the salary he current makes. He stands to lose $600,000 this week, not exactly chump change. Though his comments were not politically correct, this still is America. Freedom of speech and expression is a right. Taking his money hurts, but watching his career end has to gouge him deeper. If he does latch on with another team next year, he will be a part time back with a pay rate showing such a role.

On with the picks. I am now sporting an unimpressive 60-27 record after going 9-4 last week. Let us see if I can do better.


Denver Broncos @ Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are approaching this game as a must win. They are at full health again with their offensive line, which will be critical in this match up. The Broncos have been, and is the surprise of the league so far with a perfect record. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare for this, so expect a hard hitting game.

Ravens
27   Broncos 21


Houston Texans @ Buffalo Bills

Houston is a team who appears to have found their groove on both sides of the ball, and could go on a winning streak if they are not sidetracked by injuries. Buffalo is a team still trying to find their identity.

Texans 34  Bills 17

Cleveland Browns @ Chicago Bears

Cleveland heads into the Windy City at a tumultuous time. Bears fans are unhappy with their teams inconsistent play on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Chicago expects a win over the lowly Browns, and Cleveland seems to have already packed it in for the season.

Bears 31  Browns 27

Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys

Dallas came away with an impressive victory last week that was a much needed statement game as well. This game is critical in keeping the momentum going. Seattle is missing their best linebacker, and their best running back is dinged up. They will need to pass to win, which isn’t easy against the Cowboys cornerbacks.

Cowboys 38  Seahawks 27

Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets

Miami stopped the Jets winning ways just three weeks ago. After dropping another two games, the Jets won big last week. Miami came off their bye week by blowing a big lead to the Saints last week, Miami needs to run well to win, while the Jets are hurting in the middle of their defense especially. It should be another close game between these two rivals.

Jets 24  Miami 21

 

San Francisco 49ers @ Indianapolis Colts

The 49ers lost last week, but quarterback Alex Smith may have won the confidence of his teammates. The Colts are undefeated and getting healthy. Even if Smith repeats last week performance, it will be hard for the 49ers secondary to stop the Colts passing attack all game.

Colts 34  49ers 23

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles

Though the Eagles won last week, they did not look much sharper than the team that lost to Oakland two weeks ago. The lack of running game has proven to be this teams Achilles heel for years, and it has been in the spotlight even more this year. The Giants realize they need to get back on track after two weeks of consecutive losses. Expect the Giants to pound the ball on the ground, while Philly tries to exploit a suspect Giants secondary.

Giants 23  Eagles 21


Saint Louis Rams @ Detroit Lions

It is too bad these teams cannot face each other more this season. They would win more if they did. Detroit appears ready to go with Culpepper at quarterback this week, and possibly the entire season. Though both teams have veteran quarterbacks, I expect this game to be won on the ground. Steven Jackson will carry the Rams to one of their few victories this week.

Rams 28  Lions 24


Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers

The Raiders have been as inconsistent as their young quarterback JaMarcus Russell. After controlling the Eagles two weeks ago, they were pulverized by the Jets last week. The Chargers are as inconsistent, mostly due to an underachieving defense and banged up offensive line. If the Bolts do not get it going this week, they may never get anywhere this year.

Chargers 48  Raiders 24


Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans

The Titans are still without a win, and owner Bud Adams has ordered coach Jeff Fisher to start Vince Young at quarterback over veteran Kerry Collins. Though Fisher realizes the problem isn’t just at quarterback, expect him to comply. The Jaguars handed the Titans a 20 point loss a month ago. They did it by pounding the ball down the Titan’s throats all game. Expect a similar strategy, but something tells me Fisher has a plan this time.

Titans 23  Jaguars 17

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

Game Of The Week

As I told you the first time these teams met a few weeks ago, this is the game to watch. Not only is it the return of a certain Hyckocrite to Lambeau Field for the first time as a visiting player, but both teams have developed their personalities more since the first meeting. The Packers have had trouble running the ball this year, even with Ryan Grant’s 148 yards versus Cleveland last week. The Vikings are excellent at stopping the run as well.

Expect the Packers to air it out against a depleted Vikings secondary, while the Vikings attack them with a balanced attack. Though the focus seems to be on quarterback in Minnesota, the main reason they win is by running the ball, controlling the clock and field position. This game will be a prime example of that, assuming their quarterback doesn’t cough up the ball and victory as he did last week.

Vikings 34   Packers 31

Carolina Panthers @ Arizona Cardinals

The Panthers have been a disappointment so far. Their passing attack is nearly non existent, and their running game is not at full strength with Jon Stewart battling injuries. The Cardinals are trying to find their running game still, but they realize how good their passing game is. If the Panthers do not get to Kurt Warner, the Cardinals may score often.

Cardinals 38  Panthers 17

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints

The Falcons are just not running the ball as well this season as opposed to last year. This causes their defense to stay on the field longer that they would like, and for their secondary to be exploited. The Saints are also trying to get their running game more consistent so they do not have to rely on Drew Brees arm so much. This is a game Brees can air it out to multiple receivers, while Atlanta will need to control the clock to keep that from happening.

Saints 41  Falcons 30

NFL Power Rankings

1. New Orleans Saints

2. Indianapolis Colts

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Denver Broncos

5. New England Patriots

6. New York Giants

7. Cincinnati Bengals

8. Pittsburgh Steelers

9. Baltimore Ravens

10. Atlanta Falcons

11. Philadelphia Eagles

12. Houston Texans

13. Green Bay Packers

14. Dallas Cowboys

15. San Diego Chargers

16. Chicago Bears

17. Miami Dolphins

18. New York Jets

19. Arizona Cardinals

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

21. San Francisco 49ers

22. Seattle Seahawks

23. Buffalo Bills

24. Oakland Raiders

25. Carolina Panthers

26. Detroit Lions

27. Kansas City Chiefs

28. Washington Redskins

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

30. Cleveland Browns

31. Tennessee Titans

32. Saint Louis Rams

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Vikings-Packers Preview: Are You Ready for Some Gunslinging or Mudslinging?

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

Brett Favre’s long-awaited homecoming in Green Bay is upon us, and it couldn’t have been scripted any better.

The Minnesota Vikings are 6-1 with the Green Bay Packers close behind at 4-2. A Packer win would forge a practical tie atop the division.

The Packers have won two straight by a combined 57-3 score, while Minnesota lost for the first time last week, falling to the Steelers 27-17 in Pittsburgh.

“This may be the most anticipated event in Green Bay since my first tearful retirement press conference,” says Favre. “This game has the potential to be a real barn-burner. Throw in some snow and Matt Hasselbeck, and you’ve got the makings of a true classic.

“I’m not sure how the fans will react to my return. I’m not expecting casserole for my homecoming. With the game taking place a day after Halloween, it’s appropriate to say my reception will be ‘Trick Or Treat.’ That’s just fine. I don’t mind Halloween-themed events, nor do my teammates, who just enjoyed a cruise on Lake Minnetonka on the SS Ghostly Tail.

“I guess I can expect somewhat of a cool reception in Green Bay. I was once considered a god there, but it seems my status as a deity is no longer. It looks as though my inability to ‘decide’ has resulted in a case of ‘deicide.’ That’s a ‘vowel movement’ this 40-year-old would rather not experience.”

Favre’s counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, was sacked eight times in the Packers’ 30-23 loss in Minnesota in week four. Jared Allen recorded 4.5 of those sacks, as well as a forced fumble.

“We can’t have a repeat of the last game,” says Rodgers. “Allen is an avid outdoorsman; there’s nothing he likes more than a ‘sitting duck’ or a ‘deer in the headlights.’ After last time, I think my offensive line owes me better protection. They’re beholden to me. And if they don’t think they can stop the Vikings front four fairly, then they better ‘be holdin.’”

What will there be more of when Favre comes to town: gun slinging or mud slinging? Packer head coach Mike McCarthy has stressed a Viagra theme all week to his offensive linemen, because their job is to keep Rodgers upright. Like the decision to retire, that’s easier said than done.

Vikings win 27-23 as a stunned hush falls upon the stadium—not a Lambeau “peep” to be heard.

 

Check out more game previews at www.sports-central.org

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Minnesota Vikings Vs Pittsburgh Steelers Football Picks

This weekend, the Vikings will square off with the Steelers and it should be one of the best games of the week. The Vikings are actually the underdogs in this one even though they are undefeated on the season.

The Steelers come into the game with a record of 4-2. They’ve had a bit of an up and down season so far with losses to the Bengals and Bears. So what should we expect in this game as far as Free NFL Picks go?

For the Vikings, they bring with them a very talented team to Heinz Field. Brett Favre has played great the last month and he looks to continue on his roll. He has looked like he’s still in his prime at time at times. He has a solid offensive line and an amazing running game to support him.

Anytime a team can run at will on most other teams, the quarterback will be much more productive. He will have time to throw and the safeties can’t sit back and play center field. They Steelers secondary will have to stay honest if they have a hope of containing Adrian Peterson. At that point, Favre can pick apart the secondary with his rocket arm.

As for the Steelers, they have been all over the map. At times, they look very strong. At other times, they look lost. In the last few weeks, Rashard Mendenhall has started running the ball effectively and it’s helped out the offense a lot. Before that happened, they mostly moved the ball by passing.

With a more balanced attack, the Steelers become much more dangerous. As always, they still have a stellar defense to rely on. The matchup between their defense and the Minnesota offense will be something special to watch. Who gets the upper hand in that matchup should win the game.

Check out Vernon Croy’s Expert NFL Betting Picks for Week 7.

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Start and Sit Week Seven: Brett Favre at Pittsburgh? Thanks, but No Thanks

Pittsburgh‘s defense has had its share of trouble with offenses—particularly passing offenses—in the second half of games this year. Enter Brett Favre and the Vikings‘ suddenly high-flying passing attack.

And I want absolutely nothing to do with Favre this weekend.

Look, I love the guy. Few football fans were as happy as I when he decided to come back from retirement—again—and play this season. And he is playing so well for the Vikings this season.

But Favre’s opponent is the defending Super Bowl champions. With Troy Polamalu in the fold. At home. In football weather. Among the Terrible Towels.

It sounds like a stage set for Favre and one of his spectacular performances. It also sounds like vintage Steelers football. This could be an old-fashioned, knock-down-drag-out type of football game with plenty of running, defense and punting.

It should be fun to watch, unless you start Favre this Sunday.

Injury updates and start/sit advice for week seven after the jump.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals : This has all the makings of a game-day decision. NFL&hl=156170&id=2078″ target=”_blank”>Boldin worked out with a trainer on Thursday and did some jogging. The Cardinals want to see if he can practice in at least a limited fashion later today. Check on his again this evening and throughout the weekend, but prepare other options (including one of his teammates listed in the start advice below).


Adrian Peterson
, RB, Vikings
: He keeps saying all the right things but was officially limited in practice on Thursday. However, I do expect No. 28 to be on the field for a huge road game against Pittsburgh. He is a must-start despite any match-up or nagging injury, as long as he plays.


Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets
: Head coach Rex Ryan seems optimistic that Cotchery can play this weekend but his inability to participate fully in practice is a dubious sign. If he can do more at practice today I might like his chances a little better but still think he will be a game-time decision on Sunday.


Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
: Gore has returned to practice in a full capacity and is set to resume his role as the 49ers’ work horse running back this weekend at Houston. Not a bad match-up at all for his first action since the week three injury. In fact, it is so good I may have to advise owners to start him without hesitation this weekend…


Start ’em

Quarterbacks

Donovan McNabb @ Redskins: The Eagles threw the ball a ton last week with poor results. The running game will be more involved against an NFC East foe, but that should help open things up down the field for McNabb.

Eli Manning vs. Cardinals : Bounce-back week for most of the Giants, especially Manning. Do not let last week’s shut down of Seattle‘s passing game fool you. The Cardinals are susceptible through the air. Big game in store for Manning and Co.


Running Backs

Frank Gore @ Texans : Gore is expected to return for the first time since injuring his ankle in week three against the Vikings. He could not have personally scheduled a better match-up. The forecast calls for fireworks.

Ryan Grant @ Browns : The Browns defense keeps losing tacklers which does not bode well against teams with offenses. Especially potent offenses. Grant should get a lot of work in this one.


Wide Receivers

Hines Ward v. Vikings : Minnesota’s secondary is banged up. The veteran Ward is having a fine season for fantasy owners and should find some holes over the middle. In my opinion, he still clearly is the team’s No. 1 wide receiver.

Steve Breaston @ Giants : If Boldin cannot go—likely—Breaston steps into the starting lineup. Remember this story? Yeah, it has been written before. Here is a refresher of the plot in case you forgot: Boldin gets hurt, misses game(s), Breaston owns.


Tight End

Brent Celek @ Redskins : The Eagles should bounce back in a big way this weekend against a maligned division opponent. Of course they also were supposed to take care of business last weekend against Oakland


Sit ’em

Quarterbacks

Brett Favre @ Steelers : As outlined above, I am not a fan of Favre on the road this weekend. Huge game, has defensive battle written all over it despite the potency of both offenses. I like the ground games, Hines Ward and kickers in this one.

Kurt Warner @ Giants:
Something tells me the Giants defense is going to bounce back at home after getting embarrassed in New Orleans last weekend. This should be a long road trip for Warner and the Cardinals.


Running Backs

Brandon Jacobs vs. Cardinals : It took six weeks but I have officially grown weary of the man-child. The way to attack the Cardinals defense is through the air, which means lots of Eli Manning and handcuff Ahmad Bradshaw . Now that I called him out, watch Jacobs blow this up in my face.

Clinton Portis vs. Eagles : Few on the Redskins’ offense are startable every week in fantasy. In fact, I think Chris Cooley may now be the team’s only every-week starter. Portis draws the ire of an angry team coming off a laughable loss to the Raiders.


Wide Receivers

Roy Williams vs. Falcons : Welcome to the Miles Austin show. After his explosive performance two weeks ago, all eyes—including Tony Romo‘s—will be on the newly-anointed starting wide receiver .

Devin Hester @ Bengals
: You have to give it to the Bengals’ defense—Other than Andre Johnson, No. 1 wide receivers have done little on this unit to date. Hester is not a true No. 1 yet but will draw the attention of a secondary looking to get back on track.


Tight End

Zach Miller vs. Jets : Miller goes as JaMarcus Russell goes. He is a good bye week fill in for an idle fantasy starter, but little else. Use only if necessary and know that a bad day from Russell, which has proven to be the norm of late, could spell doom for Miller.

For more great fantasy roster advice this week, including a plethora of Start & Sit links and consensus rankings, head over to the Fantasy Football Librarian . Don’t forget to grab your library card.

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Baltimore Ravens vs. Minnesota Vikings: Who Looks Better in Purple?

The Vikings are heading into their biggest three game stretch all season that includes the Ravens at home, the Steelers at Pittsburgh, and the Packers in Green Bay.

If there are still doubters as to whether this Vikings team is any good, a strong showing these three games is critical.

After back-to-back heartbreaking losses, the Ravens are hungry. That’s bad news for the Vikings who have coasted to a 5-0 record. The Ravens need the win more than the Vikings do and that could prove to be costly for the purple and gold.

Ray Lewis brings in the fourth ranked rushing defense in the NFL. They’re only giving up a measly 3.0 yards per carry. Peterson hasn’t been over the 100-yard mark since Week One, but don’t let that scare you. It’s not from a lack of production as much as a lack of touches for the third-year back.

The Ravens pass defense hasn’t been very good this season compared to others. They are currently ranked 26th in the NFL. At times, they’ve looked downright awful. But if you’re the Vikings, plan on the Ravens bringing in their A-game into the Metrodome. They won’t simply lay on that beautiful turf for you.

Ed Reed will be watching Favre closely. You can almost be sure he will get his pick. He’s the best free safety in the NFL and by the time he’s done, could be one of the best ever. Favre needs to watch for this guy and NEVER throw in his direction.

The Ravens’ offense has changed keys this season handing them over to Joe “Cool” Flacco. Joe has been one of the bigger surprises this season, throwing for over 1,200 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions.

With the Vikings’ inability to shut down the passing game, Flacco may run wild especially for the Vikings’ well-documented poor tight end coverage.

The running game has been led by Ray Rice who himself has been a huge surprise taking over the starting job in Baltimore. Both running backs are averaging over 5.0 yards per carry. They won’t back down on their rushing attack. After all, you don’t want to get into passing situations with Jared Allen breathing down your neck.

The Vikings defense has been decent this season. A lot of yardage has been given up in garbage time in the fourth quarter of a couple games.

The defensive line is headed by Pro Bowlers all over. With massive tackle Jared Gaither doubtful for Sunday’s game, Jared Allen could have a field day.

The pass defense is still trying to man up to the 10th ranked rush defense of the Vikings. The Vikings have been notoriously bad in he passing game, but since the arrival of Jared Allen, quarterbacks don’t have nearly as much time to get the ball off.

The offense has been steady the last couple of weeks. Brett Favre has shown that he has the arm needed to win games, but the bread and butter of the offense still revolves around Adrian Peterson. Expect the Vikings to keep their guard up and be looking for Ray Lewis at all times.

The Ravens gave up their first 100-yard rushed in nearly three years to Cedric Benson last week. Peterson always has the ability to break one and could hand the Ravens back-to-back 100-yard rushers on defense.

One thing to watch for this Sunday will be the return of the best center in Vikings history, Matt Birk, who signed with the Ravens in the offseason. In case you already didn’t know, No. 77 in the picture above is the big man himself. That undoubted gives the Ravens an advantage as far as philosophy goes.

Was Matt Birk’s career really finished? This writer doesn’t think so, but current Vikings center John Sullivan has shown improvement in the last two weeks.

When you break everything down, the Vikings are a better looking team. The Ravens have an advantage at the linebacker and receiver positions, but the Vikings have the advantage in the other areas.

So to answer my question in the headline, I think the Vikings look better in purple. They won’t back down no matter how intimidating Ray Lewis and company may be.

Prediction: Vikings 31, Ravens 20

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A Real Ravenous Test Is Coming

There are a couple of ways to talk about the Minnesota Vikings 38-10 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

One could discuss the maddening defense, which gave up 400 total yards to an offense that was mired in a season-long slump, but then stopped the Rams inside the 10-yard line thrice. Or the Vikings continued dominance in the third quarter.

But why even bother with a third discussion option about a blase win over a team going nowhere this season, when such an important, Ravenous test looms next weekend?

The Baltimore Ravens are coming into the Metrodome this weekend with a two-game losing streak, and are considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders by most NFL pundits. They might be undefeated if Mark Clayton’s hands didn’t vanish at the worst time against New England or if a couple calls went their way against Cincinnati. 

The Ravens will play angry, angrier than usual, and with the desperation of a team needing a win. This isn’t the typical Baltimore team either, as their offense has finally caught up with—and possibly surpassed—their defense.

Second-year quarterback Joe Flacco is the head of the NFL’s fourth highest total offense. He has a 90.2 quarterback rating, a 64.2 completion percentage, and is throwing for 258 yards per game. He has become one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, as opposed to the caretaker he was last year.

Baltimore has five receivers with 17 receptions or more and 200 yards or more, including Rice. Flacco has spread the ball around between a talented and veteran receiving corps featuring Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Kelley Washington, and Mark Clayton.

Flacco and the passing game’s accelerated development has in no small part been helped by the Raven’s great running attack. Currently ranked sixth in the NFL, Baltimore is averaging 133 rushing yards per game.

Ray Rice, the second-year running back from Rutgers, is progressing into one of the best running backs in football. Despite splitting carries with Willis McGahee, Rice has 364 rushing yards on 5.8 yards per carry, and has contributed 208 receiving yards in the passing game. His receiving touchdown against Cincinnati in week five was a mix of Marshall Faulk and Walter Payton and hyperbole-inspiration.

The offense has been surprisingly excellent, while the defense has been surprisingly mediocre. Baltimore’s run defense is still it’s normal top-five self, but the pass defense is languishing (25th in the NFL) near the Detroits and St.Louises of the NFL. But with their track record, and Ed Reed, no one can expect this anomaly to last, and the Baltimore defense should still be feared. And respected. And feared.

Especially feared.

The Vikings, meanwhile, have a problem nobody saw coming: Adrian Peterson is going to have to help Brett Favre more than he has.

Peterson has averaged 70 yards on 3.5 yards per carry over the last three games. Arguably, he hasn’t needed to do more than that, but it is hard to believe the Vikings can beat the Ravens without Peterson increasing his contribution.

Something to consider: The Ravens had not allowed a 100-yard rusher for 44 straight games, until Cedric Benson hung 120 yards on them last week. It remains to be seen if that’s a sign of things to come, or something that will motivate Ray Lewis into a hurricane-like tizzy.

A reason for Peterson’s recent lack of yards is that opposing defenses have stacked up against the run, and dared Favre to beat them. So far, Favre has done just that. In the past two games, Favre is averaging 251 yards, with a 76.3 completion percentage, and four touchdowns.

If he can continue that kind-of performance against the Ravens, MVP chatter will soon begin for the player who is discernibly the difference for a team that was 2-3 after week five last year, and 5-0 after week five this year. But that doesn’t mean Favre is or should be the MVP—he’s but one great cog in a great team.

The Vikings have shown through the first five games that they are flush with disciplined playmakers all over the field who can take over a game at any point. Favre, Peterson, Percy Harvin, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, etc.. The Vikings are not undefeated because of any one aspect or any one player. This is an all-around team that could beat anybody in the league in any number of ways.

That is just the paper though, what has happened, what is known. And we watch for the unknown, what will happen.

As for what will happen in the Baltimore/Minnesota game, there should be big hits, big turnovers, and big performances. These are two evenly matched, evenly talented, determined teams.

But Miss Cleo won’t even predict a winner, except to say they’ll be wearing purple.

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Baby Steps Turn Into Leaps And Bounds for Vikings: Is A 5-0 Start Next?

Since Frazier arrived and overhauled the defense in ’06, it’s been nothing short of sheer success with two and half years of being rated number one against the run.

Since the arrival and cultivation of Adrian Peterson, the Vikings running game has turned from pretty good, to the top rushing attack in the NFC.

Since Brett Favre arrived, the Vikings total offense went from a one sided attack to team nobody wants to face.

A couple of years ago, most Vikings fans would’ve never imagined that their team would be one of the best in the NFC let alone the NFL, but here we are in 2009 and that reality is not only showing itself to be truth, but glaring back at the rest of the league as if to say” Oh yeah, we’re the real deal!”

On Sunday, the Vikings put a couple of monumental records on the line as they face a Rams team that is viewed as the worst or the worst, but this is precisely the type of situation that defines a team.

The Rams are 0-4 and the Vikings are 4-0 which lends itself to the “oh so common” NFL upset of the week.

Too often do we hear that familiar story—after the game, of course, right?—of a team that got too complacent and overly confident in themselves; so much that it blinded them from the actual task at hand—winning.

But the impending upset is worth more than most realize in that, a Vikings’ victory after the emotional roller coaster game last week vs. the Pack, and the physically demanding brawl with the 49ers two weeks ago, will solidify their status as an elite team in the NFL and prove to the naysayers that yes, this team has finally maturated into a series contender.

But it is that proverbial hump that most teams never prevail over, relegating them to years of mediocrity and speculation.

A victory over the Rams would do several things:

1. Stopping Steven Jackson would be nice, and it would prove the run D is legit; keeping Jackson under 100 rushing yards would extend an impressive 26-game streak of not allowing any one rusher over 100 yards to 27—an unprecedented achievement.

2. Beating the Rams would lift the Vikings to 5-0—the first 5-0 start since 2003—and again would prove to themselves, more importantly, that they are now a complete package with a solid D and an explosive O.

3. The victory would surely begin the process of separation from the rest of the competition, leaving only the Saints as a true test of their metal.

But all of this rests on whether or not the Vikings can actually achieve such great feats; this guys thinks it’s more of a possibility than ever before.

On Sunday, for Vikings’ fans, there is going to be a great deal of unrest combined with anticipation that will be nothing like they have ever experienced before.

When the day is through, there will be more Vikings’ fans sleeping with smiles on their faces than all the children in the world on Christmas Eve.

For a game preview and total Vikings coverage, visit my column Vikings Vindication.

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