Posted on: November 2, 2009 5:39 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2009 10:07 pm

Flying High Into the Bye

The Viking Ship - Smooth Sailing

By: Christopher Torola

The Viking's season is officially half way done. After a solid victory over the Packers in Green Bay this weekend the Vikes are now 7-1 and heading into an easy part of their schedule in which they will play home games against the Lions, the Seahawks, and the Bears. If they win those games, which they should, they will have the NFC North all but locked up, and have a clear view at a first round bye come play-off time.

With the bye-week coming up, it seems like a good time for a mid season report card.

Quarterback: Brett Favre - Has exceeded all expectations this year. He has thrown for a league leading 16 touchdowns, while only throwing 3 interceptions, two of which bounced of Vikings receivers hands. There are only 4 QB's with higher quarterback ratings than Favre - Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. Grade: A+

Running Backs: Adrian Peterson - Is second in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and that is with the much improved Vikings passing game taking away a lot of red zone touches. The numbers are good, but they don't do justice to watching All Day just run through defenders. The only possible complaint with Adrian is that he has been held in check against a few opponents. Look for an even stronger second half from Peterson. Grade: A

Wide Receivers: Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin - Bernard Berrian has been slowed down all year with multiple injuries, and has never really been in sync with Favre. Look for Berrian to play better as he gets healthy and spends more time working with his QB. Sidney Rice has stepped up in a HUGE way, coming in at number 6 overall in receiving yards to date. Rice seems to have his QB's trust and is emerging as a young start in the NFL. Percy Harvin has stepped into the role of an NFL receiver far better then could have been expected. 21 of his 28 receptions have been for first downs, and 3 have resulted in touchdowns. For a smallish receiver, Harvin has proved hard to get down. As a kick returner he is 2nd in the NFL for average yards with 30.7, and has scored twice. Grade: B+

Tight Ends: Visanthe Shiancoe - Shiancoe has score 6 touch downs this year, that is second best in the NFL behind only Vernon Davis. Shiancoe has been an extremely reliable pass catcher the last year and a half and does not look to be slowing down. Grade: B+

Overall Offensive: This years Vikings team is currently 1st overall in scoring, but have played 2 more games then the Saints. The Vikings are an amazing offensive threat this year, despite starting slow in several games at the beginning of the season. Grade: A

The Defensive Line: Ray Edwards, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, and Jared Allen - Minnesota's D-line has done everything the team has asked of them. They are holding teams to under 100 rushing yards per game, and haven't allowed a 100 yard rusher since 2007 (the longest current streak in the NFL). So they are stopping the run. They also have a league leading 31 sacks, including 10.5 by NFL sack leader Jared Allen. The next closest team is at 23, so they are getting to the QB as well. Grade: A

Line Backers: Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, and Ben Leber - EJ and Greenway are the teams top tacklers. Leber has helped out in rushing the QB with 2.5 sacks on the year. The Vikings linebackers play well, but in the zone that they play they end up allowing too many catches, instead of breaking them up. Greenway is the standout so far this year, who has 2 interceptions, 2 fumbles recovered, and should develop into a pro bowl player. Grade: B

Secondary: Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Madieu Williams, and Tyrell Johnson - This is the weakness of the Minnesota Vikings, especially later in the game. Good teams have been able to pass on the Vikings. So far they have been able to get stops when they need them, or the offense has bailed them out. The problem with the Vikings secondary is not wholly their fault. When the team builds a league, the coaching staff puts the secondary into a "Soft Zone" to "prevent" the big play, instead allowing teams to march right down the field with intermediate passes. If you'll notice that all of the Vikings starting secondary is near the top of the team when it comes to tackles. To me this means that they are being forced to play off the receivers to stop the long touch downs instead of challenging them to stop the reception. Grade: C.

Overall Defense: It is hard to rank them too low, as they have done enough to win on a consistent basis, and a lot of the short comings are a result of the style of defense the team is asked to play. Grade: B-

Coaching Staff: I think that Brad Childress has done an amazing job as a personal guy since taking over as head coach. His one mistake was Tavaris Jackson, but since then he has brought Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Percy Harvin, Madieu Williams, and Brett Favre to the team. He has also passed on guys like Jay Cutler and Matt Castle. His biggest mistake lately appears to be letting Darren Sharper go, although he wasn't able to prosper in the Vikings style of defense under Leslie Frazor. All that being said, I do not like the Vikings red zone play calling at all. Too often the will get into the red zone and give Adrian Peterson a break for a couple plays. This is when the team seems to end up settling for far too many field goals. The Vikings are tied for 4th in the NFL for 3-pointers. It is hard to be too hard on Chilly when the team is winning, but until they learn to put together a game plan that allows then to close out a game, the best grade I am willing to give is... B-.


Here is to another amazing half of football and a deep run into the play offs... S'kol Vikings, Let's S'Kol!


Posted on: October 23, 2009 11:44 pm

Can the Vikings Steel a Win?

The Viking Ship - Week 7: Steeling a Win

By: Christopher Torola

This weekend the Vikings will travel to Pittsburgh's Hines Field to take on the Steelers, were coach Mike Tomlin will face his old boss Brad Childress. This should be a high scoring affair. Both teams have been the victims of fourth quarter collapses, although the Vikings have been able to hold off all their challengers all year. The biggest challenge this week will be for the Vikings to get their ground game going., which they have been able to do against AFC teams this year. This week will be harder then the Browns and the Ravens though... the Steelers are tied with the Vikings for the best run defense, allowing only 3.3 yards per carry on the season.

Some Things to watch this week.

- Will Adrian Peterson stay on track against an elite run defense, which should include Troy "Hair" Polamalu returning from a knee injury?

- Will Heath Miller continue the trend of opposing tight ends scoring big yards and touchdowns against the Vikings secondary, or will he need to stay in and help block Jared Allen and the Viking's sack-happy defensive line?

- Will Brett Favre continue to keep his cool, and the ball, or will he return to forcing balls into tight spots against a tough Steelers defense?

- Will Big Ben Roethlesberger be able to "keep the play alive" long enough to complete his signature pass' or will he fall victim to the Vikings continued success in the turn-over battle?

- Will Antonie Winfield be able to take the field, or could the Steelers be able to take advantage of a match up against a back up cornerback.


In a game that will likely come down to the wire, with plenty of scores... we should see another Viking win as they continue to fight for the top spot in the NFC.


Posted on: October 14, 2009 5:09 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2009 9:13 pm

Can The Ravens Challenge The Undefeated Vikings?

The Viking Ship - Week 6: Bird Hunting

By: Christopher Torola


A lot of the chatter about the Vikings has been that they are only 5-0 because they have played an easy schedule. True, they have played weak teams, beating the teams they were suppose to beat. The Vikings outscored the Rams, Lions, and Browns by at least 2 touchdowns each. They also beat the Packers quite handily. The game was not as close as the final score indicated, as the Cheese closed the gap by scoring garbage points against an ill-advised Vikings "prevent" defense. The Purple were also able to make a last second come-back against a 49ers team that until last week looked as though they could be a contender. Weak schedule or not, the Vikings have yet to fail to meet a challenge.

Some things you may not realize about the MIGHTY Vikings is just how good they have been playing. They are #1 in scoring in the NFL, even averaging higher than the Giants, who seem to be placed atop most of the power rankings. The Vikes are plus 8 in take-aways against give-aways, also the best in the NFL. The team's defense has totaled more sacks then any other team, and are tied for 6th in interceptions. 

The Ravens have lost the last two games they have played, and have yet to beat a team with a winning record. The 3 teams they have defeated are a combined 3-11. The Raven's offense, behind 2nd year quarterback Joe Flacco, is 4th overall in scoring. The defense is 10th in yards per game allowed, but 16th in scores allowed. This would leave me to believe that they have a hard time holding teams to field goals once they reach the red zone.

This weekend's game will feature two of the better offenses in all of the game, however, both teams rely heavily on establishing the running game... and both teams are known to have run stopping defenses. Last week, Bengals' running back Cedric Benson ran for over 100 yards against the Ravens. He is the first to do so since the 2006 season. The Vikings have not allowed a 100 yard rusher since the 2007 season.

One of the biggest differences in this week's game will likely be the play of the quarterbacks. Veteran quarterback Brett Favre has always been known as a gunslinger, willing to take risks with the football to make plays happen. So far this year he has only thrown 2 picks, and only one of those was his fault. He has been much more patient and willing to take a sack instead of trying to force a ball into a tight situation. It probably doesn't hurt being able to hand the ball to Adrian Peterson. Joe Flacco on the other hand has tossed 2 interceptions in the last week alone. He has totaled 5 on the year, and as previously stated, the Vikings have been taking advantage of the turn over battle this year.

I expect a hard hitting game which could lead to high emotions, especially after the Ravens last 2 losses. This could just as easily be a grind it out game as a shoot out. If the Vikings come into this game prepared to battle, I expect them to win it, but they probably can't afford the slow start they've had in the first few games of the season.


Posted on: May 28, 2009 11:11 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2009 8:07 pm

Where should Go-Go go?

Are the Twins slowing the maturation of Carlos Gomez by not sending him to AAA?

At only 22 years old Carlos Gomez has already shown he is an elite major league center fielder, where so far this year he has a perfect fielding percentage. In his major league career he has more outfield assists then errors. He has also shown the ability to read the ball well off the bat and use his speed to track down hard to get to balls, making several highlight reel catches. He also has a cannon for an arm.

He is showing signs of having excellent base running skills, or at least the raw speed to bunt for base hits, take the extra base, and steal his way into scoring position. In a game against the Red Sox on Wednesday, he attempted to take home in the 7th inning and seeing that Boston catcher George Kottaras was blocking the plate ready to make the tag, Gomez lowered his shoulder and tried to run right through Kottaras. I am not sure how he held onto the ball, but it was great to see the young Twin playing such hard-nosed baseball. It reminded me a lot of former Twins center fielder Torii Hunter. Carlos Gomez has also been compared to A's great Ricky Henderson.

The problem however, is that he has not been able to hit for average at the major league level. Although he has already hit for the cycle in his young career, a sure sign of his raw talent, he has a career batting average of only .250 and a career on base percentage of under .300. So far this year he is hitting just .225, and that leads to the bigger problem...

With the emergence of Denard Span, hitting .317 on the year, Jason Kubel, hitting .340 on the year, and Michael Cuddyer hitting .330 with 7 home runs in May; there just hasn't been much playing time for Gomez. And what he needs is just that, more playing time. He has only started 25 games this year, several of which where as a result of Delmon Young being on bereavement leave for 9 days. Currently Gomez is being used mostly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement.

I believe that the future of the Twins outfield consists of Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, and Delmon Young. The Twins, in my opinion, would be better served sending Gomez down to thier AAA affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings. That way he would get a chance to get a full slate of in game at bats, and continue to work on his excellent potential on the bases. He would then be able work on things like taking pitches and 2 strike hitting with out it costing the big club a win.

As a minor leaguer in the New York Mets system Gomez saw an improvement in batting average every year, at each level. In 2005 playing A ball he has a batting average of .275 and an on base percentage of .331. In 2006 playing AA ball those numbers jumped to a .281 AVG and a .350 OBP. When he played AAA for 36 games in 2007 he got his average up to .286 and his on base percentage to .363. It appears that with work and regular at bats Gomez has shown the ability to make improvements on hitting.

Hopefully the Twins will give their young outfielders all they will need to reach their full potential, because if these emerging stars continue to progress, the Minnesota outfield could be the envy of the bigs for years to come.

Posted on: May 8, 2009 2:06 pm
Edited on: May 19, 2009 4:04 pm

So the face of the franchise wears a mask...

I know a lot of baseball fans think Joe Mauer is a good baseball player, but i wonder if his lack of power in his young career has worked as a disguise for his greatness.  His career batting average is over .315. The best catchers in the history of the game are widely considered to be Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra,  and Pudge Rodriguez who all had career batting averages below Mauer's. At 26 years of age his best days should still be yet to come.

He has had some trouble staying healthy so far; however myself, like the Twins, seem to think them a series of fluke injuries and seem content to keep him behind the dish for the foreseeable future.

So far this year Mauer has come to the plate 22 times and has reached base more then half of those times. He may be the most patient hitter in the game, never afraid to take pitches and bat with multiple strikes on him.

I know he has a long way to go to legitimately be included with the catchers i named before, but here is looking forward to a long career in which it is not too far fetched to believe that Joe Mauer has a chance to be the best catcher is the history of the game. So pay attention when your watching that pure swing, you may one day be telling your grandchildren about this guy.

Category: MLB
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