Archive for the ‘Minnesota Vikings’ Category

My pic of Adrian Peterson taking part in a pre-game prayer (that was answered)

My pic of Adrian Peterson taking part in a pre-game prayer (that was answered)

Having found my seat in the Club Wembley level (thanks again to my gorgeous wife for the ticket) I realised just how old I actually am (39), after I did the maths in my head and discovered it was 25 years ago that I first came to Wembley Stadium to watch some NFL football.

The game back in 1988 was a pre-season thriller between the Miami Dolphins and the San Francisco 49ers, won by the Fins courtesy of a perfectly executed bootleg from backup quarterback David Archer. That was my first live NFL action – on my 14th birthday.

A quarter of a century later and I am at the first of two regular season NFL games at Wembley, featuring one team who has won six Super Bowls and another who has the previous season’s most valuable player. OK the teams did arrive in London this September without a win between them,  but the opportunity to see Adrian Peterson in the flesh was worth the ticket price alone.

AP and his fellow Vikings backfield get together to compare fantasy picks.

AP and his fellow Vikings backfield get together to compare fantasy picks.

Having spent a good 15 minutes papping AP (but maybe not as closely as the snapper in the picture I took above) I tried to find Big Ben Roethlisberger. This was not a hard task. Big Ben is a beast of a human being, who would be my choice to be a pantomime giant in Jack and the Beanstalk once he passes his final pigskin.

I suspected the UK fans would be witnessing a declining Steelers team before the season began, but not a 0-3 team. I still found it novel to find Big Ben and Troy Polamalu warming up. If you look hard enough you can find them both near each other in the bottom picture of this post. Bit of a Where’s Wally situation.

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#69 Jared Allen scratches his sweaty mullet - what a romantic image eh!

#69 Jared Allen scratches his sweaty mullet – what a romantic image eh!

Bit far away but here are the Steelers warming up

Bit far away but here are the Steelers warming up

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IMG_1124[1]I am an optimist, someone who will always see the glass half-full.

It’s the reason every few months I will do a random search on Ebay for rare NFL merchandise, especially items from the 70s or 80s.

It’s the reason I love browsing in second-hand bookshops, the reason I like going to bric-a-brac stalls at Summer Fetes and the reason I always look for an NFL treasure.

As recently as yesterday I was at work, in a new office in Birmingham, England, when I found out there was a book exchange in the ground floor foyer opposite the staff canteen.

Not sure if other companies do it, but this is where people bring second hand books for you to read, keep or give back, and then donate to.

I made a comment to my manager that it would be amazing to find any sort of sports book, hoping for something like a former Premier League football player or manager biography.

As I cast my eye over an eclectic range of second-hand books, from a text book about AIDS to the usual heavily thumbed Danielle Steele novels, I almost fell over when sitting on the bottom shelf was the book I have pictured in this post.

Yep I had willed a book about the greatest sport on the earth to be there on the metal shelf.

I snatched it up and found it to be the American Football Annual 2 by Ken Thomas. I immediately realised that the Minnesota Vikings player on the cover, number 81, was someone I actually didn’t recognise, so the book must have been published in the early 80s.

I was right, this annual was published in 1984, and to put me out of my misery I checked on page  and found out the Vikings  cover star was Joe Senser, a 5th year tight-end from West Chester State.

Having looked up Mr Senser he went to the Pro-Bowl in 1981, but it all went downhill after that. It looks like he suffered a similar fate to those NFL players who were cover stars on the Madden game.

Firstly he had only 15 more catches and zero touchdowns in his NFL career after featuring on the cover, with a career that ended at the conclusion of the 1984 season. Coming into the recent past Senser’s wife is currently in jail  having been found guilty of killing someone in a hit and run in 2011.

Senser also owns a chain of self-named restaurants he started in 1988. For those of you who want to have a heart-attack you could try his special – The Beast – a 2.5lb burger on a 10 inch bun, served with 1.5lb of chips (yes that is what we call fries in England!).

Senser is one of only eight players from his college, the West Chester University Golden Rams, to have played in the NFL, the most recent, former two-time Pro-Bowl linebacker Lee Woodall, a Superbowl winner with the 1994 San Francisco 49ers.

Back to my recently acquired annual I browsed the full 1984 Vikings roster and perhaps the most remarkable name I came across was that of a 14 year veteran quarterback, number 4, Archie Manning. Yes the same Archie Manning who is now the father of two Superbowl winning sons.

Another standout name was another tight-end named Mike Mularkey. Yep the same Mike Mularkey that was head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars before he was sacked at the end of the 2012 NFL season.

So somehow I have managed to link an NFL book published in the UK 1984 with the fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars are playing at Wembley Stadium, England in October.

On top of my fortune of finding the book I also had a much anticipated email from the NFLUK offices confirming that I have two tickets to meet five NFL stars who are visiting Birmingham (England) next week.

One of them had to be a Minnesota Vikings player, and I will have the pleasure of meeting the mullet stubble beast with the 69 on his chest – none other than defensive end Jared Allen.

Can’t wait….and it’s only July.

For the first time ever, the NFL will be playing two games in London during the 2013 season. On September 29th, the Pittsburgh Steelers will face off against the Minnesota Vikings, while on October 27th, the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite both teams having plenty of games beforehand, here is a preview of how those two games should play out.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Minnesota Vikings
As far as being competitive, this should be the better of the two games at Wembley Stadium this season. The Vikings are coming off a playoff season, and they feature the reigning MVP and fantasy football superstar Adrian Peterson on their team as well. Although the Steelers struggled in 2012, they have won a pair of Super Bowl titles in recent memory and they look to get back in contention again this season. This will be the first time either team has made the trip to Europe, so this should be the more anticipated game. The Steelers have gained quite a following worldwide thanks to their multiple Super Bowl rings, and Peterson is one of the biggest stars in the NFL today. When it comes to the game, the Vikings actually have the chance to be even better in 2013. Last season, Peterson had to carry the offense, but with a more mature Christian Ponder and the addition of Greg Jennings, Minnesota should have a balanced offense. Their defense is also stellar, but so is Pittsburgh’s. That means that London fans will probably see a low-scoring affair. Take the Vikings to come away with the victory though.

Prediction: Minnesota Vikings 17-14

San Francisco 49ers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Even though this will be the 3rd trip for the 49ers over to London, many of the players will be making their first trip ever. However, the 49ers have plenty of other advantages when it comes to playing the Jaguars. Last season, the two teams basically had opposite years. The San Francisco 49ers made it to the Super Bowl, while the Jaguars struggled to win the few games they did. Although Jacksonville was able to obtain some young talent heading into 2013, this should be a game the 49ers win. Fans of defense will love the 49ers, and they might have the best defense in the NFL this season. Of course, they also have plenty of offensive firepower, headlined by Colin Kaepernick at quarterback and Frank Gore getting most of the carries on the ground. If Jacksonville is going to challenge, they will need some of their young talent to step up and gain momentum going into this game. Luke Joeckel and Jonathan Cyprien, their top two picks, should step in right away and provide value, but neither one of them play glamorous positions. The Jaguars lack star power, which could hurt the attendance numbers somewhat, but the appeal of the 49ers will make up for it.

Prediction: San Francisco 27-10

Greg is heading to Wembley in six months

Greg is heading to Wembley in six months

Last season the Minnesota Vikings relied so heavily on Adrian Peterson their second year quarterback Christian Ponder looked like he had forgotten the art of the forward pass.

So when the Seattle Seahawks signed the Vikes best receiving weapon at the start of Free Agency, WR Mr Percy Harvin, the situation got even uglier.

I was with a sense if relief that Minnesota did find a rapid replacement in the shape of Super Bowl winning wideout Greg Jennings.

The Vikings also signed former Patriots and Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. Hardly the headline news, but putting him and Ponder in a head to head battle will mean whoever gets the starting gig will be playing extra hard as they will want to keep that starting role.

Jennings will be familiar with the purple uniform having faced off against the Vikings twice a year for the past seven seasons during divisional game-play.

Greg, a former Western Michigan Bronco, is one of only ten football players from that college to be drafted into the NFL in the past 20 years. Other Broncos to gain some degree of fame in the NFL include tight-end Tony Scheffler (also drafted in 2006) and Jason Babin the defensive end (selected in the first round in 2004).

Jennings had 17 100+ games in college, second all time on his college team to NFL 2012 draft pick Jordan White (21 games).

Jennings becomes the biggest named wideout in Minnesota since Randy Moss. He will be hoping to get back on track with a 1000+ yard season, following an injury filled 2012 in Green Bay, where he has his worst output both by catches and yardage.

The two time Pr0-Bowler has already registered three 1100+seasons and two 900+ seasons, along with three 100+ yard playoff games and a two-touchdown performance in helping the Packers to win Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It will be the Steelers that Jennings will face again when the Vikings travel to London in September as part of the NFL’s first ever double dose of regular season football outside of America.

Of the two London games (Steelers @ Vikings and San Francisco 49ers @ Jacksonville Jaguars) on paper the Vikings game looks to be the most competitive, and was quicker to sell out.

Fans like myself (thanks to a Christmas gift from my beautiful wife) will be chomping at the bit to see the likes of Peterson and now Greg Jennings as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, the only team to win six Super bowls.

Both the Vikings and the Steelers will be hoping for string drafts, with some rookies that can make an immediate impact. Both teams need to improve their secondary, especially at cornerback. The Steelers lost the under-rated Keenan Lewis and the Vikings let veteran Antoine Winfield go.

With Greg Jennings looking to become not only a leader on the field, but also in the locker room, it will be fascinating to see what other pieces of the jigsaw the Vikings pick up en-route to the start of the 2013 season.

What other needs do YOU think are the most pressing for the Vikings?

luckk Wild Card weekend is akin to being let loose in a Belgian chocolate factory. You get to taste the quality (8 of the NFL’s top 12 teams)and get to gorge (on four NFL games over two-days) but the bonus ball is that you don’t count the calories.

That’s not strictly true as I can pretty much guarantee that any NFL fan watching all 240 minutes of live playoff football will likely dine out on pizza and crisps and a few litres of suds.

All four games this weekend have great story lines  from what maybe Ray Lewis’s final NFL contest against a coach who has fought Leukemia to two of the most efficient rookie quarterbacks in NFL history facing each other in a venue that has not hosted a playoff game for 13 seasons.

Let me get straight into it and offer my predictions – with a soupson of insight.

Bengals @ Texans

The Texans sure know how to walk backwards dragging their bruised and battered limbs into the playoffs, having suffered a late regular season collapse, and instead of having a week off, have to face a very respectable Bengals team that have quietly returned to the post-season for a second consecutive year. Arian Foster will want to impress in what is Matt Schaub’s first ever playoff game. Talk is that the Bengals defense has done a very good job, but this game will come down to Houston’s defense shining on a national stage. J.J. Watt is an absolute beast and will get a couple of sacks and a forced fumble.

Texans to win 19-13

Vikings @ Packers

Weird one as the teams only met last week in Minny, with Adrian Petersen running so hard the Packers wished they had gone to a three-day New Year party starting on 29 December. I absolutely loved it when Packers WR Greg Jennings was asked this week if he enjoyed playing at Freezing Lambeau Field and he said that he would rather play in a dome – at last someone who is honest. This game will be heavily influenced by the fact it will be played in Green Bay, that and Aaron Rodgers will be hellbent on making a playoff run after last season’s debacle. Keys here will be Packs ability to establish a running game and Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder’s ability to stay upright. I say this gets ugly as AP fails to establish himself and is held under 100 yards rushing.

Packers to win 37-14

Colts @ Ravens

Forget all the emotional crap about Ray Lewis coming back from an injury to inspire the Ravens to a playoff run. This is not the time for a Ravens revival. People have forgotten how devastating the loss of cornerback Lardarius Webb was earlier in the season. The Colts have defied all the odds, going from 2-14 to 11-5. Andrew Luck (see pic) has slotted into the Indy QB position like a seasoned veteran, and done what other great quarterback have done – performed alchemy to turn the rest of the team from base metal into gold. An old Reggie Wayne and a young T.Y Hilton should not be enough to get a team 11 wins, but that is why the guy went #1 in the draft in 2012. Look for the Ravens to hold a lead for the majority of the game only for Luck to get the winning td or final drive that leads to the sealing field goal.

Colts to win 24-20

Seahawks @ Redskins – see my preview here

Stat Attack – my predictions for Wild Card stats leaders

Passing yards – Andrew Luck – Colts

Rushing yards – Alfred Morris – Redskins

Receiving yards – Andre Johnson – Texans

 

 

 

Favre watch is over for another year - whoopee!

You know when real NFL football is within touching distance when some old granddad decides to wake up from his six month coma and say ‘lets win a Lombardi Trophy’.

Bottom line ‘It’s baaaaack’.

I think even the NFL media have tried to remain subdued about #4 returning to the rigmarole of regular season football.

Whilst I refuse to acknowledge Brett Favre until he gets on a plane and gets into a locker room, now I know he has agreed to play in 2010 I have nothing but respect.

Favre’s streak of starting games is now at a mind-bending 285 games, and with only Bruce Matthews ahead of him, with 292 starts, Brett’s game in New England in Week 8, if he makes it that far, will make him the most prolific starter in NFL history.

To put this record in context, there are NO other quarterbacks in the top 10 of players with consecutive starts. The second highest ranked QB is Dan Marino, who ended his streak at 240.

Favre impressed me last year, taking his Purple People Eaters to the NFC championship. I have a feeling he could go one stage further this season.

The Minnesota defense is in a situation where it is now or never,  but the only way the Vikings will be playing in Super Bowl XLV (editor’s note – man it’s cool to have my initials in the Superbowl !) is if their offensive line keeps #4 upright for 19 games.

It doesn’t feel right to go into an NFL season without Favre slinging that pigskin, something us NFL fans have been watching since 1992.

What a streak, what a guy. He deserves another ring, and this season truly is the last chance saloon.

Mr Favre, strap on the gun belt, pull up those cowboy boots and flick the hat up – it’s almost time to go into battle.