Pigskin Pick 'em: All Day long

Peterson likely leading Vikings into playoffs

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2007

Watch out NFL.

There's a new LT, by the name of AD, running wild in the NFC.

In fact, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is more than just a reflection of San Diego Chargers superstar LaDainian Tomlinson.

He's a whole lot more.

Named on Tuesday as the NFC's starting running back for February's Pro Bowl, 'All Day,' as he's known, is a compilation of some of the greatest runners in the history of the game.

"He has the vision of a Marshall Faulk, the power of a Terrell Davis, and the speed of an Eric Dickerson," said NFL Network analyst and former cornerback Deion Sanders. "Let's pray he has the endurance of an Emmitt Smith."

LT saw every bit of that first hand.

The seventh-overall draft pick in the 2007 draft torched the Chargers' defense for an NFL-record 296 yards on 30 carries, finding the end zone three times, including runs of 64 and 46 yards, in a crucial Week 9 win.

The reigning MVP was already impressed before the rookie's jaw-dropping performance.

"Adrian does have a little Eric Dickerson in him because of the explosion he has to get through the holes," Tomlinson said. "And he's kind of upright, which is why all of us say he's like Eric Dickerson.

"He also has a little bit of shiftiness like a Gale Sayers," he added. "And I'd say Marcus Allen, too. Marcus would move and weave in and out of traffic a lot. I see Adrian do that, too."

After Peterson's dazzling display of shakes and stutters, jolts and jaunts, Tomlinson was beside himself.

"I was sitting over there on the sideline, and just to have 200 yards in the second half, that's impressive," he said. "I've never seen anything like it."

LT must have missed Peterson's 224-yard, three touchdown extravaganza in a Week 6 win at Chicago.

For anyone who's unfortunately missed both, don't worry. There's about to be a whole lot more of it.

Having virtually locked up Offensive Rookie of the Year honors with 1,278 yards and 12 touchdowns, despite missing 2 1/2 games after injuring the lateral collateral ligament his right knee, Peterson is commanding the Vikings (8-6) march to the playoffs, something that, back in August, seemed ludicrous.

Currently holding the NFC's second wild-card berth, just one game behind the New York Giants, the Vikings now appear a lock to be playing football in January.

Since their last lost, which came against Green Bay, coincidentally, the same game AD went down with the injury, Minnesota has won five straight, averaging 31.8 points a game over that stretch while exhibiting perhaps the most exciting brand of football in the league.

But it hasn't just been Peterson, although he's clearly been the most exhilarating.

While AD was sidelined with a bum knee, the Vikings routinely plugged in Chester Taylor, who rushed for 1,200 yards last season. All he did was light up Oakland for 164 yards and three scores in a game that jumpstarted Minnesota's current five-game winning streak.

Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who has also missed four games due to injuries, is averaging 183 yards with four touchdowns in the five wins, owning a quarterback rating over 110 twice in that span,

Conversely, in his first five starts of the year, Jackson threw for just two scores and an average of 120 yards, a 56.5 being his highest rating.

And the defense, well, it's been more than spectacular.

Usually known as the top-ranked rushing unit in the league, allowing a mere 67.9 yards per game, the Vikings' pass defense has held it's own, too, returning six interceptions for touchdowns, four occurring during their recent string of success.

Now, the Washington Redskins (7-7) come to town Sunday night in a must-win game for both teams.

It couldn't come at a better time for the Redskins, though, as they and the Saints trail the Vikings favored by 6 1/2 by just a single game for the NFC's final postseason slot.

Still reeling from the death of Pro Bowl teammate Sean Taylor, who was shot and killed late last month, Washington has now won two in a row, including an emotional 22-10 victory last week over the Giants, a win that kept their remote playoff hopes alive.

Also dealing with injuries, as Todd Collins is starting again in place of the injured Jason Campbell, Washington's inconsistent offense will have its hands full with one of the most underrated defenses in the NFL.

Then there's the Redskins' defense, which is good, but not great. They draw the tall and nearly impossible task of stopping, or hopefully just containing, the league's most potent rushing attack.

More specifically, Peterson.

Just ask the Chicago Bears, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention Monday night by the Vikings.

The winning touchdown in the 20-13 affair came courtesy of, who else? AD.

Facing a third-and-goal from the Chicago 8-yard line in the fourth quarter, Peterson and quarterback Brooks Bollinger, temporarily subbing for the injured Jackson, collided on the handoff, the ball momentarily juggled by Peterson.

As usual, though, he remained composed, shook imposing linebacker Brian Urlacher and squirted outside for his second touchdown of the evening.

"I was still going, 'What the?' when he made the move," Bollinger said. "But he made it happen."

He usually does. All Day long. VIKINGS, 35-21.

Today

Pittsburgh (minus 7 1/2)

at St. Louis

I said it last week and I'll say it again, the Steelers are fading. Only faster now.

RAMS, 35-34.

Saturday

Dallas (minus 10 1/2)

at Carolina

I doubt Jerry Jones has a seat reserved for Jessica Simpson. COWBOYS, 38-28.

Sunday

Cleveland (minus 3)

at Cincinnati

Second time all year I'm picking against the Bengals. The first was against New England. BROWNS, 45-38.

Green Bay (minus 8 1/2)

at Chicago

Haven't picked against the Packers. Never will.

PACKERS, 42-21.

Houston (plus 7)

at Indianapolis

Marvin Harrison? Who needs him. Indy has Anthony Gonzalez. COLTS, 28-20.

Kansas City (plus 5) at Detroit

What happened to Detroit? More importantly, what happened to Jon "10-win" Kitna? CHIEFS, 30-28.

New York Giants (minus 3) at Buffalo

If the Giants lose, they could miss the playoffs with a loss to New England next week. Too bad they don't have the other Manning. BILLS, 27-24.

Oakland (plus 13)

at Jacksonville

Raiders have second-worst rushing defense. Jaguars own second-best rushing attack. JAGUARS, 35-17.

Philadelphia (plus 3)

at New Orleans

New Orleans seems to play better without Reggie Bush. Who would have thought? SAINTS, 42-21.

Atlanta (plus 10) at Arizona

Even Bill Parcells wants nothing to do with the Falcons. CARDINALS, 21-17.

Tampa Bay (minus 6 1/2)

at San Francisco

Ernie Graham is the new Frank Gore. Only better.

BUCCANEERS, 24-14.

Miami (plus 22)

at New England

One game away.

PATRIOTS, 38-10.

Baltimore (Off) at Seattle

Baltimore would have a better shot with Troy Smith behind center. I guess they'd rather lose nine in a row.

SEAHAWKS, 30-17.

New York Jets (plus 8 1/2)

at Tennessee

Jets build off close game with the Patriots. JETS, 20-16.

Monday

Denver (plus 8 1/2)

at San Diego

LT does his best AD impersonation. CHARGERS, 33-21.

Comments and criticisms may be sent to sports reporter Matthew Carroll at matthew.carroll@peninsulaclarion.com.

LAST WEEK: 10-6 (spread); 12-4 (straight up)

SEASON: 121-91-11 (spread); 142-82 (straight up)



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