Ben Goessling covers the Vikings for ESPN and calls the boys to give his insight on the Peterson situation, the perception of Peterson in Minnesota and how the Vikings as an organization handled it. He discusses Minnesota preparing for life after Peterson. Also, what will the Vikings gameplan look like today minus Adrian - a lot of Cordarrelle Patterson.

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Join Pete Davidson of WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com for a live Fantasy Football chat, starting at 11 a.m. Get all your questions in as Davidson offers advice as to how you should set your lineup for Week 2.

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WEEI
Commissioner Roger Goodell is still in charge, but for how long? (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Commissioner Roger Goodell is still in charge of the NFL, but for how long? (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

1. In the wake of one of the worst weeks in NFL history — fallout from the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson fiascos, commissioner Roger Goodell’€™s approval rating at an all-time low, a sex scandal involving Dallas owner Jerry Jones, the news that suggests that nearly 30 percent of former NFL players will end up developing Alzheimer’€™s disease or dementia across their lifetime, and the league’€™s recent inaction on the Ray McDonald and Greg Hardy cases — it feels like the NFL is at a crossroads when it comes to leadership. The faith that many football fans put in the product, and any goodwill that’€™s been built up over the course of several years, is being frittered away, as more people insist that they will start to turn away from the league until it is able to get its€™ house in order. Whether that means new leadership, tougher stances on penalties for domestic violence or developing a more productive relationship between the players, owners and fans, it’€™s clear that something needs to be done sooner rather than later. No one is suggesting that the NFL is going to go the way of the dinosaur. The mocking words of Dallas owner Mark Cuban this past spring that hinted the bubble was about to burst for the NFL were more about the financial state of the league, but they could easily apply now to the relationship between the league and many of the fans, who are fed up on a number of levels and are starting to demand real change. It’€™s not known what the league can do about its own situation going forward — only that it’€™s reasonable to think that a sizable a part of the NFL’€™s leadership will look very different in 2015 if the league wants to regain some of the public trust.

2. From a procedural perspective, it’€™s important to note the NFL constitution requires a three-quarters majority of owners (24 of 32) to terminate the contract of a commissioner, and at this point, that seems highly unlikely. We examined the deep and abiding relationship between Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft here, and despite any possible misunderstandings between the two, it would seem unlikely that Kraft would change his stance on someone he has grown very cozy with over the years. From a league perspective, many of the NFL’€™s most prominent owners have already given on-the-record backing to Goodell, including Giants co-owner John Mara (who is overseeing the Mueller probe), Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who issued a statement on Saturday saying the commissioner “has always had the best interests of football at heart, both on and off the field”€ before adding the Washington organization “strongly endorses his efforts to eradicate domestic abuse and the independent investigation into the Ray Rice assault.”€ While another shoe could still drop — namely, if the league starts losing deep-pocketed sponsors — it seems like Goodell’€™s job is safe for now.

3. If you need some good news, the story of Cincinnati defensive lineman Devon Still continues to provide plenty of good vibes. Still, who was released in the final series of cuts in August, was brought back to the Cincinnati practice squad so he could continue drawing a paycheck to pay for treatments for his 4-year-old daughter Leah, who continues to battle pediatric cancer. The story got better this week, as the Bengals brought him up to the active roster — in addition, the team announced late Monday night they will donate all proceeds from sales of Still’€™s jersey to pediatric cancer treatment and research facilities at Cincinnati Children’€™s Hospital. In two days, the Bengals sold 100,000 jerseys, making it one of the fastest selling uniforms in the history of the franchise. (Saints coach Sean Payton bought 100 jerseys on his own.) You can buy your own Devon Still jersey here, and you can follow Still on Twitter here — he tweets frequently about his daughter and their struggle with the disease.

4. While it’€™s not necessarily a must-win situation for the Patriots this week, the prospect of beginning the season 0-2 is less than appealing. New England is one of three teams who started the year as division favorites who lost its opener — Indianapolis and Green Bay were the other two. No matter how good you are, an 0-2 deficit is hard to crawl out of: Since 1990, 196 teams started the year 0-2, and only 23 of those teams made the playoffs, a rate of 12 percent. (For the record, one of those teams was the 2001 Patriots, who had an 0-2 start but went on to win the Super Bowl.) As was the case for most of New England, neither the Colts (who are home against the Eagles) or Packers (who host the Jets) sound overly worried about their situation. “Unfortunately, ‘€˜almost’€™ doesn’€™t count in professional sports,”€ Luck said in the wake of a seven-point loss to open the season at Denver. The Chargers, Chiefs and Saints are three other 2013 playoff teams who lost their openers and could be 0-2 by the end of this week’s action.

5. While the 2014 season is still in its early stages, it was interesting to see five backs top the 100-yard rushing mark in Week 1, led by Knowshon Moreno’€™s 134 yards on the ground in a victory over New England. (In addition to Moreno, Dallas’€™ DeMarco Murray had 118 rushing yards, Seattle’€™s Marshawn Lynch had 110 yards, Houston’€™s Arian Foster had 103 yards and the Jets’ Chis Ivory had 102 yards.) After an offseason that saw what appeared to be a slight devaluation of the running back position (no back was taken in the first round of the draft, and arguably the best free agent deal went to Chris Johnson, who got a two-year, $8 million deal from the Jets), it represented something of an upgrade when compared to recent years. (By comparison, in Week 1 of last season, just three backs topped the 100-yard rushing mark.) It’€™s still early, but it will be interesting to see if the pendulum starts to swing in the other direction when it comes to the running back spot the rest of the season.

6. The NFL released some really interesting roster breakdowns, stacking each one of the 32 rosters from kickoff weekend against each other and giving some sort of insight into the where the Patriots stand when it comes to age, height, weight and experience. Broken down from a team-by-team perspective, here’€™s how the Patriots stacked up against the rest of the league:

a) Players weighing 200 pounds or less: 10. The Patriots were one of nine teams with 10 players who were at 200 or less. Washington had the most with 12, while New Orleans and Carolina had the fewest at four each.

b) Players under six feet: 14. New England was tied for second in the league with San Diego in total players under six feet. Cleveland had the most with 16, while Oakland had the fewest with only two.

c) Players weighing 300 pounds or more: 8. The Patriots were tied with Houston for last place with eight players at 300 pounds or more. Indianapolis had the most with 15.

d) Overall, the average Patriots player is 6.16 feet, 245.83 pounds, 25.79 years old and has 3.68 years of experience in the league. New England had nine players in their rookie or first year in the league, and six players who are 30 or older. In all, the average NFL player is 6.17 feet, 246.78 pounds, 26.16 years old and has 4.13 years of experience in the NFL. The average roster has 10.38 rookies or first-year players, and 8.28 players age 30 or older.

7. When Patriots rookie Cameron Fleming took the field for his first professional game last Sunday against the Dolphins in Miami, he became one of the youngest players ever to suit up in New England in the Bill Belichick era. The Stanford product had just turned 22 a few days before the opener (he was 22 years and four days, specifically, when he played against Miami). The only player on the New England roster in the same neighborhood was defensive lineman Dominique Easley, who was 22 years and 195 days last Sunday when he stepped on the field in Miami.

8. Fleming is young, but he’€™s certainly not the youngest to ever play for Belichick. According to Pro Football Reference, that honor goes to wide receiver P.K. Sam, who played a minor role on the 2004 roster. He was 20 years (and 278 days) old when he made his professional debut with the Patriots on Oct. 3, 2004. The youngest player selected in the draft that year, he ended up playing just two games for New England that season. The only other Patriots player to debut prior to the age of 21 was tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was 20 years and 310 days when he first played in the NFL on Sept. 12, 2010. The rest of the under-22 club was Rob Gronkowski (21 years, 121 days when he debuted in 2010), Hakim Akbar (21 years and 56 days in 2001), Chad Jackson (21 years, 195 days in his first game in 2006), Laurence Maroney (21 years, 217 days in his first game that same season) and Sterling Moore (21 years, 283 days when he first suited up for New England on Nov. 13, 2011).

9. Despite the fact that the NFLPA gave an official thumbs-up to a new drug-testing policy on Friday, things are still in limbo, as a league official told ESPN Saturday that there are still “unresolved issues”€ with the proposal. As a result, several players who could see their punishments changed retroactively — including Josh Gordon, Orlando Scandrick and Wes Welker — remain in limbo. (It’€™s not known if suspended Patriots Brandon Browner and Brian Tyms would be impacted by the news.) Regardless, Patriots player rep Matthew Slater — in his third year as New England’€™s representative to the NFLPA — told reporters on Friday that the players remain optimistic they will get a deal done. “I’€™m confident that we’€™ll find something that all of us will be happy with,”€ Slater told Comcast. “I am confident in that. It may take a long time, it may not take as long, but we’€™ll see. What we’€™ve really done with this is take our time and make sure that we’€™ve really thoroughly gone through the process and thought about what we want. Hopefully everybody will be happy at the end of the day.”€ (For what it’€™s worth, this year, Slater is serving as the Patriots player rep, with kicker Stephen Gostkowski and offensive lineman Ryan Wendell serving as alternates. That group is going into their third season together as the local reps for the players association — in year’€™s past, offensive lineman Matt Light had served as a primary player rep, while quarterback Tom Brady had also worked as an alternate.)

10. On a personal note, I’€™d like to thank several of my friends and colleagues for lending a hand this week when I went down with kidney stones. My family (who endured a scary 3:30 a.m. trip to the ER) and the staff at Newton-Wellesley Hospital were terrific and supportive. In addition, I’€™d like to extend a big thanks to colleagues like Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable, Peter Neudel, Rob Bradford, Shalise Manza-Young and Mike Whitmer, who rallied to provide me with information (notes, stats and the like) so I could write from home for a couple of days while I recovered. There were a few days earlier this week where I was listed as ‘€œlimited’€ on the injury report, but knock on wood, I’€™m good to go for this Sunday. I could not have gotten through a miserable medical week without a lot of help. Thanks to all.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots announced Saturday night that linebacker Jamie Collins, defensive end Michael Buchanan and center Ryan Wendell have been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game against the Vikings.

Jamie Collins

Jamie Collins

The Patriots announced Saturday night that linebacker Jamie Collins, defensive end Michael Buchanan and center Ryan Wendell have been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game against the Vikings.

Collins is in his second season, and the Southern Miss product has evolved into one of the more versatile defenders on the team. However, the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder popped up on the injury report late this week with a thigh injury, and will miss the first game of his career as a professional Sunday against the Vikings. The Patriots shuffled the back end of the depth chart at linebacker on Saturday, releasing Darius Fleming and adding Deontae Skinner from the practice squad — Skinner could be in for a lot of snaps come Sunday in Minnesota.

Also in his second year, the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Buchanan has struggled with an ample injury since the start of the season. The backup defensive end will miss his second game of the 2014 season as a result.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Wendell, who will sit with a knee problem, has been the starting center for the last two years, but was pushed this summer by fellow offensive lineman Dan Connolly. With the offensive line already in a bit of a state of flux, Connolly and rookie Bryan Stork (if he’s 100 percent) will likely share pivot duties on Sunday against the Vikings. That will also likely mean Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey and Josh Kline will share work at guard.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots promoted linebacker Deontae Skinner from the practice squad on Saturday and waived linebacker Darius Fleming.

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Skinner was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Mississippi State on May 12, 2014. He was released in August and later added to the practice squad.

Deontae Skinner

Deontae Skinner

The Patriots promoted linebacker Deontae Skinner from the practice squad on Saturday and waived linebacker Darius Fleming.

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Skinner was originally signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Mississippi State on May 12, 2014. He was released in August and later added to the practice squad.

As for Fleming, he was selected by the Niners in the fifth round (165th overall) of the 2012 draft out of Notre Dame. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder, missed his first two NFL season due to injury, but signed with the Patriots this past spring and made the final roster following cuts. He wasn’t active for the regular-season opener against the Dolphins.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Tom Brady and the Patriots will look to win their first game of the season Sunday in Minnesota. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots will look to win their first game of the season Sunday in Minnesota. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Here’€™s everything you need to know about Sunday’€™s contest between the Patriots and Vikings:

Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:

1. Quarterback Tom Brady against head coach Mike Zimmer: Brady was corralled last year when the Patriots went into Cincy, and in a monsoon, were shut down by the Bengals defense. (The game saw Brady’€™s consecutive games streak of touchdown passes halted at 52.) Zimmer was the architect of that Bengals defense, and was able to bother Brady to a point where the quarterback suffered one of the worst games of his career (18-for-38, 197 yards, one interception). Zimmer has now moved on to become the head coach in Minnesota, but as colleague Mike Petraglia adroitly pointed out here, Brady will likely be a lot of the same elements he saw last year against the Bengals — not a lot of blitzing, but with steady and consistent pressure from a four-man front designed to be physical with the quarterback. It will be up to Brady to get the ball out as fast as possible against a fast and physical defensive front ‘€“ don’€™t look for a lot of five-step drops.

2. The Patriots offensive line against the Minnesota defensive front: The New England offensive line really struggled in the heat of South Florida in last week’€™s opener, allowing four sacks on Brady and six hits on the quarterback. As we said in No. 1, Brady should expect to see good pressure from the Vikings defensive front. Two things to look for this week that could help out the Patriots’€™ offensive line: one, for as much as we talk about Rob Gronkowski as a pass catcher, his ability as a blocker is undersold. As he continues to work his way back to full strength — he played roughly half the snaps in the opener in steamy South Florida — his presence as an end of the line blocker will provide a boost when it comes to pass protection. And two, expect a heavier reliance on the running backs, both in blitz pickup and helping when it comes to the running game. The Patriots not only struggled with pass protection on the edge, but from this viewpoint, where Logan Mankins‘€™ skill set was really missing Sunday was on the ground. According to Football Outsiders, in 2013 the Patriots were one of the few teams to run better from two-back formations (5.0 yards per carry) than from single-back formations (4.6 yards per carry). On Sunday, fullback James Develin played 46 snaps. Look for him to be more of a presence Sunday.

3. Bill Belichick against Norv Turner: The Patriots coach and new Minnesota OC go back a long ways. In the 12 meetings since Belichick took over the Patriots prior to the start of the 2000 season, he’€™s enjoyed a 10-2 edge against Turner-coached offenses. That includes games when Turner was offensive coordinator with the Chargers, Dolphins and Browns, as well as head coach of the Raiders and Chargers. (That record moves to 10-5 if you include Belichick’€™s time as a head coach with the Browns and an assistant with the Patriots and Jets.) It’€™s important to note that four of those wins came as the result of late-game or overtime magic on the part of Tom Brady (including last year’€™s remarkable comeback against the Browns where New England posted 16 fourth-quarter points in a 27-26 victory in Foxboro), but Belichick’€™s healthy advantage certainly suggests that’€™s he’€™s consistently been able to figure out Turner’€™s offenses, regardless of the locale.

4. Under the radar opponent who Patriots’€™ fans need to know: Tight end Kyle Rudolph isn’€™t mentioned as one of the elite-level offensive options for Minnesota, but the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder has developed into a nice security blanket for the Minnesota passing game in his three-plus years in the league. Known as a player who has displayed proficiency both as a blocker and pass catcher, he had 30 catches in eight games last year before a foot injury prematurely ended his season. (That was on the heels of a 53-catch season in 2012 that produced nine touchdowns.) A relatively dependable option in the passing game, he could benefit if the Patriots end up focusing their attentions elsewhere. While linebacker Jamie Collins is a question mark heading into Sunday’€™s game because of a thigh issue, he could see the bulk of attention on Rudolph if he’€™s good to go.

5. By the numbers: Per Pro Football Reference, the Patriots and Vikings have played 11 times and New England holds a 7-4 series lead. However, in those games, Minnesota has averaged more points per game in those 11 contests than the Patriots, 21.5-20.9.

6. Quote of note: “We know him. He knows us.”€ — Belichick, talking about former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, who is now the starter in Minnesota. Cassel spent the first four years of his career with the Patriots (2005-2008), and will be making his first career start against a Belichick-coached defense

7. Patriots fans should be worried about… without Adrian Peterson in the lineup, Minnesota finding a way to Cordarrelle Patterson the ball by any means necessary. The 2014 season is still in its infancy, but the multidimensional wide receiver has already shown himself to be a really nice offensive threat for the Vikings — in the opener against the Rams, he caught three passes for 26 yards, but did the majority of his damage on the ground, coming away with 102 yards and a touchdown on three carries. Opinions vary on how best to slow him down, but it wouldn’€™t be a shock to see Darrelle Revis spend a sizable bulk of the afternoon trailing Patterson, at least when he’€™s split out to the right as a receiver. (Some numbers on Patterson: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Patterson is the second player since 1950 to gain at least 100 rushing yards in a game with three or fewer rushes. Patterson has gained at least 50 yards rushing in each of his last three games — according to ESPN Stats & Information, Dexter McCluster is the only other wide receiver since 2001 to have three games with at least 50 rushing yards and no other wideout has done it in back-to-back games during that span.)

8. Vikings fans should be worried about… the Patriots getting any sort of support in the passing game beyond wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back Shane Vereen. Some of this goes back to the offensive line issues, but New England needed more offensive depth Sunday against Miami. Edelman and Vereen combined for 11 of Brady’€™s 29 completed passes last week, and were the only two offensive players who were able to consistently move the chains for New England when they were on the field. (Including the preseason, Edelman has caught a whopping 16 of the 18 passes that have been thrown in his direction this year.) Edelman was almost completely shut down in the second half, and while Vereen was able to chip in with a team-high 36 rushing yards, there was precious little offense from anyone else on the afternoon — including Danny Amendola, who couldn’€™t get any separation for most of the day, and Brandon LaFell, who someone didn’€™t catch a single pass despite being targeted six times. (For what it’€™s worth, Brady often appeared to be trying to force the ball into Rob Gronkowski — the big tight end was targeted 11 times, but only had four catches.) The Patriots need someone else to step up on the offensive end on Sunday.

9. One more thing: The Patriots and Vikings have a relatively short history, but their recent games have almost always been entertaining. In 1994, it was an epic at old Foxboro Stadium, as Drew Bledsoe attempted 70 passes in a remarkable 26-20 overtime win over the Vikings, a team led by Warren Moon and included old pal Cris Carter. (It was the second straight OT win New England, which also upended Minnesota in 1991 by a 26-23 count in extra time.) The 2006 Patriots — who had been castigated for the better part of the first month because they didn’€™t have much of a receiving corps — came into the Metrodome the night before Halloween and croaked the Vikings, 31-7, as Brady put up 345 passing yards in the rout. And in 2010, the Vikings came to Foxboro less than a month after the blockbuster trade that sent wide receiver Randy Moss to Minnesota. With Brett Favre under center, Moss back in town and a 4 o’€™clock start on Halloween all in the mix, it was a circus atmosphere. Favre was knocked out of the game by Myron Pryor, Moss professed his undying love for Brady and Belichick after the game, and New England came away with a resounding 28-18 win.

10. Prediction: In the wake of their season-opening loss to the Dolphins, the Patriots now find themselves in danger of falling into an 0-2 hole to start the season. History tells us that when faced with a similar dilemma, New England had found a way to figure it out. But it’€™s not being overdramatic to suggest that this is an early-season gut check game for the 2014 Patriots. How they respond in this contest will ultimately tell us a lot about what sort of mental toughness this team possesses. From this viewpoint, this appears to be the sort of team that’€™s capable of answering the bell. It won’€™t be easy — Patterson has a unique skill set and the sort of positional versatility that will make him very difficult to contain — but the call is New England 27, Minnesota 21.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Adrian Peterson turned himself in to Montgomery County, Texas, authorities early Saturday morning and was released after posting a bond of $15,000. He was officially booked into the Montgomery County jail just after 1 a.m. CT and released 30 minutes later after posting the bond.

Adrian Peterson turned himself in to Montgomery County, Texas, authorities early Saturday morning and was released after posting a bond of $15,000. He was officially booked into the Montgomery County jail just after 1 a.m. CT and released 30 minutes later after posting the bond.

On Friday, Peterson was indicted by a grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. The team has deactivated him for Sunday’s home game against the Patriots.

Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin issued a statement saying his client’s conduct “involves using a switch to spank his son.” Peterson reportedly removed the leaves of a tree branch, which he referred to in a police report as “a switch,” to strike the 4-year-old boy.

“This indictment follows Adrian’s full cooperation with authorities who have been looking into this matter,” Hardin said in the statement. “Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas. Adrian has never hidden from what happened.”

Hardin also said that Peterson used the same discipline with his child that he experienced growing up in Texas and said the star running back has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours.

“Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning,” Hardin said. “It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury.”

Last October, his 2-year-old son died in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, after being allegedly assaulted by a man who was dating the boy’s mother. Two months prior, he found out he was the boy’s father. The man who assaulted the boy, Joseph Robert Patterson, was charged with murder and manslaughter.

A Houston station, citing law enforcement sources, said Peterson told police that the incident — he referred to it as a “whooping” — occurred in Spring, Texas, in May as punishment for his son pushing another one of Peterson’s children. The boy suffered cuts and bruises to areas including his back, buttocks, ankles and legs.

“It’s just made me stop taking things for granted,” Peterson told ESPN.com Vikings reporter Ben Goessling in August. “Life is short. You never know. You just want to take advantage of the time you do have.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia