Extra Points: Teddy’s ready in Minnesota

(SportsNetwork.com) – The “bridge” buckled in New Orleans last week and it
should become evident rather quickly if that overpass was spanning over some
troubled waters.

Forgive the puns but perhaps it’s apropos that the new quarterback of the
Minnesota Vikings is named Teddy Bridgewater.

Minnesota was hoping to have much more time to groom its prized rookie behind
veteran bridge quarterback Matt Cassel, but fate rarely cares about anyone’s
plans. And in the case of the Vikings, it seems to enjoy blowing them up with
blindside hits that could make Chris Baker blush.

Cassel’s broken foot, suffered in a 20-9 loss to the Saints last Sunday, has
accelerated the learning curve for Bridgewater dramatically and the Louisville
product, who was once regarded as the top overall prospect in the 2014 draft
class, will be taking over a desperate team coming off perhaps the worst week
in franchise history.

Bill Parcells is retired, but if he wanted to update his resume, he might want
to put Nostradamus-level prognosticator above Hall of Fame football coach.
Parcells, of course, is a good friend to first-year Vikings coach Mike Zimmer
and he gave his buddy some stunningly accurate advice when the latter got
Minnesota’s head coaching job.

Parcells, who was once Zimmer’s boss in Dallas, told his Padawan that “four or
five things happen in pro football every day that you wish wouldn’t happen. If
you can’t handle those, you need to get another job.”

Zimmer has had to deal with the Adrian Peterson child-abuse scandal which
robbed the organization of perhaps the best pure runner in the profession, a
knucklehead receiver in Jerome Simpson who can’t stop drinking and smoking weed
even when he is suspended for those very things, along with season-ending
injuries to Cassel and what has been the club’s best offensive lineman, right
guard Brandon Fusco.

“I never envisioned that,” Zimmer said on Wednesday. “But it’s part of
football. Last year in Cincinnati (where Zimmer was the defensive coordinator),
we lost our best defensive tackle, our best corner, one of our best
linebackers, our very good defensive end. Things happen in the NFL, so this is
a survival-of-the-fittest game.

“It’s always a marathon. The toughest teams always go. I think we have good
coaches here, so we’ll continue to coach the guys that are playing as hard as
we can and keep moving.”

Things are so bad in Minny, the fact that emerging tight end Kyle Rudolph
is likely on the shelf for only six to eight weeks after having sports hernia
surgery on Tuesday in Philadelphia is considered a positive for the

“We’re hopeful that he’ll be back soon,” Zimmer said. “We’re anticipating it’s
not going to be (eight weeks).”

So to summarize, when Bridgewater, the 32nd overall pick in May’s draft, makes
his first start for the Vikings on Sunday against Atlanta, three of the team’s
top-five projected playmakers will either be banished (Peterson), released
(Simpson) or injured (Rudolph), meaning “Teddy Ballgame” will be asked to
matriculate down the field with players named Matt Asiata, Adam Thielen and
Rhett Ellison.

“I don’t think he’s thinking, ‘Woe is me,'” Zimmer said. “I think he’s
thinking about his opportunity and what he has to do to help this football

Well, he’s thinking a little bit.

“It’s a challenge,” Bridgewater admitted. “You’re talking about some great
football players (being out). It’s all about taking advantage of what we

Many believed that Bridgewater was the most polished and NFL-ready signal
caller in this year’s draft class and sure enough he didn’t look nervous or
overwhelmed after replacing Cassel last week in one of the most difficult
places to play in the NFL, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Like most rookies playing on the road, Bridgewater left some plays on the field
against the Saints, but he also made some plus throws and the innate ability to
extend plays with his athleticism. He ended up 12-of-20 for 150 yards with no
touchdowns or interceptions, and added 27 more yards on the ground.

And Zimmer believes there is much more to come.

“He’s ready,” the coach surmised. “Honestly, I think he’s been ready since
the day he walked in.”

WEEK 4 (All Times Eastern)

New York Giants (1-2) at Washington (1-2) (-3 1/2), Thursday, 8:30 p.m. –
Ordinarily this is a spot to take Washington, but the Redskins are so banged up
that New York should be in a prime position to steal one on a short week.

Giants 24, Redskins 21

Miami (1-2) (-4) vs. Oakland (0-3) at London’s Wembley Stadium, Sunday, 1 p.m.
– The Dolphins and Raiders will meet at Wembley in the first of three NFL
games to be played in the United Kingdom this season. The contest will mark
Miami’s second visit to London for a regular-season game as the Dolphins faced
the Giants in the inaugural International Series matchup in 2007. The Raiders
return to London for the first time since 1990 when they played in a preseason
game at the old Wembley Stadium against the Saints. It’s put-up-or-shut-up time
for embattled Miami starting QB Ryan Tannehill and this is the opponent you
want when things are closing in on you.

Dolphins 27, Raiders 14

Green Bay (1-2) (-1 1/2) at Chicago (2-1), Sunday, 1 p.m. – Detroit solved
Aaron Rodgers last week. Now it’s the Bears turn. A-Rod is a gaudy 10-2
against Chicago and has won seven straight when he finishes the contest. The
real key for the Packers, though, might be getting the struggling Eddie Lacy
going. The second-year back rushed for 216 yards in his two meetings against
the Bears a season ago. For Chicago, QB Jay Cutler has thrown eight TD passes,
the most ever by a Bears signal caller through three games.

Bears 27, Packers 23

Carolina (2-1) at Baltimore (2-1) (-3), Sunday, 1 p.m. – Wide receiver Steve
Smith, who finished his 13-year Carolina career as franchise’s all-time leader
in catches (836), receiving yards (12,197) and touchdowns (75), will face his
old mates for the first time. He’s hit the ground running in Baltimore,
compiling 18 receptions for 290 yards, both franchise bests through three
games. Smith’s replacement with the Panthers, Kelvin Benjamin, also is
excelling, leading all rookies with 253 receiving yards.

Ravens 23, Panthers 20

Buffalo (2-1) at Houston (2-1) (-3), Sunday, 1 p.m. – Two teams who came down
to earth last weekend will try to bounce back. Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who
spent four seasons in Buffalo (2009-12) and ranks fourth in club history with
11,654 passing yards, is coming off a poor performance against the Giants and
is being pushed by recent pickup Ryan Mallett. Current Bills starter E.J.
Manuel also has plenty of detractors but has won his past two road starts.

Texans 23, Bills 14

Tennessee (1-2) at Indianapolis (1-2) (-7 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. – The Colts are
aiming for their ninth straight win against AFC South foes just as Andrew Luck
is heating up. The emerging superstar completed 31-of-39 passes for 370 yards
with four TDs and a 140.4 passer rating against the Jaguars this past Sunday.
His counterpart with the Titans, Jake Locker, is dealing with a right wrist
injury and may not make it, putting veteran backup Charlie Whitehurst in play.

Colts 31, Titans 17

Detroit (2-1) (1 1/2) at New York Jets (1-2), Sunday, 1 p.m. – The Jets will be
trying to salvage the back end of three straight games against the NFC North.
New York already came up short against Green Bay and Chicago and now must face
a QB in Matthew Stafford who has 1,956 passing yards (326 per game) and 14
TDs in his past six games against AFC competition. Meanwhile, the heat
continues to build on Jets second-year signal caller Geno Smith, who made a
number of key mistakes against the Bears in Week 3.

Lions 24. Jets 20

Tampa Bay (0-3) at Pittsburgh (2-1) (-7 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. – The Bucs are
coming off a disastrous performance in Atlanta in which they allowed 54 points
to the Falcons and lost starting QB Josh McCown to a thumb injury. McCown is
expected to miss at least a few games in a best-case scenario, opening the
door for second-year man Mike Glennon, who came on to complete 17-of-24 passes
for 121 yards in relief against Atlanta. The Steelers have been riding the
improved LeVeon Bell, who leads the NFL with 461 scrimmage yards (315 rush,
146 receiving) through three weeks.

Steelers 34, Buccaneers 17

Jacksonville (0-3) at San Diego (2-1) (-13), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. – The Blake
Bortles era begins for the Jaguars, who will start the No. 3 overall pick in
the 2014 draft for the first time. Bortles passed for 223 yards and two TDs in
relief of Chad Henne last weekend in a loss to Indianapolis. The Chargers, on
the other hand, rely on savvy veteran Philip Rivers, who has 32,999 passing
yards since 2006, the second-most in the NFL over that span (Drew Brees,

Chargers 30, Jaguars 17

Philadelphia (3-0) at San Francisco (1-2) (-5 1/2), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. – The
unbeaten Eagles need to stop putting themselves behind the 8-ball.
Philadelphia overcame a 10-point deficit to defeat Washington on Sunday and is
the first team in NFL history to start 3-0 after trailing by at least 10
points in all three games. The Niners, meanwhile, are attempting to bounce
back from a slow start for the second consecutive season. In 2013, the 49ers
also started 1-2 and then finished the regular season by winning 11 of their
final 13 games.

49ers 28, Eagles 27

Atlanta (2-1) (-3) at Minnesota (1-2), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. – Bridgewater may be
ready, but Falcons pilot Matt Ryan set club records with an 87.5 completion
percentage (21-of-24) and a 155.9 passer rating in a rout over Tampa Bay in
Week 3.

Falcons 24, Vikings 13

New Orleans (1-2) (-3) at Dallas (2-1), Sunday 8:30 p.m. – Dallas has been
overachieving and enters Week 4 seeking its third consecutive win largely
thanks to running back DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 100 yards and a
touchdown in a win over St. Louis last weekend, his third consecutive game with
at least 100 yards and a score. The Saints finally found the win column on
Sunday, but their struggles on the road are well documented and the team is
already 0-2 as the visitor in 2014.

Cowboys 31, Saints 27

New England (2-1) (-3 1/2) at Kansas City (1-2), Monday, 8:30 p.m. – The
Patriots haven’t piled up many style points just yet, but they’ve won two in a
row and QB Tom Brady just notched his 150th regular-season win as a starting
signal caller last weekend, joining Brett Favre (186) and Peyton Manning (169)
as the only players in NFL history to accomplish that. The Chiefs, meanwhile,
are coming off their first win of 2014 behind running back Knile Davis, who
rushed for 132 yards and a score against Miami as an injury replacement for
Jamaal Charles.

Patriots 20, Chiefs 14