Gosh, things should look bad. Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, and Jason Witten could exploit a questionable Viking pass defense. The good Dallas run defense should force Minnesota to try beat them with Tarvaris Jackson and the passing game. Yet I've got hope.
Romo-erotic does throw some wild passes; the Vikings will have the opportunity for interceptions. The Viking running game (not just Adrian Peterson, but Chester Taylor and a very good run blocking offensive line) should be good enough to deal with eight-man fronts. And last week's Tarvaris Jackson to Troy Williamson 60 yard touchdown connection can give us some hope that the Vikings are capable of some plays downfield.
It appears that two weak pass defenses and two strong run defenses will face off. The Vikes rank 31st in pass completions allowed, 30th in pass yards allowed, 19th in yards per attempt allowed, and 20th in touchdown passes allowed, while ranking 2nd in rushing yards allowed, 1st in rushing yards per attempt allowed, and 1st in touchdown runs allowed (0). The Cowboys rank 30th in pass completions allowed, 29th in pass yards allowed, and 30th in touchdown passes allowed (but a solid 10th in yards per attempt allowed), while ranking 8th in rush yards allowed and 3rd in rush yards per attempt allowed).
I think this game is as simple as the matchups between run offenses and defenses and pass offenses and defenses. The Cowboys and Vikings both have good run offenses: which team will be able to to run effectively against a good run defense? Considering the Vikes currently rank #1 in rush yards and #1 in rush yards per attempt, I think they should be able to move the ball on the ground against even good run defenses. The Vikings and Cowboys each have exploitable pass defenses: which team is going to be able to beat the other team in the passing game? The Cowboys have an obvious advantage, ranking 3rd in passing yards, 2nd in passing yards per attempt, and 2nd in passing touchdowns, so they should be able to move the ball in the air.
It would be overly optimistic to pick the Vikings in a game at Dallas. To win, the Vikings need to run the ball effectively, connect on some big passing plays, and force Romo into turnovers. Those things are possible, of course--the Vikes have a chance in this game. But this will be their toughest game so far this season.
Fox won't reveal starting lineups
Dr. Z complained about it, and Deuce of Davenport (via Ballhype) agrees with Dr. Z: it's a bad thing that Fox is no longer showing starting lineups at the beginning of games.
I agree that a network should at least let viewers know who is starting a game, particularly on offensive line (so many situational personnel changes at offensive skill positions and at just about every defensive position makes some of the actual starters less significant). But I've frequently been bothered with the way networks do the starting lineups anyway, for two reasons:
They're long and bulky. A simple visual of the team's starters is useful. What I don't need to see, NBC, is each player announcing his name and college. This often gets in the way of seeing the offenses and defenses line up, and for some reason I'm in a blind panic that I'll miss a play because they're going through the lineup. It's easy to present the lineups simply and quickly, and there's no need for the drawn out feature.
They appear inaccurate. Doesn't it seem like you've seen the lineup show two running backs, two wide receivers, and a tight end in the starting lineup, and then for the first play the offense comes out with three or four wide receivers? I don't even trust the lineups I see (plus I know that so many situational changes are going to occur during the game that the starting lineup isn't really going to tell me who is going to be impacting the game from beginning to end).
So I agree, we should get to see the lineups. But it's not as big a deal as all that. It's pretty easy to access rosters to know uniform numbers, and it's pretty easy to later access game books to see who actually started (though I don't know how Dr. Z does his charting, so maybe it is a hassle).
One more look at last week's Viking-Bear game
I don't think you can minimize the significance of the Vikings' win at Soldier Field last week.
Sure, the Bears aren't as good this season as they were last season. But in 2003 the 8-5 Vikings went to Soldier Field to play the 5-8 Chicago Bears (in Rex Grossman's first start, no less)--and lost. In 2004 the 7-4 Vikings went to Soldier Field to play the 4-7 Chicago Bears (with Chad Hutchinson at quarterback, no less)--and lost. The Vikings don't play well at Soldier Field, regardless of the quality of the two teams. To win a game at Soldier Field is good.
The game was also a notable improvement in Tarvaris Jackson's development. The last time we saw Jackson, he was on the road against the Lions throwing four interceptions; on Sunday he went into a road game and had no turnovers.
And regardless of the current quality of the Bear defense, this Viking offense has struggled the past few seasons against good and bad defenses alike. But they had offensive touchdowns of 35, 60, 67, and 73 yards. Something new is happening.
I don't know that a win at Soldier Field is a catalyst or even a sign that the 2007 Vikings are going to compete for the playoffs. But it's a good thing, and I think, a good thing for the future.
Week Seven Matchups
There are a lot of intriguing matchups week seven, and you can check NFL TV Distribution Maps to see what games you'll get to watch (it looks like a lot of you will get to watch my beloved Purple). The best game is the Monday Nighter, with 5-0 Indianapolis going at 4-1 Jacksonville (where last year's Super Bowl champs got pasted last season). The winner of that game will really be showing us something. But there appear to be a lot of competitive matchups Sunday, which may suggest a lot of close games with wild finishes.
I'm finally ready to complain about those Visa Check Card commercials, where everything is humming along quickly and then some bozo tries to pay with cash and slows everything down. The premise is stupid: paying with cash is usually a quick transaction, at least as quick as using a card and possibly faster. Visa seems to be on a propaganda campaign to convince people that paying with a check card is faster than paying with cash, which I doubt is true.
But the recent New Orleans commercial...bleh. All these fun-loving people are buying up Saints merchandise, using their check cards and moving along. And then, here comes a yuppy in a pink polo shirt with a sweater wrapped around his shoulders, and he's buying tennis balls. He pays with cash and everybody stops to stare at him. Goodness, the appeal to populism (the regular folks loving their Saints opposed to the tennis playing and possibly rich snob) is pretty strong, isn't it? Furthermore, it's an appeal to popularity: be like everybody else (in appearance and action), or everybody will stop and stare at you for being an oddball). It annoys me every time I see it.
Tarvaris faces a 3-4
Mark Craig points out that the Cowboys run a 3-4 defense, which could have a big impact on Tarvaris Jackson.
Enjoy your weekend everybody. Except Bear fans.