The 2007 Broncos rank #30 in the league in rushing yards allowed, #29 in rushing yards per attempt allowed, and #23 in rushing TDs allowed. The 2007 Vikings rank #1 in rushing yards, #1 in rushing yards per attempt, and #1 in rushing TDs. On the proverbial paper, the Vikings should run all over the place. But the Viking running game has been struggling lately, and Tarvaris Jackson isn't doing enough to take advantage of defensive schemes designed entirely to stop the run.
Denver has lost badly in its last two games, but they've also played some pretty good games at home this season.
While the game is going on, of course, we'll be watching the score between Washington and the Dallas backups. But regardless of what happens in Washington, a 9-7 season for a young team in a head coach's second season feels a lot better than an 8-8 season in the same situation. I'm rooting hard for a win.
According to the NFL.com preview of the Washington-Dallas game,
"Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has not confirmed he will sit any other starters or limit their playing time, saying he will play to win for 'the integrity of the game.'"
Adrian Peterson's problem (and why we need not fret it)
Like many talented rookie running backs, Adrian Peterson thinks he should score a touchdown on every play. Look at his tackles for no gain or tackles for loss: they almost all take place on the edges, where Peterson is trying to break out to the sideline. Instead of going up the middle to gain what he can, Peterson tries to cut outside, and lately linebackers and defensive backs have been catching him. With experience, he'll learn that churning out a four to six yard run up the middle is much better for the team than going to the edges to try break touchdowns every play.
This problem is also taking potential carries away from Peterson. If Peterson goes for no gain on 1st and 10, now it's 2nd and 10, and the Vikings start thinking pass. If Peterson could go up the middle and pick up five yards, now it's 2nd and 5, and the Vikings can still be thinking run. Peterson can get more opportunities--and more opportunities to break the big run when it's there--if he becomes a more consistent running back. He'll still be a breakaway player capable of scoring on any play, but he'll also be doing more to help his team move down the field.
What scares me about Tarvaris Jackson
The poor decision making doesn't scare me long term (though it certainly does in the short term). Tarvaris Jackson is a Division I-AA QB who has now started 13 NFL games--he's going to make bad decisions, and hopefully (hopefully!) he learns to avoid those ugly passes into coverage.
What scares me is that the inaccuracy is coming back. During his nice four game stretch, he was mostly putting passes on target, allowing his receivers to make easy plays. But during the last two games (even though his completion percentage was over 60% each game), he's overthrown and underthrown and leftthrown and rightthrown his wide receivers. He's been missing targets badly.
A quarterback can always improve his decision making. Can a quarterback improve his accuracy once he's reached the pro level? I'm not sure, and I'm worried that Jackson is just too inaccurate to be a good NFL QB.
On the plus side for Jackson, I would expect an inexperienced but mobile QB to take a lot of sacks. Jackson's sack percentage is a pretty solid 5.7% While he's throws some brutal interceptions, he does a good job either getting rid of the ball quickly or running to avoid sacks.
Randy Moss and Terrell Owens
Given that wide receivers are never given serious consideration for MVP, one way to appreciate the greatness of a wide receiver is to see what he does for his quarterback. For example, G.O.A.T. Jerry Rice never won an AP MVP, but he helped three different quarterbacks win five MVPs: Joe Montana ('89 and '90), Steve Young ('92 and '94), and Rich Gannon ('02).
So too Terrell Owens and Randy Moss will never win MVP awards. But Owens has helped four different quarterbacks throw for 30+ TD passes (Steve Young, Jeff Garcia [twice], Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo): each threw a career high when Owens was one of his targets. Randy Moss has now helped three different quarterbacks throw for 30+ TD passes (Randall Cunningham, Daunte Culpepper [twice], Tom Brady): each threw a career high when Moss was one of his targets.
Fantasy Narcissism: Week 17 is all about fantasy football
Fantasy leagues that use a playoff often end before Week 17 to avoid resting starters. The revolutionary Hazelweird League goes to the end, baby, so you have to plan for those resting starters. And since so many of Week 17's scheduled matchups are entirely pointless in the playoff scheme of things, it's all about fantasy football.
In Week 16 I committed a critical error that could cost me the Hazelweird Title. I had Kevin Curtis in my lineup Sunday morning, but I idiotically replaced him with David Patten. The substitution cost me about 13 points and exactly 2 wins in the Hazelweird's cross country scoring. If I had left Curtis in my lineup, I would be in an unprecedented three-way tie for first place going into Week 17. Instead, I'm two games back and need to beat both first-place contenders by three games to win the league. This is still entirely plausible and really could happen.
Peyton Manning threw 49 touchdowns in the first 15 games in 2004; the Colts rested their starters in the 16th game and Manning threw just two passes.
And 2007 is Manning's tenth straight season with 26+ TD passes, and his fourth career season with 30+ TD Passes. He's also led the Colts to their fifth consecutive 12+ win season.
For teachers and students, it's all weekend right now: if you told me it's not actually Friday right now and this post comes a day early or a day late, I'd believe you. But have a good weekend, everybody.