Thursday, October 30, 2008

National Friday League, Week Nine

I apologize for taking a bye week last week and skipping the National Friday League. Computer troubles made my internet access limited, and when I could get to a computer my energy was pretty sapped from grading papers and BEING VIOLENTLY ILL. To make up for the week off, I'm back with a tomatoed up National Friday League for week.  Hope you enjoy.

Vikings-Texans Preview
What should we know about the 2008 Texans? Evidently, their defense stinks: they currently rank 30th in net yards passing per attempt allowed and 24th in rush yards per attempt allowed.  But of course that doesn't mean the Viking offense is primed for a good day: after seeing Adrian Peterson shut down by the Saints, the Viking offense muff up against the Lions but then score 41 points against the Bears, I really have no idea what the Viking offense will do.

Offensively, the Texans have one player the Vikings should fear like gonorrhea: Andre Johnson.  His last four games: 9-131, 10-178, 11-141, 11-143.  But safety Madieu Williams makes his debut with the Vikings this Sunday--hopefully this makes the secondary stronger.  Tyrell Johnson hasn't stood out in any positive way, so we'll see if Madieu Williams' presence is noticeable (I'm hoping that if he is quicker in coverage, Cedric Griffin's weakness won't stand out so much).

Actually, the Vikings and Texans show similarities: both 3-4, similar point differentials (-13 and -10), both blew big leads at home to lose to the Colts (both losses devastated the fanbases), both had to win close against the Lions.   

Through seven games, I just don't know what this Viking team is.  Which means I know what this team is: inconsistent.  I don't know how they'll play from week to week, but I can guess they'll finish right around .500.  But if they lose to the Texans in Thunderdome, then they totally suck and that's that.  The Vikings should win home games against teams that share their record; if they can't win in the Metrodome, where are they going to win?

Week Nine Schedule
Colts-Patriots.  Since I love Peyton Manning, I watch as many Colt games as I can, and I'm always glad when they're a televised night game.  What I've seen this year is just how close the Colts are to being their typically superb offense--Manning's timing and passes are just slightly off.  Receivers are open downfield, and if Manning throws the pass just a bit higher, just a bit farther, just a bit left or right, it's a completion for a long gain.  But the passes are just slightly off, and a defensive back is able to recover and knock the pass down.  I'm anxiously following them to see if Manning gets that perfect timing and great accuracy back.  If he does, the Colts are still a good team, and they can win playoff games.

Packers-Titans. The Titans are a sound and opportunistic football team.  They're not great (when the highlight of the passing game is Kerry Collins throwing to Bo Scaife, it's hard to call a team great), but if you make a mistake, they will destroy you with it.  Against the Vikings the Titans scored three touchdowns, all after Minnesota turnovers in Tennessee territory.   It's how they win and how they'll continue to win.  They play safe offense supplemented by Chris Johnson's big play ability.  They play very good defense.  And then when an opponent makes a mistake, they capitalize.   They can be beaten, but to beat them, you have to play a superb game and commit no turnovers.  I could see the Packers doing that.  Naturally, I hope the Titans win 80-0, but I could see the Packers winning.

Pat Williams and Kevin Williams
Regardless of when (or is it if?) the Williams are suspended, the rumor has already marred the season for me. Unless there is an official NFL announcement stating that there was some misunderstanding and there is no possibility of a suspension, I'm just going to be waiting for it to come, expecting it to ruin the season. And the Packer game is next week--if there's no suspension this week, will there be one next week?  It's hanging over everything.

Some Notable Players of 2008
Chasing 5,084.  Others have chased it before him and failed: one or two low games is all it takes to leave him around 4,800, and passing yardage is dependent on factors outside the QB's control.  I don't think he'll get there.

I looked at his yards per attempt for each season and thought he was declining.  I was absolutely, completely, totally wrong.  Enjoy the career year, folks.

If things had gone a little differently, I might be as infatuated with Warner as I am with Peyton Manning.  Through seven games this season he has 14 TDs, 2,000 yards, and a 70% completion percentage.

Are sports reporters necessary?
I've been thinking about this.  There's sort of this idea that the beat reporters are really vital sportswriters, that they're doing the work to uncover stories and find out what's going on.  But do we even need that?  In sports, we have the actual games to watch: the reporters are mostly unnecessary there, since we can see the games for ourselves.  And I want to know what roster moves the teams are making, but then the teams announce those, too.

Real reporters are necessary to a democracy: for democracy to work, a people must be well informed about the activities of their government and events in the world, and so journalists play a vital role in democracy.  That's some pretty high language, and I think sports "journalists" have imbibed a lot of that language and tend to think they're important, too.  But they're really not: I can enjoy the games by watching them, and learn about roster moves from the teams themselves announcing them.  Obviously some reporters are necessary to observe what is going on and record it, to write stories about the games, to report on the events for people to read and hear about.  But do I need a beat writer digging around in the locker room for the behind the scene story?  It can be interesting and entertaining, but it really doesn't provide a vital function.

If you're gambling on games, then you probably want as much of that beat reporting as you can get.  And if you're following sports, you're probably entertained by the reporting by beat writers.  But saying sportswriters entertain us is a very different thing than saying sportwriters are serving some vital function.  If there were no beat writers, my pleasure from sports would not be fundamentally altered: I'd still get to watch the games and muse on the roster moves.

But I'm just musing aloud here, so I'll pose the question to you.  Do you think sports reporters and beat writers are performing an important, vital function, and what is that function?  I'm conceding that they contribute to the entertainment we get from sports, but I don't believe they perform some sort of necessary journalistic duty.  What do you think?

The weekend is an hour longer this weekend
Human beings are bored and need something to occupy our time with, so we arbitrarily switch our time twice a year.

I hope that whenever I die, it's during Standard Time instead of Daylight Saving Time: that means I get one more hour of weekend out of life.

Fantasy Narcissism
I'm in end-game now: I traded all my moveable pieces this week mostly for Maurice Jones-Drew and the Baltimore Defense (and if your end-game is acquiring MJD and the Raven D, you know you're probably struggling).  I've had three separate defenses get me zero point weeks this season, and in the Hazelweird Cross Country Standings (where each week your team competes against each other team), a zero from a defense instead of a conventional 3-6 points can cost you multiple wins.  But my starting WRs for the season are now evidently Bernard Berrian and Joey Galloway, so let's just say I'm hoping AP, MJD, and the Raven D combine for many, many touchdowns.

At this point in the season, if you're going to make a trade, you must look at the schedule. When planning for a draft, I don't account for the schedule much: over 16 games there will be tough and easy matchups, and before the season starts it's tough to predict which of those matchups will be tough or easy.  But at this point we have a pretty good idea which teams are lousy, and with 8-9 games to go, you might want to get a defense or a running back that has a lot of those lousy teams on the schedule.

Return to Thunderdome
I'm going to the Viking game with my dad this weekend. This means while watching the Viking game, I'm unlikely to see a single political advertisement.  This weekend is going to be overwhelming, and then Wednesday, when you start watching TV and just see commercials for pizza and cell phones and cars, it feels rather liberating.

I'm starting to believe a nucleus of Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, and Corey Brewer could actually be a playoff nucleus.  Jefferson will be a reliable 20-10 power forward, Corey Brewer is one of those defense-oriented, athletic hustlers that seem to be everywhere on the court, and Kevin Love could be...transcendent.  I'm deluded now, yes.  But he made several impressive plays last night: scoring on offensive rebounds, cutting to the basket when a defender sagged off him, hitting a hook shot.  His rebounding, his passing, even his defense impressed me: I think he's going to develop into a complete player.  I now giddily look forward to the next Wolves game (Saturday night).

Weekend: "Spread the Candy"
Enjoy Halloween, suckers.  Halloween is Civilization: when you're young adults give you candy, and when you grow up, it is now your turn to give children candy.  You take your turn.  From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, and all that.  I now await John McCain's speech calling trick-or-treaters socialists.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wolves Win

Wolves 98, Kings 96

Kevin Love's debut: an impressive 12 points and 9 rebounds.  He did some really nice things.  Al Jefferson (21-10 tonight) and Kevin Love are going to be a tough scoring and rebounding combo.

I was impressed with Corey Brewer tonight.  He still can't shoot (for that matter, even his layups look like a struggle), but he does other things to help the team win.  He's athletic and aggressive, getting steals and running the floor.  He could be a good complimentary player.

Feels good!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

State of the Vikings

What do you say if a Texan fan asks you to try explain the Vikings?  I give it a whirl at Stephanie Stradley's blog at the Houston Chronicle.

Karl Kassulke

Former Viking safety Karl Kassulke died (Star Tribune).

There have been a lot of deaths for Viking alumni recently; Chuck Evans and Wally Hilgenberg also died in the last few months.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Non-Viking Things to Look Forward To

Mike Miller (Star Tribune).

He's fun to watch. He's athletic and he runs the floor and jumps around and shoots from all over. It will be amusing enough. Not that the Wolves will win, but it will be amusing enough.

Starts Wednesday, folks. And they've got slightly different jerseys now. Am I just reaching for silly joy?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's Your Level of Despair?

Go see this headline, then come back and take this simple Viking fan quiz.

1. How do you feel?

a.) I'm sorry, I blacked out there for a second. What's going on?
b.) I'm sitting here, but I am certain somebody just punched me in the stomach. Is somebody hiding under my computer desk?
c.) 2008 is lost, but at least that means Brad Childress will be fired, right?
d.) 2008 is lost, and Zygi Wilf still probably won't fire Childress, will he?

Friday, October 24, 2008

On Brad Childress' Offensive Limitations (or, I've finally given up)

From Mark Craig in the Star Tribune:

"'I don't know enough about the single wing,' Childress said. 'I think it was probably in before I was born. I've never read any books on it. It might be something to investigate in my bye week.'"

From a 2004 article by Dr. Z in Sports Illustrated:

"And Mularkey had an old Pop Warner double-wing that he put in after studying the playbook of a high school coach in Florida who ran it. And he says he has the first book ever written on the 'true single-wing,' and someday you just might see the Bills lining up in it ... 'only if you have the right personnel for it on the field,' he says.

"'When we ran it in camp it was amazing, the confusion all the misdirection caused. You could have defensive guys flowing in different directions. They were running all over the place.'

"During a vacation in Alaska last summer, he talked to the winningest high school coach in the state, whose team ran out of multiple-wing formations. 'He told me the biggest key was to tell a defense that had to face it -- "Don't move."'"

Mike Mularkey did what a creative, thinking, hard-working offensive coach does. He doesn't just stick to his own system: he studies other systems to see what works. He looks around to see what other coaches are doing, and tries to incorporate that into his own offensive plans. That means he studied the playbook of a Florida high school. That means he talked to a high school coach in Alaska about his offense. That means he has the first book on the single-wing offense. Whatever successes or failures Mularkey has had, he's worked hard to understand offensive football, to study what other innovative, creative football minds are doing at even the high school level. And that means he's studied some basic, old-fashioned offensive formations to see if he could utilize them in the professional game.

It's not just that I know the basics of the single wing and a NFL coach specializing in offense claims he doesn't. It's not just that an NFL coach specializing in offense claims he doesn't know the basics of a very traditional, old formation in football, that he's never even encountered it in a book.

It's that I cannot imagine Brad Childress reading a high school playbook, or talking to a high school coach, believing that he has anything to learn, that there is anything that could be added to his "kick-ass" offense.

And with that, I've lost faith that Brad Childress will ever be a better than average offensive coach. I know, it took me longer than it took most of you, but that's what's done it for me. A coach like Mike Mularkey studies high school use wing formations to try be a better coach; a coach like Brad Childress says he's never read about it in a book.

In the future I'll likely be writing posts arguing for Mike Mularkey as the next coach of the Minnesota Vikings (look forward to it! I'll have great reasons). But don't focus on that for now. For now understand this: your head coach of the Minnesota Vikings says he doesn't know enough about the single wing.

Bye Week

Apparently we've taken a bye week of our own. So be it: see you next week, suckers.

Watching Viking games is an intense, emotional, draining experience. The bye week is a chance to peacefully enjoy watching other football teams. Have fun--there will be some nifty games to watch.

Monday, October 20, 2008

On the Viking Quarterbacks

Gus Frerotte is what we thought he was. He gives the Vikings a legitimate passing threat. He's a chucker that has been getting more yards than any QB in the Childress era, a chucker that has helped Bernard Berrian perform very well at wide receiver. But he's also a mediocre 37 year old journeyman that throws interceptions in bunches. He is what we think he is, and it's not going to get better. But he's the Vikings' best QB for 2008.

And that's depressing. Tarvaris Jackson mostly stunk in his 16 career starts. He showed little pocket presence, made some wacky decisions, and most telling, frequently threw wildly inaccurate passes. But he occasionally made some athletic plays, some good throws. He had a few efficient, effective games. He did enough to make us sometimes believe he was a young division 1AA QB that lacked experience and could improve. We could at least believe in potential, even if it was impossible.

And so here we are: a young inaccurate QB that got benched because he was afraid to make mistakes and the offense was severely limited with him in there, and a 37 year old average QB that can make throws and opens up the offense but also makes his share of mistakes and isn't ever going to be better than he is.

A team like that can win 9-10 games, can make the playoffs, can win a division. Teams have made the playoffs with lesser QBs than Gus Frerotte. But...that's it. They don't usually get further without quality QB play.

So we can watch the 2008 Vikings, hope the passing game does just enough, hope Adrian Peterson can do some crazy running, hope the defense comes through to bail this team out of close games again and again, and just maybe make the playoffs. I'll even go wacko and say I think that it will happen.

But that's it--that's really our best hope for the 2008 Vikings. Are you satisfied watching a team struggle to try make the playoffs knowing that when they get there they'll just get whipped by a team with a real quarterback? I'm not. The Vikings have done everything in their history except win a Super Bowl--eking their way toward the playoffs isn't quite enough. Not with Adrian Peterson. Not with Kevin Williams. Not with Jared Allen.

But this team just doesn't have a quarterback to do better. That's why three different times this season when the Vikes had the ball in the fourth quarter, needing a touchdown to win or tie, the Viking QB threw an interception. That's what this team is--they might win 9-10 games, but they're stuck with lousy QBs and aren't going to go any further.

(Oh, I'll watch and root and totally invest my emotional and psychological energy into it. I'll never quite give up my hope that the Vikings can win the Super Bowl this year until they are mathematically eliminated. That's my curse: hope. I always hope that it can happen, and even as I write this I foolishly do believe it can happen. When it comes to the Vikes, I don't entirely have the faculty of reason, and I don't believe what I'm writing on a deep level, because I have this stupid hope. But pay no attention to the man behind the parentheses).

It's all coming back to what it's always come back to. The Vikings don't have a quarterback. No matter what they do this year, they're looking for a quarterback for next year. Whether an experienced veteran, an inexperienced young QB, even a rookie, the Vikes will continue to look for the QB that can actually take them to that Super Bowl. It's the most important position in the game, and it's the Vikings' biggest weakness. Enjoy 2008 for what you can; starting in the 2009 off-season our primary attention is going to be on where the Vikings find a new starting quarterback.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

For your rantings, see...

Brad Childress Rantings

Minnesota Football and Basketball

On Friday, Bill Simmons wrote:

"when your fans limp out of the stadium trying to talk themselves into Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, that's a bad win."

Today an anonymous commenter, while complaining about today's Viking loss, asked:

"When do the T-wolves start?"

If your two favorite sports are football and basketball, and you're a Minnesota sports fan, you had better like the the Gophers.  Because I don't think we'll ever see the Vikings or Timberwolves win a championship (which are the two things I want most in sports).  If the Vikings couldn't do it in '98, and the Timberwolves couldn't do it with twelve years of Kevin Garnett, I don't see how it's ever going to happen.

That said, I'm totally talking myself into Kevin Love and Al Jefferson, and I'm hoping the Wolves somehow surprise and distract our sports-thought-time from the Vikings.

Coming off the ledge: Bears 48, Vikings 41

Box Score

What are you going to do?
On the day the Vikings have 439 yards of offense and score 41 points, they play their absolute cruddiest defensive game of the year (Bear receivers were perpetually wide open), they commit turnovers like it's fun, and they allow a two touchdowns in special teams.   It's absurd for this Viking team to actually manage 41 points; it's beyond absurd for this Viking team to go into Soldier Field, slap 41 points up there, and still lose.

Pass Defense
Reprehensibly bad.  The Vikings couldn't cover Bear TEs worth a poop (E.J. Henderson is very badly missed right now).  The pass rush was generally nonexistent.  The pass defense was worse than the numbers show: the Bears dropped a lot of wide open passes.  I felt like it was 2002 or something, watching opposing receivers running around in open field with nobody near them, then running around after the catch with nobody tackling them.

Bernard Berrian
BB has yet another productive game with Gus Frerotte throwing to him.  He's making plays and helping the Vikings pick up first downs and score points.  Without him, where would the passing game be?  He's been a good player for the Vikings: I'm glad they signed him.

Adrian Peterson
Like Barry Sanders, he takes too many losses.  But goodness, is he good.  Today he was much more consistent than he's been, often picking up solid gains on first down and rushing for quite a few first downs.  He tries to break plays across the field to the sideline often, and that means some loss of yards, and it also means some spectacular gains.  His 54 yard touchdown was vintage Peterson.

Red Zone Success
Now the Vikings are on to something: use both Taylor and Peterson in goal line situations, and defenses have two potential runners to account for.  Generally the Vikes ran and threw in the red zone well today.

Special Teams

A Team Loss
The defense sucked, the special teams was reaching previously unseen levels of suckitude (at many levels), and the offense had four turnovers (all on Frerotte), and I've still got questions about some coaching decisions (you'd really rather just let the Bears have the ball around the 40 on every kickoff rather than try to actually cover Devin Hester?  If he hadn't gotten hurt, and the Vikings persisted in that strategy, the game might not have even been as close as it was).  This loss was deserved at every level of the team.

My eternal optimism
The Vikings are a game out of the division lead.  They've got trips to Lambeau Field and Soldier Field out of the way.  They play five more home games.  If they're good enough to win the division, the opportunity is in front of them going forward: they still get the Bears and the Packers at home.  I'm a long way from despairing about the season with a 3-4 team going into the bye week.

Please rant
What complaints and observations do you have?

Halftime: Help me, Doc Brown!

Somebody slipped me into the DeLorean and drove me back five years.  The Vikings are moving the ball up and down the field with the pass and run, but they're down 27-24 at halftime.

Whether or not we've gone back in time, the special teams performance in this game is awful.  The Bears have two touchdowns on ugly botched plays on punt team and punt return team, and the Vikes continue to give the Bears the ball around midfield with their absolute terror of Devin Hester (a mistake, in my opinion--work hard on covering Hester, don't just cede the Bears the ball at the 40 every kickoff).  The positive of the blocked field goal is negated by an offsides penalty on another field goal, giving the Chicago Kicker a 49 yarder instead of a 54 yarder.  The Vikings can pass and pass and pass all over this team, but the Bears are still taking advantage of all the lousy special teams plays from the Vikings.

Dear Vikings Special Teams

Eat shit. Eat my shit.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

National Friday League, Week Seven

Preview at

The Vikings suck at Soldier Field. Some of the most disappointing Viking games of my life came at Soldier Field, watching the Vikings play just horrible football on offense, defense, and special teams.

But then something happened: Adrian Peterson went wild, the Vikings won a game at Soldier Field, and demons appeared exorcised. I still have minimal hope: it's hard to think the Vikings can beat the Bears on the road. But...they might. They might.

I expect something like a 13-9 festival of hard-hitting defense and struggling offense. There will be fewer than three yards per carry for the game, there will be a lot of punts, and the winning team will force some turnovers on the opponent's side of the field. I will deeply enjoy watching the game.

Intriguing Games on Sunday
Chargers-Bills: seems like a telling game. The Chargers have been inconsistent, but occasionally dominant. They're floating around mediocrity right now, and need to start putting it together. The Bills are 4-1, but I'm not sure they're a 10-6 team or a 7-9 team.

Saints-Panthers: A big division game. The Saints have had injury problems, and the defense seems to suck--but they've got an incredible passing game and could win any game they play. Let's just call the Panthers "enigmatic." I have no idea from Sunday to Sunday whether Carolina is going to put up a big performance or completely stink.

Colts-Packers: I find every game these teams play interesting.

Leslie Frazier on Dontarrious Thomas and Napoleon Harris (Access Vikings).

Bernard Berrian (Sid Hartman).

Thomas Tapeh: cut (Star Tribune). One reason Adrian Peterson may appear to be struggling more this year is the dropoff at fullback from Richardson to Tahi. I'd think about sticking Kleinsasser back there some plays.

No, I will not watch the NFL Network's Missing Rings show on the '98 Vikings (Fanhouse). I DVRed the Missing Rings show on the '69 Vikes, but can't bring myself to watch it. There are things in life that make me sad and things in life that make me happy. This would make me sad.

Have a good weekend everybody. Except Bear and Packer fans.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Viking Fans, and Timberwolves Fans

Kevin Seifert has an interesting article on Viking fans' dislike of Brad Childress.

I have my own speculative reasons about why Viking fans have turned on Childress.

Mostly, it's a part of Viking fan culture. Viking fans always believe the team has the talent on the roster to win more than it does, and we blame the head coach for holding the team back. We blamed Dennis Green. We blamed Mike Tice. And now we blame Brad Childress. We complain about the head coach's decisions and ineptitude after wins as well as losses. It's the way we are, for better or worse.

Viking fans also got used to seeing great offensive performances during the Dennis Green and Mike Tice era. Even as personnel changed again and again, the offense was successful. Now the offense struggles for everything--the receivers always seem covered, the plays seem uncreative, and completing passes for first down just looks difficult. Childress came in as an offensive coach, so he gets the blame for that. He doesn't get the credit for the defensive turnaround: if he were a defensive coach, we might appreciate what he's done and be calling for changes in offensive personnel and coaching.

I think Childress' reticence with the media is overhyped. Bill Belichick is no media darling, but Patriot fans like him because he wins Super Bowls. Mike Tice was very open with the media (was he too talkative? We'll have to travel to Tough-Guy Town to answer that), but he wasn't a popular coach during most of his era (there wasn't mass disgust at Tice, but I had many conversations with Viking fans complaining about him). Media members may dislike Childress for how he treats them, but I don't think fans care about that. Most Viking fans dislike Childress primarily for the performance of the team in games: the offensive ineptitude, the questionable decisions, and the mediocre record. Childress' personality may take away any benefit of the doubt, but it's the team's performance under Childress fans are really concerned about.

At this point, I think it will take winning a Super Bowl for Viking fans to come around to liking Childress.

Seifert makes one odd remark that I must note. In contrasting fan feelings for Childress with fan feelings for the other pro sports teams in the Twin Cities, Seifert writes that

"In the Twin Cities, pro sports fans continue to accept Kevin McHale's Millen-like attempts to resurrect the NBA's Timberwolves."

It has been years since I spoke to a Timberwolves fan that thought Kevin McHale has done anything other than a terrible job running the Timberwolves. I have conversations with fellow Timberwolves fans who despise Kevin McHale, and we talk frequently about our desire for him to be fired, for the Timberwolves to move on without him. There's nobody around here that will defend McHale's record (certainly not after Kevin Garnett won a championship just one year after McHale traded him). But there are far fewer Minnesotans that care about the Timberwolves than care about the Vikings, so our disgust at Kevin McHale gets less attention than our disgust about the Vikings. But to the extent that any of us "accept" Kevin McHale running the Wolves, it is just that we've resigned ourselves to the fact that Glen Taylor won't fire him no matter what we want.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blizzard: Around the League

Dictator Goodell
Roger Goodell has suspended Adam Jones (ESPN). I'm a little bothered by Goodell's use of the first-person:

"In his letter to Jones informing the player of his latest suspension, Goodell said Jones' 'disturbing pattern of behavior was clearly inconsistent with the conditions I set for your continued participation in the NFL.'"

When Goodell uses the "I," doesn't he come off as some sort of angry parent? He's setting the parameters for his child-players to participate in his league. "I said you had to behave yourself! Me! And you didn't listen to me! Now I'm going to punish you!"

I miss Paul Tagliabue.

Oh, the Giants are only 4-1. How do we make sense of this world?
The Giants lost on the road to the Browns last night, and somehow this is supposed to shatter our ideas about the Giants being a great team.

Maybe there was too great a rush to anoint them a great team in the first place (though they are defending Super Bowl champs, so they've earned the title of greatness). But losing one road game badly doesn't really do a lot to shake my ideas about the Giants. They've won 80% of their games and they're still #1 in their division. I'll give credit to Peter King, who says:

"I still have the Giants No. 1. Any quarterback can throw three picks in a game after being superb (16 touchdowns, three interceptions) for a nine-game stretch, as Eli Manning was. Any team can have a clunker against a desperate team in a deafening stadium."

Steve Serby on Fox
Will Brinson on Fanhouse

2008: Isolated Parity
As Don Banks points out, the NFL is wide open this year; 2008, so far, lacks great teams (let's emphasize that "so far:" a couple days ago the NFC East was supposedly an alien division far advanced over all other earthling divisions, but it took one week of games to alter that narrative. I'm not going to be shocked if a few weeks down the line some 7-1 team is just kicking the snot out of everybody and we're anointing that team the great team of the year. Narratives change quickly).

Let's be sure not to draw any wider implications about parity from 2008 other than that there's parity in 2008. 2007 gave us a 16-0 team and three 13-3 teams.

Roy Williams to the Cowboys!
USA Today

I'm stunned the Lions are getting so many picks for Williams, including a 1st rounder. And it's a good move by the Cowboys: Tony Romo is a young QB, but Terrell Owens is not a young WR: they need a talented WR to stick around for a while.

I'm still under the impression that most local sportswriters don't like Viking fans.
Mark Craig makes a fair point: a lot of good teams got upset this weekend, and that can happen in this league: it's not a disaster for the Vikings to eke out a close win against the Lions. But being a Minnesota sportswriter, Craig probably can't help but include a phrase like "Vikings fans need to grow up" in his post.

It's rather arrogant and insulting to tell anybody to "grow up," isn't it? And isn't it even more arrogant and insulting to tell a large group of people to "grow up"?

Brad Childress
Viking fans don't like Brad Childress (Pioneer Press, Viking Update).

In many areas, the Vikings have vastly improved in the Childress era. He's never given credit for the immense defensive turnaround the Vikes have had in the past three years. I'm not sure how much credit he deserves for it, but the Vikings have transformed from an absolutely terrible defensive team to one of the best under Childress' head coaching reign.

But because he's an offensive coach, and because the offense has essentially failed during the Childress era, fans (justifiably) blame Childress for the poor offensive showing. Childress is thus viewed as a hindrance to a great defensive team, while it is unclear whom we should credit for the great defensive transformation (the players? Mike Tomlin, then Leslie Frazier? The front office for bringing in the players?).

I'd like to say Childress should be given some credit for the defense. Then again, I'm not sure Childress has ever tried to take much responsibility for the defense, either, so I'm not sure how much credit really goes to him.

Conventional Wisdom
Good websites like Football Outsiders and Cold, Hard Football Facts often challenge "conventional wisdom" about running and show that to succeed in the NFL, teams need to pass well and defend the pass well.

In a recent article, CHFF cites four games from week 6. They note each losing team's success running the ball, suggesting they did everything "conventional" pundits think a team needs to do to win. But they lost, CHFF notes, because their opponents passed the ball better.

But I'd also point out that most conventional of conventional wisdom: don't turn the ball over. You have to win the turnover battle. We hear it again and again.

In two of the games CHFF cites, the losing team had more turnovers than the winning team. The Giants had three turnovers, the Browns zero. The 49ers had three turnovers, the Eagles one. In week six, teams that "won the turnover battle" were 8-4 (though there's a question of causation-correlation--teams that are losing already likely have more turnovers than teams that are leading. It's also a small sample size). In a game featuring big plays and few scores, the turnover battle seems to be as significant as conventional pundits would have it. Passing yards per attempt tell a big part of the story, but I'd also look to the turnover numbers.

But I'm quibbling, really. CHFF is right to point out how significant passing yards per attempt is in the NFL.

Why Tony Kornheiser is a crummy football announcer
Tony Kornheiser thinks like a columnist: he's always looking for the "story." He admitted as much Monday when he talked about coming in as an announcer hoping for a game to unfold like a novel. During any game, he'll start talking "story," discussing the narrative arch of various players' careers, examining what a team's performance "means," etc.

And there's a great place for that: columns. During the game, I want real analysis. I want announcers who will show replays and explain things like how a particular play worked or didn't work, what the defensive scheme is trying to do, what player makes a mistake on a particular play, what players away from the ball make a play successful, etc. I want the technical explanations. I'd like that, but of course you know we rarely get that. And Kornheiser will never give us that. Worse, his constant search for a narrative for a game, a team, a player, gets in the way of somebody like Ron Jaworski actually giving us technical analysis.

The Commercial Life
Peeps for the Tomlinson-Polamalu commercial.

Political ads take the place of corporate ads: so how do we know what we're supposed to buy? (We Have Mixed Feelings About Sven Sundgaard).

Links and Statements
Roy S. Johnson on politics in the locker room (Ballers, Gamers, and Scoundrels).

I haven't thought much of Derek Anderson, but his receivers drop a lot of nicely thrown balls; he might be better than I think.

Brandon Marshall (NY Times).

My starting fantasy QB (Warner) is on bye, and his backup (Hasselbeck) his hurt; this horrifying turn of events has me staring into the abyss.

Has Frank Gore been the best RB in the league this season?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tough Guy Town Week

Are you horrified or excited?

Parallel, Pessimism, and Defense

In 2004, the Minnesota Vikings won a late season game against the Detroit Lions 28-27. Daunte Culpepper's 404 yards and 3 touchdown passes were hardly "ugly," but the defense entirely collapsed, allowing Joey Harrington to throw for 361 yards and lead the Lions to what should have been a game tying touchdown drive. But the Lions botched the extra point, and the Vikings escaped with a lucky win.

But within the win was obvious evidence of the Vikings' weaknesses. They proceeded to lose three of the next four games: the defense continued to struggle, and the offense had its bad days, too.

It's reasonable, then, to be pessimistic after the Vikings' 12-10 win against the Lions Sunday. The Vikes struggled to beat an awful Lion team, and so they may struggle and lose when they play better opponents the rest of the season.

Why, then, do I maintain some hope for this team (beyond my generally optimistic disposition regarding the Vikes)?

Mainly, it is my hope that a team with a great defense but a bad offense (with a couple of playmakers) can pull out more close wins than a team with a great offense but a bad defense (with a couple of playmakers). The 2004 Vikings had a spectacular passing game and found themselves in a lot of close games, but often lost those close games because of very bad defensive efforts. I'm hoping the 2008 Vikings can get stops in close games, and the Viking offense an do just enough to score some points.

I also maintain the grudging hope the offense can improve. After all, they do have some playmakers (AP can be dominant, and Bernard Berrian has 398 yards and 2 TDs in the 4 games Gus Frerotte started). And they did move the ball against the Lions (392 net yards); they destroyed themselves with badly timed penalties and turnovers (mistakes that may be eliminated).  The team also continues to stink on 3rd down (3/15), and I'm less optimistic that perpetual problem can be rectified.

In essence, I hope a dominant defensive unit can lead a team to more wins than losses, as long as the offense and special teams units don't entirely tank.  If that's the case, 9-10 wins is still possible.

But I also won't be surprised if the offense and special teams units do entirely tank.  If that's the case, 6-7 wins is probable.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cheering Hazard

As fans, we recognize we have no control over the performance of the team we root for. Certainly that team's performance affects us in deep ways, but we recognize that in our rooting, we are voluntarily setting aside our free will. The team's accomplishments and failures are not ours: we are cheering for the Fates. We may attach ourselves to their performance, but when we cheer or grimace for our team, it is little different than cheering or grimacing over a roll of dice. We can't control it, but we care deeply about how it rolls.

I think about this after reading Pat Reusse's sentence regarding the pass interference penalty on Leigh Bodden at the end of today's Viking-Lion game:

"The ticketholders who were cheering this turn of events, rather hanging their heads in shame over the injustice, should join me in apologizing to Bodden."

As a fan watching the game, yes, I cheered that turn of events. I don't think there was any reason to hang my head in shame. After all, whether Allison had caught the ball or whether a pass interference penalty put the ball at that spot, I had no control over it. Where's the shame for me? Shame for the refs? I don't know. Shame for the Viking players? You could make the argument. But as fans, we are always cheering for events outside our control. Why shouldn't we cheer or boo a referee's call, any more or less than we'd boo or cheer a play by a Viking player? We're already in a position in which we're investing emotion in events beyond our control. Our minds are already set to do this. How do we tune our minds to root when player performance beyond our control brings us pleasure, but to hang our heads in shame when an official's call beyond our control brings us pleasure?

Certainly I would rather not have questionable officiating calls contribute to a Viking win; I'd rather have the Viking win be clearly eaned (still, I see bad calls balancing out over the long run: I believe I've seen the Vikings lose games in part because of bad officiating calls. When a bad calls go our way, we have no reason to apologize; the other team's fans aren't apologizing to us when the bad calls go against us). But no matter what, I'm rooting for a Viking win, and though I'm investing emotions, I don't control it.

I'm cheering the Fates.

I'm cheering Hazard, a roll of dice. How exactly the dice land the way I wish them to really doesn't matter to me; once they've landed that way, I only smile at the numbers.

Also on Pacifist Viking:
Halftime: Lions 3, Vikings 2
Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 12, Lions 10
Further Reflections on the Vikings

Further Reflections on the Vikings

We root for a defensive football team: let's get used to it.
The Viking defense has been dominant this season.  The run defense is still outstanding, the pass rush has been unrelenting, and the overall pass defense is much improved.  We have the chance to root for a spectacular defense.

The Viking offense has...sucked.  We can admit that.  But while it feels like we're watching a mediocre team (.500: we are), while it seems like we're "winning ugly," we're still looking at a spectacular, dominant defensive unit.  When the Vikings win games in 2008, they're going to be "ugly" wins.  That's the way this team is built: the defense is carrying the team.

There's no doubt that the Vikings made many mistakes against an inferior team, and that the game was much closer than it should have been.  But if the Vikings had a spectacular offense and a terrible defense, maybe they'd have won a game like this 30-28 and we wouldn't call it "ugly," even though one unit would have struggled.  I remember the 2003 Vikes, the 2004 Vikes: great offenses, terrible defenses.  The wins weren't "ugly," but they were just as tenuous.  I'm enjoying rooting for a dominant defense.  Certainly I hope the offense improves as the season goes on so the defense isn't forced to carry the team, and so the team doesn't lose games despite great defense. 

But we root for a great defensive team with a terrible offense.  It's an offense with players like Adrian Peterson and Bernard Berrian, players capable of big yardage plays, so they'll occasionally look competent.  Mostly they won't.  I'm still going to love watching this team play, and I'm hoping a reliable defense and questionable offense is able to pull out more wins throughout the season than a team with opposite problems.

Too few pleasures in life.
There is plenty to complain about in the Vikings' 12-10 win.  But I don't know about you, but I have enough stresses, enough boredom, enough hassles in life.  It is the job of the Viking coaches and players to worry about the improvements they have to make if they expect to beat the Chicago Bears next week.  I just want to take pleasure in the Viking win.

If the Viking offense plays as bad against other teams as it played today against the Lions, the Vikes will lose a lot of games the rest of the year.  And when that happens, I'll be sad.  So for now, I'm going to take pleasure where it comes.  The defense was spectacular.  Kevin Williams was a dominant force.  And the Vikings won another game.

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 12, Lions 10

I'm a Viking fan.

I don't care if the Vikes have to eke out an ugly two-point win against an inferior opponent--as long as they do eke it out.

I don't care if it is aided by questionable officiating calls (Viking fans long ago gave up the need to apologize for referees).

I don't care what a win indicates about what the team will do in the future: tomorrow will worry about itself.

I just want to see the Vikings win games.  However they do it, a Viking win fills me with pleasure (or in the case of today's game, relief).  It's a euphoria I enjoy.

I could complain (and there will be time for that).  But after three hours of feeling miserable, after Ryan Longwell made that field goal I started breathing heavy.  After the clock went to zero and the Vikings had the win, I just kept smiling with the overwhelming sense of relief.

The Vikings will need to play better, but that's for them to worry about.  For me, I'll just spend the week enjoying the Vikings' 3rd win of the season.

Today's Heroes:

Kevin Williams
This might have been Williams' greatest career game.  He was smothering, dominating, constantly penetrating the line of scrimmage.  He brought Lions down behind the line of scrimmage and he busted up plays to force them away.   In a 12-10 defensive fight when the offense is impotent and self-destructing, the Vikings needed Kevin Williams to consistently disrupt the Lions' offense.  And he did: let's show some appreciation for #93, arguable the league's best defensive lineman.

Kevin Williams was the best player on the field today.

Bernard Berrian
The offense struggled every which way today.  Even when the Vikes moved the ball with successful plays, turnovers or penalties hurt them.  In a tight defensive game, it's great to have an offensive player that can turn the game with a single play.  And Berrian did that: down 10-2, Berrian's 86 yard catch and run was the play of the game for the Viking offense.  In the last four games, Berrian has been a solid playmaking wide receiver.

Halftime: Lions 3, Vikings 2

Viking fans often like to assume Adrian Peterson is some sort of Jesus, and whenever the Vikings struggle, we blame Brad Childress' playcalling or the lack of a passing game.  But today was not the first devastating fumble from AP.

Pass protection is horrible.

What the hell is a "boo bird"?  That expression has always bugged me.  There are no fucking boo birds!  Why does anybody ever say "The boo birds are out"?  And is it so fun to say that the announcer says "boo birds" three different times?

And who could ever question Viking fans booing, when the offense has zero points against an 0-4 team?  Just because we won a weird game on Monday, we should never boo again?

The defense is once again dominating.  Must be frustrating for those players.

IF the Vikings continue to struggle and lose this game, we Viking fans can at least give up on the season.  Then we don't have to ever get nervous or worried: we can just try enjoy the football season the best way we can.  Because if the Vikes lose to the Lions at home, this team isn't going anywhere.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

National Friday League, Week Six

Viking-Lion Preview: These Go to Eleven
Viking-Lion Preview at

The Vikings have won ten straight home games against the Lions. The 2008 Lions are 0-4 and have lost their games by an average score of 36.8-16.5. Their defense is 29th in the league in allowed rush yards per attempt and 32nd in allowed net pass yards per attempt.

That's your preview. That's what you need to know. The Vikings should win, and if they do (whether by a little or a lot), we can't make any big inferences about the team. If they lose, it will be a major disaster for the team. Let's just enjoy the game, suckers.

Week Six Games
Several games intrigue me:

The Colt offense has been struggling. Baltimore has lost a couple of close games in which the defense played spectacular and the offense couldn't do enough (how much of this decade does that sentence cover, by the way?). This should be a close game, and I expect the Colts to pull it out with a late score.

These are two teams I just can't get a read on. The Cardinals scream 9-7 to me, and Dallas is very good, but sort of...I don't know...shiftless, I guess. I don't think they've been playing their best football, and I wonder if they will.

Green Bay/Seattle
At the end of this game, we'll know a lot about the loser of this game.

New England/San Diego

I'm also rather curious about Chicago (they're looking like the best team in the NFC North) and Miami (an improving team with a solid quarterback and two talented running backs--how far are they going?).

Fantasy Narcissism: Embrace Being a Homer

If in the hours after Monday night's Viking win, I traded Calvin Johnson and Matt Forte for Bernard Berrian and Willis McGahee, what of it? I have Viking blogger cred to hold up.

Surprising statistics on scoring, scores, and wins (pro-football-reference).

Pat Reusse cites Bud Grant that all wins should be appreciated (I agree), and also complains about Viking fans writing their thoughts on the internet (Star Tribune).

If you have Vikings on your fantasy team, this is the week to celebrate: Detroit's defense is really, really bad (Football Outsiders on ESPN).

Can the Vikes turn things around this season? (Bull v. Bear).

The Vikes have a 93% chance of winning this weekend (Advanced NFL Stats).

Charting last Monday's game (Advanced NFL Stats).

The Dolphins and the Single Wing (William C. Rhoden). The Single Wing always makes me smile.

Depression and the NFL (Dave Zirin).

The Vikes could move up in the division (Viking Update).

The Vikings and Pizza Hut are doing a promotion to reward a Viking fan with nifty things ( Hey, Vikings and Pizza Hut: for being a Viking blogger, could I just have some free pizza? I linked to your promo just to see if I could get some pizza. I'll do anything for pizza--except just pay for it, evidently. And I only eat pizza on weekends (I'm mostly vegan, but I make a lot of exceptions on weekends--at any rate, make sure that free pizza doesn't have meat on it). I WANT PIZZA!

Vikings War Cry uses The Wizard of Oz to talk about the Vikings. I've got tickets to Wicked when it comes to the Orpheum in November, so suck on that!

Chris Kluwe Story: Distraction
I haven't written about the Chris Kluwe-Brad Childress story this week because it doesn't interest me.

The Viking coverage units on punts and kickoffs has been terrible all season long: that's the real story that matters for this team. The Vikes have given up three punt returns for touchdowns and several long kickoff returns this season. It was already a major factor in one loss (they allowed a punt return for a TD in a five point loss to the Packers), and I'm afraid poor coverage may account for more losses this season.

The Viking defense is very, very good; it will be rare that the Vikings will give up long scoring drives. But even a good defense can be exploited if the opponent consistently gets good field position.

I'm probably not going to the Viking game this weekend. I'm a little sad about that: after attending the last 10 home games, I just feel like I should attend all the games, and that I'm missing something if I don't.

Enjoy the weekend, everybody. Except Lion, Packer, and Bear fans.

Detroit Lions at Thunderdome

1998: 29-6
1999: 24-17
2000: 24-17
2001: 31-26
2002: 31-24
2003: 24-14
2004: 22-19
2005: 27-14
2006: 26-17
2007: 42-10

Monday, October 06, 2008

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 30, Saints 27

Let's not analyze this too much.  It was a very weird win for a very flawed team.  But Viking wins are like orgasms; even if they're not great, they're still better than anything else that's going to happen to you that day.

Things to feel good about
We have Antoine Winfield on the Vikings.  Yet another Viking win keyed by big plays from #26.  He's an awesome player and he's been giving us spectacular performances like this since 2004.  Tonight he had several great tackles (including a few stopping RBs for little to no gain), another signature sack-forced fumble-fumble recover, and of course the return of a blocked kick for a touchdown.  I really will work on my wife to name any future daughter we have Winfield (we can call her Winnie--that's not bad, right?).  I'm pretty sure the compromise will be naming any future cat Winfield.  C'est la vie.

Bernard Berrian had a major impact on this game.  6 catches for 110 yards and a game-tying touchdown reception, and he drew the pass interference that set up the game-winning field goal.  He still drops passes, but he also makes plays; tonight he made plays that directly helped the Vikings win the game.  We have a receiver defenders have to account for.

Gus Frerotte is taking frequent shots downfield, and good things are happening as a result.  In the second half, Frerotte hit Berrian for a 36 yard completion and a 33 yard touchdown, and another deep pass resulted in a 42 yard penalty on the Saints.  For an offense that struggles to maintain drives, attempting to complete deep passes is key.

The Viking pass rush is good.  Tonight the pass rush forced Drew Brees into several incompletions, and might have sacked him if Brees wasn't so adept and stepping forward away from pass rushers.

Continuing concerns
Cedric Griffin's pass defense looks perpetually awful; far too many passes are completed right in front of him.  At this point I'm wondering if the Vikings wouldn't be better off moving another CB up the depth chart; Griffin has some talent (he's a good tackler and a hard hitter), but he's really struggling in coverage.

The coverage on punts and kicks has been terrible.  There's a tendency to complain about the Viking coaches' decision to punt again to Reggie Bush.  My bigger complaint is in the coverage; you can't punt away all the time, and you've got to be able to tackle returners.  The Vikings have to find a way to competently cover punt and kick returns with the players they have on the roster.

Adrian Peterson can still have get-completely-smothered-and-make-little-to-no-impact games.  That's worrisome, but I suppose even Barry Sanders in his prime could have those games.

Pass protection has been erratic at best; if Gus Frerotte weren't doing such a good job throwing the ball quickly, stepping up to avoid rushers, and making throws while getting hit, the Vikes would be taking sacks and getting roughed up bad.  They've got to do a better job protecting a 37 year old gunner.

It's scary that the Vikings are so bad in the red zone, their best chance for a touchdown is to try a halfback pass to a tight end.

Over the long run, I'm worried about the linebacker corps without E.J. Henderson.  Henderson was such a reliable playmaker, and I think his replacement(s) will miss some tackles, getting to positions just a step slow.

Smiling Tonight
When the Saints had the ball with the score tied 27-27 and they had just completed a long pass, I thought "Even if next week's game is blacked out, I'm still not going to the game.  Suck on that, Zygi!"  And now I'm enjoying the bliss that comes immediately after a close Viking victory.

Gus Frerotte to Bernard Berrian: I like it.

Minnesota Vikings against the New Orleans Saints

Enjoy the game, everybody.  Let's hope the Viking defense really rattles Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson finds gaping holes behind Bryant McKinnie and runs for touchdowns.

Because you cry, then you cry again.

E.J. Henderson: out for the year.

Henderson has been a great middle linebacker for the Vikings.  We can only hope that Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are a big reason Viking linebackers are free to make plays.  After all, the Viking run defense was spectacular in 2006 with Napoleon Harris at middle linebacker, too.

Henderson is also great fun to watch: it's thrilling to watch him run around Thunderdome making spectacular plays.  Sad that he'll be out.


For a good preview, check out The Ragnarok.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

On the Couch

However we've felt watching this team so far, consider this: one week from this moment we may be musing on our 3-3 team.

There are a few things I'll be watching closely Monday night:

The Viking Linebackers. Without E.J. Henderson, there will be a lot of pressure on the other linebackers to make plays against Sean Payton's zany short-passing game. Reggie Bush could have 100 yards receiving.

Bryant McKinnie. I'll be zooming my focus on him as much as possible (when I watch other teams play, I can watch parts of the game other than the ball; when I watch the Vikings, I have trouble doing that). It will be interesting to see how his presence affects the play-calling, the running game (some more room could allow Adrian Peterson to break some long touchdowns), and the passing game (Gus Frerotte needs protection to attempt some necessary deep passes for this squad).

Drew Brees. I expect him to throw for 300 yards. But will it be an efficient 300, or will it be a ragged 300 featuring some turnovers, some sacks, some ugly 3rd down throws?

Adrian Peterson. Because when would I not be watching AP closely?

The Texans decide that it might be rather more fun to lose to the Colts than to beat them.
After the Texans went up 27-10 with about eight minutes left, I still intended to follow the Colts-Texans game for fantasy interest, but I was also flipping to the Falcons-Packers game to make sure the Falcons closed Green Bay out. And somehow, the Texans made it look easy for the Colts to score three touchdowns in just a few minutes. There's nothing to it: give up a long scoring drive by allowing easy completions over the middle. Fumble on unnecessary effort and give up a long defensive touchdown. Then fumble in your own territory and give up a short touchdown drive. When you look at a 17 point deficit, you figure it would take some sort of miraculous effort and luck to win (which, of course, it did). But when you look back at a team blowing a 17 point lead, it actually looks remarkably easy.

The Packers are not that good.
The Packer defense only has two weaknesses to overcome: they're bad at stopping the run, and they're vulnerable against the pass. If they can overcome those two weaknesses, they could be a good defense.

The Lee Evans Fantasy Experience
In the past two games, Lee Evans has been credited with a total of four receptions. Despite just four catches, he's also credited with 188 receiving yards, 22 rushing yards, two touchdowns, and one two-point conversion.

But in his next game, those two catches could be for 12 yards. That's the Lee Evans Fantasy Experience. If you're starting Lee Evans on your fantasy team, that's the experience you've signed on for.

The Ronnie Brown Fantasy Experience
125 yards and a touchdown after his 113 yard, 4 TD game: is Ronnie Brown now a reliable fantasy starter? Evidently.

The Kyle Orton Experience
I don't care who the opponent is. Last year I thought the Vikings' home win against the Bears was slightly tainted because it featured Kyle Orton lobbing five yard passes around the field. On that night, I would have found it utterly inconceivable that Orton would ever go 24/34 for 334 yards and 2 touchdowns in a professional game (unless it was via a series of screen passes to some sort of monster running back). I would find it entirely contemptible to suggest that anybody would ever consider picking up Orton for a fantasy team. But now it must be happening. It's enough to make me think that we can't make a closed-book assessment of Tarvaris Jackson three games into his third season.

The Randy Moss Experience
Watching highlights of Randy Moss's 66 yard go-route TD against the Niners, I'm just reminded that Moss is something else entirely than a great NFL wide receiver. There are great NFL receivers, and then there are Don Hutson, Jerry Rice, and Randy Moss. That's that.

The Eli Manning Experience
The erratic one has played four 2008 games and has completed 63.8% of his passes with just one interception. If you weren't reading for "Eli Manning: Super Bowl MVP," then like me you're struggling to prepare yourself for "Eli Manning: Elite Quarterback on an Elite Team."

The Kurt Warner Experience
He has to stay healthy, and he has to overcome his career-long weakness (turnovers). But Kurt Warner may end up being one of the fascinating stories of 2008. Remember, Warner is 5th all-time in QB rating, 5th all-time in yards per attempt, 2nd all-time in completion percentage. From 1999 to 2001, he played quarterback as well as anybody ever played it. He's supremely accurate and he throws a beautiful and deadly deep ball. And now he's playing great football again.

The Washington Zorns
Really? Wow.

The Hazelweird Fantasy Football Experience
In the Hazelweird League, we're always changing our team names. Half the league has now changed its team name to make fun of Sarah Palin. One member pointed out that it was now fun to propose trades to me to get a notice like "You have proposed a trade to Russia." I noted it was just as funny to see "You have a trade proposal from Washington Elites," and suggested we should name our teams according to how funny trade proposals will look. Now we have teams names like "Kevin McHale" and "Yourself."

What John Madden said tonight
"...he's right there in the hole, and he bangs him."

Mewelde Moore
I always liked that guy.

Waiting on Monday night
I'll be feverishly grading papers in between classes; I hope being extremely productive during the work day makes the wait for the Viking game tolerable.

Enjoy your Monday, everybody.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Bryant McKinnie

Bryant McKinnie says he's working on changing (Star Tribune).

I'm glad to have him back on the Vikings. He's a good player, often a very good player: he'll help the offense move the ball.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

National Friday League, week five

Vikings-Saints Monday Night Preview

The Viking Defense
The game will be on turf, so the speed of the Viking defensive line may be able to pressure Drew Brees. However, the Saints utilize a quick, short passing game, so the defensive line may not have time to get to Brees. A key performer may be Kevin Williams: Jared Allen may not have time to get around the edge to Brees, but Williams may disrupt passing plays up the middle.

Another key will be the tackling of all Viking defenders. The Saints will throw a ton of short passes, so defensive backs, linebackers, and even defensive ends will have to be quick to tackle wide receivers and running backs as soon as they catch the ball. I wouldn't be surprised if Jared Allen makes some key plays in this area. It will definitely hurt if the Vikes are without E.J. Henderson.

Leslie Frazier's schemes will matter. The Viking defense may need to do creative things to prevent the Saints from continually completing 5-10 yard passes.

And the Vikings have to prevent big pass plays. Against Indianapolis, the Viking defense played superb football for the vast majority of the game, but gave up a few long pass plays and lost the game. The Viking offense is rarely going to run up a big lead--the game will probably be close. Drew Brees has been completing a lot of long passes this season ( a reason he's averaging 335 pass yards per game this season). The Vikes could again play well but lose because of a few long passes.

The Viking Offense
The Saints' defense is shreddable, and though the Viking offense is capable of explosive games (thanks mostly to Adrian Peterson), nothing in the Childress era should give us confidence that the Vikings will certainly take advantage of a weak defense. They might--just don't count on it.

Viking Special Teams
I thought Maurice Hicks provided a nice burst returning kicks Sunday; I'd like to see him doing more returns.

Week Five Games
Naturally, TV networks think all any of us want to do is watch the Dallas Cowboys play, even against ragtag suckers like my preseason sleeper Bengals. I'm very intrigued with the Buffalo-Arizona matchup, but alas. At least I do get to watch the Colts.

If the Vikings were Republicans (We Have Mixed Feelings About Sven Sundgaard).

Matt Forte (Yahoo!).

Bernard Berrian (Access Vikings).

Viking pass rush (Pioneer Press).

Bryant McKinnie (Viking Update).

Looking at week five (Football Outsiders).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Public Money and Stadiums (not Stadia!)

At ESPN, Tim Keown suggests that the nation's economic situation might just prevent states and cities from public financing stadiums for privately owned sports teams (and that's a good thing). 

That certainly could be the case, and that would impact the Vikings: while the Minnesota legislature may be even less likely to approve funding for a new Viking stadium, other cities and states might also be unwilling to put up the money to lure the team away.  Get comfortable in Thunderdome!

The stadium issue is one of the reasons I've had a fan's sense of urgency for the Vikings.  I want to see them win a championship, but there's been this gnawing feeling that I don't have my whole life to wait: I need to see them win a championship before they move to L.A. or San Antonio or anywhere else.  I don't really think that they'll move, and I hate to even talk about it, but that fear still looms in the background of my desperation for this team.