Monday, December 22, 2008

National Fun League, week 17

The two NFC North games that matter

Vikings v. Giants (in Thunderdome)
If the Metrodome ever mattered, it will be Sunday. If the Vikings win, then there will be a playoff game in the Metrodome the very next week.

This is a game when the Vikes could miss Pat Williams badly; Giants RB Derrick Ward has 948 yards (5.7 per carry), Brandon Jacobs has 1,089 (5.0 per carry), and Ahmad Bradshaw has 347 (5.7 per carry).

Eli Manning has been terrible against the Vikings, throwing four interceptions in a 2007 game and four interceptions in a 2005 game.  

The triumvirate of Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Steve Slaton may be able to break the Chicago defense apart.  Or balls could bounce off punt returners' feet, the Bears could block field goals, and a Kyle Orton led team could win its 10th game.

The Residents of the state of Texas are 5-2 at home; the Bears are 3-4 on the road.

The other games with playoff implications

Chad Sexington gets to try beat his former team. This, you've heard from every person who writes about football. Except the part about calling him Chad Sexington.

Cowboys @ Eagles
Holy Crap, does this game look good. Hopefully on Sunday the Vikings have already clinched the division, and we can relax and watch this game.

Broncos @ Chargers
I'm slightly intrigued because I wonder which team will have a better chance of upsetting Indianapolis in the Wild Card playoff game. The Chargers are a better team and can play the Colts close (evidence), but the Broncos play in Denver and could have a snowy, cold game, which could trouble the Colts.

Patriots @ Bills
Have I missed the "Tom Brady is a system quarterback and 2008 proves it" discussions? I assume they are happening on message boards and such.

Jaguars @ Ravens
The Jags just don't look like they have a spoiler game in them.

Oakland @ Tampa Bay
My wild guess is the Bucs make the playoffs.

MVP (is AP the most valuable Viking?)
I really think Peyton Manning will win MVP now: his numbers are good, his team is in the playoffs, and he's getting a lot of praise for gutting the Colts to some close wins. Adrian Peterson just fumbles too much--he could come back into MVP contention with a domination Week 17 game in a Viking win, but I don't think it will be enough.

And in my opinion, Manning deserves it more than AP. Peterson has had some spectacular games in some important Viking wins, but the Vikings are a defensive football team: they've won because the defense has controlled the game (in fact the Vikes have lost some games despite great defensive efforts because of offensive turnovers or offensive insufficiency). I don't think Peterson is more valuable to the Vikings than Manning is to the Colts. In fact if I had to pick one Viking player, I might even say Jared Allen is more important to the Vikes than AP. The Vikings have a lot of good defensive players (Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, and Antoine Winfield rightly join Allen in the Pro Bowl), but it is the addition of Allen that has made the Vikings a fierce pass-rushing team (tied for 4th in sacks) and a complete defense. Chester Taylor is a good running back that can competently replace AP when needed, but the Vikings don't have a DE that can have anywhere near the impact Allen can. I might even say AP is the third most important player on the team, behind Allen and Kevin Williams, a dominant force in the middle that stuffs the run, rushes the passer, and generally disrupts offensive plays.

I love AP (except the fumbling); I just think the defense has been more important than the offense, and that some individual defensive players like Jared Allen and Kevin Williams have been more important to the Vikings' success than AP.

Did you see the Viking episode of How I Met Your Mother?
In the episode, Marshall (a Minnesota native) takes Robin to a Minnesota bar, where everybody wears Viking clothing and complains about the '99 NFC Championship game.  Here's a clip.  It's silly but it was enjoyable to see all the Viking clothing and such.

Links
Robert Smith's advice to AP about fumbles (Pioneer Press).

Ray Edwards and Gary Larsen (Pat Reusse). This is one example of the advantage of having a sportswriter cover the same team for decades.

The Tarvaris Revolution continues (Star Tribune).

What's Marvin Harrison without Peyton Manning (pro-football-reference.com)?

T-Jack starts (Access Vikings, Viking Update).

TNABACG is also having flashbacks.

So it was Esera Tuaolo's fault (Out Sports).

Adrian Peterson has a healthy lead for the rushing title.

Week
An early National Fun League post again, for another unpredictable week: there may or may not be more posts this week.

Happy Festivus!

6 comments:

  1. I did a Top 20 Minnesota Vikings post back in July, arranged in a kind of "Most valuable on down" order. It pretty much agrees with you -- Jared Allen at #1, ahead of AP at #2 and KW at #3.

    Pat Williams, though...still overrated, I think.

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  2. I think AP is more valuable, he just isn't utilized the right way, I think this team could be getting more out of him. The man has a significant chance to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. Jared Allen doesn't have that ability, and I think you have to give more credit to all the defensive players as a unit, not individually. Pat Williams isn't overrated, he's just the best at what he does and that's stopping the run. He's a one dimensional player, and that's ok, because if what you do works in your defensive system, then that's all that matters.

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  3. dan worley9:28 PM

    nice photo of big ole. that is whre i grew up in alex. thanks for your blog i read it often.

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  4. Football Outsiders' analysis suggests RB is the most "fungible" position: it's the position that you can most easily find a replacement for. Just think how many teams have got by for a stretch of time with some no-name, undrafted RB. These guys always emerge. So while it's great to have an elite RB, without an elite RB you can still function.

    A dominant pass-rushing defensive end, on the other hand, changes the game. A pass rush totally redefines a game (the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl primarily because they dominated with the pass rush). And there just aren't that many dominant pass-rushing defensive ends in the league.

    That's why I think DE Jared Allen is more important than RB Adrian Peterson: because a dominant pass-rusher is much, much harder to find than a dominant RB. That's why the Vikings have struggled since Chris Doleman to find a good pass-rusher.

    AP has the potential to score a TD on any play, but of course he doesn't. He certainly affects a game, but defenses account for him as they'd have to account for any great RB. A dominant pass-rushing DE, on the other hand, can entirely disrupt an offense for many, many plays. There has been several games this season when Allen was regularly hurrying the QB. This results in hurried incompletions, knockdowns, losses of yards on sacks, failed pass plays that don't have time to develop, etc.

    Basically, I think a DE is a) much harder to find or replace and b) can dominate a game, entirely disrupting an opponent's offense.

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  5. PV:

    In one of your National Fun League posts last week (and in other posts this month) you suggested AP could win the league MVP award by dragging this Viking team to a division title and playoff berth.

    Now league MVP and who the Vikings MVP is can de two different things. And I also know you consider the league MVP award a bit of a joke because only QB's and RB's win it.

    But I do question why after AP fumbles three times in one game, he's no longer an MVP candidate in your mind because he fumbles too much (it's been an issue all season for him). And now you even consider Jared Allen to be the Vikings MVP.

    I don't know what your thoughts on this subject were before you made this post. But I think your judgement on who the Vikings MVP is might be clouded this week by the fact AP fumbled three times in a critical late season game?

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  6. My thoughts are jumbled, yes, but it might also be that hazy distinction between "best" and "most valuable." There are people who think AP is the best player in the league--but that might not make him the most valuable Viking.

    I've thought of it this way. This year AP is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, Chester Taylor 4.0. Last season AP averaged 5.6, Chester Taylor 5.4. Without AP, the Viking running game could function--he's an elite player, but more easily replaceable.

    Without Jared Allen, is there another Viking DE that could get close to 14 sacks, or that could so regularly hurry and hit the QB, disrupting and ruining pass plays? I don't think so. Allen has made the Vikings a complete defense.

    Also, in my running commentary on league MVP, I've examined it from both a) my own perception of who should be MVP and b) which candidates are making the best case for the voters who select the award. I think after Manning had a great game to clinch the playoffs for the Colts, AP had to have a great game to keep up. And he didn't.

    So when I started writing the bit here, I was mainly going to write about how Manning had passed AP, and then I was mentioning that Manning is more valuable to the offense-driven Colts than AP is to the defense-driven Vikings. And that led me thinking about how the Viking defense is more valuable than the Viking offense, and are there any individual Viking defensive players that are more important than AP?

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