National Friday Leagues is intended as Friday post, but this season it will typically be posted on Thursday night. National Friday League is a chance to preview the Vikings’ game, look at other interesting NFL stories and games heading into the weekend, and also to be silly and inane as we get excited for a weekend of football. Expect more first person than usual.
Welcome to week one of the “My God, I can’t believe Brett Favre is the Vikings’ quarterback” season. Every time I see a picture of Favre, I’m shocked all over again.
Week One Games
The 2008 Browns were 4-12 with 4.4 expected wins, and ranked 27th in point differential. The offense ranked 30th in points and 31st in yards. Defensively, they ranked 16th in points allowed and 26th in yards allowed (they were particularly weak against the run). The Vikings should win this game handily. If they don’t, it may not be a sign of serious problems (but it probably is). But in a closely contested division race in which I think the Vikes, Bears, and Packers will win 10+ games each, a loss like this would become extremely regrettable late in the season.
This is a great matchup for the Vikings on both sides of the field. Adrian Peterson should be capable of 150+ against the Browns defense. I particularly expect to see the Viking defensive line disrupt the Brown passing game by constantly pressuring the Browns’ passer into quick, short, and inaccurate throws.
I’m anxious about two particular issues on the 2009 Vikings: the defensive secondary and the offensive pass protection. I will be happy if the secondary and offensive line comes through week one. Serious problems in either of these areas could really derail the season.
When the Packers and Bears play week one
When these two teams play late in the year, you have a better idea of what the outcome means to the Vikings’ chances of winning the division. Week one, whom are you supposed to root against stronger?
My default position (I think shared with many Viking fans) is to root against the Packers. When most other things are equal, I’d rather see the Bears win than the Packers. And in week one, most other things are equal. But I hope it’s ugly: a score like 6-3 would be pretty encouraging.
The past is defined by what follows
In 2007, I was at the Metrodome to see Brett Favre break Dan Marino’s career touchdown record. It was a record I sort of hoped I wouldn’t see broken that day. If Brett Favre now leads the Vikings to their first Super Bowl win ever, he’ll become one of my favorite athletes of all-time, and that day will transform into a cherished memory. It was already special to see it live, even if he was a Packer, but now that I no longer despise Favre, the meaning of that day changes.
“Christ, what are patterns for?”
As a teacher I get used to a seasonal lifestyle: the different parts of the year have their own patterns, routines, tones, and focuses. It is not just academia, but a life as a spectator of football that gives the year different patterns, too. September through January is its own thing, with an entirely different feel from February through August.
The new pattern has begun.
Viking games are sort of my drug
They give me a rush like nothing else quite does. That's not to say that Viking games are the most important thing in my life, just that the intense rush of feeling they give me is unique.
What is it like cheering for Brett Favre to lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl?
I imagine this is how I'd feel if George W. Bush moved to Minnesota, got elected governor as a Green party candidate, then spearheaded all sorts of policy initiatives that I support and care deeply about. I would be constantly shocked at whom I'm actually siding with, and I'd be constantly worried about imminent disastrous failure.
Wonders of the Modern World
A toddler and a baby will make frequent demands that cannot wait until a commercial break to be met. DVR makes it possible to fully and totally enjoy a football game even with those demands. But then, DVR has pretty much ruined me for reality: whenever I don’t hear or see something clearly, I always think I can back it up to hear it again. It’s a problem.
Other Games I Find Interesting This Week
In week one, all the games are interesting, but they’re not all equal (or if you prefer, some are more equal than others). There’s not a week one game I wouldn’t watch, but (for example) I’d rather watch any other game than Broncos-Bengals.
If you don’t know this already, I always watch the Colts. Peyton Manning is my favorite non-Viking, and my fantasy teams are always littered with Colt skill position players.
I also always want to watch my mystical adventure players on TV. To highlight the ridiculousness of everything, I now refer to my fantasy players as my mystical adventure players. But whenever they are on TV I watch them, because it’s fun to root for mystical adventure players.
In the Hazelweird League, I drafted the Patriot defense because I usually draft the Patriot defense. Since then, Tedi Bruschi retired, Richard Seymour was traded, and I find myself wondering about all the players on my fantasy defense. Who are these guys? I feel like I drafted a team of mannequins in Patriot uniforms: I know little about any of them, and none of them are the reason I drafted this team. But are they just Macy’s mannequins with no faces, or are they the Express mannequins with half their heads cut off? Those things are like my nightmares. I shut my eyes, and I see them slowly approaching me. And what will they do when they get to me? Will one of them rip off my head and try attach it to his half-head? Anyway, I think I’ll be looking for a new fantasy defense soon.
Massive Collection of Links and More
Mark Wald at CHFF on a CHFF inconsistency:
“Ever notice how CHFF attributes John Elway’s two Super Bowl titles to Denver’s dominant running game? Yet Mike Shanahan never won anything of note after Elway left (and Shanahan got fired for it) despite continually churning out awesome running games, while in all other areas non-Elway related CHFF talks about the irrelevance of the running game. The CHFF math doesn't add up.”
At ESPN, Kevin Seifert talks about the anticipation of the NFC North.
A Viking preview at FOX Sports
At Sports Illustrated, Richard Deitsch takes us through all the networks’ broadcasting details.
At pro-football-reference.com, Neil Paine uses historical comparisons to question high projections for Drew Brees.
Defensive Indifference with a Viking preview
If you watch any ESPN station ever, you’ve surely seen Adam Schefter constantly. The Big Lead discusses. Have you ever disliked somebody, and you can’t remember if there’s a good reason for you to dislike the person or if it’s just that you find the person unlikeable? That’s me with Schefter. I seem to think there must be some reason I dislike him, but I don’t remember it. Maybe it’s because I just want him to grow his hair out and look like Brian Fantana. If you’re going to do any news on TV and you look like Paul Rudd, you should grow your hair and moustache out. Dear Mr. Schefter: I find you unlikeable for some reason, and that’s not fair, because you might be a perfectly fine gentleman whose company I would enjoy. Maybe if you grew your hair out, I would like you more. Sincerely, some jackass with a blog.
Football Outsiders provides preseason DVOA projections: the Vikes rank 8th, 2nd in the NFC. I'm encouraged by Green Bay's ranking.
The Vikings have the best WR depth in the division? So sayeth Kevin Seifert at ESPN. This year, I am going to try write "so sayeth" at least once in every National Friday League, just because it's fun to write.
I'm working on a lengthy rambling post on economics and pro football that I may never be quite confident enough to post, because I'm not an economist or even somebody who understands economics, just an English teacher who has studied some Marxist literary theory and pays attention to things. But we'll be reading about a lot of blackouts all around the league this year, so I'll just post Peter Kings' comments from his recent MMQB:
“I think the league shouldn't be so hardened about the blackout rule. I'm not sure what the right way is to lift a few blackouts, but I do know this: It's unrealistic to expect that Detroit, with a tragic 29 percent unemployment rate, to fill a 64.500-seat stadium regularly. I wouldn't lift the blackout entirely this year, because once the genie's out of the bottle, it's going to be hard to get it back in. But I would say it would be a grand gesture for the league to give the truly deserving franchises a couple of games with home TV for non-sellouts.”
In week one, the Bengals and Buccaneers are a bit up against it (Pro Football Talk). PFT also notes that blacked out games can be seen later on NFL.com.
I Dislike Your Favorite Team complains about ambiguous language/incorrect grammar in a Yahoo! headline. Didn't I used to write this sort of thing at this blog? These days I've got a lot fewer hangups about how people (who aren't my students) use language. I guess all the other hangups got in the way. That and I started paying more attention to linguists.
Sports Illustrated has predictions from their experts.
Bernard Berrian's injury lingers (Pioneer Press). Now I get a real test over whether I'm abandoning my homerism in fantasy leagues. I'm in two meaningful leagues and drafted Berrian in both: if he weren't a Viking, I'd probably bench him based on what I've read. But I'm probably sticking with him: there may have been brief periods of 2005 or 2006 when no Vikings were in my starting lineup, and I didn't like it.
Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders talks to the Star Tribune about the NFC North: good stuff (via FO).
Don't be looking for Bobby Wade this weekend (Yahoo!). I can't help wonder: does this mean the Vikes are a little more confident in Bernard Berrian's status for week one than they're letting on?
At Football Outsiders, Mike Tanier has an interesting exploration of football knowledge and what it takes to write about the game. I'd like to add that for me, it's not just the knowledge: it's the writing that matters. If the knowledge is attainable for just about anybody willing to put in the effort, then I still want to read those football writers who show skill at the writing craft itself. But of course I'm an English teacher, so my focus in football writing would be a little different.
And Football Outsiders' staff predictions (a lot of FO links this week, because there is a lot of good stuff).
Since the Vikes play the Browns this weekend, if you are curious about the world of a Browns fan, check out the Nosebleeds Blog.
Saturday night I’ll be in attendance at the first ever game at TCF Stadium, as the Minnesota Gophers take on Air Force. I’m pretty excited: I’ve never attended a major outdoor sporting event. It should be a fun way to kick off a big football weekend.
Sunday I will sit on the floor in front of the couch and stare (after all, the Onion reports that 90% of our waking hours are spent staring at glowing rectangles). Occasionally I will stand up to shout, cheer, yell, jump, and dance around. I will fill my body with an unconscionable amount of caffeine (in a vain attempt to settle my nervous tension), and I will later struggle to fall asleep. I will have few positive accomplishments for the day. Man, I really love football season.
Have a good weekend, suckers. Except Packer fans and Brown fans. Lion fans, I stopped caring how your weekends are.