Thursday, October 29, 2009


Vikings-Packers Preview
Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay Packers
Last Matchup: Vikings 30, Packers 23

The first matchup between these teams featured some defensive performances on both sides that will be difficult to repeat. The Packers held Adrian Peterson to 2.2 yards per rush attempt, and stripped the ball from him, returning it for a touchdown: I don’t believe they can stop him so effectively twice in one season. The Vikings sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times, including a forced fumble and one for a safety, and harried him all game long: though the Viking pass rush has been consistently good this season, it’s hard to envision that sort of success again.

The anomalies in this matchup go further. In their previous three games against the Packers, the Vikes have allowed four non-offensive touchdowns (a punt return, an interception return and a punt return, and fumble recovery return). It’s improbable for the Packers to keep that sort of run going, too, and the Viking defense has been successful at limiting the Packers’ offensive points. If the Vikings can avoid turnovers and cover punt returns well, they have a good chance at controlling the game.

The Packer offense seems successful at connecting on long passes: Rodgers averages 14.1 yards per completion, and Donald Driver (17.7) and Greg Jennings (16.2) each have high yards per reception. The Viking safeties Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson have struggled, but the Cover-2 scheme seems designed to prevent long passing plays. I think if the Vikes prevent the big play and force the Packers to try sustain long drives, they’ll be successful at stopping drives.

It’s pretty rare for the Vikes to sweep the Packers, and it is usually under special circumstances. They did it in ’98, when they were particularly awesome, and they did it in ’05, when the Packers were particularly terrible.

It’s a critical game, obviously. A win puts the Vikes 2.5 games ahead of the Packers with a season sweep; a loss puts the Vikes .5 games ahead with a season split. Either way, it’s worth noting that after the bye, the Vikes play three straight games in Thunderdome, against the Lions, Seahawks, and Bears. This is a big rivalry game, but the game won’t make or break the season for us.

Good or Bad?
Naufahu Tahi and Jim Kleinsasser have combined for 11 receptions this season. I scream into the abyss every time I see a pass targeted to either of these players—neither is a playmaker of any sort. On the other hand, the fact that they catch some passes might be an indicator that Brett Favre has been willing to check down rather than force something deep. Neither are generally a first option on any passing play, and a pass directed toward either usually amounts to slightly better than throwing it away. So maybe every time Favre throws to Tahi or Kleinsasser, we should be recognizing that it was NOT a pass he threw into double-coverage.

George Costanza and Me
(cross-posted at That’s how we do it in the T.C.)

In one episode of Seinfeld, George is on the verge of success, which fills him with anxiety and dread. He frets to his therapist, “God would never let me be successful. He’ll kill me first. He’ll never let me be happy.” “I thought you didn’t believe in God,” the therapist says. “I do for the bad things!” George replies.

I feel personally connected to the Minnesota Vikings. Their shortcomings are my shortcomings. When they fail, I feel I have failed, that I have opened myself up personally to the ridicule of the masses. When they win, I feel euphoric joy, but I don’t feel pride, exactly. I don’t think their strengths are my strengths, nor their successes my successes.

When people insult the Vikings, I feel they are insulting me personally. But that doesn’t mean that I consider praise for the Vikings praise for me. George Costanza believes in God only for the bad things. The Vikings are me, but only when they lose.

Other Week Eight Games of Note
Week Eight Schedule

Broncos-Ravens. The Ravens are a better football team. I think.

49ers-Colts. In the Hazelweird Fantasy League, I start Manning, Wayne, Addai, the Colt Defense, plus Frank Gore (and if Bernard Berrian is out, add Austin Collie). I think I ought to pay attention.

Giants-Eagles. The NFC East looks like a three-team race, so these head-to-head matchups between those three teams are really interesting.

Falcons-Saints. I spend an awful lot of my time thinking about the Saints and rooting for them to fail.

Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Perloff has been irritating me. His “Against the Grain” columns claim they’re going to go “in the opposite direction of your average pro football analysis.” It sounds like he’s going to be counterintuitive for the sake of being counterintuitive, but the columns aren’t even that useful: the commentary is usually pretty mundane. I find that he primarily makes claims, but that he doesn’t offer much analysis or evidence in support of those claims (which makes his work rather like “your average pro football analysis”).

My least favorite column this season was his post debunking myths about wide receivers: he presents a series of unsourced straw man propositions, then proceeds to debunk these easily debunkable propositions. It’s not just that the straw man propositions are easily debunkable; I’m also doubtful that some of these propositions are widely circulated or believed.

In the same column, Perloff also invents a claim that apparently “everyone said,” then proceeds to disagree with it (his argument of disagreement is extremely oversimplified and, in my opinion, mostly wrong, but I won’t get into that now). Generalizations are often a sign of shoddy writing: attributing a view to “everyone” is usually a mistake, and disagreeing with a fantasy “everyone” is sometimes a sign of a writer who thinks he’s some edgy voice crying in the wilderness, when usually he’s just not working hard.

I may be too hard on Perloff: during a semester I get accustomed to evaluating student writing, so I read very critically. But I also think it’s Perloff’s “against the grain” tone that gets to me, as if he’s saying “Hey, look at me! I’m saying something different!”

An annual reminder
We're all just Linus waiting for our Great Pumpkin.

Peyton Manning, in his prime ( By the way, my primarily Viking-focused readers: I appreciate the patience with which you tolerate my constant praise for Peyton Manning.

Football Outsiders’ DVOA: Packers #4, Vikings #8

How the lousy teams are inflating opponents’ passing numbers (18 to 88).

Mike Tanier reads Monday Night Jihad so you don't have to (FO).

I thought about linking to this Onion article, because it was sports-related and funny. But then I thought this Onion article was funnier. And then I thought this Onion article was truth-through-satire and is more important. So I'm linking to them all.

Timberwolves, suckers!
You may know me as a neurotic and obsessive Viking blogger, but when I was growing up, I thought about basketball mostly all the time, and so I’ve watched a lot of very awful Minnesota Timberwolves teams. I’ll follow any Wolves team. This year I’ll be going to a bunch of Wolves games; I kind of like the Target Center and the area around it, and I fell into a bunch of free tickets for the season. So, Jonny Flynn, suckers!

I’m renaming months what they are. October is now called “Candy.” It is always around, and I am powerless to resist it.

Have a good Halloween weekend, everybody. Except Packer, Bear, and Saint fans.


  1. "When people insult the Vikings, I feel they are insulting me personally."

    I sort of feel the same way. I think it might be (at least in my case) that when they say something like "Minnesota sucks," I feel like they're insulting the entire state, which I'm from. I wonder if I'd feel the same if I were a Broncos fan from Boulder, CO and someone said "Denver sucks."

  2. perloff is a hack. great preview, pv. definitely not hacky.

  3. oh and my halloween is going to be awesome - so deal, pv!

  4. Anonymous7:29 AM

    Brett Favre has a long history of checking it down to the fullback rather than "chucking it into double coverage." Take a gander at the career stats of fullbacks like William Henderson, Dorsey Levens, and Edgar Bennett. So Favre isn't really deviating from the "reckless gunslinger" norm that really isn't so much of a norm anyhow.


  5. RK, when you defend Favre against the interception rap, all my old instincts boil up and I want to say "Come on, let's not pretend we haven't seen some of the things we've seen." Then I have remind myself that's not my role anymore.

  6. SnakeWheel11:28 AM

    Here's an interesting article about Favre's (and other QBs') interceptions (I couldn't post the link):

  7. I saw that article, but it had a fundamental flaw: it compares interception rates across eras, but doesn't attempt to make adjustments for the eras. Great QBs of the 40s, 50s, and 60s threw more INTs because leaguewide, INTs were more prevalent (for a variety of reasons, including different rules and different offensive philosophies).

    50 years ago (1959), the leaguewide interception percentage was 6%. In 2009 so far, the leaguewide interception rate is 2.9%. On the whole, interceptions were twice as prevalent 50 years ago. Is it really relevant to offer straight-up INT rate comparisons between Johnny Unitas and Brett Favre?

    Comparisons across eras need to make adjustments across eras, either by attempting to normalize the statistics (which I don't prefer) or by evaluating QBs by comparing them to their contemporaries by assigning something like "value over average" (which I do prefer).

  8. Anonymous2:24 PM

    we need winfield!!!! wat the heck did he do to his foot??? cut it off?