At 9-3, the Bengals may be the strongest opponent the Vikings have faced this season. Considering that you probably can't name a single Bengal defensive player, their defense is remarkably good (#1 in points allowed, #4 in yards allowed, #7 in net pass yards per attempt allowed, #6 in rush yards per attempt allowed. Now you're saying "Hey, Jackass: what's with this 'you' business? What do you know about what I know about Cincinnati's defense?").
It is at home and on turf that the Viking pass rush has been unstoppable this season. And offensively, the Cincinnati Bengals are noticeably average (#16 in points scored, #18 in yards, #16 in net pass yards per attempt, #23 in rush yards per attempt). The pass rush will be key: we've seen what a good quarterback can do to the Viking secondary when he has time to throw, and Carson Palmer is a good quarterback. If the defensive line hurries throws, bats down passes, and hits Palmer, the Viking defense will have a good day.
The Vikes are 6-0 at home and 8-0 on turf this season.
Here's what I hope: early on, the Bengals decide to test rookie middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley and try to run the ball. The Vikes will prove (again) that it is the dominant interior line of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams that really makes them difficult to run against, and also that Brinkley, however well he plays, will have good help around him from Chad Greenway, Ben Leber, and good run-tackling cornerbacks, and the Bengals will be in a long of 2nd and 3rd and long situations. With the loud Thunderdome crowd and a storming pass rush from Jared Allen, the Bengals could have trouble converting passes on those downs. I also hope that Adrian Peterson is able to break a few early long runs and be active in the receiving game, that Favre gets time to throw and that if the Bengals are able to well-cover one or even two of the Viking WRs, they're not able to cover the third. It's what I hope, but after last week, I don't know what to expect.
Cheer loud, thunderdome crowd.
Star Tribune, Vikings.com, Pioneer Press
Other NFL Games
Week 14 Schedule
Packers v. Bears. I want to see how Chicago defends Soldier Field against a good opponent in December. The Vikes go to Chicago in a few weeks, a place where they typically struggle even when they are the better team. Of course I want to see the Packers lose, but if the Bears are truly awful, well, that's OK for us too.
Broncos v. Colts. Indianapolis will be destroying my fantasy season by clinching the #1 seed as soon as possible and then resting starters. If this is their last meaningful game before the playoffs, may they go bananas.
Dolphins v. Jaguars. an important game in the chase for a Wild Card spot, between two teams that will be irrelevant by the second round of the playoffs. It's a game we're supposed to want to care about, but I really can't.
Chargers v. Cowboys. I've always liked inter-conference games featuring quality teams.
Eagles v. Giants. That NFC East division race is interesting, but I don't know if the games they play are actually interesting. I hope this one is.
After a Viking loss
This week I mostly avoided any football news. I didn't read any articles, check many stats, keep up with blogs, listen to sports talk radio, or watch much TV sports news. I checked some news sources just in case there was some big, relevant news I should really know about.
After a disappointing Viking loss, I don't like to pay attention to football. I throw all my energy into the other demands and joys of life, and try not to think too much about football.
I don't think there's anything to feel bad about in that: I don't have a moral obligation to read everything on the Vikings, good and bad. I don't get paid to write about sports. I try to follow sports for pleasure, and following a game with winners and losers brings enough non-pleasure. I don't need to read articles that will give me more non-pleasure. The most fun I have is watching the games anyway--I can take or leave most of the commentary during the week.
And I mean, what am I going to find out there? Just the summary of this was enough to remind me that if the Packers win their 13th championship before the Vikings win their first that I'll not only give up following football in despair of futility, but I might go into a philosophical tailspin and stop believing in anything, and someday you'll find an old stranger at the end of a bar by himself, sipping gin and muttering "Everything is permitted" (do yourself a favor: don't talk to him). OK, none of that will probably happen. But it might. And I would probably require a moratorium from football, whether for a few months or many, many months, I don't know. Even thinking about it causes a certain level of despair. I've got issues.
Some jackass decided that it would work well to put the busiest time of the academic year during the most personally demanding month of the year, plus it would be cold, and there would still be football. It's caffeine and carb season, and an admittedly uninspired National Friday League post. Next week will probably be worse.
Have a good weekend everybody. Except Bengal and Packer fans.