2009 Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are 5-8: offensively, they rank 25th in points scored and 21st in yardage; defensively, they rank 19th in points allowed and 15th in yards allowed.
If you look closer at the stats, they're sort of an interesting bad team: they've got good pass defense but terrible run defense (they give up 4.6 yards per attempt), and offensively they've got a good running game but a terrible passing game. Frankly, I don't think a team with a bad passing game can beat the 2009 Minnesota Vikings. Even if the Panthers have success running, they're still going to be required to sustain drives with some passing conversions, and I don't think Matt Moore is going to get it done. I don't think the Panthers will complete many deep passes (the Viking pass rush can make that difficult), and they aren't good enough throwing the ball to consistently complete short and mid-range passes on third down.
But there is one player to fear: Julius Peppers. Peppers can take over and dominate a single game just as Jared Allen can. The Vikings will need to be effective blocking him in pass protection, not just to win the game but to protect Favre from getting roughed up. I mean, I was feeling comfortable about watching the Vikings handle a 5-8 team, until I realized "Crap, we have to face Julius Peppers." He can be a dominant force, who can change everything about the game.
The Vikings and Poetry
I've written about this poem before, and about Housman and the Vikings before. So I repeat myself.
On the last day of my literature class, I close with poetry that is about art. Mostly we discuss Percy Shelley's "Ozymandias" and Rainer Maria Rilke's "The Archaic Torso of Apollo." I'm trying to bring some meaning to the course: each poet explores meaning in a statue, and I wonder how that can help us to understand how we're taking meaning from the literature we read.
I also assign A.E. Housman's "Terence, this is stupid stuff." In it, one voice addresses the poet, complaining that his poetry is too melancholy, and it should be more fun. The poet responds that if you want to have fun, then you should probably try drinking instead. Poetry, Housman suggests, has a different purpose:
Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure,
I'd face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
Poetry, perhaps, is what we can use to prepare for the troubles we're sure to face in this world. Literature, perhaps, teaches us to know that we will suffer, teaches us to cope with our suffering, perhaps even allows us to find meaning in our suffering.
It is at this point I can't help talking about the Minnesota Vikings. We know things usually end badly--they always have before. When the Vikings are successful during the season, many a Viking fan thinks and may say "Alas, they're just going to blow it in the playoffs." We expect failure, and we prepare for failure. I like to think it is the environment that conditions us this way: we suffer the inevitable winter with icy stoicism, and so we are prepared to suffer the inevitable bad end of the Viking season. But we know that a happy ending to this story is chancy business; we're ready for the sure trouble.
Every year I think "This could be the year. This could be the year the Vikings finally win the Super Bowl." So far, I've always been wrong. The odds are against us, of course: 31 of 32 teams won't win the Super Bowl this year. And so I have to remind myself of Housman's lesson: "Luck's a chance, and trouble's sure." If we're wise, we need to prepare for ill. We can't put too much of our emotional well-being into the team, because the odds just aren't good.
Cheering for an 11-2 team that has a great quarterback, great offense, great defense, great special teams, it's hard to bring myself back down. Sometimes I need A.E. Housman to do that for me.
At SI, Joe Posnanski on the Vikes.
Meager fare this week, I know, but as Bob Newhart might say, I shouldn't even be doing this!
Have a good weekend, everybody. Except Panther and Packer fans.