Monday, August 31, 2009
In 2006, virtually all Viking fans were critical of Brad Childress's offensive philosophy: dink and dunk, short passes, no aggressiveness, no creativity. What if, for the sake of argument, the 2009 Vikings had the exact same offensive scheme, strategy, and attitude as the Vikings had in 2006. If that were the case, the 2009 Viking offense would be far, far, far superior. The Vikings have undergone a massive, phenomenal upgrade at every conceivable offensive skill position.
The '06 Vikings were quarterbacked by 38 year old Brad Johnson, who at that point had virtually no mobility and very little arm strength. Chester Taylor was the feature back, with Mewelde Moore backing him up and catching a lot of passes. The tight end was Jermaine Wiggins, who had 8.4 yards per catch that year.
It was the WR corps where the real horror show started: the top three wide receivers were Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson, and Troy Williamson. Sit back. Let that sink in. Do you remember watching the Viking QB try stick passes in to WRs that couldn't separate from a defender at all? Do you remember watching the ball bounce off the hands of the one WR that could get separation? It was a group that really couldn't make plays.
Overall, it was an offense lacking as much in speed, explosiveness, and talent than it was lacking in aggressiveness and creativity.
The '09 Vikings will be quarterbacked by 39-40 year old Brett Favre, clearly past his prime, but who still exhibits skills that make him, even now, the best QB of the Childress era by far. He's showing the mobility, arm strength, and accuracy to be a successful QB. If nothing else, the QB that completed 66.5 and 65.7 percent of his passes the last two seasons might be perfect for a dink and dunk approach throwing to talented, athletic pass catchers (I love screen passes, by the way). The great Adrian Peterson is the feature back, with Chester Taylor moving into the backup and pass catcher role. The tight end is Visanthe Shiancoe, whom I still don't understand or trust, but who has the potential to be a much bigger playmaker than Wiggins.
But it is the WR corps where I start getting excited. The top three wide receivers will likely be Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin. These players have speed and explosiveness, talent and the ability to make big plays. They are players that can get open, and they are players that can run fast when they get the ball.
I'm very impressed with the talent upgrade the Viking management has achieved. This Viking offense has the players on the field to be successful.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I won't provide all the details, but basically, I was carried away to another plane of existence where time did not pass for me, but it passed for everybody else. So when I returned after an extended absence, life had moved forward for everybody I knew, and the world was a slightly different place. One of the first things I asked my wife was "Have the Vikings won a Super Bowl yet?" I expected the answer to be no. When she said yes, I started jumping around and hugging her: I was legitimately ecstatic to find out the Vikes had won the Super Bowl. I then asked who the Viking QB was for the Super Bowl winning team. The answer: Sage Rosenfels.
On the Amorality of Games (2)
I earlier argued that since a game is an amoral activity, a pro sports franchise like the Philadelphia Eagles should do pretty much whatever it can (within the rules of the league and game) to win games. In other words, morality is not a pro sports franchise’s concern.
However, I do not mean to say that fans cannot or should not let morality play a role in whom they root for. Some fans might take pleasure in rooting for somebody who shares their values. Some fans might take pleasure in rooting against players that don’t share their politics. That’s all fine. Because I also don’t think there are rules for whom fans are allowed to root for or against (and resent those who claim otherwise), and so you can root for players according to whatever standards you like. The perceived values, morals, politics, and lifestyles of players may make us as fans root for or against individual players.
So if you can’t bring yourself to root for Michael Vick because of his dogfighting activities, that’s fine. Enjoy rooting against him.
Wins and Quarterbacks
First, I find Norman Chad an entertaining, funny writer. Second, I hope Jay Cutler sucks: I'm already slightly terrified of seeing Aaron Rodgers in the division for another decade, and if Cutler is good too, it could be an unpleasant stretch of time for Viking fans.
But Chad uses an incredibly shaky argument to tell us he doesn't think Cutler is really that good:
"No, the Jay Cutler I know had a 17-20 record in three years with the Broncos and an 11-34 record in four years at Vanderbilt. [...] we're looking at a 28-54 record since 2001 and a fella who always talks a good game but always walks into the losers' locker room."
To exclusively cite Cutler's teams' records without providing any context tells us very little about Cutler. Let's pretend a QB has a 100% impact on his team's offensive successes and failures, that any blocking, catching, or running offensively is still credited to the QB. That still leaves defense and special teams, which the QB cannot impact at all. It is so obvious that I wonder I have to write it, but commentators like Chad sometimes write as if they don't know it: quarterbacks don't play defense.
The context? I don't know enough about college football, but I think playing at Vanderbilt, a non-powerhouse in a powerhouse conference, had a big role on Cutler's record. And I won't pretend I know enough about pro football, but I will claim I'm smart enough to look things up. The 2007 Broncos ranked 28th in points allowed and 19th in yards allowed. The 2008 Broncos were even worse defensively, ranking 30th in points allowed and 29th in yards allowed. In the last two years, Cutler played with terrible defenses. In 2007 only four NFL teams gave up more points than the Broncos; in 2008, only two teams allowed more points. The Broncos went 15-17 over those two years. Is it Cutler who deserves the blame for that mediocrity, or the terrible, awful defense? According to Chad, it's Cutler.
I am foolish enough to think that a quarterback's record as starter means something. But not in isolation from any context, and not in isolation from any individual statistics and assessment.
Supposedly Brett Favre's presence opens up the full playbook (Pioneer Press).
"Vikings say they're united behind Favre" (Pioneer Press). My view is that this stuff really doesn't matter much right now. It might in the future, if Favre struggles and/or the Vikings are losing. But right now, it doesn't.
Matt Bowen talks about how the NFL locker room works when a new guy comes in (National Football Post).
Peter King calls Percy Harvin "Impact player beginning opening day" (Sports Illustrated). My expectations are always low for rookie wide receivers, and so I've been pretty moderate in my hopes for Harvin. But a lot of people are talking him up as an immediate playmaker.
"Vikings Tyrell Johnson eager to prove he can replace Darren Sharper" (Pioneer Press). I hope he replaces the '05-'07 version of Sharper; I didn't think Sharper was very good at all in 2008. But neither, really, was Johnson.
As a blogger, I sometimes think out in my head what I'll write if certain sports situations occur (and in life I tend to plan out, in specific detail, what I would say if particular situations occur, but that's another issue entirely: I'm neurotic). At Defensive Indifference, Jason goes ahead and writes out his reactions to Favre's performance on Monday.
Other Football Links
Steven Jackson (Yahoo!). I'm very excited about Jackson as a fantasy player this year. Everything I ever see about Jackson increases that excitement, and nothing has yet decreased it.
Don Banks writes about the amazing success of the top three quarterbacks of the 2004 class (Sports Illustrated). But if the measurement is team success (that's Banks' primary focus), one thing should be kept in mind about the top three QBs of the 1983 class. Dan Marino, John Elway, and Jim Kelly spent their careers in the same conference, and from '84-'98, the three started in 10 Super Bowls. That's crazy. Only one of them could go to the Super Bowl each year, and one of them did two out of every three years.
Edgerrin James (Yahoo!, via PFT).
At Rotoworld, an interesting interview with Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz (via Football Outsiders. Do I really need to give a hat tip to FO for a FO interview elsewhere? Probably not, but I'm neurotic).
At ESPN, Matthew Berry provides useful fantasy facts. I like Berry's fantasy football writing, and find this sort of column particularly interesting.
For a much cleaner, crisper box score, see the same box score at SI.com. Individual stats for both teams are clear and readable, and a little below that is the scoring summary in the middle, and below that clearly readable game summary stats. SI.com's box scores are problematic too, however. The middle of the top of the box score is taken up with a game blog (pointless), fan comments (pointless), and an advertisement (understandable, but right in the middle?). This pushes down the relevant, meaningful parts of the box score further down in scrolling. When reading a box score, you shouldn't have to scroll past meaningless fluff directly in the middle of the box score just to get to the relevant stats.
Both NFL.com and SI.com have a similar problem making it difficult to navigate multiple box scores. When you are reading a box score, you will see the rest of the league's scores at the top. Clicking on a score link will bring you not to that game's box score, but to that game's recap. This requires one extra click to get to another box score: I do not see a cleaner way to scan from box score to box score on these sites. Doesn't it make sense that if I'm reading a box score, if I click on a link for another game the thing I'm interested in seeing is the box score?
The box scores at Yahoo!'s scoreboard are solid. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing box score, but the major categories are easily distinguishable with block headings, each line of the box score is clearly readable because of the alternating grey and white (providing clean, readable "lines"), and clicking on the links to other game data on the right immediately brings you to that game's box score.
However, it is ESPN.com's scoreboard that is probably perfect for what I'm looking for. In the box score, the scoring summary and game summary are next to each other, but clearly distinguishable, with individual stats below. The stats are incredibly easy to read, as each number gets its own square, and the lines are alternating gray and white. Clicking on the links on the side brings you to that game's box score. I think ESPN.com has the cleanest, most readable, most user-friendly box score: it is exactly what I'm looking for.
I'm turning to ESPN for after-the-fact box score use. I'll still try NFL.com to follow events in multiple games while they are still occuring, but I might shift that, too, if it becomes problematic or if I find a superior site.
Are there other sites you prefer for reading box scores, or for following games live? What are they, and why are they preferable?
Saturday, August 29, 2009
"the so-called 'endowment effect': the mere fact that you own something leads you to overvalue it."
Surowiecki summarizes two experiments demonstrating the endowment effect. In one experiment, students who were given a cup were asked how much they'd be willing to sell it for, and students without the cup were asked how much they'd be willing to pay for it. According to Surowiecki, "the new owners of the mugs demanded more than twice as much as the buyers were willing to pay." In another study, people who won tickets were asked how much they'd be willing to sell them for, and people who didn't win tickets were asked how much they'd be willing to pay for them; "those who had, by pure luck, won the tickets thought the ducats were fourteen times as valuable as those that didn't."
What does this mean for us fantasy football junkies? It means you probably value the players on your roster more than other managers in your league value the players on your roster. It's one reason I avoid making trades before the NFL season starts. After week one, player value starts fluctuating, backups on your bench emerge as valuable commodities, and you discover your team's position needs. But between the end of the draft and the beginning of the season, I usually just sit on my drafted roster.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
"Page had no such Arthurian outlook. He reacted to the Tarkenton trade with a skeptical shrug and a cryptic fatalism, attitudes purely Page. The Minnesota Vikings, he contended, didn't need a savior" (153).
"In the ensuing years, Page and Tarkenton would be civil and respectful toward each other as teammates and as colleagues in the superstar fraternity. Yet in their coexistence on the same football team, they represented--in ways largely unknown to the fan who admired both--archetypes who symbolized opposite and conflicting forces in the pro football society of their time" (154).
Good locker room relationships can carry a team through a losing streak, unforeseen setbacks, and other rough patches; bad locker room relationships can divebomb a team's season to misery if things start going bad independent of those locker room relationships (like losing).
Talent trumps positive locker room relationships. By a lot.
Negative locker room relationships should have little impact for on-the-field execution of professionals.
Winning more often begets positive locker room relationships than the other way around.
But I could be wrong.
I'll add that in the playoff game against the Eagles last season, players on the Viking defense held the Eagle offense to no touchdowns through the first three and a half quarters, while watching Tarvaris Jackson struggle mightily as the Viking offense squandered away any chance of winning the game. I'm just saying.
Monday, August 24, 2009
The Viking Secondary
I like the Viking pass defense. A pass rush keyed by Jared Allen puts pressure on passers and helps the secondary a lot. The return of E.J. Henderson (who has looked great in preseason, in my opinion) is going to help the pass defense against short and mid-range passes to RBs and TEs (the Vikes were frequently vulnerable to these types of passes last season). But I'm still a little concerned about the Viking safeties.
Madieu Williams should be a fine safety; I just want to see more of him. But we really need to see second-year safety Tyrell Johnson step up. With so many great run defenders in the front seven, the Viking safeties should be able to focus most of their attention on pass defense. I'm worried that pass completions deep down the middle will be a weakness to this Viking defense.
Anybody else concerned about the Viking secondary? The only DB I really feel confident in is Antoine Winfield.
Sean Jensen of the Pioneer Press writes that Brad Childress is limiting Brett Favre's throws in practice (via Pro Football Talk). I have two concerns about Brett Favre in January: 1) that he'll be worn down and ineffective and 2) that in a close playoff game he'll get erratic and throw some devastating, game-losing interception. Seeing the Vikes take steps to mediate my first fear helps. To assuage my second fear, I've been telling myself that a great defense and running game will build up strong leads and Favre won't be called on to make an erratic game-losing interception.
Favre will be playing a lot in the next preseason game (ESPN).
Bernard Berrian (Pro Football Weekly).
Percy Harvin (Yahoo!).
Adrian Peterson (FOX).
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Last night I dreamed I was going to my wife's parenting group. The actor J.K. Simmons was standing at a white board, and he was talking about the Minnesota Vikings. He had Brett Favre's name, and under it Adrian Peterson's name. He pointed his marker at the AP and Favre, saying that AP's success was going to depend largely on what Favre is able to do. Is this the weirdest dream I've ever had about the Vikings? Absolutely not.
Fantasy: the value of elite tight ends
I think the elite TEs (top tier Antonio Gates and Jason Witten, and I'd put Dallas Clark and Tony Gonzalez just behind) are more valuable in an auction draft than a snake draft. In a snake draft, you probably have to pass on a starting RB, WR, or QB to draft Gates or Witten. Not so in an auction league: you can budget your money for an elite TE, and still get quality starters at other positions.
But what do I know: this year I've drafted Gates in an auction league and snake draft.
In fantasy preparation, I give much greater weight to a player's past yards than past touchdowns, because I think the yards are a better indicator of future value. But I still found Brandon Funston's argument for Gates over Witten utterly compelling: "Witten 's best TD campaign (7 in '07) is lower than Gates' worst TD campaign in the past five years (8 in '08)."
My worst fantasy football draft story
I printed up my own (color-coded) documents for the Hazelweird Auction Draft, which was two weeks ago. This weekend I was preparing for the Kloss Memorial League Snake Draft, and I was looking over the documents from the earlier draft. Even though I had names crossed off on the documents, I thought, "Ah, I can read this; I don't need to re-print these." During the draft, things were going fine. In the eighth round I really didn't like anybody for the value, and decided to just go with a solid backup RB, Pierre Thomas. The next pick: Steve Slaton.
Steve Slaton is my #4 ranked fantasy RB. Earlier in the day, I had been at the card store Beyond Shinders and looked right at two Steve Slaton rookie cards. For some reason, nobody else in the league bothered with him until round eight. And for some reason, I straight up forgot the man existed. Every time I would scan through my draft document, my mind would somehow skip past the fourth crossed off name on my running back rankings.
This is my worst fantasy draft story.
Sports Illustrated's Ross Tucker objects to the Favre signing for a similar reason I've objected to it:
"I don't think the Vikings are a one-and-done team. All of their best players, like Antoine Winfield, Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, are under contract for the foreseeable future. The window is wide open. Why not try to build with Jackson or Rosenfels and give it a legit shot over the next three years? Doesn't seem as likely now, that is for sure."
Is signing Favre a good football move for 2009? It might be. Is it a good football move for 2010 and beyond? Almost certainly not.
Grant's Tomb writes about why the Vikings are now the most interesting team in the world.
Is going to talk to random Packer fans about their feelings the easiest column to write these days? Jim Souhan takes his whirl at it.
I have to give credit to Cold, Hard Football Facts: they've evidently let a critical reader, Mark Wald, write critical things about CHFF on their website, including this Cold Hard Football Facts Playbook (pdf), where Wald dissects some of the flawed argumentative tropes CHFF often uses. Let me not get too carried away with my praise: it is fucking brilliant. I love seeing arguments featuring logical fallacies debunked (I wrote my own lengthy post examining CHFF's problems with correlation and causation), and Wald does a freaking brilliant job.
Friday, August 21, 2009
What I'm trying to say is that in Minnesota, the enthusiasm is palpable. When you walk past people donning their purple, when you see the Favre jerseys everywhere, it's hard not to join along and start believing in it.
To be clear
Paul Allen and Paul Charchian briefly discussed this blog on KFAN today, and may have interpreted me as a Favre hater, unhappy that he's a Viking. I think I should clarify my stance.
I did not want Favre to become a Viking for specific, concrete football reasons. I was annoyed that the Vikings want to go with another one-year fix, pushing the longer-term quarterback question back another season. I have concerns about Favre's age, recent tendency to wear down at the end of the season, his playoff resume in the last decade or so, and his tendency to throw a lot of interceptions.
However, I'm a die-hard Viking fan, and all along I knew that if Favre joined the Vikings, I would root hard for the team, and root hard for Favre. Now that he's a Viking, I'm fully on board: in part because people like Paul Charchian have talked me into it, I've started believing this Viking team can win the Super Bowl. I'm an optimisitic Viking rube: I've pushed my reservations to the background, and I'm excited--even ecstatic--to watch the Vikings this season.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
"But what happens if Peterson goes down? Devastation to all Vikes hopes. That's what happens."
Adrian Peterson is an excellent running back. I do not believe, however, that he is indispensable to the Vikings, and I do not believe he's the most important player on the team.
It is easy to think Peterson is indispensable, since he is the team's best offensive player and arguably the team's best player. The Vikings win by running the ball, and Peterson is the dominant RB for the team. But the Vikings do have a very good backup in Chester Taylor. In 2007, when Adrian Peterson missed two games with injury, the Vikes went 2-0 as Taylor had 291 total yards and 4 touchdowns. In his career, Taylor has 4.3 rushing yards per attempt, and he's also an effective receiver (three seasons with 40+ receptions). He's more explosive than he's often given credit for: in 2006 he had a 95 yard run, and in 2007 he had an 84 yard run. Taylor is not a great RB, but he is a good RB.
I certainly think Adrian Peterson makes the Vikings much better, and in the past two years we've seen him simply take over football games on several occasions. But if Adrian Peterson were to get injured, the Vikings still have a dominant defensive line, a good overall defense, a giant offensive line, and some talented and fast skill position players. They'd still be a very talented, very good football team.
Am I wrong? Do you think Adrian Peterson is, in fact, the most critical player on the Vikings, the one player they can't succeed without? I'd like to nominate some other candidates:
He's a great run-stopping cornerback, and by far the best pass defender in the secondary. Without Winfield, I think the the secondary starts to look vulnerable. Maybe awful.
Allen single-handedly gives the Vikings a fearsome pass rush, which can transform the Viking defense from good to dominant.
I'm not sure there's a more dominant player on the Vikings. His quickness and power makes him a disruptive force against the run and the pass.
By the way, it is terrific that NFL.com puts video of game highlights on their web page; that's a really nice feature throughout the season.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
At Advanced Football Stats, Brian Burke shows the increased use of tight ends in the NFL.
When many writers discuss negative impacts on the team chemistry of professional sports teams, I'm skeptical. When a former player like Ross Tucker talks about it, and doesn't talk abstractly but very specifically, I listen. See his take on Favre at Sports Illustrated.
Football Outsiders now has DVOA data for the 1994 season (probably my favorite all-around NFL season of all-time).
At Rotoworld Gregg Rosenthal writes about the fantasy prospects of Brett Favre and other Vikings.
A pleasant Star Tribune headline: "Favre impresses receivers with zip on passes." When I talk about arm strength, I think not of how far a QB can throw, but how hard. The latter is, I think, far more relevant to successful QB play.
Stephen Oh of AccuScore shares projections for Favre and the Vikings at Yahoo!: The Vikes with a 75% chance of making the playoffs, and Favre at 65.3% passing for 23 TDs and 16 INTs.
Kevin Seifert at ESPN writes that the Vikes are his favorite to win an improved NFC North. He points out an interesting and relevant fact:
"During the past two seasons, Vikings quarterbacks compiled the NFL's second-worst passer rating in division games."
David Brauer at MinnPost talks about how WCCO got and broke the Favre story.
Readers of this blog know that I had talked myself into Sage Rosenfels. However, evidently after watching his quarterbacks every day throughout training camp, Brad Childress could not. Steve Aschburner at MinnPost:
"...people should know that it all came together from Monday afternoon to this morning. Childress called Favre to 'verify' that Favre’s decision from three weeks earlier was his final decision. Their casual phone chat turned urgent pretty quick."
And Matt Bowen at National Football Post:
"It’s obvious that Rosenfels and Jackson did not do enough in the eyes of Childress and his staff to prevent the team from reaching out to Favre again — because we have to believe that this is how it all went down. Because if they were lighting it up during practice, making plays all over the place, there wouldn’t be a reason to go back to the well again and resurrect Favre from the football grave."
Pat Reusse at the Star Tribune and Charles Robinson and Yahoo! talk about Packer fans feeling less than happy.
Matthew Berry at ESPN makes his bold fantasy predictions.
Chase Stuart at the pro-football-reference.com blog on Daryl Lamonica as the best Oakland Raider QB ever.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I woke up feeling normal; by the end of the day I was watching video of Brett Favre at Viking practice
With Brett Favre, the 2009 Vikings will be better than they'd be with Tarvaris Jackson starting at QB, and no worse than they'd be with Sage Rosenfels starting at QB. And they have a chance to be much, much better with Favre than with Rosenfels.
But after 2009? Rosenfels? Jackson? Booty? Somebody else? We just don't know. I could see Booty being a later-round QB pick that gets the job after after a few years not playing at all. I could see Rosenfels or Jackson getting the job. I could see Childress bringing in another mediocre (or worse) veteran. But with any of these options, it's clear we've just pushed questions about the Viking QB position back yet another year.
To be fair, even if Favre didn't join the Vikings, questions about the Viking QB position might have been just as unanswered in 2010. But Rosenfels, Jackson, or Booty might have emerged (or still might if Favre gets hurt--who knows?). Now we're likely looking at 2009 being the year this team has geared up for a Super Bowl run, with questions again in 2010.
I said in May that Favre does not become a playoff X-Factor, citing his recent record:
Brett Favre's teams haven't won two playoff games during a single season since the 1997 season. In the 00s, Favre's teams have lost three home playoff games to seemingly inferior opponents, Favre has thrown two playoff overtime interceptions, and Favre has thrown multiple interceptions in four of his eight playoff starts.
But then, as I said earlier today, the '09 Vikings will be the best team Favre has had since the '97 Packers. I do think the Vikings with Brett Favre at QB can win a Super Bowl (but I think the Vikings can win the Super Bowl every year).
If they do, I'll experience an ecstasy that will leave me unconcerned with 2010. If they don't, then we'll be back speculating about just what this team is going to do with the most important position once again.
I'm an optimist on the Vikings: I'm always willing to believe that whatever they are doing is bringing them closer to winning a Super Bowl.
Where were you?
I was sitting in a car, waiting to go to Super Target to buy groceries and season three of Dexter. On KFAN, Paul Allen shared Mark Rosen's report that Favre was on his way to Minnesota (like, literally, on a plane). My wife and I shared our disappointment, and Paul Allen and Paul Charchian proceeded to berate Viking fans who were disappointed.
ESPN has already shown video of Favre wearing a Viking helmet throwing the ball during practice.
For many years I've been friends with Rob, a die-hard Packer fan and die-hard Brett Favre fan. And now we're sharing emails about the excitement of Favre, and he seems genuinely excited and sincere about rooting for the Vikings.
Two Viking players just had their fantasy potential skyrocket: Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice. Favre loves to chuck it deep, and he's going to love seeing Berrian sprinting deep downfield. And Sidney Rice is the sort of athletic young receiver that I can see Favre connecting with frequently.
Get the DeLorean
Last week I was offered free tickets to the Vikings' preseason game this week. I turned them down: preseason football is dreadfully boring (I've attended two preseason games, and I stayed at one of them from beginning to end).
Help me out, older Viking fans
Have the Vikings ever had a QB with an arm as strong as Brett Favre, even at age 40? I remember in 1999 thinking I had never seen anybody throw such perfect hard, darting passes than Jeff George. Tommy Kramer was a gunner too, wasn't he?
But Favre can just blaze the ball, far, fast, and hard. That will be fun.
A new standard
My old standard about how sports change in ways that, if you knew it years before, you'd probably pass out from shock, was this 2004 Monday Night game between Seattle and Dallas. If my late-'90s self heard that one day Mike Holmgren would coach the Seattle Seahawks including Jerry Rice and Bill Parcells would coach the Dallas Cowboys featuring Vinny Testaverde and Keyshawn Johnson, my late-'90s self would have his brain shattered. But now if I turn on the TV, I'll see a story about Michael Vick backing up Donovan McNabb on the Philadelphia Eagles with the high likelihood that there will be times both players are on the field at the same time, and then I'll see video of Brett Favre throwing passes at a Minnesota Viking practice.
I'm ready to put on my purple-tinted glasses. It's what I do.
And get ready to enjoy your Minnesota Vikings' first every Super Bowl winning season. This is now a championship team. Just smile and enjoy, fools. Just smile and enjoy.
Monday, August 17, 2009
According to Alex Marvez at Fox Sports, new Lion coach Jim Schwartz had a big task of assigning parking spaces.
Jason at Defensive Indifference is not happy about more Favre rumors.
New Viking center John Sullivan on his feelings before the first preseason game (Pioneer Press).
Even Jay Glazer thinks ESPN is blowing Jay Glazer's article out of proportion (Pro Football Talk). I will say, though, Glazer shouldn't be shocked by the reaction: in the article Glazer quotes a few Vikings who assume Favre is joining the team eventually, says most of the people he talked to with the Vikings are "convinced" Favre will join the team, and talks about how most in the team openly accept that Favre will join the team. It was more than a mere prediction piece.
Mike Lombardi at National Football Post discusses the blue chip players on the NFC North and NFC East teams.
Cold, Hard Football Facts looks at some of the records being threatened this season in the NFL. Included: "The Vikings in 2009 will attempt to become the first team to lead pro football in run defense for four straight years (based upon yards allowed)."
Nancy Gay at Fanhouse gives three reasons the Vikings are leaving the possibility of Favre open (the first two are ticket sales and stadium issues).
MJD at Shutdown Corner includes Sage Rosenfels as a little-known player who can make a big impact, saying Rosenfels "becomes the key to the Vikings Super Bowl hopes."
Dana Scarton at Salon says you'll feel better if you just forgive Michael Vick.
The Vikings are offering some sweet deals to get people to buy good tickets to the home opener (Vikings.com). This makes me worry about the difficulty of sellouts. My plan for the season is to watch games on TV, maybe go to a game or two if it works out, and for sure go to any game that gets blacked out. If you cared about my plans.
I thought we were over all of this, and I had talked myself into Sage Rosenfels and was getting excited for an unconflicted season rooting for the Vikings. And I pictured a 40 year old quarterback out there throwing 20+ interceptions for the Vikes, and I realized the word I've been looking for all along: sloppy. When I picture Favre on the Vikes, I see him playing like he did with the Jets, and it looks sloppy. That's the mental image I have.
It's one thing to sign a committed Brett Favre who is ready to work hard with the team to prepare for the season. It's quite another to sign a conflicted, underprepared Brett Favre that skipped out on training camp work where he could develop vital timing with his offensive teammates.
Favre is an old quarterback with a recent tendency to wear down physically (and perhaps mentally) toward the end of the season. So if you want Favre to be your team's quarterback, why do you want to wear him out with extra work in August? Perhaps a lighter start to the season means Favre can be stronger late in the season (and the Vikes' early games are very winnable, even if Favre is still working his way into a groove). It doesn't mean I want Favre to join the Vikes; it's just that I see some benefit to giving him training camp off.
I'm starting to think of Favre like Napoleon. He got ousted, but did make a surprise return, only to be quickly ousted again. And weren't there always rumors after that that he'd be returning, and everybody had this sort of belief that he'd return, and nobody could believe it was unrealistic even after it was unrealistic? It's possible the answer to that question is "No" (my main interest in European history is on the Reformation; I'm not sure I've ever quite grasped what the deal is with Napoleon). But that's metaphor I'm using. The ghost of Napoleon lingers, and nobody can quite accept that he's not coming back.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
AP should be the #1 pick in a snake draft: no other running back has his combination of reliability and potential. In an auction draft, he's worth the cost, depending on how you plan to budget your salary cap. For example, the the Hazelweird Auction, my friend Abe drafted Peterson for $133 (out of $300). I was able to draft Steven Jackson and Frank Gore for a combined $136. Abe shouldn't complain: he got the top RB in the draft, and had the remaining money to draft Drew Brees and Andre Johnson. I can't complain: I was able to draft my #2 and #3 running backs for roughly the price of AP, with enough salary left to fill out a balanced roster.
I think Peterson is worth the price he commands in an auction. However, if you are in a league with a lot of Viking fans, his price might escalate to an irrational level. At some point, you're better off passing and using the allotted money for multiple elite players. But whatever high price you pay for AP, I think you'll end up satisfied.
I think if Sage Rosenfels wins the starting job, Berrian will have around 1,100 yards and 8-9 touchdowns. I've believed for a long time that Rosenfels will do a good job running the offense and making good, accurate throws. His main problem has been turnovers, but that doesn't have much bearing on Bernard Berrian's fantasy points. I think Berrian's fantasy numbers would benefit greatly if Rosenfels is the starter.
If Tarvaris Jackson wins the starting job, I just don't know. Late in the year Jackson had some nice connections with Berrian, but I don't trust Jackson's downfield accuracy. Of course in the past, the Viking coaches have either protected Jackson or lacked faith in him, because the playbook with him appeared limited. If they choose Jackson over Rosenfels, it is because they do believe in him, and I would expect more playcalling that could feature Berrian's downfield skills. But if Berrian is an inconsistent WR (he is), and Jackson is an inconsistent QB (he is), the combination is a completely unreliable fantasy starter, the most extreme boom or bust player possible.
From a fantasy perspective, I'd like to see more consistency from Berrian, but I don't know whether a deep-threat WR can provide that. I see him as a fantasy starting WR (I'd better: I drafted him), but only a #2 or #3. For now.
I have zero fantasy interest in Percy Harvin. It is unreasonable to expect legitimate fantasy production from a rookie WR: it just rarely happens. I think Harvin can have a noticeable positive impact on the Viking offense. However, I think that impact might be made in three to five big plays a game. I don't trust him to get the ball enough to justify a spot in your fantasy lineup.
The last three rounds of a snake draft should be devoted to, in order, a risky flier, a defense, and a kicker. I think Sage Rosenfels is a viable risky flier. If he gets the starting job, he'll be surrounded by fast, talented skill position players, and facing a managable schedule that includes some of last season's truly lousy defenses.
Bill Barnwell suggested at Daily Norseman that if Jackson wins the job, he's a fantasy sleeper, because people overlook the added fantasy points of rushing yards and touchdowns. But I just can't like a fantasy quarterback who has thrown for over 200 yards in just six of 19 starts. Barnwell is right to point out the benefit of rushing stats. But Jackson's fantasy passing production has been so poor that, if Jackson gets the starting job and you draft him for your fantasy team, you're either 1) hoping he takes a dramatic step forward as a passer, or 2) relying on getting points from his running. I don't like either or those options (but then, that's why he's a "sleeper").
I wouldn't want Shiancoe as my starting fantasy TE. But if you're going cheap on the position, he might function.
He's fine as far as kickers go.
In the Hazelweird Auction, most people paid $1 for their defenses, a few people $2. One person paid $7 for the Steeler defense. And then there's my brother Jerod, who paid $17 (SEVENTEEN!) for the Viking defense. I considered this utterly insane, until Jerod explained his logic here.
If you're a Viking fan, this is the team you are watching every single week, and it's the team you're rooting like crazy for every single week. It's nice to have some Vikings on your fantasy team. It's also nice to be able to watch your fantasy players. By drafting the Viking defense and special teams, Jerod gets a fantasy interest in a full half of the Viking team. When the Vikes do well, he gets to feel good about his fantasy team. He gets to watch a major producer of his fantasy team every week. He gets all sorts of pleasure out of drafting them, even if he overpaid.
So reach or overpay for the Viking defense if you want a lot of fandom pleasure. It might even be worth it in fantasy production. I know there will be times this year that I'll wish I had bid even more for the Viking defense.
Here's what you do. Draft Taylor cheaply, then stash him on your roster. If AP his healthy all year, all you've done is sacrifice a roster position. But if AP gets hurt, you've got a very good starting fantasy RB that you barely paid anything for. It's a wise move.
Did I forget anyone?
Bobby Wade? Sidney Rice? These are players you should not draft, but can pick up as free agents if they emerge as remotely useful fantasy players.
A “game” is a fairly amoral activity. A game operates according to its own internal rules, and it may even have its own internal values. However, “ethics” as they exist in the world outside the game have no bearing on the game itself.
My wife almost always beats me at Bananagrams; she’s very good at it. Now let’s imagine my wife’s favorite hobby is to walk down the street kicking strangers in the shins. It’s an immoral and illegal activity, but she does it anyway. In this hypothetical world where my wife is a monster, let’s say she still beats me at Bananagrams. Does her shin-kicking hobby have any relevance during the game? Of course not. Her only goal is to win the game. When she beats me, should I shout “Ah, you may have beat me at this game, but it’s tainted, because you go around kicking strangers in the shins!” I could, but that would be silly: I just got beat at a game with its own internal rules that have nothing at all to do with shin-kicking. She may be a bad person because of her predilection for shin-kicking, but that in no way would taint her dominance at Bananagrams. Perhaps my wife’s imaginary shin-kicking behavior would make me decide I don’t want to play this game with her anymore. I suppose I could allow external ethics into my decision-making about whom I’m willing to play a game with. But if she’s an outstanding Bananagrams player, then within the arbitrary rules of the game itself, she's going to win.
And I think the same thing about the Eagles signing Michael Vick. The Philadelphia Eagles football team has as its primary goal winning as many football games as it can, including the Super Bowl (this is slightly different from the primary goal of the Philadelphia Eagles organization, which has as its primary goal making money). To achieve that goal, the Eagles should do whatever they can to win games. One major part of winning games is to acquire the best players you possibly can. External ethics have little or nothing to do with winning football games.
Frankly, I’d be upset if my favorite team said “We think signing Player X would help us in our goal of winning the Super Bowl, but we’re not going to sign Player X because his off-the-field behavior over two years ago is just too appalling. He doesn’t deserve the opportunity to play football.” A football team’s job isn’t to be a moral arbiter; a football team’s job is to win football games. I don't cheer for a sports team for it to reinforce my values. I cheer for a sports team to see it win games, and if it isn't doing everything it can within the internal rules of the game and league to win games, I should be angry. It is not that as a “celebrity” Vick is being given “preferential treatment;” it is that as an athlete with special talents, Vick has an ability that a team wants to use, regardless of his off-the-field behavior of two years ago.
(Though I can admit there is a limit; I can imagine behaviors that, if players on a team engaged in them, I would find it impossible to root for that team. Perhaps as a vegetarian animal rights advocate, I'm just a little too cynical on this issue: because in our society countless animals are killed for all sorts of human pleasure and entertainment, I'm less appalled by this particular abuse of animals than some are. Perhaps my argument that players' morality shouldn't matter to a team or its fans is flawed; perhaps I'm really continuing to question whether the degree of outrage over Vick's dog fighting activities is disproportionate in a society where killing animals for the pleasure of eating them is taken for granted as morally acceptable. But that's just the sort of neurotic, self-doubting metawriter I am, willing to insert a paragraph long parenthetical that undermines the thrust of my argument with an entirely different line of thought. C'est la blog).
Let’s spin it around. If a team has an obligation not to sign a player because of his bad external ethics, does it have an obligation to sign a player because of his good external ethics? Let’s look at a player by the name of Jim-Bob Suckass. Jim-Bob Suckass is practically a saint. He gets up early in the morning to work at a soup kitchen. He leaves the soup kitchen and on his way to his job working for a non-profit environmental protection organization, he stops to donate blood. He donates 10% of his annual salary to cancer research, and uses his two weeks of vacation a year to visit developing nations for missionary work. But as a football player, Jim-Bob Suckass, well, sucks ass. He is terrible at every possible position; the team would actually be better off playing 10 against 11 than having Jim-Bob on the field. He’s no good at all. As the Eagles attempt to build their best roster possible to win football games, how much consideration should they give to Jim-Bob’s sterling behavior and pristine ethical existence? I would say absolutely zero.
Now, if you want to say that ethics external to a game are far more important than winning the game itself, I would agree with you. Of course how people behave toward their fellow creatures is far, far more important than whether they can succeed at an amoral game with its own internal rules. But a football team is neither a philosopher or, frankly, a moral agent. A football team is one competitor within a game, playing according to its defined rules, using its physical and mental abilities to beat an opponent.
I do not take cruelty to animals lightly. In fact, I am a vegetarian and a member of PETA; I even have a cruelty-free bug catcher because I wish to avoid killing even insects. I would say that my ethical values of pacifism and vegetarianism play a strong daily role in my life and behavior (perhaps Mr. Dohrmann is a fellow animal rights activist? He writes that he owns dogs, but all that tells me is that he has an emotional attachment to dogs in particular, not that he believes it is wrong for human beings to kill animals for our own pleasure). But when I watch a football game, I’m not overly concerned about whether the players on the field share my ethical values. It doesn’t even matter terribly to me whether the players on the field are good people or not. I’m watching a spectacle to see great athletes compete hard in a game. I’m rooting for my favorite team to outperform an opponent on the field to win the game.
The desire for a human being’s redemption may be secondary, but it does not mean it is insincere. Certainly the Eagles care more about whether Michael Vick can help them on the football field than whether he redeems himself (as I’ve suggested throughout this post, they should). But that doesn’t mean the chance of redemption isn’t real, or that any desire to see Vick make his life positive is phony (alas, perhaps my religious and literary sensibilities draw me too strongly to the hope of an individual’s redemptive transformation. I’d recommend Dostoevsky and Hugo on the subject). While the Eagles signed Vick to win football games, I don’t suspect them of being insincere in hoping for the best for Vick personally. But Dohrmann, who writes of Vick “I wish him all the best in life”? After everything else in Dohrmann’s columns, that certainly sounds insincere to me.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Maybe a preseason game is a glorified practice (I suspect a preseason game is less important than practice, but is just easier to watch and understand). But whatever small degree of importance we put on a preseason game, we should have that degree of enthusiasm for the Vikings right now. The first team offense and defense looked very good against the Colts.
I expected Sage Rosenfels to throw accurate passes; I was pleasantly surprised by how much zip he was able to put in his throws. He hit his receivers with sharp passes, and they usually caught them (especially Visanthe Shiancoe). The offensive line looked good opening holes in the running game, and the running backs looked quick and powerful gaining yards. Adrian Peterson, whom we all want to see on the field in more third down situations, even had a good block on a passing play. Defensively, the pass rush was so quick to the sack that we didn't get to see too much of the defense. We did see E.J. Henderson looking quick in adjusting and chasing Peyton Manning on a play where Fred Evans picked up a sack. Whether or not Henderson returns to his superb level of play, he's going to be playing at a high level, showing the speed and quickness the Vikes lacked from the middle position most of last season.
There was one thing I didn't like seeing: the Vikings threw a pass to Naufahu Tahi. Tahi averaged 2.3 yards per reception last season. He showed no ability to gain any yardage after a catch. If you throw to him, you're rarely getting any yardage beyond the point where he catches it, and that's rarely for more than two yards. Either put a fullback on the field that can be effective with the ball, or don't call plays that involve the possibility of Tahi getting the ball. This really upsets me, well beyond the degree it should.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Evan Silva at Pancake Blocks thinks Matt Schaub will be the year's top fantasy quarterback. I think he'll rank top-5 in yards, but I'm doubtful he'll get enough touchdowns. Either way, I drafted him as my starting QB in the Hazelweird Auction at 1% of my salary cap: I really think he'll be good.
pro-football-reference.com continues to do excellent work assessing the statistical productivity of all-time quarterbacks.
I probably (still) worry about the Viking secondary more than anything else. Obviously Antoine Winfield is reliable, and I think Madieu Williams will be a solid safety. After that? I just don't know. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune writes up Cedric Griffin.
Expect no comments at this blog about the Vikings' preseason game. I might watch it; I might not, I might write about it; I might not. Oh, hell, I'm a rube and I'll almost certainly watch it. Whether I'll find anything in it remotely worth writing about is a different question. Sage Rosenfels has to win the starting QB job. Has to.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
In a snake draft, Peyton Manning will be an early pick, Eli Manning a late pick. In an auction, Peyton will command a high price, Eli a very low price (in the HW auction with a salary cap of 300, Peyton cost over 50, Eli cost one dollar). Why would one want to pay such a high price for 2.08 points per game? Wouldn't you be better off using the high pick or the auction money on other positions, knowing there's going to be some quarterback that will perform adequately?
Actually, there are reasons to pay a high price for an elite quarterback: I would say at least three. First, reliability: you can be confident that an elite QB is not going to be sucktastic, and you know you won't have a bust for the pick/money. Second, consistency: you can expect quality production from an elite QB every week. And third, potential: a QB like Peyton Manning may far exceed his baseline, while a QB like Eli Manning is not likely to perform far over it.
But I still think QB is a position you can go cheap on and still come out alright. Most QBs rack up a lot of fantasy points, and with 32 starting positions out there, they can be found. This does not mean, however, drafting a cheap QB that you can expect moderate production from (like Eli, Jake Delhomme, David Garrard, Chad Pennington, etc.). I recommend trying to find QBs that will be cheap, but who you believe could produce elite fantasy numbers. They are out there. Better yet, draft two or three such quarterbacks: they all might not produce highly, but perhaps you'll find one that will. Here are my recommendations for QBs that could far outperform their draft cost.
In just 11 games, Schaub threw for 3,043 yards and 15 touchdowns. He plays in a quarterback friendly offense with elite skill position players (Andre Johnson, Steve Slaton).
Terrell Owens has helped four different quarterbacks throw for over 30 touchdowns; only one of them (Steve Young) ever threw for 30 touchdowns without Owens. I'm not exactly high on Edwards, but with Owens and Lee Evans to throw to, you just don't know.
This depends on the value you get for him. Many seem to be down on him since he'll be without Terrell Owens, but in the last two seasons Romo threw 62 touchdowns in 29 games. If you're really worried about Romo without Owens, scroll to Table 2 of this Bill Barnwell article at Football Outsiders.
Chris Wesseling at Pancake Blocks suggests that the Vikings might be ready to break out as a great fantasy offense. Rosenfels might put up big fantasy stats, and the price should be low enough that it's worth the risk.
I initially included Hasselbeck in the "expect moderate production" list. But considering his production in 2003 and 2007, considering he's not terribly old for a quarterback, and considering the low, low price you can get him for, I had to include him on this list.
Again, it depends on the value. I'm not saying there aren't concerns, but Palmer averaged 4,000 yards and over 28 TDs per season from '05 to '07. If he's cheap, he could far overproduce his cost.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
A. Number of games with 100+ yards from scrimmage.
This shows a player's positive consistency.
B. Yards from scrimmage per game.
More than any statistic, I feel this shows a player's overall productivity.
I really like pass-catching running backs. In my view, participation in the passing game keeps a RB more consistent, and gives a RB a better opportunity for monster games.
For quacky reasons, in the numbers I list here, the 100+ games includes playoffs, while the other two statistics do not. For anybody interested, I'll stick an asterisk by the players I actually drafted in the HW league. And just to be clear, I'm not forgetting anybody.
100+: 11/17 YPG: 117.9 REC: 21
Peterson was very consistent last season, netting 75+ rushing yards in all but one game he played in. With the Vikings’ easy schedule, he also has the most proverbial upside to go bananas. I don't like Peterson's lack of involvement in the receiving game, however.
2. Steven Jackson*
100+: 8/12 YPG: 118.4 REC: 40
Consensus #1 pick Adrian Peterson averaged 117.9 yards from scrimmage per game. Steven Jackson was just as good, averaging 118.4. People are scared of
a. RB is a demanding position; all RBs run a high injury risk. Whether or not an elite RB played 16 games last year or not, if he’s getting the ball a lot, there’s a fair chance he’ll get injured. As Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Stats points out, "The top RBs from one year (regardless of the number of carries) tend to play in only 13 out of 16 games the following year." I don’t think Steven Jackson’s previous injuries are terribly relevant to whether he’ll get injured this season.
b. I’d rather have a dominant RB on a per game basis that misses a few games, than a lesser RB that plays every game. If Steven Jackson misses a few games, it’s not like I take a zero those weeks: I’ll have a backup earning some points. And during the games he plays, he’s going to outscore most RBs (I admit I can afford to think this way because of the Hazelweird’s cross country scoring). He's also incredibly consistent on a per game basis, as Tristan Cockcroft at ESPN points out.
3. Frank Gore*
100+: 8/14 YPG: 100.6 REC: 43
Gore's numbers are comparable to the sophomore triumvirate of Steve Slaton, Matt Forte, and Chris Johnson. I like Gore better because he's established productivity over multiple seasons, not just one. Gore was fairly productive the past two seasons, but I expect a return to his 2006 productivity (plus touchdowns). This ranking may be irrational.
4. Steve Slaton
100+: 9/16 YPG:103.7 REC: 50
I think in a comparison with Matt Forte, Slaton comes out on top. Their numbers were similar, but Slaton as much as Forte plays on an offense poised to score a lot of points, and I think Slaton is simply a better RB on his own merit than Forte (4.8 ypa versus 3.9 ypa).
5. Matt Forte
100+: 11/16 YPG:107.2 REC: 63
But I do like Matt Forte, partly because he’s in an offense that will demand a lot from him, and partly because the Bears, like the Vikings, have an easyish schedule. I think he might be a little overvalued, though.
100+: 4/16 YPG:86.8 REC: 62
MJD gets a lot of TDs, but his yardage concerns me. I don’t know how many more yards he’s going to get even without Fred Taylor, but I like the potential. At the very least, you’re getting a major TD producer that also catches a lot of passes.
100+: 8/17 YPG: 96 REC: 52
Worst-case scenario: the Chargers are an elite offense because of the passing game, and Tomlinson gets loads of red zone opportunities.
100+: 7/16 YPG: 99.2 REC: 43
Another of those very exciting sophomores. I like his speed (he can make plays on his own) and his role as a pass catcher.
100+: 8/15 YPG: 86.8 REC: 52
Before his injury, he was averaging over 100 total yards per game, with 100 plus yards in eight of 12 games. As I’ve established above, I’m not overly concerned about last year’s injuries.
100+: 8/17 YPG: 102.3 REC: 22
We all know that if you call a player underrated long enough, he becomes overrated. With Williams, the opposite is occurring. So many fantasy football experts slag Williams off for the legitimate reasons (likelihood of fewer touches, unlikelihood of matching '08 TD total) that I think people are overly diminishing his talent and productivity. In his career he has averaged 5.1 yards per attempt; he's a good player, and I still see him as a top-ten fantasy back.
Friday, August 07, 2009
The gin is in the freezer and the cannolis are in the fridge; I'm now on fantasy football time. This means after a weekend of flipping cups, next week I'll be able to post some truthful (and I hope insightful) fantasy football posts. So look forward to that. Or don't.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Jim Corbett, USA Today
Kevin Seifert, ESPN
SI's Don Banks talks to Adrian Peterson.
Percy Harvin signs (ESPN).
Fox's Alex Marvez writes the column that feels like a lot of columns we've already read in the last week.
Highlights from Camp, including Sage to Bernard (Pioneer Press).
Adrian Peterson is trying to be part of the passing game (Star Tribune).
Tarvaris Jackson's injury (Access Vikings).
Vikings.com has a Training Camp Hub to help you keep up.
Grant's Tomb on actually feeling upset that the Vikings are disrespected for being accursed.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Watching all 60 episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm
When you immerse yourself in a TV show, you start to take on characteristics of that show. At least, that is my wife's theory. An actual conversation:
Her: We were never so street smart as when we were watching The Wire, not before or since.
Me: We were ever street smart?
I find that if I watch one episode of Curb in isolation, I laugh wildly at the crazy situations. If I start watching a lot of episodes in a row, I just get sucked into Larry David's world where the insane conflicts that occur are just part of regular life. Then I'm ready to start meaningless conflicts over mundane things. Then, and only then, am I ready for the bitter enmity (there isn't any) of an auction draft.