Monday, September 28, 2009

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 27 - 49ers 24!

Okay, while Joe is away I have agreed to step in and post occasionally. Unfortunately my life reality is that I don't have cable TV nor do I have internet at home and that means that I don't get to watch Viking games. Instead I am relegated to my phone and constantly checking box scores on my NFL Mobile App.

That however does not change two facts about this game:

(1) Percy Harvin is the 2nd gamebreaker this team needed. Obviously I didn't get to see the kickoff return, but when a Vikings Special Team returns a kick it is time to celebrate. When I watched Harvin returning punts/kicks from the jug machine in Mankato he did not look great. He appeared to be moving his feet before he was getting the ball and that was leading to him slipping. He obviously worked things out and adds another dimension to this team instantly while continuing to develop as a WR.

(2) Brett Favre did exactly what we needed him to do and I don't know if either of our other QBs (pretty sure they couldn't) could have done that at the end of the game.

I will leave it up to you readers to post your observations and thoughts in the comment section.

Holy Hitter

Monday, September 21, 2009

note to PV readers

I'll be stepping away from blogging for a little while for personal reasons (my son broke his leg, so even more of my time will be devoted to kids, and I need a lot of time for my teaching responsibilities. I'll still have time to watch football--of course!--but little time to write about it, and no time to write about it well. He broke his leg Sunday morning: finding out later that the Vikings won and the Packers lost made the day like eating a turd covered in chocolate frosting).

I told Holy Hitter and J'Rod to feel free to pick up the slack in my absence, so you may see them posting on the Vikings. I've also talked to some others about possibly contributing to the blog. And I hope to see you again in the future.

We should have optimism for this 2009 season. While the Vikings trailed at halftime against two weak opponents, they also have two 14 point road wins. This team used to suck on the road. Maybe Favre is taking them places. Maybe this is the year things change.

Cheer the Vikings hard, suckers. Cheer the Vikings hard.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

NATIONAL FRIDAY LEAGUE (week two)

Welcome to week two of the "I can't believe Brett freaking Favre is the Viking quarterback" season. What if my present self got into a DeLorean and spoke to my past self, telling him that Brett Favre at age 39 is the Vikings' starting quarterback? If you go back in time and say something that makes your past self jump off a bridge, do you create a paradox in the space-time continuum?

Week Two Games

Vikings-Lions Preview
Last year the Lions gave up 32.3 points per game and 404 yards per game (both ranked last in the league). Last week, the Lions gave up 45 points and 515 yards. Will Adrian Peterson top his 180 yard, three TD week one performance? Will Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Bernard Berrian be so wide open it will look like Favre has developed rapport with those guys?

Before we get too excited, the ’08 Lions lost to the Vikings by two and four points. Those suckers tend to play the Vikings tough. Happily, they tend to lose after playing the Vikings tough (one win against the Vikes from 2002-2008).

I’m more enthused about the Viking defense facing a terrible Lion offense featuring a rookie QB in his second start. I won’t be shocked if the offense underachieves against the Lions: I’ve seen that show. I will be surprised if Kevin Smith is able to pick up first downs via the run. I will be surprised if Matthew Stafford gets time to throw. If he does, I will be surprised if he’s able to pick apart the Viking defense.

I won’t be surprised if the Vikings struggle, and I’m staring off in despair around halftime. But I will be surprised if they actually lose the game.

“Clutch”
Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. I want to believe there is such a thing as “clutch.” But the way we talk about it makes very little sense.

1.
You will sometimes hear people cite the 2008 Green Bay Packers’ record in games decided by four or fewer points: they were 0-7. But they beat the Vikings by five points. What’s the real difference between a four point game or a five point game? Little, but 0-7 sounds like a cleaner narrative than 1-7.

When I consider close games, I look at games decided by seven points or fewer. It’s not perfect (sometimes a late score distorts the competitiveness of a game), but it at least has logic: it’s a game close enough to be determined by one touchdown. You might rather consider games decided by a field goal or less. You could also make an argument for eight being the magic number. But separating four point wins from five points wins is just silly.

2.
Quarterbacks get a lot of credit for clutch performances, but this week provided illustrations for the deeper context. The QB is typically dependent on the success of his teammates or failures of his opponent for his clutch performance. Aaron Rodgers threw a game-winning touchdown against the Bears, so he had a clutch performance; however, if instead of throwing his fourth interception, Jay Cutler followed Rodgers’ TD pass with a game-winning TD of his own, then he’s clutch, and Rodgers’ performance is lost in a loss. Tom Brady threw a game-winning touchdown against the Bills, but the Patriots may not have even got the ball back had Leodis McKelvin not fumbled on the previous kick return. I'm not saying we can't admire the play of these quarterbacks in the fourth quarter. I am saying we shouldn't be daft and pretend these quarterbacks will their team to victory. It's a team game.

3.
I do believe in something like “clutch.” Some human beings handle pressure situations better than other human beings. And even when an opponent makes the mistake, a player or team still needs to make the plays to take advantage of that mistake (in an ’07 game between the Packers and Vikings, the Packers led by seven and just needed to run the clock out. A Packer RB fumbled, giving the Vikes an opportunity to win because of an opponent error. Do you think that Kelly Holcomb led the Vikings to a win with a “clutch” performance? No. No he did not). But I'm not sure. I have a feeling that Fyodor Dostoevsky couldn't quite believe in God, but also couldn't quite give up his belief in God (I may be projecting), and that internal tension is responsible for the incredible energy of his great novels (and for the polyphony that Bakhtin finds in his novels). That may reflect my feelings on clutch: there's no evidence for it, there's no statistical meaning in it, the way most people talk about it is stupid, and it is probably based more on random luck than anything. But I still sort of think it exists.

Fantasy Box (or, there are other worlds than this)
Peyton Manning is now my mystical adventure QB in both my fantasy leagues instead of just one. Before this trade, I felt like Jake in Stephen King’s The Wasteland, alive in one plane of existence while sensing that I was supposed to be dead in another plane of existence.

Mike Wallace
I hope the Pittsburgh WR lasts, because every time he catches the ball I can start shouting “Where’s Wallace?” like D’Angelo in The Wire.

Other Week Two Games
There are a lot of teams that struggled last week that really need a win this week, but a lot of them are facing tough week two matchups. There are a lot of interesting matchups: here are the ones I’ll be following most closely.

Bengals-Packers. In week one, the Packer defense looked great and the Packer offense did not (obviously every QB will be better with time to throw, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an early pass rush shake up and throw off Aaron Rodgers). I’m still curious (and frightened of) this Packer team, and want to see how they handle Cincinnati.

Saints-Eagles. I want to see what the Saints offense will do against a strong, talented defense, and I want to see what the Eagles defense will do against a dynamic, talented offense.

Seahawks-49ers. I think this game will be telling about the NFC West this year. I want to see if Matt Hasselbeck continues to be productive, and if Frank Gore will follow up last week's 22 carry, 30 yard performance with an actual game (but he still had two TDs, so fantasy owners--like me--are happy).

Baltimore-San Diego. There’s a trend here: like everybody else, I don’t know whether week one performances were fluky or indicative, and I want to see what the Charger offense is up to against the Ravens.

Colts-Dolphins. I’m in fantasy leagues with Viking fans, so it’s hard to get all the Vikings I like. I can, however, get Colts like mad: Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Joseph Addai will be in my Hazelweird lineup Monday night (Anthony Gonzalez and Donald Brown are on the bench). My Colts fascination makes much less sense since they won the Super Bowl in 2006. I used to feel an eerie connection to the Colts for their playoff struggles. Whether it was the George Costanza or the Viking fan in me, I was drawn to their failures and rooting for them to finally succeed. But I still root for them after they did.

Links
Bernard Berrian: healthy (Vikings Now). I miss you, Bernard. I miss your scent. I miss your musk.

At Shutdown Corner, MJD discusses Roger Goodell’s autonomy on discipline issues.

Favre's Viking jersey is the top seller (Sports Illustrated).

Kevin Williams: kind of a good football player (Access Vikings).

At Sports Illustrated, Don Banks writes about the teams that passed on Peterson.

Weekend
Oh, Friday: the day I treat myself to a pastry at the Grateful Bread. It's a sort of recognition that with the weekend, a sort of decadence has begun. While I generally eat pretty healthy (loads of fruits and vegetables), as a football spectator, I can only eat junk food.

Have a good weekend suckers. Except Lion, Bear, and Packer fans.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Expectations of reactions, and reactions, to Favre's week one performance

The weirdest football columns I've seen after Sunday's games are those telling us to curb our enthusiasm about Brett Favre's performance. They are weird because I'm not sure how many people are really gushing over Favre's 14/21, 110 yard, 1 touchdown, 0 interception performance. These writers seem to be writing to the reaction they expect, not any reaction they've actually seen.

Sports Illustrated's Andrew Perloff tells us "Let's start with five Week 1 quarterback performances everyone will over-hype" and begins with Favre:

"He looks just fine as a caretaker against an opponent that can't stop the run and isn't a threat on offense. He won't have the luxury of sitting back against tougher competition."

In this case, I guess I'll just say Perloff made an inaccurate prediction: he tells us that this is a performance "everyone will over-hype," but he's just wrong. Certainly not "everybody" is overhyping it.

Yahoo!'s Dan Wetzel's column is titled "Too early to get excited over Favre." The column is fairly reasonable: the questions about Favre are how he'll hold up in December and January, not how he'll play in September (at least, those are my concerns). Like Perloff, he points out that the Browns were an easy opponent, and that Favre is going to face tougher teams this season. We know this. But Wetzel tells us:

"Vikings fans should temper their emotions because every thing always starts well with Favre. It’s the ending that gets dicey."

And

"There’s no reason to be displeased with Favre’s opener. There’s also no reason to be na├»ve."

Wetzel also expects gushing in the media that I'm not sure exists. Quoting Childress calling the performance "workmanlike" and using words like "uspectacular" and routine," Wetzel writes:

"This was a slightly more restrained – and honest – assessment than Favre will receive from his worshipping media crew."

I don't feel like making a survey of media reactions to Favre's game. What I will do here, however, is survey Viking bloggers' reactions. We're the fans: sure we're neurotic, but we're also the ones most likely to overreact to victory, aren't we? How many of us were gushing? Do we need to temper our emotions, to make sure we're not being naive? Here's a look at all the Viking blogs I have in the blogroll that wrote directly about the game.

Grant's Tomb: decidedly not gushing: DC didn't see anything that answered his questions about Favre.

Defensive Indifference: decidedly negative: Jason complains Favre didn't get down the field enough and didn't do anything Rosenfels or Jackson couldn't do in this game.

(just a side note: I'm speculating that against inferior opponents, the Vikings are going to try protect Favre, winning as often as they can with running and defense. When they need it--and when they're more comfortable in pass protection--they'll open up the pass more. That might be wishful thinking).

Daily Norseman: Anthony21 is sober about Favre ("unspectacular," "wasn't asked to do too much"), Gonzo praises Favre, but moderately, and devotes most of his attention to other Vikings.

The Viking Ship: The Jazzy One offers a fairly objective assessment, I think: praising what Favre did well, pointing out that there were some problems ("Brett just didn't seem to be on the same page with his receivers").

Vikings Gab: Adam Warwas is impressed with Favre: because he played like a game manager.

The Viking Age
: a couple days after the game, danzinksi is starting to believe that "this crazy Favre thing just might work." He's positive about what's going on, optimistic that this is a good situation.

Skol Vikes: Newt says little about Favre, but does believe strongly in the Vikings team.

Viking Nation: GB Nordic offers more praise for Favre as game manager.

Vikes Geek: Vikes Geek says little directly about Favre, focusing on Brad Childress.

Maybe Viking bloggers are not representative of most Viking fans (it is possible). And maybe Viking bloggers are more reasonable than national sports commentators (of course we are: we're awesome!!!!!). But I don't see Favre's performance being overhyped, and I don't see naive emotions that need to be tempered.

An extra thought
I think many people are responding to a reality that existed several years ago but doesn't anymore: a reality in which the majority of the mainstream media overpraised Favre and refused to acknowledge his flaws. But several years ago, a backlash really started to develop (prominently on the internet) against the media's treatment of Favre, to the point that complaints about the media coverage of Favre have become the cliche. Furthermore, Favre's behavior in recent years has led to a lot of criticism from mainstream media sources.

I also think/speculate, with no evidence, that the anti-Favre sentiment is behind this year's massive number of positive predictions for the Green Bay Packers, and for Aaron Rodgers specifically.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Packers Bears

For initial thoughts on the Viking win, see "Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 34, Browns 20" below.

Packers 21, Bears 15 (ESPN Box Score)


Is the pleasure you get from being able to think "Well, maybe Cutler really does suck" enough to make up for seeing the Packers win? For me, not quite. The thought of a Bears season falling apart is an enjoyable one (it's week one: we're just fans, we're allowed to overreact), but I'd rather see the Packers lose.

It is encouraging to see these teams really struggle with pass protection. Clearly each team has its strengths, but if their quarterbacks get rushed and hit a lot, not only will they face more struggles than expected this season, but they'll be particularly vulnerable when they face the Viking defense.

(This is where we pretend the Vikings don't appear to have their own problems with pass protection, or where we try to tell ourselves it's not as bad because the Vikes won't rely on the pass as much as the Bears and Packers will probably have to. It's week one and the Vikes are 1-0; we're just fans, we can tell ourselves things).

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 34, Browns 20

Vikings-Browns Box Score (ESPN)

Sure, we sweated out the first half. Then in the second half, the Vikings did what they should do: completely stop a bad Browns offense, dominate a bad Browns defense by running, complete some important passes in key situations, and outscore their road opponent 24-7.

There's work to do: the pass protection was sketchy at best, the punt coverage unit gave up another touchdown, and I think the offense will need more successful downfield pass completions against stronger opponents.

But let's think about what we're seeing. The Minnesota Vikings went on the road, won a game by 14 points, and it's simply what we expected them to do.

Percy Harvin
I haven't read them, but my wife tells me in the Twilight series when Stephanie Meyer wants to emphasize drama, she separates each word in the sentence out with periods.

Percy. Harvin. Oh. My. God.

three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown, two rushes for 22 yards, and three kick returns for 99 yards. He had at least one kick return that set the offense up at midfield. Both his rushes went for 11 yards and a first down. He had a first down reception on 2nd and 18 and he caught a touchdown. His impact is obvious: he makes plays that help the team score points.

He made another play that really impressed me. On one Adrian Peterson run, it was Harvin's job to do a little fake-decoy thing, and after the handoff he was jogging it. He was behind Peterson in the backfield. When he saw Peterson still running downfield, Harvin sprinted downfield past Peterson, getting in front of him to try contribute as a blocker. This is a rookie WR. He's special. This is going to be fun.

and Adrian Peterson
198 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. He's such a good football player. The combined talent of Peterson and Harvin is going to be far too much for a lot of opponents this year.

Why you want Brett Favre
In the second half, Favre converted a first down on 2nd and 18 by zipping a pass downfield. He made it look routine, easy. I remember Favre destroying us with such plays over the years. I don't remember many Viking quarterbacks making these types of plays in recent years.

It's great if the Vikings can win with Brett Favre throwing under 25 passes. It's also great if those pass attempts lead to key, drive-sustaining, point-scoring completions.

Wide Receivers
I thought the team offense showed some creativity, which is nice. Favre clearly likes Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, and they can make plays, but Bernard Berrian needs to have an impact: he may not be an elite WR, but he's too good to have zero reception games. He shouldn't be this inconsistent.

Defense
The pass rush was very good: the Vikes did sack Brady Quinn, and often pressured him into some bad throws and some scrambles (Quinn did successfully evade the pass rush a few times: he's athletic). I was also glad to see E.J. Henderson running around making tackles again: it warms my heart. It is sort of hard to assess the defense here though: the Browns offense just doesn't look very good.

Special Teams
I thought on the whole, the coverage was pretty good, with Viking special teamers containing returners and making good tackles. But it takes one bad play against one good returner to give up seven points.

Skol
Enjoy your week everybody. The Vikings won: you'll be trailing clouds of heaven everywhere you go.

Comments are open: share your thoughts.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Things

TCF Bank Stadium is gorgeous, of course, and it is wonderful to watch a football game at night under the lights.


My recent Viking dream
In order to play for the Vikes, Brett Favre just needed a place to stay while in Minnesota: naturally, he was staying at my house. Since my family is vegetarian, I worried we didn't have any food that he would like, so I asked him if I could pick anything up for him at the store. He wanted cereal.

Ends and Odds
Nobody has been talking up Percy Harvin more than Peter King.

I'm oddly intrigued by the San Francisco v. Arizona game: partly because Frank Gore is one of my mystical adventure players, and partly because I think the 49ers will win.

Enjoy your Sunday, suckers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NATIONAL FRIDAY LEAGUE (Week One)

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

Vikings-Browns Preview
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.

Fantasy Box
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.

Weekend
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.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Seriously? 30 Minutes of my life were just wasted!

Check out this article by Tom Curran detailing 5 players poised to break the star to STAR leap.

I clicked the link just to see who the 5 players were and knew there was going to be someone I totally thought was ridiculous. ADRIAN PETERSON?!?! Now I know he has only been in the league for 2 years now but a guy who has won ROY, Pro Bowl MVP, led the league in rushing and yards from scrimmage is not just a star.

Here are the important parts of his argument:

(1)There are stars and then there are STARS. And trying to put a player into one category or the other is a subjective thing.

(2)We came up with five: quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers of the Falcons and Chargers; receivers Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson from the Texans and Lions, and running back Adrian Peterson from the Vikings.

(3)All are known. None are known so well they’d be mobbed in an airport, recognized in New York City or be readily identifiable by a nickname.

Now for my response:

(1) You are right it is subjective, but in that case please just title this article: "5 players I think are only stars who are going to be superstars this year, and yes my list is a very safe bet." Could you make a bold prediction at all? Your list includes the 07 and 08 ROY; The NFL Leader (tie) in TD Throws; The NFL Leader in receiving yards and receptions; the NFL Leader in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage. Wow that is a very informative piece. If you had taken someone like say Ray Rice or Bernard Berrian, etc. now that would be an article.

(2) See point (1) for why this list is not that great for an article like this (by the way who is the "we" in this? Who in the world helped you come up with this list? and do they watch football?)

(3) Okay maybe none would be mobbed in an airport, but I am willing to bet that itself is subjective since I bet they all get big crowds when in the airport of their respective cities. New York City? When did New York City citizens become the arbiter of who is a STAR? Maybe if we were talking movie stars or entertainment stars, but we are talking about SPORT STARS.....New York City has no bearing on anything outside being the home of the Giants and Jets. And nicknames? Have you been living under a rock Tom Curran? How many QBs have nicknames? (Tom Brady? Petyon Manning? Steve Young? Brett Favre? Aikman? all didn't have a nickname and yet they were easily STARS) and lastly have you ever heard of "AP" everyone (with knowledge of football) knows that refers to Adrian Peterson just like "LT' referred to LaDanian Tomlinson or Lawrence Taylor.

I wasted now 30 minutes of my life by reading your article Mr. Curran and then writing this meaningless response.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

PV's Massive NFL Prediction Preview

The "What the dickens?" Preview
I project the season by playing out the schedule, deciding the winner of each game in fewer than five seconds. I then tally up the records, crying out "What the dickens?" for the teams I think will be much better or much worse than the records my game-by-game exercise arrives at. I also did the projection over a month ago, before any training camp or preseason performances and stories. This is ridiculous, but fun.

AFC East
New England 12-4
Buffalo 11-5
New York 7-9
Miami 6-10

What the dickens? Do you think if I projected games today, Buffalo would be near 11 wins? No. Still, here's a team that's been knocking around mediocrity for a long, long time. Maybe this is the year a few things break their way and they get to the playoffs.

AFC North
Pittsburgh 14-2
Baltimore 9-7
Cincinnati 6-10
Cleveland 4-12

What the dickens? I don't really think the Steelers will win 14 games this season, but I do expect them to mow through a good chunk of their schedule and be one of the strongest teams in the playoffs.

AFC South
Indianapolis 12-4
Tennessee 11-5
Jacksonville 9-7
Houston 9-7

What the dickens? While it may be unlikely that all four teams have a winning record this season, they do play the NFC West this season. In '08 the NFC West helped three out of four AFC East teams to winning records (with solid contributions from the AFC West). It could happen.

AFC West
San Diego 14-2
Kansas City 4-12
Oakland 4-12
Denver 3-13

What the dickens? I don't think the Chargers will reach 14 wins. However, if they fail to go 6-0 against their own division, I'm going to start to wonder about Norv Turner's coaching abilities.

NFC East
Philadelphia 10-6
Washington 10-6
Dallas 9-7
New York 9-7

What the dickens? I don't think Washington is very good, but I think I know how they got to 10 wins in my projection. I think the other teams in this division are good, but I think Washington is the sort of team that can play its division opponents tough, scoring some upsets and breaking up winning streaks. But I don't think they'll really win 10 games.

NFC North
Minnesota 11-5
Chicago 11-5
Green Bay 8-8
Detroit 3-13

What the dickens? I actually think the Vikings, Bears, and Packers will win 10+ games; they do each get to play the NFC West and Detroit twice. I don't why I projected them to 8-8: I always overestimate them in my heart and underestimate them in my game-by-game projection. I also did this projection when I thought Sage Rosenfels would win the starting job: I think Favre might add a win or two to the Vikes' potential record.

NFC South
Carolina 13-3
New Orleans 9-7
Atlanta 7-9
Tampa Bay 2-14

What the dickens? Tampa Bay as the worst team in the league? I guess when I don't really know what they're up to at quarterback, don't really believe in their running backs, and see the defensive players I used to fear no longer on the team, I didn't project them out very well. They can be better than that, can't they? I also don't think Carolina is that good: they might win the division, but I don't think they'll have the best record in the conference.

NFC West
San Francisco 6-10
Arizona 5-11
Seattle 4-12
St. Louis 4-12

What the dickens? A 6-10 division winner hosting a playoff game would probably build support for reform of homefield advantage in the playoffs. However, I think Seattle will actually get to eight or nine wins pretty easily. They are better than a 4-12 team if Matt Hasselbeck is healthy.

The Default MVP Preview
Only a few players are eligible for AP MVP. You need to be an established star, you need to play quarterback or running back, and your team needs to be in the playoffs. This should be easy then: first, I'll look only at the teams I've projected to at least a .500 record. Then I'll make a list of those teams' starting QBs and RBs, but I'll only add the player to the list if the player is an established star (by my subjective feeling of "established star").

Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Philip Rivers, Ladanian Tomlinson, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Clinton Portis, Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte', Aaron Rodgers, DeAngelo Williams, Drew Brees

Now we start weeding out names. Roethlisberger threw a lot of TDs in 2007, but the Steelers win with defense, and he probably won't get the numbers. Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams, and Marion Barber will share carries, which will limit their numbers and limit the perception that they "carry their team." If the Bears are extremely good, Cutler will get the credit, so Forte' is out. I don't see 40 year old Brett Favre winning MVP: he'll be a positive contributor, but this is a team that will run the ball a lot and still win with defense. I think Ladanian Tomlinson and Clinton Portis are past the age when they'll be MVP-quality running backs. Eli Manning never puts up great numbers. So that leaves us with a smaller list.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Maurice Jones-Drew, Philip Rivers, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Brandon Jacobs, Tony Romo, Adrian Peterson, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees

For a running back to win, he has to be absolutely dominant. In my perception, sportswriters focus more on rushing yards than yards from scrimmage, so I think Maurice Jones-Drew and Brian Westbrook will have a tough time winning MVP. Brandon Jacobs is a very good player, but he seems like the sort of RB that would get overshadowed even with some sort of career year 1,800 yard season (which he'd need to win MVP). That leaves us a list of eight quarterbacks and one running back.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo, Adrian Peterson, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees

Drew Brees has had some crazy stat seasons, but those haven't got him MVP. To win MVP, he'll need a crazy stat season plus a great team record, and that will be tough. Donovan McNabb has an amazing array of talented skill position players around him: there's a chance the Eagles will be very good and McNabb will have the opportunity to put up great statistics. But justifiably or not, there is always a great deal of drama around McNabb, the media focuses a lot on this drama, and there are a lot of different feelings about McNabb. I don't think he'll win MVP. As for Cutler, I struggle to see a QB on a new team winning MVP, and a lack of quality WRs and the Chicago weather will prevent great numbers. I think it would take the Bears having the NFC's best record for Cutler to win, and I don't see that happening.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers

I'm going to take Peyton Manning out because he's already won two and a half MVPs, and he won MVP last year. That's the whole argument I can make against Manning: his statistics and team record are spectacularly consistent, but if all he does is achieve his consistent standard of greatness, he won't have done anything extra to get MVP attention.

That leaves us with five players, and I predict one of these five players will win AP MVP this season. Let's look at the scenarios that make it possible for each of these players to win the award.

Tom Brady I can imagine a scenario in which the defense struggles and the offense has to lead the Patriots to many of their wins. I can also imagine a scenario in which the Patriots have the AFC's best record. If either of those things happen and Brady has 4,000 yards, 24-28 TDs, I don't think he'll win MVP. If either of those things happen and Brady has 4,400 yards, 30-35 TDs, he could win MVP. It helps that the Patriots will always get a lot of attention.

Philip Rivers
He was the Chargers' QB when they won 25 games from '06-'07, but Tomlinson got most of the credit (including an MVP in '06). And he was the QB for the Chargers in '08 when he put up spectacular numbers, Tomlinson notably struggled, and the team finished 8-8. To win MVP, he'll need to again put up spectacular numbers, need the team to return to winning a lot of games, and need the media to see Tomlinson in a diminished, secondary role. Those things are possible, but I don't necessarily see Rivers winning MVP as very likely. Plus a lot of people just don't like him.

Tony Romo
Let's say Romo puts up nearly the same numbers he had when he had Terrell Owens to throw to: let's just give him 25-28 TDs and 3,600-4,000 yards. Now let's say the Cowboys win 11-12 games. The Cowboys get a lot of nationally televised games and a lot of media coverage. Can you see Romo getting a lot of credit for that? I can. Can you see him winning MVP and then hearing a lot of commentary basically saying "OK, but now let's see him do it in the playoffs." Yes I can.

Adrian Peterson
Last year Peterson led the league in rushing for a playoff team, and was given credit for taking over in several Viking wins. What will it take to win MVP? He'll need to reduce the fumbles, put up another very high number in rushing yards, and have the Vikings improve from close to the bubble playoff team to a first round bye playoff team. Those things can happen, though I think if the Vikings are an improved team (say 11-13 wins), then it might mean that Peterson's rushing total is lower (a better record would probably be the result of a more successful passing game, and a better team might mean Peterson isn't required to take over games as often).

Aaron Rodgers
Here's the player whom I believe has the best chance of winning MVP. He's gotten generally raving reviews from members of the media for his handling of being Favre's heir. Many in the media are tiring of Favre, and would like to give MVP to his heir in Green Bay. The Packers have amazing WRs, and so Rodgers will have skill position players helping him put up great numbers. And the Packers have an easy schedule, further helping Rodgers put up good numbers and helping the Packers to a winning record.

Personal stupid TV Predictions
I will miss the unintentional homoeroticism of John Madden's announcing: it was one of the things that could still make me feel like an adolescent. Now all I have to feel like an adolescent is spending many hours watching football, rooting for players that are on my mystical adventure team, and watching sitcoms. Hmmm. I'll still miss John Madden's unintentional homoeroticism.

I will no longer grit my teeth (and may not even notice) when announcers refer to "Brett."

Whenever announcers praise a player explicitly for hard work, effort, or hustle, usually the player being praised will be white. This is especially true for defensive linemen: commentators will often praise a white defensive lineman for having a great "motor," for never giving up during the entire play. Pay attention: you'll see. Also, white wide receivers have "deceptive speed."

You will not miss Tony Kornheiser on Monday Night Football. Replacing Kornheiser with Jon Gruden will mean more focus on football play, and less grasping for "story." This will be a good thing.

I will get annoyed when FOX shows baseball scores during football games.

You will want to pay attention when Joe Buck and Troy Aikman introduce a game on screen. While Aikman is talking, Buck will stare at Aikman, periodically turning his head toward you with an intense look as if to be sure you're getting all this, but you know he's just turning periodically because he's on screen and thinks he should not just stare at Aikman but has to look at the camera, too. It's mesmerizing.

You will daze off as Matt Millen tries to tell you about football, wondering what he's supposed to possibly tell you: you will not be able to not think about the Detroit Lions of the past decade when he's on screen. Most of what he says then will just be gibberish to you, as your stream of consciousness will be "Boy, Millen really ran the Lions into the ground. Why do TV producers think he should tell us about football? Where's his credibility?" Every time. Nothing he says will matter, except to make you think there's a strong chance the opposite of what he's saying is true.

If you enjoy watching people laugh at each other's zingers, you'll enjoy the FOX pregame show. If this is not quite your bag, you'll probably watch a different pregame show.

Charley Casserly's bits on CBS's pregame show will be the most interesting, informative, and insightful thing on any pregame show.

I will try to watch all 32 teams play this season. I might succeed.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Blizzard

You may need Viking blogs now more than ever
There are a lot of Viking stories out there focusing on Brett Favre. That's going to be the primary focus of attention for a most national media outlets covering the team.

Writers for local media outlets, because of their more specific focus on the team, still do a good job of covering the team more broadly. And so too do many Viking bloggers. Our rooting interest in the team makes us interested in all the football aspects of the team, not just the most prominent story.

Viking Links
See Brett Favre's first football card in a Viking jersey (Randball). It's sort of ugly.

Steve Aschburner has more on the Brett Favre "pitch count" (SI).

Peter King: "Favre showed how well he fit with the Vikings, who clearly -- if they stay healthy -- are strong Super Bowl contenders" (SI).

Peter King also says the NFC North has become the conference's power division (SI). Of course one reason I expect the Vikings, Bears, and Packers to each win 10+ wins is the schedule. The NFC West and two games against Detroit alone should give each team 5-6 wins.

Percy Harvin (Star Tribune).

Adrian Peterson (Star Tribune).

The Vikings are trying to trade Tarvaris Jackson (Star Tribune). When you think about it, it's amazing how much time we've spent thinking about Jackson over the past three years.

Sports Illustrated's Viking Scouting Report.

A Viking team prevew at Fanhouse.

Other Links
At Yahoo!, Brandon Funston and Brad Evans give you ten fantasy players they don't like.

Adam Schein predicts individual awards (FOX).

State of the Blog
Next week we return an old favorite, the National Friday League.

We also have a new contributor, J'Rod.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I've been wondering about the last preseason game.

1.
Do you think NFL coaches, notoriously obsessive about working long hours and watching film to gain any advantage of an opponent, even watch tape of the fourth preseason game?

I think it's possible that they watch the tape to scout their opponents' bench players. These backups may at some point become contributors (perhaps by necessity), and tape of the fourth preseason game might offer useful material on such players' tendencies. But this is pure speculation.

Any other ideas? Is there anything useful in the last preseason game that opposing coaches could find and use?

2.
How bored do you think starting players get while watching their backups play a game for three hours, when they don't even care if they win? Much of what I've read about the work regimen of professional athletes sounds very boring. But what's more boring than that? Do they stand together in groups with friends and chat? I'm actually tempted to watch some preseason games this weekend just to watch shots of the sidelines to guess what the players are doing.

Do you remember in Varsity Blues, how backup quarterback Johnny Moxson got caught reading a novel during his team's game? If during the fourth preseason game, Steve Hutchinson pulled out a book and went and sat on the bench, would Brad Childress even be mad? How about a magazine? And what magazines does Steve Hutchinson read, anyway? If I'm ever granted an interview with Steve Hutchinson for this blog, I won't waste my time with the questions anybody else would ask. I'm going to ask him questions like what magazines he likes. Maybe he'd say "Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years." But now I want to know what magazines the Viking players read.