Friday, September 29, 2006

Week Four and Everything Nice

Vikings at Bills
(I love the semi-grammatical construction of "Team nickname at Team nickname")

Some folks on KFAN are saying this is will be a revealing game because the Vikes typically would be expected to lose an outdoor road game against a mediocre opponent. I think it's revealing too. It will tell us whether the 2006 Vikings are going to be a middling team (around .500, flirting with a sixth seed playoff birth) or have a real chance to be a good team and even (gasp) win some playoff games. If the Vikings lose against the Bills, they'll be a middling team all season, and all the anxiety I bring to the watching experience will be in lame hopes for a playoff chance that will end in a first round playoff loss (note: if the Vikings do lose, I will disregard what I just wrote and continue to believe they are Super Bowl material if they can just sneak into the playoffs. Just so you know). If they win a close game, then they'll show they have changed the culture of the team and they are capable of winning these winnable games. If they can beat the Bills handily, then they show they are a team capable of winning the division and playoff games (yes, I sort of believe this).

Buffalo Jerks
Since the Bills are the other remaining member of the 0-4 Super Bowl club, I generally sympathize with their fans. However, if I'm looking for a reason to hate the Bills on Sunday, I will keep in mind that they are named after Buffalo Bill Cody, a royal douchebag. He killed off most of America's buffalo. Thanks, jerk. If you'd like to learn more about why you shouldn't like Buffalo Bill, I suggest you consult Arthur Kopit's excellent play "Indians" or Robert Altman's "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson."

So enjoy week four, everybody. Except Packer and Bear fans.

(picture from removed)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Thursday Morning Football

Terrell Owens and suicide
If TO attempted to commit suicide, that makes it the first time I’ve found him interesting in about a year and a half (check my archives for a single mention of him—I don’t think you’ll find anything). He has been over-covered to the point that I find him one of the NFL’s most boring players. If he tried to kill himself, that means there’s something within him much darker and more interesting than anything he’s presented in the past (or that the media has presented us with).

Steve Falco v. Johnny Moxson

Who is your favorite film quarterback and why?
Personally, I like Mox: he’s got the sort of intellect, integrity, and fake Texas accent you want in your fictional quarterback. Besides, how awful must Falco have been in that Sugar Bowl? Here’s how bad: a promising young QB’s career was destroyed with one bad game, and he is left scraping barnacles off of boats.

Willis McGahee against the Vikes
I expect the Vikings to crush J.P. Losman, but fear they will be crushed by Willis McGahee. This will be the first time the Vikes have faced a dynamic running back for an entire game this season. He will be the key individual player for this game: if he has success, the Bills will be able to hold the ball away from the Vikings, they can control field position, and they can open it up for some sort of passing game. If the Vikings are able to control McGahee, every other part of their game plan should be successful.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tuesday Randomness

Minnesota Sports Media
We have our crummy writers (Sid Hartman, Bob Sansevere, Jim Souhan). We have our columnists who like to make fun of the home teams and/or their fans (Tom Powers, Patrick Reusse). And we have our sports radio hosts who like to make fun of people for liking sports too much (Dan Barreiro, Dan Cole). Is this just a typical market?

“I’m real happy about Brown, son, but I need to talk to you about Gilroy”
The Twins are going to the playoffs; they can still win the division. Since I haven’t rooted for the Twins or paid attention to baseball in any meaningful way since Kirby Puckett retired, this means little to me: I guess I’d rather have a Minnesota team winning than not winning.

However, there’s a chance that if the Twins win their division and their first round series goes to 5 games, a Sunday afternoon Viking game gets moved to Monday night. I’m a live and let live kind of guy, but I can’t stand for anything to mess with my viewing of Viking games. If the Vikes’ game gets moved to Monday night, I have yet a third conflict this season between watching the Vikings and teaching class.

So, I’m real happy for you, Twins and Twins fans. But please don’t mess up the Vikings’ schedule.

Jason Whitlock
Some people complain that Whitlock brings up issues of race too much. I don’t agree with that assessment, but let’s assume for a minute this is true. If EVERY black sportswriter wrote about issues of race in EVERY story or column he/she wrote, what percentage of the sports discussion would be about race? Here are some numbers from Whitlock himself:

“But of more than 300 newspapers surveyed, 90 percent have white, male sports editors (head coach). There are just five black men (1.6 percent) leading a sports section. Of nearly 300 sports columnists (quarterback), 84 percent are white males and only 7 percent (22) are black males. White women and Latino males fare slightly better than black men in terms of being sports editors, and they fare slightly worse in terms of being sports columnists.”

My take: we need some writers to bring up issues of race, lest those issues be forgotten from sports discussion completely.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Week Three's Nuggest of Wonderment

Coming off the ledge: Bears 19, Vikings 16
Sometimes, in a completely illogical way, I think I'd prefer the Vikes to lose by 30 than to lose a close game. During a blowout, I begin a process of accepting the loss sometime during the second quarter, and by the fourth quarter, I've achieved some distance. During a close loss, however, three hours of intense nervous energy (with many moments of elation and deflation) are followed by a night of bitterness, anger, and frustration, and a week of longing for another game. After a close loss, one can run through any number of individual plays that could have swung the game the other way (Taylor's unforgivable fumble to give the Bears the ball on the Viking 37, the decision to throw 30 yards downfield on 4th and 2, Williamson's drop, Williamson's offensive pass interference, Sharper's near INT) without having the objectivity to look at the individual plays that could have swung the game even further in the opponent's direction.

I hate the Bears. I wish them nothing but ill for the rest of the season. Next week I hope the Seahawks beat the hell out of them in Soldier Field. I hope that Brad Childress is the man to finally build a Viking team capable of winning a game at Soldier Field (Vikes haven't won there since 2000, when Denny Green was coach). I don't even have a lot of respect for them.

One of the purposes of literature is to help us to understand the meaning of our lives. After the Vikings lose, I feel like a character in Beckett's Waiting for Godot: living a fan life of despair and unfulfillment, but coming back each day with hope that something will come along.

Offense: I currently have no faith in the Viking red zone offense. When they are inside the 15, I assume we're getting 3. Still, the Vikes have scored on their first possession three straight weeks; unfortunately, they don't keep that rhythm going.

Defense: the Vikings have allowed under 20 pts. in three straight games; I can't recall this ever happening under Mike Tice. Seems like a fair chance they can keep that streak going at Buffalo next week.

Special Teams: the return game looks pretty mediocre without Koren Robinson.

My wife's contributions to Sunday
My wife was ill and sleeping on the couch all day; every so often she'd wake up and make some odd comment on what she would see and hear on TV. Here are the highlights.

On Joe Buck:
Me: "It's great to listen to him have to shout over the band."
Her: "It's even better to listen to him shout over the band about how he has to shout over the band."
Me: "That's post-modernism, baby."
Her: "It's meta-shouting."

On Chris Simms:
"Don't you need your spleen?"

On Reche Caldwell's crazy eyes:
"Is he on some sort of wonderful journey?"

I'm a connoisseur of advertisements. Here are my thoughts on the commercials I see every Sunday.

--The girl in the DLP commercial who talks about the mirrors should get an apartment together with the girl from The Ring.

--Evidently, people who want to eat at Arby's end up doing awful at their jobs.

--I'm fixated on how the centaurs in that HDTV commercial have sex. Do they mount, like horses? Or do they have genitals in the front of their bodies, like humans? Or do they have genitals in BOTH spots, giving them an infinite supply of kinkiness?

This is the new term for a Mike Shanahan induced neurosis suffered by people who have Bronco running backs on their fantasy teams. After two weeks of starting Tatum Bell and seeing him split carries, I decided it was time to bench him until he earned the starting job. And then as the Sunday night game got started, Al Michaels informs us that Mike Shanahan told them last night that he'd keep Tatum in there. I hit my head and cursed when I heard it.

Agent Smith plays for the Seahawks
Sunday morning I caught the fight scene from The Matrix when Neo fights all the Agent Smiths (don't ask me to try explain how the cheapest cable package I could possibly buy at $10.33 a month somehow includes TNT). Then later in the day I watched parts of the Seahawks game. I am convinced that wide receivers #81, 82, 83, and 84 for the Seahawks are clones. They all basically look the same in their uniforms, they all have similar skills, and it really doesn't seem to matter which one is being thrown to. This could be a scary team.

Please, NBC: don't flash "Touchdown" in yellow.

NBC absolutely MUST stop flashing "touchdown" in yellow whenever somebody scores a TD. First of all, we're watching the game. We know a touchdown happened. Are we so stupid we need this repeated? Secondly, they flash it in the same color that a penalty gets flashed. So every time somebody scores a TD, for a second you think that some sort of penalty is going to call it back. Just stop the madness.

Favre Tally
With 3 TD passes and 0 INTs, Brett Favre is now 18 TD passes away from catched the record of a man who was never in drug rehab, and remains 19 INTs away from a man who once threw 42 interceptions in 14 AFL games.

At least Favre didn't have to suffer the indignity of losing: he avoided the hissy fit of leaving the field early.

Add this to your Monday reading
Peter King is awful and one day the world will realize it. Instead, or in addition to, read MJD's Smorgasbord on Mondays.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What's fun about this weekend

D'Angelo Williams and Steve Smith D'Angelo Williams is going to be great; it's a matter of time before he's Carolina's starter, and I look for him to prove he deserves it this week. Steve Smith is always a fun player, and he should be back this weekend.

Bears at Vikings Though this is the focal point of my weekend, to be honest, it doesn't sound fun at all.

Jacksonville/Indianapolis An enigma for Fantasy Owners who have Manning, Harrison, or Wayne. You want your players to do well--but if Jacksonville stays with Indy in the standings, there's less chance that they'll be resting the last few weeks.

Clinton Portis v. the Houston Texans Here's a chance for the eccentric one to restore some hope to Washington and to the Experience.

Bengals/Steelers Important game.

LT on bye There's the guy with LT in your fantasy league, and then there's everybody else. This weekend, everybody else has a shot.

Patriots in Primetime I haven't seen Tom Terrific in a game yet. I'm looking forward to it.

Eli Manning It looks like my afternoon game is going to be the Giants/Seahawks.

So enjoy week three, everybody. Except Bear and Packer fans. ESPECIALLY Bear fans.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bowl of Anxiety: Bears at Vikings

Brian Urlacher
If there's a player I fear on the Bears, it is Urlacher. He always seems to have big games against the Vikes: interceptions, sacks, everything possible to devestate the Vikings. Granted, that's mainly a period during which the Vikings were an offensive juggernaut and didn't have a hard-hitting, tough-minded, committed-to-the-run, gut-out-victory-by-any-means-possible attitude. Based on Brad Childress's demeanor and the Vikings' performance through two weeks, those days are past. Still, Urlacher can be a dominating presence.

Ever since this moment, Charles Tillman has earned the nickname "Nemesis" from me. He's a player that usually stands out to me, ESPECIALLY against the Vikings. For Charles Tillman, I would like to give the words of Wes Mantooth: "From deep down in my stomach, with every inch of me, I pure, straight hate you. But goddammit, do I respect you!"

Troy Williamson
Troy Williamson has a shoulder issue. With respect to Chester Taylor, who has been churning out tough yards and making the Vikings a more physical team, Williamson is, to my mind, the only dynamic player on the Vikings' offense. The Bears, who got burned a lot by Randy Moss early in his career, really found ways to control him later in his Viking tenure. But still, a speedy WR is something you have to account for, and Williamson is the one player on the offense who is a real big-play threat. I think he'll play and be fine.

Randy Moss
Others like to make fun of the Raiders; I'm just sad. Moss was (and I believe still IS), a singular talent, a dominating offensive football player capable of taking over a game. Is the Raider o-line and qb situation so bad that he can do nothing (sort of like the Spergeon Wynn games)? Or is he not mentally tough enough to rise above the crappiness and try to elevate his team? Or is he not that good right now?

sans-ESPN: how many of us are there?
One thing that intrigues me during this football season, and which has resulted in a bit of discussion at Football Outsiders, is how many die-hard football fans are currently without ESPN in their homes? According to David Barron, 83% of U.S. households get ESPN. How many of the remaining 17% of U.S. household contain serious football fans? Among my friends of serious football fans, I know of four households (including my own) which have chosen to go without ESPN for at least part of the past two years, mainly for financial reasons. Most people assume that it's a matter of choice, or that everybody they know gets ESPN, but that's just not the case.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bear Dome Week


Erasmus James becomes the 4th Viking defensive player to go out for the year (joining Chad Greenway, Tank Williams, and Dovonte Edwards). To me, losing James hurts the Vikings the most, if only for his value above replacement. He was going to have a chance to really get after the quarterback this season, and he was already showing some ability to do that.

I've never heard that before
Last night a local sportscaster said something to this effect: "The Vikings' defense is among the best in the league early in the season, but they'll face a stiff test from Chicago's potent offense." He then went on to talk about how effective the Bears' passing game has been. Not long ago such a statement would have been comprehensible only in Bizarro World.

Then the sportscaster said "Whammy!"

It's time for an interception
Bear wideouts have been wide open deep downfield the past two weeks. I can only hope that on Sunday Rex Grossman again thinks that those wideouts are open downfield and chucks it down there, only to find out that Fred Smoot can close the separation and that Darren Sharper can get to the ball.

The Vikings have gone two weeks without an interception. For a win on Sunday, I think that has to change. The Bears' defense is good, and the way the Panthers' defense handled the Vikes' offense last week, I don't know where the points are going to come from. Forcing some turnovers to get field position and momentum could help the Vikes pull off another victory in which neither team reaches 20.

Great Sports Movies
Should the baseball game in Naked Gun be considered one of the great sporting events on film? I think this is one of the films that helped set my comedic tastes when I was a little tike. Pretty much everything that happens when they get to the stadium is hilarious.

Football and the Internet

The blogging problem.
I like to read blogs, but with no internet at home, I rely on my office computer. Many bloggers enjoy posting pictures of skimpily clad women. I don't ogle them in my office, but I often like to read the content posted next to the pictures. My office is tucked into a far corner, and rarely do students come to visit me, so this is rarely a problem. However, today a student came to visit me while I was reading this deadspin post. I felt quite awkward about it all.

Am I the only internet user who likes Peyton and Eli Manning?
I intensely dislike Brett Favre; I've always especially disliked the way announcers apologize for his mistakes and generally act like he's perfect. I used to seethe with this opinion, and Dr. Z was the only mainstream writer who expressed this similar opinion. Then I discovered blogs, and it was clear that lots of people share that opinion.

Lots of people all over the internet also intensely dislike Peyton and Eli Manning. I understand the reasons (overexposure, sense of entitlement, announcers' fawning, etc.). But I have to admit: I love watching both Peyton and Eli play football. If the Vikings aren't on, the Colts are the team I'd most rather watch.

I like them because THEY ARE FUN TO WATCH. They are both in offenses in which they take a lot of shots downfield (I've been a fan of the vertical passing game ever since Tecmo Bowl). Unless they are playing the Vikings, I generally wish them both success. They generally seem pretty likeable, they don't get into off-the-field trouble, and they make games fun to watch. I like them and I wish them the best (when they're not playing the Vikings).

Look closer
According to this Star Tribune column by Judd Zulgad,

"One principle of the Tampa-2 defense calls for the front four to apply pressure without much blitzing. But by Sharper's estimate, the Vikings blitzed about 60 percent of the time Sunday, including on nearly every third-down situation. That was about 20 percent more than they had blitzed in their Week 1 victory at Washington. Carolina ended up 3-for-14 (21 percent) on third downs. Washington had gone 4-for-13 (31 percent) on third down."

According to this report, it looks like the Vikings were very successful blitzing, especially on 3rd down. Now if in tomorrow's TMQ column, Gregg Easterbrook uses one of those 3 successful Carolina conversions to argue that teams shouldn't blitz much, especially on 3rd down when it's expected, I will stick my head in the freezer, lest it explode.

Washington is bad.
Without Clinton Portis, Washington has a VERY bad offense. There are no consistent playmakers left on the roster. In 2005 Santana Moss had a career year with 1,483 yards and 9 TDs, but he actually only had 5 100 yard games and 5 games in which he scored a TD. Antwaan Randle El has never shown the ability to make more than a few good plays in a game. I'm of the opinion that Mark Brunell just isn't that good (last year Washington needed a career high 23 TD passes from Brunell to win 10 regular season games). The backup running backs aren't very good.

But Clinton Portis is, by any standard, a stud. He has always been a consistent producer. Washington will only crawl back to respectability if Portis comes back healthy and soon; if he doesn't, they will lose to the Texans.

Skol Vikings: Minnesota 16, Carolina 13, in overdeath (and week two's nugget's of wonderment)

Luck and Sports
There are three factors that control human affairs: fate (if you don't believe in supernatural forces or socio-economic determinism, you should at least believe in biology), free will (our choice and action), and hazard (or chance, or luck). In Melville's masterpiece Moby-Dick, Ishmael tells us,

"chance, free will, and necessity - no wise incompatible - all interweavingly working together. The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course - its every alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events."

We don't tend to think of the role of chance in sports too often. We like to think of actions and decisions as the factors which determine a game's winner. But we should never forget that we watch a sport with a really odd shaped ball, that can bounce in all sorts of odd ways in different directions, and which way that ball bounces can determine Super Bowl champions.

Winning on Opponent's Error
Today, it's a lot easier for people to blame the Panthers for defeat than to credit the Vikings with victory. I know--the Vikings have lost several games over the past few years in which it was easier to blame coaching decisions than to credit the opponent (such as the 2004 Seattle game, in which the Vikes, with a great QB and a great WR, and driving for a game winning TD, inexplicably called an end-around pass, taking their great QB and great WR out of the play).

But to win a game, you must capitalize on an opponent's error. Carolina made an incredible mistake on that punt fumble. But the Vikings got downfield and recovered the fumble. They then made a great decision going for the fake field goal. They also executed the fake field goal effectively. They then held Carolina scoreless the rest of the game, and did enough to get their own game winning points.

Carolina did lose that game, but the Vikings did win it.

What to like about the Viking defense
In two games, the Vikings have only given up two touchdowns, and ZERO passing touchdowns.

Two weeks in a row, the Vikings gave up only 3 second-half points.

In two games, the Vikings have now allowed just 7 3rd down conversions.

Coach Trick'Em Gutso
The Vikes were 3-3 on 4th down attempts on Sunday. Twice they succeeded on a 4th and short conversion, and then they called a well-timed fake field goal on 4th down that tied the game (I've seen fake field goals before, but I'm not sure I've ever seen game-tying fake field goals in the 4th quarter).

Brad Childress shows restraint and discipline...and he also plays gutsy football. We're lucky to have him as our coach.

Favre Tally
With 3 TDs and 1 INT, Favre is now 21 TDs away from tying Dan Marino's career TD record, and 19 INTs away from tying George Blanda's career INT record.

Julius Peppers is a joy to watch (unless he's playing your favorite team)

There's a reason I only call Steve Smith his team's best offensive player; Julius Peppers is his team's best player. For some reason the Vikings usually let Marcus Johnson face Peppers alone, with disasterous results.

And Texan fans, think about this: the same GM who drafted DE Mario Williams over RB Reggie Bush passed on Julius Peppers to draft David Carr. As the great Dr. Farthing once said, "Hindsight is 20/20, my friend." But still...think about that.

Troy Williamson
For the second week in a row, Troy Williamson made an important 3rd down catch and run on the Vikes' game-winning drive.

A moment in time
In the KC-Denver game, after a poor Jake Plummer pass, the camera cut to a Bronco fan wearing a Jay Cutler jersey with her hands cupped to her mouth shouting, "YOU SUCK!"

Don Shula, what are you doing?
We're all vexed that a Briscoe High team featuring Urlacher, Polamalu, Vick, and Tomlinson is struggling to beat a high school team. I've got the solution to their offensive problems.

They've got a competent QB, Matt Leinart, just taking notes on the sideline. Why not find a way to get him on the field, then find more creative ways to use Vick? He's a singular offensive talent--they could be moving him around to WR, RB, and QB. He could be destroying these high schoolers. Imagine what Vick could do in the Single Wing offense?

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Experience

In my fantasy league, we start two RBs and two WRs, but you have the option to replace a second RB with a 3rd WR. People have done it occasionally, but nobody has really done it for a year. In 2006 I was about to change all that.

Due to trades and bizarre circumstances, my first four picks were Clinton Portis, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, and Steve Smith. It looked like I was going to be going with a pretty strong 1 RB, 3 WR lineup.

Then injuries happened. In week one, Clinton Portis and Steve Smith were replaced with Tatum Bell and Thomas Jones.

And now, in week two, it looks again like neither Portis nor Smith will be in the lineup.

But in week 2, I'll be bringing the experiment back, with a lineup featuring...ugh...Tatum Bell at RB, with Moss, Harrison, and (rube cred!) Troy Williamson at WR.

Now, why do I bore you with talk of my fantasy team? Because there's another interesting point of seeing Portis and Smith out weeks one and two. You see, I love the Vikings. I hate starting fantasy players against the Vikings because I'm clearly rooting for the players to get shut out...yet there's some part of me inside that has a little happiness if they do well. I don't like that; it just sort of makes me sick.

Well, in week one the Vikes played the Redskins...with Portis going about half the game. The Vikes won; could they have won against a Redskin team featuring Portis full time at full strength? I don't know. But my fantasy team struggles were clearly overwhelmed by Viking joy.

Now, in week two the Vikes play the Panthers...probably without Steve Smith. If Steve Smith were playing, the Panthers would probably be favored in this game (well, technically they are favored). But the Panthers are not only without the only man on their offense that scares anybody and the man who utterly destroyed the Vikes last year, they'll be without their starting MLB, LT, and probably C. The Vikes can and should win this game (it is in the Dome). So once again, my beloved Vikings get to face a significantly weakened team playing without one of my fantasy team's featured stars.

And you know what I say to this?


Not only do I get to skip any anxiety associated with a fantasy player going against the Vikings (benching the player doesn't really help--it just makes you feel like a tool if that player does well), but the Purple get to face a second team without their dynamic offensive star. I'll sacrifice The Experience to the Vikings, oh, pretty much every moment of my life.

(BTW, have you ever Google Image Searched "Fantasy Football"? The first several pages feature a lot of skimpily clad women for some reason. There are also a few cats. The whole exercise turned me off of including a pic with this post).

Anyway, enjoy week two people. Except for Packer and Bear fans.

A few football nuggets

Sometimes one wants two plus two to equal five.
One of Dostoevsky's big beefs was the idea that mathematical systems could make projections on human behavior, that everything that happened in the world was a matter of cause and effect. In books like Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky attempted to show how all sorts of irrational forces impact human behavior and events.

I have similar skepticism about computer systems that attempt to project what a coach should do in a give situation. I think intense statistical analysis can tell us a lot about football; however, I don't think it can project what a give team, with a given offensive personel, facing another given team at a given date, with a specific defensive set with a specific defensive personel, with specific events that have already occured in the game (players getting worn down, plays already run, either successfully or unsuccessfully), at a specific point in the game, should do.

Getting ready for the Panthers.
The Vikes are likely facing the Panthers without Steve Smith, their best offensive player, a true playmaker who makes the offense potent (and even if he plays, will he be effective?). The Panthers have also just lost their starting left tackle, might be playing without their center, and will most likely be playing without their middle linebacker. I really shouldn't be as confident as I am, I know, but I don't see any reason the Vikings shouldn't win this game.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The waiting is the hardest part

All sorts of twentieth century writers have grabbed onto the concept of waiting as an important motif of the human condition. Samuel Beckett wrote "Waiting for Godot," which likely had an influence on Tom Stoppard (in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead") and Harold Pinter (in "The Dumb Waiter): all are plays about two boobs sitting around waiting. You can find the concept of waiting important in novels by Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. John Fowles writes in The Magus,

"The smallest hope, a bare continuing to exist, is enough for the antihero’s future; leave him, says our age, leave him where mankind is in its history, at a crossroads, in dilemma, with all to lose and only more of the same to win; let him survive, but give him no direction, no reward; because we too are waiting, in our solitary rooms where the telephone never rings. Waiting for this girl, this truth, this crystal of humanity, this reality lost through imagination, to return; and to say she returns is a lie."

You don't have to tell football fans that waiting is a distinct feature of human existence. We wait all spring and summer for the opening games of football, counting them down, considering kickoff a sort of holy grail. We revel in that first week. And then, around Tuesday or Wednesday, we suddenly realize, "Oh. I didn't just reach Nirvana. I've got to wait again for some more." There are things to help. Plenty of articles around the internet to allow us to consume ourselves with yet more football. Oh, and there's work and family. But still the days grow long. And so each week we wait...and wait..and wait...

And ultimately, we may just be waiting for a chance to get our emotions stomped around, for the possibility that we'll spend the next week waiting in the foulest of moods.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Joy in Mudville

After reading this Redskin fan's report of how things seem familiar for his team, it becomes clear why Viking fans are so ecstatic with last night's win.

Everything about the Viking game last night was unfamiliar.

First of all, they won a game on natural grass. For years, the Vikings simply didn't win outdoor football games (with the odd exception of Lambeau Field). That seems entirely in the past; these Vikings are built differently. I'm almost willing to believe the Vikings could win at Soldier Field this year. Almost.

The Vikes also showed a consistent ability to stop opposing offenses on 3rd down. Washington was just 4 for 13 on 3rd down attempts. I'm beginning to believe that my children will grow up in a world in which the Vikings play defense.

Clock Management was actually pretty good. Brad Johnson got the team in position for a field goal just before halftime that cut the deficit to 4. At the end of the game, Childress trusted the defense enough that he settled for a 3 point lead even though it would give Washington the ball with a minute left, rather than try for a TD that could have put the team up by 7 but would have given Washington longer to try tie it. It worked...barely (I'm hoping that when Dwight Smith returns to the lineup, opposing WRs won't get open so easily. Smoot, Winfield, and Sharper looked solid last night, but other members of the secondary were exposed).

And there was a real commitment to the running game. In a close game, the Vikings stuck with Chester Taylor running behind Steve Hutchinson, even though they didn't have a big average per rush. This looks like a team that wants to run the ball no matter what.

Other things look hopeful. Zero turnovers. Great pass protection. There were too many penalties, but Childress doesn't seem like a coach that will tolerate that for long. Nobody likes to see an extra point attempt bobbled away. But it is clear that these aren't the Vikings we've watched for the past several years. This is a team built not on speed and offensive fireworks but on toughness, discipline, and fundamentals.

Now the Vikes get to come home for two tough games against the Panther and then the Bears. The Vikings are starting the season against 3 2005 playoff teams (that also won 3 playoff games), but they've got a good shot at a 3-0 start (Steve Smith may still be limping and the Panthers may be overrated, the Vikes haven't lost to the Bears in the Dome since 2001, and I've got a lot of confidence in the Metrodome).

Skol Vikings: Minnesota 19, Washington 16

During the season, all I care about is the Ws and the Ls. A W added to the standings give me a bit of euphoria to take me through the week; an L brings me down and keeps me down until the next W. I don't care how the team gets the W, how ugly they look, or how great they look in an L. I don't care if my team entertains you; the Vikes have spent a decade or more entertaining you, now it's just time for them to win.

And for anybody trying to minimize a road win against a returning playoff team (and winner of a playoff game), remember that a year ago the word on the Vikings was their total inability to win outdoors. That looks to be the past, man.

Here's what I saw in the Vikings' 19-16 win over Washington.

Bombs Away.
WTF? I thought this was a ball control offense. Every other pass, including 3rd and short, seemed to be a bomb downfield.

Troy Williamson had two TERRIBLE drops, but he did catch some passes--and he showed the speed to beat CBs deep. He should force defenses to consider him and help spread things out for the rest of the offense.

Darren Sharper's hit on Santana Moss
Like no other sport, in football you can point to individual plays that make big differences in the final result. Darren Sharper's hit on Santana Moss in the end zone at the end of the first half knocked the ball out of an open receiver's hand, preventing a TD and leading to a FG. That's a 4 point play in a 3 point game.

Pass Rush
No sacks, no interceptions. A disappointment? Yes. But the pass rush was effective. Mark Brunell was forced to scramble and/or throw the ball away a lot (thanks to pass rush combined with good coverage).

The defensive linemen will get sacks. But even without sacks, they impacted the game Monday.

Cornerback Tackling

Antoine Winfield was strong as usual, dropping open field runners to the ground right where he hit them. I'd expect nothing less. But Fred Smoot made an impact tackling too. It's a huge help to the linebackers to have CBs around them that can make tackles.

Commitment to the Running Game
Brad Childress is a little bit Andy Reid and a little bit Barry Alvarez. It's good to see a team staying with the run in a close game, even if it's been less than stellar for parts of the game.

3rd Down
The Vikes were better on 3rd down, offensively and defensively, than they were during much of the Tice era (especially defensively).

Special Teams
Troy Williamson and Mewelde Moore both look like capable returners.

My kitten
Traumatized by the beginning of football season. She doesn't understand at all that I'm dancing and jumping around the room.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Bowlful of Anxiety

We're just over 3 hours from Viking kickoff. I'm just under 5 hours from being able to watch them. So away we go with what worries me tonight.

I expect the Viking defensive line to dominate, as Udeze, Williams, Williams, and James recall images of Eller, Page, Larsen, and Marshall. I expect the secondary to perform admirably; I'm a little worried Santana Moss will get by everybody a time or two, but overall I don't fear Brunell or the Washington WRs. Winning the game on the defensive side of the ball will come down to the linebackers. Can they cover the TEs and RBs? Can they stop the Washington running game (most likely to feature Ladell Betts mostly)? Linebacker may once again be the big weakness for the Vikings; if they can't stop Washington from running the ball 4-5 yards a carry, as well as stop Washington from picking up 3rd downs with short passes, the Vikes are in trouble.

Wide Receivers
I think more of the Viking wideouts than most do; however, this is the type of game they must perform well in. Because of the Vikings' short passing game and Brad Johnson's intelligence, I'm not worried about the offensive line--if the wideouts can get open and make tough catches in traffic while getting hit. Johnson will be trying to release the ball in under 2 seconds; if the Viking WRs can't get any separation, and if they can't hang onto the ball with defenders draping them, it will be a very long night.

Special Teams
If tonight's game goes like many games have gone in week one, it will be a low scoring affair in which defensive lines hold the edge over offensive lines. The outcome could easily come down to field position. What will the Viking return game be like without Koren Robinson? Will Mewelde Moore be effective? And will the Vikings successfully cover the Washington returns? I fear a long punt or kick return setting Brunell up with the short field position that he'll require to function.

Week One Nuggets of Wonderment

Each Monday, I will give you my brief thoughts from Sunday's action. This week I watched the Rams beat the Broncos, the Bears beat the Packers, and the Colts beat the Giants.

Does anybody else suffer from Sunday Night Insomnia?

The combination of the physical (a day's immobility and caffeine consumption) and the mental (statistics and images of plays dancing through my head) leave me lying awake for hours. Perhaps last night was particularly bad since I'm racked with anxiety over the Viking game tonight. Suddenly I started picturing Randle-El running back punt returns and wondering how many sacks and turnovers the Vikes can force out of Brunell.

Football language can be very homoerotic.
This is a sport where common words to precede "up the middle" include "penetrate," "pound it," and "hammer away." That said, am I being overly purile about these two exchanges?

John: "He's thinking, 'How am I going to get my mouth around that?'"
Al: "We can help."

John: "Tiki Barber has a lot more thunder than you'd think."

"The Shadow of Their Own End Zone"
On Dan Patrick's radio show Friday, Kordell Stewart called the Steelers winning a championship a "blessing in disguise" for Steeler fans. Hell of a disguise.

The Favre Tally
Favre remains 24 TDs away from Marino's cherished TD record, and has narrowed the margin to Blanda's interception record to 20. One of Favre's picks was to Nemesis himself.

I also have an Interception Theory. "For every one interception a quarterback throws, at least one pass will bounce off a defender's hands." Culpepper had 2 interceptions and 2 passes hit defenders' hands. Favre had 2 interceptions and 3 bounce off defender's hands. Peyton Manning had 1 interception and 3 bounce off defenders' hands.

They are football players, after all.
I like to watch for a cornerback's tackling ability. Tackling is why I think that while Deion Sanders is the greatest cover corner I've ever seen, Rod Woodson is a better football player. Tackling is why Antoine Winfield is my favorite Viking (he gives up passes, but he usually stops the WR cold right where he catches it).

Champ Bailey sticks out to me as a very good tackler.

Better special effects than The Matrix.

When I see that robot jumping around on the side of the screen during FOX broadcasts, I think, "So they paid money to have that thing done. Will that increase a single rating point? Will it increase a single person's enjoyment of the broadcast? Will it bring back a single viewer for the next week, just because of that?"

The only thing it could possibly do is entertain bored toddlers who are stuck watching football with their mothers and fathers.

Quality work
I thought that NBC's "Football Night in America" was a superb show. Good features, good coverage of highlights, good commentary. They could use a few more stats, but overall I'm very pleased with the coverage. Considering I don't get ESPN for financial reasons (as has been almost as well documented at this blog as the fact that I teach a class Monday night and will miss the beginning of the Viking game and am totally aware that I refuse to stop whining about it), I'm glad to get a good highlight show on a broadcast network.

The Black and Blue Division is Back.
Three NFC North teams played yesterday. They combined for 1 offensive touchdown. I really hope the Vikes can double that tonight.

Why am I not hyperventilating?
Sunday afternoons are a special experience when your favorite team doesn't play. During a Viking game I usually use up so much emotional energy before, during, and after the game, that sometimes I can't watch another game afterward. I'll go for a walk to try calm myself. So when the Vikings don't play and I get to watch three straight games, it's a surprisingly relaxing day. But I'd still rather be watching the Vikes.

Play(s) of the Day
Plaxico Burress's catches. Years of cheering for Randy Moss and Cris Carter have turned me into an aficionado for big athletic receivers who make crazy catches with spectacular use of hands.

Most Important Game of the Day
Falcons defeating Panthers. That game tells us a lot about both teams.

Minnesota at Washington
I don't think either team will be able to run the ball effectively tonight. The Vikings should be able to pressure Brunell into mistakes (I'm dreaming of 4 sacks and 3 interceptions), but I don't think Brad Johnson will be as easy to rattle. I'm suddenly concerned about special teams--I don't think the Vikes have a great return game, and I don't know how they'll do covering returns, either. But without Clinton Portis, Washington's offense is below average. Though I don't think the Vikings will succeed throwing the ball downfield, Brad Johnson's short passes should pick up first downs. Vikings win, 20-10.

But keep in mind, when it comes to the Vikings, I'm like Fox Mulder: I want to believe.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Enjoy week one, everybody. Except for Packer and Bear fans. Oh, well, if you're playing each other, I guess somebody has to enjoy it.

Sunday from noon until midnight I don't expect to leave my living room for any reason other than to go to the bathroom or kitchen during a commercial. I hope you all have fun. I'll return Monday to make sense of the chaos of Sunday and to twitch and shiver in anticipation for the Viking game.

A few lingering problems.

--I will be watching the Bears and Packers play, and I don't know who to root against.

--I'm still a bucket full of angst over teaching Monday night--I will miss the first half of the Vikings' game, I'll be trusting a VCR, be rushing home, worrying about everything. I thought this was supposed to be fun.

--Thanks to Clinton Portis and Steve Smith: my fantasy running backs for the weekend are now Thomas Jones and Tatum Bell.

--The most enjoyable game to watch should be the Colts-Giants. Lots of good offensive players on each team.

Funniest Preview I've Read.

The Brushback AFC Preview

The Brushback NFC Preview

Interceptionpepper lives

Yesterday, I wrote a list of things I was watching for in last night's Dolphin-Steeler game. So here are my thoughts (the photo is of me thinking about the game).

Troy Polamalu
I charted Polamalu's plays. He had 9 tackles (which matches NBC's report of 3 solo and 6 assists), 1 missed tackle, 4 plays where he was involved in the tackle (he doesn't get an assist, but he was around the ball impacting the tackle), a pass defensed, a forced fumble, an interception, and an "assisted breakup" (another player got the pass defense, but Polamalu was around, possibly making an impact).

That's not 45 tackles and 15 passes defensed, but it's an impactful game. Polamalu is one of the most versatile players in the league: a free safety/outside linebacker combo. He plays near the line of scrimmage most of the time, but is fully capable of dropping back and making an impact in coverage.

Culpepper’s mobility
He showed the ability to move around--but didn't it seem to lack zip?

I was almost wrong about the interceptions, but Daunte always comes through with some completely incomprehensible INTs when his team needs him to play well the most. Fandom is a funny world: for the past six seasons, Daunte's crazy 4th quarter INTs would leave me inconsolable; now I'm indifferent.

Chris Chambers
Not a great impact on the game. He ends with 5 catches for 59 yards, but was a nonfactor for much of the game. Pittsburgh's defense is good.

Willie Parker’s carries
It looks like he was out on goal line situations, so unless Cowher blames the RB on the goal line fumble last night, it looks like Parker will again score 1 TD for every 300 or so yards he rushes for.

Pittsburgh’s WRs
WRs other than Hines Ward had 3 catches for 38 yards and a TD. Will that be enough?

Ronnie Brown’s carries
Brown was an effective receiver last night, but Pittsburgh clearly shut him down on the ground.

(photo removed)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Things to watch in tonight's Steeler-Dolphin game

Troy Polamalu
I’m under the impression that Polamalu ends every game with 45 tackles and 15 passes defensed. Is he that dominant a defender, or does his luxuriously flamboyant hair make every play he makes stand out to me? And should I chart tonight’s game to find out how many positive plays Polamalu makes?

Culpepper’s mobility
I will be surprised if Daunte throws less than two interceptions tonight; teams that mix and disguise their blitzes as well as Pittsburgh confuse Peyton Manning, so they’re sure as hell going to confuse Daunte. But how does he move? If he’s no longer the scrambler he was a few seasons ago, how good will he be?

Chris Chambers
I’ve never been impressed with Chambers’ numbers; however, he’s played under a conservative offensive coach and plenty of over-par QBs (I don’t use the expression sub-par, because in golf you WANT to be sub-par). Yet even being held back by the likes of Wannstedt and Fiedler, he’s been a pretty solid WR. Let’s see what he can do with Daunte.

Willie Parker’s carries
If Willie Parker gets goal line carries, he could be the steal of everbody’s fantasy football draft. By the way, I loathe the nickname “Fast Willie Parker.” If you’re an NFL RB, it is taken for granted that you are fast. Why bother with a nickname at all? Yet announcers just love calling him Fast Willie Parker; they find it harder and harder to even say his name without preceding it with “Fast.”

Pittsburgh’s WRs
Though we might not see much out of them tonight (I like Charlie Batch a lot, but his presence might lead Cowher to tighten up the game plan), we’re going to have to see SOMEBODY emerge as a competent #2 WR. The Steelers don’t go to the second wideout much; however, if a defense has a good coverage linebacker to get the tight end and doubles Hines Ward, that defense has basically eliminated the Steelers’ passing game.

Ronnie Brown’s carries
In college, he shared carries with Cadillac Williams. Last season, he shared carries with Ricky Williams. We’re all anxious to see how he does when he shares nothing.

(photo of Troy and Theodora Polamalu removed)

My most confident contrarian opinion: the Bears will suck.

In 2001, the Bears emerged to win 13 games before getting exposed in the playoffs by an incredible offensive player (McNabb). They're defense dominated to cover up their poor offense, and every break went their way.

In 2002, they won 4 games.

In 2005, the Bears emerged to win 11 games before getting exposed in the playoffs by an incredible offensive player (Steve Smith). They're defense dominated to cover up their poor offense, and every break went their way.

Why will 2006 be like 2002 for the Bears?

Simple. They are terrible offensively, and any injuries on defense could turn them from a contending football team to a TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE football team.

They're not built like a good football team should be. Should a team be able to go from good to TERRIBLE based on one injury to a middle linebacker, or one or two members of the secondary? Probably not. A real good contender will be built to withstand injuries (with the possible exception of quarterback).

IF a player like Urlacher gets injured (not a big "if"), they're doomed. If multiple players get injured on defense, they're a team that loses games 27-10. Without any functioning offense, any bad break, or any bad bounce, or any lack of luck, will destroy them. They have absolutely ZERO ability to play from behind. They have no quarterback capable of a two-minute drill.

The Bears will win 7 or less games in 2006. The Vikings just need to get to win #9 to win the division and get a home playoff game.

(Then again, when my young quarterbacks were struggling on Madden, I signed a 34 year old Brian Griese who suddenly turned my passing game potent. So who knows).

ADDENDUM: From 1995-2005, the Bears only made the playoffs when they had the #1 scoring defense (2001 and 2005). In that time, they've ranked #24 or lower in points scored 9 times. Basically, I feel for the Bears to win the division, they MUST have the #1 defense in the league. That's a lot of pressure and a lot can go wrong for it to be a necessity to be the best defense in the league in order to make the playoffs.

Also, does the fact that the Bears are more likely to compete to win the division than the Packers mean that this Sunday I have to...gulp...root for the Packers? Can I just root for a tie in which Favre throws 10 interceptions?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Brett Favre and Interceptions

Below is a comparision of Brett Favre's season INT totals to average of the league's team INTs for each year.

Using data from, I've
figured out the average team interceptions thrown during each season from 1992-2005. It's not a perfect system to compare an individual's interception total to team totals (for all sorts of reasons that should spring to mind if you just think about it a bit), but it's as good as I could think to do. I've included the Packers in the team average, and if Favre is within 1 (up or down) of the league average, I'm listing him as average for that season. I won't reach conclusions: for now, make your own.

1992: BELOW
Favre: 13
Lg Avg: 18.54

1993: ABOVE
Favre: 24
Lg Avg: 16.75

1994: BELOW
Favre: 14
Lg Avg: 16.93

1995: BELOW
Favre: 13
Lg Avg: 17.07

1996: BELOW
Favre: 13
Lg Avg: 18.07

Favre: 16
Lg Avg: 15.97

1998: ABOVE
Favre: 23
Lg Avg: 16.97

1999: ABOVE
Favre: 23
Lg Avg: 17.39

Favre: 16
Lg Avg: 16.61

2001: BELOW
Favre: 15
Lg Avg: 17.58

Favre: 16
Lg Avg: 16.5

2003: ABOVE
Favre: 21
Lg Avg: 16.82

Favre: 17
Lg Avg: 16.38

2005: ABOVE
Favre: 29
Lg Avg: 15.84

"The Shadow of Their Own End Zone" (1)

Cliches suck. They are usually a sign of poor or lazy writing. They also suck if they make little sense, if you botch them, or if you mix multiple cliches into one statement.

My favorite botched cliche is when a team is said to be in "the shadow of their own end zone." But end zones are a flat piece of earth; they don't really cast a shadow. What the announcer/writer means to say is "shadow of its own goalpost."

So this season, I will chronicle every botched (or simply bad) cliche I read. And we begin with Don Banks. In his SI column today, he writes:

"The Steelers could have their Super Bowl aura punctured immediately and find the deflation difficult to overcome as Cincinnati and Baltimore loom in their rear-view mirror."

Now you tell me: just what the hell does that mean? We've got balloon imagery and car imagery. But why would Pittsburgh be worried about teams looming in their rear-view mirror? Shouldn't they actually worry about the teams looming ahead? If they lose to the Dolphins, wouldn't the Dolphins be the ones looming in the rearview mirror?

Fine! (or, I have too much time in my office)

To ensure a good parking space, I showed up in my office at 8:10 this morning for a 1:25 class. So far I've worked backwards compiling NFL team interceptions averages (more on this in another post), and I've played out the NFL schedule. So even though I claimed I wouldn't post this...well, I've now been in my office for 3 hours and 40 minutes and I really don't have work to do since it's the first day and I've got a lot of time before I have to read anything.

My method is simple. I look at every game from week 1 through week 17 individually and in less than 5 seconds mark why I think will win. That means there are few upsets, and the home teams usually win. Also, I can't will myself to pick against the Vikings in any single game. Also, since I go week 1 through 17 rather than looking at each team's schedule, I end up surprising myself but doing a better job of basing projections on team schedule rather than how I feel about them.

AFC East
Patriots 13-3
Dolphins 8-8
Bills 6-10
Jets 5-11

AFC North
Steelers 10-6
Bengals 9-7
Ravens 7-9
Browns 4-12

AFC South
Colts 14-2
Jaguars 11-5
Texans 4-12
Titans 3-13

AFC West
Broncos 12-4
Chargers 9-7
Chiefs 8-8
Raiders 8-8

NFC East
Eagles 11-5
Cowboys 10-6
Giants 10-6
Washington 8-8

NFC North
Vikings 16-0
Packers 6-10
Bears 6-10
Lions 4-12

NFC South
Panthers 9-7
Buccaneers 8-8
Falcons 8-8
Saints 5-11

NFC West
Seahawks 9-7
Cardinals 7-9
Rams 5-11
49ers 3-13

Wild Card
AFC: Broncos d. Bengals, Steelers d. Jaguars
NFC: Panthers d. Giants, Cowboys d. Seahawks

Division Round
AFC: Patriots d. Broncos, Colts d. Steelers
NFC: Vikings d. Cowboys, Panthers d. Eagles

Conference Championships
AFC: Colts d. Patriots
NFC: Vikings d. Panters

Super Bowl
Vikings d. Colts

So there you have it: my 2006 projections. I expect some teams to be better than I've projected, some worse. But let it be known that as long as I've done this I've picked the Vikings to win the Super Bowl and quite clearly I've never been correct, but I live and breathe with the hope that some day I will see my projection come through. Sometimes when I'm lounging about I'll start to imagine what it would be like to see the Vikings win the Super Bowl...and I get overwhelmed by the very idea.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Today's NFL Comments: dumb predictions

It's hard for me to become fully aware that this is the beginning of the insanity that is the NFL season. Three things are throwing me off. First, this is also the first week of classes, so there are are things to concentrate on. Second, I don't have ESPN so I can't watch NFL previews all day long. And third, real games start Thursday but my beloved Vikes don't play until Monday night (when I teach a class, will get home in time to watch the second half, then will rewind the tape to watch what I missed in the first half). Usually, I'm so juiced up for Sunday I can't contain myself, Thursday is just an appetizer, and I spend Saturday night drunk to make Sunday come faster. But what now? All day Sunday I'll be enjoying the games profusely, of course, but I'll still be waiting for the Viking opener to really feel the season starting, and I'll miss that anyway. But the madness does begin this week whether my conscious mind is aware of it or not.

Anyway, today's comments:


The Chicago Bears will not make the playoffs.

9-7 will be enough for the Vikings to win the NFC North (though they Vikings will have 9 wins by week 10—they do have one bye week—so that shouldn’t be a problem).

Mark Brunell will suck, and Washington will be a disappointment this season until he gets benched.

IF Brett Favre finishes the season, he will break Dan Marino’s TD record, and he will break George Blanda’s INT record (he currently needs 24 TDs to tie Marino’s career mark of 420, and 22 INTs to tie Blanda’s career mark of 277).

The Philadelphia Eagles will win the NFC East.

Randy Moss will return to old form.

Tiki Barber and Larry Johnson will be fantasy disappointments.

I will suffer several mental breakdowns this season for not having ESPN or the NFL Network (it’s harder and harder to be a sports fan if you can’t afford a spendy TV package; then again, those of us who don’t have cable for financial reasons aren’t exactly the target audience of sports leagues who have the obvious goal of making money. But why did last night’s FSU-Miami game have to be on ESPN? I was planning on watching it. If I didn’t have a job that allowed me hours of internet access each day, I wouldn’t know what in the world was going on outside of the Vikings).


Daunte Culpepper threw 6 TDs and 12 INTs in the first 6 games of 2005.

Donovan McNabb is one of the top-5 QBs in the league, and he has shown the ability to elevate a team to playoff success without great talent around him on offense.

Brett Favre can catch Dan Marino’s TD record this season, which could have provided motivation for him to come back this season (the year before Marino broke Tarkenton’s records, it seemed that every story on the Dolphins focused on that; I’ve seen very few mentions of Favre’s approach of Marino’s record, for which I may need to do an extensive analysis in the coming months).

The losing team of the Super Bowl traditionally has unexpected struggles the next season (though who can pick against Seattle in the NFC West?)

You Don't Want My Preview

Now is about the time I could do what most bloggers do and write about my predictions for the NFL season. But you don't want my predictions. To project the season, I sit at home ala Dr. Z and play out each game of the season on paper. I always pick the Vikings to go 16-0 and cruise to a Super Bowl championship. So it would be pretty pointless to write about that here. Instead, I've compiled some other NFL previews featuring the Vikings that you might enjoy.

I will say this though: the Viking defensive line should be the most dominant in the league. Yes, I really believe that. Pat Williams is a force of nature, Kevin Williams is a unique inside pass rusher, and Erasmus James and Kenechi Udeze on the outside should emerge as dominant players.

Deadspin NFL Preview

The Gatorade Dump's Fantasy Preview

Sports Illustrated Training Camp Postcard

ESPN Viking Preview

ESPN Training Camp Report

TMQ NFC Preview

SI Scouting Report on Vikings

Complete Sports

The Hater Nation

Tecmo Blog

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Let's Talk Language: what is offensive conservatism?

Rob's comments on my Derrida/Patriots post made me think: what do we mean when we call a team conservative?

To me, conservative offensive teams:

1. Run the ball a lot (or, if you prefer, don't pass the ball very often, especially on 1st down).

2. Don't throw downfield very much.

3. Don't risk very much on 3rd and long (and in general might be short of first downs on 3rd down passes).

4. Sit on a lead, lacking aggressiveness late in games.

5. Rarely vary the gameplan, running the same type of plays every game.

6. Run occasional gimmick plays to mask their general conservatism (but typically do so with a lead).

7. Run or pass largely dependent on field position.

8. Get more conservative in close games, late in games, and in playoff games (in calling more runs, shorter passes, and playing for ties or close games rather than trying to bury an opponent).

An important point to add: this isn't an either/or proposition. Teams aren't EITHER conservative OR aggressive: all teams are on a continuum, and they show up at differnet spots on the continuum at various times.

In this case, I really don't see the Patriots as a conservative offensive football team. They throw a lot, they're aggressive on third down, they don't tighten up the gameplan in the playoffs, they do vary their game plan and use a variety of plays (see the 2001 playoffs: in Brady's 1st playoff start, 15th total start, and in a snowstorm, he threw 52 times, and in the Super Bowl after the Rams tied and they had the ball in their own territory with a minute and a half, they aggressively went for the win).

So two questions:
1. What other descriptions would you use for a conservative offense?
2. What on my list do you not consider a description of a conservative offense?

Friday, September 01, 2006

The calendar says September

The Berserker Time Draws Near
The everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark--now glittering--now reflecting gloom--
--Percy Shelley

For a die-hard football fan, there are two seasons to life: the season and the other part. For some of us, the season calls for and creates an entirely different personality and lifestyle than the other part. Everything in the mind works differenty. Attitudes toward time are affected. Mood swings become dependent on football action far outside your control. The people close to you start to see you different, and if you bother to see them at all, they seem different too. It is the Berserker time.

And it starts soon. The blood-madness begins.

Viking Quarterbacks, Past and Present
Sports Illustrated (specifically, Dr. Z) are picking the Dolphins to win the AFC. Let me just say this, Dolphin fans: enjoy Daunte Culpepper. Enjoy the 400 yard games. But also enjoy the 3 turnover games. Enjoy the games against good opponents where the blitzing and coverage schemes force Culpepper into all sorts of "what the hell was that?" moments for you.

For some reason, the rest of the world is pretending Culpepper isn't the quarterback that threw 6 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in the first 6 games of 2005. Or that he's the quarterback with 81 career fumbles in 81 career games (well, I guess not everbody--obviously John Bolster is aware of it of I would have nothing to link to there). Or that he's had 6 seasons as a starter and has 2 playoff wins on his resume.

Basically, I don't see Daunte rising to help the Dolphins defeat competent defenses like New England or Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

But the Vikes have a new quarterback: Brooks Bollinger! Does this mean that the long statewide nightmare that is Mike McMahon is over?

I like Jeff George
So he hasn't thrown an NFL pass in years. He's not too old. Let's not forget he only came into the league a year before Brett Favre, and if Favre isn't too old to be a good starting NFL quarterback...wait, Brett Favre is too old to be a good starting NFL quarterback. Um...ah...look over there!

(You may ask yourself right now, "Hey, PV, your favorite team is starting Brad Johnson. How can you make fun of Favre for being too old to be any good?" And my answer is: an old Brad Johnson doesn't suck).