Monday, December 31, 2007

Viking Offseason: quarterbacks and wide receivers

It's a day after the season. We love the NFL playoffs and will blog the hell out of them. And soon the obsession of the season will recede, and we'll write about other things (HH, wwtb?, and I have other things to write about and we sometimes do, more likely in the Viking offseason). But why the hell shouldn't we go ahead and start talking about the Vikings' offseason needs? It's on our minds, so here we go.

The 8-8 2007 Vikings had one major weakness: their offensive passing game was inadequate. Thus improving the quarterbacks and wide receivers must be the priority of the 2008 offseason.

I see only two possible options.

Plan A: acquire Donovan McNabb
We're at a stage where Tarvaris Jackson may turn into a competent or good quarterback. We're at a stage where Donovan McNabb is a very good quarterback. He has been and may be again an elite quarterback. No matter what you think of Tarvaris Jackson, is is better than may turn into. If Donovan McNabb is really available, the Vikings should do whatever they can to acquire him. He's good now, and with McNabb at quarterback, the Vikings would immediately be a major contender for the NFC North, and the NFC. I don't know whether he will be available, but if he is, the Vikings would be utterly foolish to pass on him.

There's a secondary benefit: Donovan McNabb would put asses in the seats. The Vikes struggled to sell out the Metrodome in 2007; I doubt that would be a problem in 2008 with Donovan McNabb (I'm leaning against renewing my season tickets for personal reasons: the time and money commitment is too high for this stage of my life. However, if the Vikings had McNabb, I would pretty much ignore the time and money commitment and get myself to the Metrodome for every home game).

If McNabb is really not available, only then should they move to the second plan.

Plan B: acquire a legitimate, competent veteran backup quarterback to Tarvaris Jackson
Tarvaris Jackson can go into 2008 as the Viking starting quarterback. But given that he's still at the may turn into stage, a team that can win now needs to have another option if Jackson fails. Furthermore, Jackson missed games with injury for three separate injuries in 2007; the Vikes need a reliable backup option if Jackson gets injured again.

Those are the only two options I would consider. It would be pointless to draft a quarterback in the first round to start 2008: the Vikings can win immediately, and 3rd year Tarvaris Jackson is probably better than rookie anybody. And I don't think there's a veteran QB worth acquiring to compete with or replace Jackson.

There's no reason Kelly Holcomb or Brooks Bollinger need to be on the roster in 2008.

Wide Receivers
There are three current Viking WRs who should be on the 2008 roster.

Sidney Rice: at worst, he's going to turn into a playmaking #2 or #3 WR. At best, he's going to turn into a playmaking #1 WR.

Bobby Wade: Wade is a reliable #3 WR: he's good in the slot, he blocks hard, and he catches the ball when it gets to him. He doesn't have the ability to get separation or get downfield consistently, so he really shouldn't be a #1 or #2 WR.

Aundrae Allison: He's good enough to return as a kick returner, and so he can be a part of the wide receiver mix.

Robert Ferguson is just below OK, and there's no pressing need to bring him back. Troy Williamson really needs to be finished with the Vikings. I can't even remember if there are any other WRs on the roster, so they probably don't need to return.

And then the Vikings need to exhaust all possible resources and outlets to acquire playmaking WRs. It's such a pressing need that the Vikings may even need to sign talented malcontents. Javon Walker was unhappy in Green Bay and now he's unhappy in Denver. He'd probably be unhappy in Minnesota, but he's still really good. We can't realistically expect some of the possibly available talented but occasionally pissy WRs to want to come to the Viking QB situation (Chad Johnson, Randy Moss). Larry Fitzgerald makes a lot of money, but he can't really be available, right? But the Vikes need to explore every possible good WR. They can't assume a player isn't available: they must find out for sure.

The draft, free agency, and trades: anything to get any good wide receivers.

Obsession. We have a problem. If we didn't, this blog wouldnt' even exist.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stats. Yippee, stats (with Viking comments at the end)

At the end of the season, it's always fun to look at stats around the league. I like to look at the league leaders in a few categories (the "Black Ink Test" makes a lot of sense), and after all, these are all the stats that will be on the backs of the football cards we buy next summer. is mostly updated, and as always, we can rely on for a lot of numbers we want to look at. This is really random and not analytical: I really like looking at season by season stats, so if I'm wasting my time with it, why not waste more time blogging about it. I'm spent talking about the 2007 Vikings; they've already taken up more of my time, money, and energy than they really deserved.

Comparing Tom Brady's 2007 to Peyton Manning's 2004
At the end, Tom Brady's career statistical year is pretty comparable to Peyton Manning's career statistical year.

Let's wipe out discussion of wins first: Brady's '07 Pats won 16 games, partly helped by the #1 defense in points allowed; Manning's '04 Colts ranked 19th in points allowed (and won 12 games). Let's also wipe out discussion of teammate contributions: Manning's '04 combo of Harrison-Wayne-Stokley is a wash with Brady's '07 combo of Moss-Welker-Stallworth.

Brady '07 edges Manning '04 in:
TD passes (50-49)
Yards (4,806-4,557)*
Interceptions (8-10)
Completion percentage (68.9%-67.6%)

*Manning sat most of week 16 in 2004, throwing for just 6 yards: take that game away, and Manning averaged 303.4 yards per game, while Brady's '07 average was 300.4 per game.

Manning '04 edges Brady '07 in most of the averages categories:
Yards per Attempt (9.2-8.3)
Yards per Completion (13.6-12.1)
Touchdown Percentage (9.9%-8.7%)

In the end, the seasons are very close: 50 TD, 8 INT for Brady just edges 49 TD, 10 INT for Manning, and 67.6% for Manning is just a bit behind 68.9% for Brady (it's the difference of around 6 completions on the year). Excluding the final game of 2004 when Manning threw two passes, they each averaged 300 yards per game. Brady broke the significant TD record, but threw more passes than Manning, and in reality Manning's 49 TDs were in 15 games. So at the end, we're talking about a QB that completed 67-69% of his passes, threw for about 300 yards per game, threw for 49-50 TD passes, and threw just 8-10 interceptions. Brady just edges Manning, but it's really close to a wash.

And a bit on the Manning-Brady comparisons
For his career, the average Peyton Manning season features 64.2% passing for 4,163 yards, 30.6 TDs, and 15.3 interceptions, and 10.4 regular season wins. That's his freaking average.

As a starter, the average Tom Brady season features 63% passing for 3,766 yards, 28.1 TDs and 12.3 interceptions, and 12.3 regular season wins. I do think Peyton Manning is the best quarterback of all-time, but clearly, Tom Brady is also one of the greatest quarterbacks ever.

The difference in wins for the two QBs (in regular season and postseason) can be credited partly to the defenses each QB has had. The Indianapolis Colts' defensive points allowed rankings in Manning's 10 years with the team: 29, 17, 15, 31, 7, 20, 19, 2, 21, 2. The New England Patriots' defensive points allowed rankings in Brady's seven seasons as starter: 6, 17, 1, 2, 17, 2, 1. The average finish for the Colts' defense in Manning's reign is 15.6, while the average finish for the Patriots' defense during Brady's reign is 6.6; I'd say that could be the difference between 2 wins per season and a 12-2 playoff record versus a 7-6 playoff record (it's not surprising that in Peyton Manning's playoff losses, the Colts gave up 24.7 ppg, and in his wins the Colts gave up 18.6 ppg; in Tom Brady's playoff losses, the Patriots gave up 32.5 ppg, and in his playoff wins, they gave up 16.25 ppg). While quarterback is the most important position in football, teams win football games, not individual players.

Note, stat folks: I'm an English teacher, not a mathematician; I'm just observing and presenting some of the obvious numbers, not doing any rigid analysis.

Randy Moss's 23 TD receptions
Tom Brady's 50 TD passes breaks a three year old record; Randy Moss's 23 TD receptions breaks a 20 year old record. Consider this, too: before Moss joined the Pats, Tom Brady's career high for TD passes in a season was 28, which he did twice: Randy Moss, receiver of 23 TD receptions, helped Brady beat his career high by 22.

Look just below Moss on the TD leaderboard: third-year WR Braylon Edwards caught 16 freaking touchdowns. Edwards was the third pick in 2005; at pick seven, the Vikings selected Troy Williamson. The new economic theory on the draft is that higher picks are bad for you because you have to pay them more. OK--but you still want elite players, and sometimes the difference between pick #3 and pick #7 is the difference between Braylon Edwards and Troy Williamson.

Receiving yards leader: Reggie Wayne
Adding in his 87 yards Sunday Night, Wayne led the league with 1,510 yards. I've always thought receiving yards is more significant than receptions: it's what you do with your catches that matters, right? Reggie Wayne is having a nice career, and he showed this season he can be Manning's go-to-guy without Harrison. Before the season I speculated that Wayne would take over as the #1 WR on the team, so I made him a fantasy football priority--Harrison's injury obviously made Wayne the guy, but last season their numbers were pretty close to identical. With or without Harrison, Reggie Wayne is now Indianapolis' #1 WR.

TD passes
Four QBs threw over 30 TD passes: Tom Brady (50), Tony Romo (36), Ben Roethlisberger (32), and Peyton Manning (31). It's Manning's fourth time with 30+; each other QB did it for the first time. Six more QBs threw between 26 and 29 TD passes, which is why in fantasy football, you can usually function just fine with a second-tier option. Bananas seasons from a QB really help, though (in the Hazelweird League, in 2004 the champ and high scorer had Manning, and in 2007, the #2 team and high scorer had Brady).

Rushing Title: Ladanian Tomlinson
It seems that being a league leader in rushing yards means a lot to a RB's legacy. It really doesn't happen for other positions or statistical categories, but people will mention how many "Rushing Titles" a running back has. Tomlinson won his second rushing title, which is just icing for his great career. Adrian Peterson really struggled in the last four games, but still finished second. 17 RBs finished with 1,000+ yards, which is why that number itself isn't really anything special. A merely average running back that starts all season should get that (it's 62.5 yards per game).

Yards from Scrimmage
Maddeningly, doesn't list leaders in yards from scrimmage, which I consider to be a critical category for RBs. Some offenses really involve RBs in the passing game, and those RBs deserve credit for their total contribution to the team. I'm going to guess that with 2,104 yards, Brian Westbrook led the league in yards from scrimmage this season.

OK, the Vikings
Somewhat maddeningly, our 8-8 Vikes ranked #1 in rush yards per game, #1 in rush yards per attempt, #1 in rush yards per game allowed, and #2 in rush yards per attempt allowed. Before the season I said that "one expects a team with a good defense and a good running game to be competitive." They were: 8-8 with just three losses by more than one score means the Vikings were competing in just about every game. But that's it: they competed. We want them to move beyond merely competing; we want them to win.

I'll say what I said repeatedly throughout the season: the main problem with the 2007 Viking team was the passing game personnel. They just didn't have adequate performances from the QB, WR, or TE positions. If they can put in the components of a real NFL passing game, they will be a good football team and will compete for a championship. Some components might already be on the roster and need improved performance and consistency (Sidney Rice, and maybe Tarvaris Jackson); other components will need to be acquired through draft, free agency, and trade. It's a passing league, and as Aaron Schatz writes, teams win in the playoffs "by passing the ball and shutting down the other team's quarterback with good pass defense."

And now we've got an offseason to talk about how the Vikings can build a passing game. If they do, they're a team on the rise; if they don't, they'll never rise beyond mediocre and merely competitive.

On Brad Childress (short term)

After a 14-18 record in his first two seasons, there should be serious discussion about whether or not Brad Childress should return to coach the Vikings for a third season. There's not an obvious answer: an argument could be made either way.

But it takes a serious lack of rational thought to blame Brad Childress for today's loss at Denver. Childress didn't make Chester Taylor fumble at the goal line, costing the team 3-7 points (and he didn't make Taylor fumble later, leading to a Denver score). Childress didn't make Troy Williamson drop what would have been a 72 yard touchdown catch, costing the team 7 points (and he didn't make Williamson drop a third down pass later, either). The Vikings were playing a winnable game on the road at a difficult stadium, and at times they were playing really well. The Vikings lost because of obvious bad mistakes by individual players: it's difficult to put a whole bunch of blame on a head coach for fumbles and dropped passes.

I know those Viking fans who pure and simple loathe Childress will see this loss as his fault. And if you convince me that Brad Childress made Chester Taylor lose two costly fumbles and that he also made Troy Williamson drop two very easy passes, I'll agree with you.

Troy Williamson should be in horror movies

Nobody has made me scream out loud in the past two seasons more than Troy Williamson. Actually, nobody has ever made me scream in horror in my life as often as Troy Williamson.

Dead To Me

Troy Williamson. I guess NIKE doesn't work miracles. Wide-open, no defender within 15 yards and a perfectly delivered pass and he just flat out drops it.

Troy Williamson you are DEAD TO ME!

Group Therapy

How much does Troy Williamson haunt you?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Minneapolis-St. Paul is a nicer place to live than Boston (1)

I live with a pretty strong conviction that I'll never see my favorite sports team win a championship. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe, but like George Costanza, I only believe in God for the bad things.

So watching Boston sports fans get everything

So while Boston sports fans are watching their teams win at everything and Minnesota sports fans live in a hopeless void, we must remind ourselves: we're better off.

So here's reason #1 that Minneapolis-St. Paul is a nicer place to live than Boston: theater. While they now get to watch Kevin Garnett (with competent teammates), we're too busy waiting for Tony Kushner to debut a new play at the Guthrie to really care.

Friday, December 28, 2007

National Friday League, week seventeen

The 2007 Broncos rank #30 in the league in rushing yards allowed, #29 in rushing yards per attempt allowed, and #23 in rushing TDs allowed. The 2007 Vikings rank #1 in rushing yards, #1 in rushing yards per attempt, and #1 in rushing TDs. On the proverbial paper, the Vikings should run all over the place. But the Viking running game has been struggling lately, and Tarvaris Jackson isn't doing enough to take advantage of defensive schemes designed entirely to stop the run.

Denver has lost badly in its last two games, but they've also played some pretty good games at home this season.

While the game is going on, of course, we'll be watching the score between Washington and the Dallas backups. But regardless of what happens in Washington, a 9-7 season for a young team in a head coach's second season feels a lot better than an 8-8 season in the same situation. I'm rooting hard for a win.

Oh, wait!
According to the preview of the Washington-Dallas game,

"Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has not confirmed he will sit any other starters or limit their playing time, saying he will play to win for 'the integrity of the game.'"

Adrian Peterson's problem (and why we need not fret it)
Like many talented rookie running backs, Adrian Peterson thinks he should score a touchdown on every play. Look at his tackles for no gain or tackles for loss: they almost all take place on the edges, where Peterson is trying to break out to the sideline. Instead of going up the middle to gain what he can, Peterson tries to cut outside, and lately linebackers and defensive backs have been catching him. With experience, he'll learn that churning out a four to six yard run up the middle is much better for the team than going to the edges to try break touchdowns every play.

This problem is also taking potential carries away from Peterson. If Peterson goes for no gain on 1st and 10, now it's 2nd and 10, and the Vikings start thinking pass. If Peterson could go up the middle and pick up five yards, now it's 2nd and 5, and the Vikings can still be thinking run. Peterson can get more opportunities--and more opportunities to break the big run when it's there--if he becomes a more consistent running back. He'll still be a breakaway player capable of scoring on any play, but he'll also be doing more to help his team move down the field.

What scares me about Tarvaris Jackson
The poor decision making doesn't scare me long term (though it certainly does in the short term). Tarvaris Jackson is a Division I-AA QB who has now started 13 NFL games--he's going to make bad decisions, and hopefully (hopefully!) he learns to avoid those ugly passes into coverage.

What scares me is that the inaccuracy is coming back. During his nice four game stretch, he was mostly putting passes on target, allowing his receivers to make easy plays. But during the last two games (even though his completion percentage was over 60% each game), he's overthrown and underthrown and leftthrown and rightthrown his wide receivers. He's been missing targets badly.

A quarterback can always improve his decision making. Can a quarterback improve his accuracy once he's reached the pro level? I'm not sure, and I'm worried that Jackson is just too inaccurate to be a good NFL QB.

On the plus side for Jackson, I would expect an inexperienced but mobile QB to take a lot of sacks. Jackson's sack percentage is a pretty solid 5.7% While he's throws some brutal interceptions, he does a good job either getting rid of the ball quickly or running to avoid sacks.

Randy Moss and Terrell Owens

Given that wide receivers are never given serious consideration for MVP, one way to appreciate the greatness of a wide receiver is to see what he does for his quarterback. For example, G.O.A.T. Jerry Rice never won an AP MVP, but he helped three different quarterbacks win five MVPs: Joe Montana ('89 and '90), Steve Young ('92 and '94), and Rich Gannon ('02).

So too Terrell Owens and Randy Moss will never win MVP awards. But Owens has helped four different quarterbacks throw for 30+ TD passes (Steve Young, Jeff Garcia [twice], Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo): each threw a career high when Owens was one of his targets. Randy Moss has now helped three different quarterbacks throw for 30+ TD passes (Randall Cunningham, Daunte Culpepper [twice], Tom Brady): each threw a career high when Moss was one of his targets.

Fantasy Narcissism: Week 17 is all about fantasy football
Fantasy leagues that use a playoff often end before Week 17 to avoid resting starters. The revolutionary Hazelweird League goes to the end, baby, so you have to plan for those resting starters. And since so many of Week 17's scheduled matchups are entirely pointless in the playoff scheme of things, it's all about fantasy football.

In Week 16 I committed a critical error that could cost me the Hazelweird Title. I had Kevin Curtis in my lineup Sunday morning, but I idiotically replaced him with David Patten. The substitution cost me about 13 points and exactly 2 wins in the Hazelweird's cross country scoring. If I had left Curtis in my lineup, I would be in an unprecedented three-way tie for first place going into Week 17. Instead, I'm two games back and need to beat both first-place contenders by three games to win the league. This is still entirely plausible and really could happen.

Peyton Manning threw 49 touchdowns in the first 15 games in 2004; the Colts rested their starters in the 16th game and Manning threw just two passes.
And 2007 is Manning's tenth straight season with 26+ TD passes, and his fourth career season with 30+ TD Passes. He's also led the Colts to their fifth consecutive 12+ win season.

For teachers and students, it's all weekend right now: if you told me it's not actually Friday right now and this post comes a day early or a day late, I'd believe you. But have a good weekend, everybody.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Five Year Tease

Let's look at the Vikings' records at their peak moments of the past five seasons.

2003: 6-0
2004: 5-1
2005: 8-5
2006: 4-2
2007: 8-6

In those five years, the Vikings have never won 10 games in a season, and they've never won the NFC North. In each of these seasons the Vikes were doing enough to make us believe they could be something, but ultimately turned out to be merely teasing us. They made the playoffs in 2004 and won a playoff game at Lambeau Field, and that was good fun, of course; still, it's hard not to look back and see disappointed hopes.

We still don't know about 2007: if the Vikings beat Denver and Washington loses to Dallas, the Vikes will have made their second playoff appearance during these five seasons. Still, it feels like once again we've been teased.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Signs of Hope

Unlike many other bloggers I am going to look for hope in the midst of despair. The 2nd half a totally different offense showed up. Jackson was handling the offense and making crisp passes and pretty good reads. Childress showed he could make half-time adjustments. Of course the challenge by Gibbs was a smart move by him, but totally killed the momentum we had going.

While Childress and Jackson showed signs of hope in the 2nd half, that first half was inexcusable. Childress as a head coach should have known that Washington was going to stack the box and he should have game planned to throw them out of it right away. Throwing on first down and lining up in constant 3 WR sets to spread out the defense. Oh well, I have hope.

Washington needs to lose and the Vikings have to win. We can do it (at least I hope). I for one welcome Childress and Jackson back next year, but I do hope that the Vikings acquire a veteran QB via free agency to replace the two hacks that we have. Fact is as bad as Jackson was in the 1st half he still is better than either Bollinger or Holcomb could have done. (They would have each been sacked at least 5-7 times under the pressure of Washington's D)

Live Blog: Minnesota vs. Washington

Okay, after watching the first series and commenting over 4 times on the previous post's comment section I decided it was time to just live blog this sucker.

7:32- Challenge! Will they determine there is conclusive evidence that the ball did not cross the plane?

7:33- Holy Crap! We won the challenge. Let's build on this huge stand!

7:33- Safety. Man this game is going to give me a heart attack. The Vikings make a huge defensive stance and then we follow it up by not getting out of the end zone. Why we ran to the right side of the line in a key situation like that escapes me. (yeah I know the whole fact of them probably loading up the left side, but you have to go to your strength)

7:39- E.J. Henderson is down on the field. I hope this is nothing serious because outside of the Williams' Wall he is the most important player on this defense.

7:42- That is not only the 2nd 3rd down conversion to Reche Caldwell, but it is the 2nd time that Cedric Griffin has been behind him by 5 yards at the time of the reception.

7:43- That had to be a breakdown in coverage. Crap. 9-0.

7:46- Is this what we are in for. An exciting return by Allison that almost was another Viking turnover. Even the exciting plays by the Vikings are instantly tempered by fear. First the great defensive stand into a safety and now this exciting return almost made my heart sink.

7:51- Just short. Great coverage on the punt. C'mon defense get us back in this game.

7:53- Side note: Pacifist Viking I am sure would have had strong words about the Armed Forces message by Sunday Night Football as we came back from break. Are we suppose to feel guilty that we aren't protecting our freedoms?

7:55- Huge defensive stop on 3rd and 6. Great return by more, even with the penalty the Vikings still have pretty good field position. We need to get some points out of this possession.

7:58- That false start is a killer. It takes us out of short yardage on 3rd down and also gets us out of FG territory.

7:59- A freaking wide open WR and you can't get it to him. Crap. And then the long field goal attempt is no good. That penalty was killer.


(The way the 1st quarter went this could be a long night. The Redskins are dominating us. We need to open up the passing game to get those 8 defenders in the box to disappear.)

8:02- Does Citizen really expect us to buy their watches because they are unstoppable like Eli Manning? Are they serious? The Giants one today DESPITE the efforts of Eli Manning to lead them to another loss. Eli Manning is anything but unstoppable.

8:05- Wow, huge sack by E.J. Henderson.

8:07- Okay, our defense is keeping us in the game. 1st the huge stand at the goal line and now thanks to a bobbled snap they keep Washington from going up 12 points. C'mon offense, we need to put some points on the board.

8:10- Madden is right. Tarvaris Jackson needs to gain some traction in the passing game in order for our running game to have success. Shiancoe fumbles. Great, freaking great. I am dreaming of John Carlson right now.

8:13- Are you serious? Knight Rider is coming back to television? As long as Hasselhoff isn't the star I am watching. I used to look forward to Knight Rider so much as a kid.

8:16- I wonder if anyone else had the same feeling as me? If Sidney Rice were healthy I have a feeling the first play this possession would be a downfield long pass to him. Man, that injury really does hurt our game. Well maybe they will do it with Troy Williamson.

8:19- You just cannot, and I repeat, cannot make that throw. 2 interceptions, this game is not going well at all.

8:21- 16-0. This is depressing. This might sound crazy, but if I were Childress I would have Adrian Peterson returning this next kick. We need a big play to get our team some momentum and he is our big play threat. I hate seeing AP returning kicks, but I think this situation demands it.

8:24- Al Michaels annoys me. He can be an arrogant prick sometimes. He talks about AP like all these other announcers were proclaiming him the greatest of all time, but I remember Michaels himself saying something to the effect of AP possibly being the best in the NFL right now. Yet when he talks it seems like he never ever would have said something like that.

8:26- That high floater was begging to be interception number 3. Lucky for us it wasn't. In the words of Pacifist Viking (I can hear him screaming from the upper deck): Why not some screens?

8:28- Can I ask a question? Where in the world was the flag for "block in the back" on that punt. The Washington guy clearly ran over the Viking player through his back and he had an opportunity to be right there for the tackle.

8:36- See Minnesota. Screen Passes can work out very nice. Washington just showed you with Clinton Portis.

8:40- Great a Clinton Portis TD Pass. What next a 50 yard TD scramble by Todd Collins?

8:41- 44 seconds left. Can the Vikes move the ball and at least get some points on the board going into the half? They aren't even going to try. Great.


8:59: Okay, we need our defense to come up with some turnovers and our offense has to be run to perfection. C'mon Vikings.

9:00: You never want to see a guy lying on the field like Mike Sellers is currently. Football can be a really scary sport. Good to see Sellers up and running.

9:04: Adrian Peterson. C'mon offense keep this up. 18 yard run, very nice.

9:06: 4th and Short. We need to go for this. Yes, we are going for it. No Penalties, cmon. CRAP!

9:12: 1st and Goal for Washington. This game is just depressing. I am done blogging it.

Minnesota. Washington. Sunday Night. Thunderdome.

Comment before, during, and after the game. Skol Vikings.

Friday, December 21, 2007

wwtb? takes over the Blizzard

Oh, Pacifist Viking is too busy grading papers. As Livia Soprano would say, "Poor you!"

Well I can do this Blizzard shit. Nothing to it. It'll give you lousy bastards something to read before you go enjoy your capitalist holiday, you materialistic pricks.

Some senators are threatening to revoke the NFL's antitrust exemption because of the NFL Network (ESPN). Good for you: Teddy Roosevelt would hate the NFL's monopoly. But who gives a crap what Teddy Roosevelt would think about anything? I don't.

Marshall Faulk's #28 is retired for the Rams (Sports Illustrated).

Bill Parcells is now running the Dolphins (ESPN). I couldn't be more intrigued: a master coach is now running a proud, historic franchise that has fallen on hard times (but he's not coaching it).

Adrian Peterson wants to bring just about everybody who has anything to do with him to Hawaii (Star Tribune).

Michael David Smith watched the Vikings Monday, and has a lot of good things to say about them. But for some inexplicable reason, he thinks the team would be better off starting Kelly Holcomb or Brooks Bollinger rather than Tarvaris Jackson. The same Kelly Holcomb that takes a sack about once every eight times he drops back. The same Brooks Bollinger that takes a sack about once every nine times he drops back. Over Tarvaris Jackson who takes a sack about once every 19 times he drops back. Hey, sack rate ain't all, but it's one reason the Vikes were 0-4 in the games Jackson didn't start this season. Jackson's sack rate is 6.3%, Bollinger's 11.7%, and Holcomb's 12.3%. An offense with a shaky passing attack and a strong running game can't handle many 2nd and 17s or 3rd and 20s; Jackson has for the most part given the Vikings solid downs and distances to work with. He's not a god among quarterbacks, but he can do more to help the Vikings win than Holcomb or Bollinger can.

The new Pro-Football-Reference has been launched; check it out.

PV thinks PFT engages in anti-intellectualism. What does he think of Florio seeming to proudly ask "Who in the hell is Joyce Carol Oates?" (scroll down to the 8:11 post on Dec. 20th). She's a pretty well-known American fiction writer. But don't worry about it--if you don't like Tiki Barber's big words, you're probably not going to bother reading any of Joyce Carol Oates' work.

The Starting Five notes that more athletes are going straight to fans with their voices, rather than letting their souls be filtered through media interpreters.

The Nosebleeds is an NFL blog written by a Browns fan. Check it out.

So that's it, fools. On Sunday the Vikes play the Washington team with a racist nickname. Enjoy the game.

Finals Week, Fools

We'll be back to our regularly scheduled blogging soon. Or maybe we won't, how should I know? What's it to us (or you)?

Anyway, at Epic Carnival, wwtb? has a nice post called "A PLAYER ON MY FAVORITE TEAM DIDN'T MAKE THE PRO BOWL."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

E.J. Henderson

Viking middle linebacker E.J. Henderson has been a dominating football player in 2007, making plays all over the field. He stuffs the middle, he chases running backs sideline to sideline, and he puts pressure on the quarterback. He's been one of the really fun Vikings to watch, and I'm really excited to have him on the team.

It is disappointing that Henderson did not make the Pro Bowl; Patrick Willis and Lofa Tatupu are the NFC's middle linebackers. Still, I can't really complain. It's too easy for a fan of one particular team to complain that a player on that team got shafted; I've watched all but a handful of the Viking plays this season, meaning I've seen a lot of Henderson's great play, but I've only watched San Francisco and Seattle once each (Willis was very good, and I don't even remember noticing Tatupu). I can't really argue against Willis or Tatupu.

But it's been a pleasure watching E.J. Henderson this season. He's been a standout individual performer, and he's a key reason the Viking defense has consistently dominated against the run (and improved against the pass). If you watch the Vikes closely, you're going to notice Henderson making solo tackles all over the field and putting serious disruptive pressure on the quarterback. Hopefully there's Pro Bowl recognition for him in the future.

Congratulations to Viking Pro Bowlers Steve Hutchinson, Matt Birk, Adrian Peterson, Tony Richardson, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, and Darren Sharper.

Notes from Monday Night at Thunderdome

I kid you not: the Bear defense opened the game in a 4-5 defense. The next play they were in a 4-4, and the next play they were in a 5-3. It was like watching small high school football. The Vikings really had a chance to exploit Chicago in the pass, with some mixed results (three INTs and a few sacks, but a career high 249 yards passing for Tarvaris Jackson).

The Metrodome crowd was really into it. There were more Bears fans than I thought there'd be (and they were quite spirited, in a fun way), but it was really fun in the fourth quarter when everybody in the dome was standing and waving and yelling and cheering. Great atmosphere for an important football game against a big rival.

Did Lovie Smith fail to give his team one last chance to win? The Vikings had 1st and 10 with 2:00 left, but couldn't actually run out the clock kneeling down. The Bears had one timeout left. After the Vikings' third kneel-down to make it fourth down, there were more than 10 seconds on the clock. The Bears had another timeout, but they simply let the clock run out. If they called a timeout, they could have either went for an all-out punt block, or they could have let Devin Hester have one more chance at a game breaking play. A total brain-freeze on the Bears' coaches, I think.

If you're going to squib kick to avoid a great kick returner, why squib it to that great returner? Still, the Vikes did a good job containing Hester (their entire starting secondary was in on kickoff coverage). Hester, though, is so good as a returner that he plays by his own rules (rightly so). He fields punts nobody else would, pauses to look for openings when everybody else would be trying to gain any yards, and cuts back and around with abandon. A lot of times, the Vikings simply got lucky he didn't do more.

Kyle Orton is inept--and the Bear running backs are worse.

A solid pass rush from the Vikings in the second half really helped mess up an already horrid Bear offense.

Here's what I say about 100 times a game: WHY DON'T THE VIKINGS CALL MORE SCREEN PASSES?! With good RBs, good downfield blocking WRs, and good OL, the Vikings should be able to pick up easy yards with screens. They could also get Adrian Peterson in space.

Robert Ferguson's long catch and run was a lot of fun.

Before the game, we saw some Viking players walking into the Metrodome, including Pat Williams (a mammoth of a man) and Adrian Peterson. Peterson is a smooth character. He also gave the cheering fans a two-finger wave. A meaningless greeting, a sign for "victory," or a peace sign? Is there another pacifist Viking? I'm guessing meaningless greeting.

Sal Paolantonio, Steve Young, and Emmitt Smith were on the sidelines before the game, and Adrian Peterson ran over to talk to Emmitt Smith. The young RB from Texas hugged the great Cowboy RB and the two beamed giant smiles as they chatted for quite a while. Then Peterson was going to run back to warmups--completely ignoring Steve Young. I almost thought Steve Young felt a little bad, thinking "What about me? Don't you know you I am?" But Young got his attention before he left, and Peterson shook hands and chatted briefly with Young and Paolantonio. Compared to Emmitt Smith, Steve Young means nothing to Adrian Peterson.

Yeah, the Bear fans were lively and energetic, and interacted with Viking fans with good spirits. One guy wearing a Robbie Gould jersey (why?) held up a sign to us that read "#29>#28" and something or other about how Bear Adrian Peterson is better than Viking Adrian Peterson. He was just smiling knowing how stupid it really was, and we all just sort of laughed. There were a lot of smiling, laughing interactions between fans of the two teams. I sort of like Bear fans.

My back row section is getting rowdier and rowdier. I never drink during Viking games (I love watching the Vikings--I want to fully appreciate and enjoy the games, not dull my senses during the games); others don't feel the same way. In the back row, fans find a lot of things to bang on: a metal fence, the Coca-Cola ad, the metal ramp behind us. Fun times up in the nosebleeds. I love having the back row, actually--it's very pleasant not having anybody behind you during a game, and the crowd up there is pretty high energy.

Cheese curds: my one weakness. Actually, I have many, many weaknesses--I don't know why I should label fat-fried cheese my singular weakness.

Right now, I'm pretty happy to be a Viking season ticket holder. I wasn't sure if it would be a one-year experiment or not (I only got the tickets in late August to avoid blackouts), but I'm strongly leaning toward renewing season tickets and going to every home game I ever can. Attending the games is just too much fun (and in my seats, relatively cheap).

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 20, Bears 13

Viking-Bear Box Score

You don't usually get a chance to win pretty against the Bears; you just have to try win.

And the Vikings beat the Bears, twice this season. 8-6 feels good.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Vikings v. Bears

Share your favorite (and least favorite) memories of past Viking-Bear games. Share your hopes and concerns for Monday night's game. Share some comments during and/or after the game.

Peace and love, Viking and Bear fans.

Yep, and I just typed a rare "e"

I love when announcers refer to a Brett Favre interception as "a rare mistake" from Favre.

Nobody in NFL history has thrown more interceptions than Brett Favre. But a Favre INT is "a rare mistake." Classic.

Friday, December 14, 2007

National Friday League, week fifteen

Building a Team to Win
The successful franchises in the NFL build teams capable of competing over a period of several years. They build squads capable of competing for a championship each season over a period of time, and hope that at some point, they get the right breaks, and have what it takes, to win a championship.

The NFL's best this decade is the New England Patriots: from 2001-2007, they've had winning records every year, and in 2007 won their fifth straight division title. Obviously they are the best, but the other very good to great teams of this decade also built for a long run of competition.

The Indianapolis Colts have made the playoffs every year since 2002; this year, they're likely to win their fifth straight division title and finish with 12 wins or better for the fifth straight season. In 2003, 2004, and 2005, they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions in the playoffs; in 2006, they were finally able to win a championship. By building a team to compete every year, eventually they were able to break through.

The Pittsburgh Steelers played in three AFC championship games between 2001 and 2005; in 2005, they finally broke through to win a title. Under Bill Cowher, they were frequently in a position to compete for a title, and finally they made it over.

The Philadelphia Eagles made the playoffs six times in seven seasons from 2000 to 2006; they played in four NFC Championship games one one Super Bowl. They, too, have been built to compete, and just haven't broken though to win a title (yet?).

The Seattle Seahawks are often forgotten as one of the successful teams of this decade, but they've just clinched their fifth straight playoff birth and fourth straight division title. In the past five years, they've won and lost some memorably close playoff games. In 2005, they got to the Super Bowl, and were competing to win the game: in the fourth quarter, down by four, Matt Hasselbeck completed a pass to give the Seahawks first and goal inside the five; however, an official called a holding penalty that, as much as I stared at the TV, I could not see, Hasselbeck threw an INT shortly thereafter, and Pittsburgh drove for the clinching score. But they built to compete year in and year out, and got a chance to really compete for a title (and I'm one of the few people who won't be surprised if they go to the Super Bowl this season).

Even the last NFC team to win a Super Bowl, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made the playoffs in 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2001 before winning a title in 2002.

Pundits that like to talk about parity focus on the teams that make quick turnarounds and seemingly come out of nowhere to get deep into the playoffs. But this decade has been characterized by--and dominated by--teams that sustained a high level of competition over a period of time. Titles have been won not by teams that put all their chips into one season, but by teams that put themselves into position to compete in many seasons. If you make the playoffs five seasons in a row, that means you have five chances to win a championship. You have to hope that you're very good and that chance favors you, but obviously you have a better chance of winning a championship if you give yourself several opportunities to win one.

Clearly I'm making some obvious points. Good teams win championships, and you have to build your team to be good. If you build a team to be good over the long haul you have more opportunities to win a championship. OK, that' s all obvious. How do you build a team for long-term success? That's not such an easy question to answer.

I bring all this up because I believe Zygi Wilf and the Vikings have been building to have a long-term run at competing for a championship.

After the Vikings finished 9-7 in 2005, the Vikings could have either let Mike Tice (9-7, 9-9, 9-7 in his previous three seasons) continue coaching, or they could have brought in an experienced head coach to try maintain the just-above-mediocrity level of the 2005 team. Instead, Wilf hired a first-year head coach, a coordinator from one of those long-term successful franchises, to put in a system. Then the team quietly and proactively went about signing their key players (such as Bryant McKinnie, E. J. Henderson, Pat Williams) to long-term contract extentions. They've drafted well in the past two seasons--they've gotten contributions from both first-round picks and later-round picks. In 2006 they signed Steve Hutchinson, but in 2007 they didn't really sign any major free agents, preferring to build through the draft and their own squad's development. They didn't try to sign a short-term (and potentially mediocre) fix at starting QB for 2007; instead, they focused on developing their own young quarterback.

Some people have looked at the moves they've made and wondered if they really want to win. I think it's quite obvious they do. But they don't merely want to win now; they want to build a competitive team that can win now and for several years. At 7-6, and with very winnable games coming up, we already may be seeing the results.

(Heck, Peter King, who in the summer ranked the Vikes 31st in his Power Rankings, is now already predicting they win a playoff game this season. So you know they're good).

Houston beats Denver, 31-13
In the words of Martin Luther, "What does this mean for us?"

First, it's further proof that Denver is a mediocre (or worse) football team. Second, it means that Denver is not likely to be playing for anything at the end of the season.

Since the Vikings close the season at Denver, both those nuggets are good news. Though if the Vikings do what they should do, and beat Chicago and Washington at home, it might not even matter.

Upcoming night games and this blog
I usually write about each Viking game fairly shortly after the game. But for the next two games (both night games at home), that might be more difficult. I'll still try to write about each game, but it may come a bit later in the week than usual.

Well, that should be mildly un-fun.
My watching options on Sunday: at 3:00, just Philadelphia and Dallas, and of course at 7:15, New York and Washington. I guess I get to watch a lot of NFC East football.

Vikings-Bears on Monday Night
Division rival Chicago Bears? Vikings over .500 and fighting for a playoff spot? Monday freaking Night?

Thunderdome should be booming. This is what having season tickets is all about. This season I've witnessed records broken for a career (Favre's TD record), a game (Peterson's yardage record), and a play (Cromartie's return record). Now Holy Hitter comes with me to watch the Vikes play the Bears in a meaningful December Monday Night game. I'm pretty much bursting with excitement.

At Epic Carnival
What was that bang? asks, "Is December in the NFL a Month of Garbage Time"? Um, yes. It sort of is.

Sean Jensen writes about the importance and quality of Viking wide receivers' downfield blocking.

Getting excited for the upgrades at; the best football reference site is getting better.

In an interview with Jason Cole, Colt WR Anthony Gonzalez reveals he recently read The Brothers Karamozov, arguably the greatest novel ever written (via Fanhouse). Well done, Mr. Gonzalez. The next book I'm reading is The Idiot. Now, in between all this fascinating reading, Mr. Gonzalez, please go out and dominate on the field; my Hazelweird fantasy team needs you.

Among other things, Dr. Z writes about pro coaches skipping out early to go coach at college.

Cold, Hard Football Facts talks a lot about the Vikings when debunking the myth that in pro football, you need to run the ball and stop the run to win. When I predicted a competitive season for the Vikings in 2007, my general argument was that a team so successful at running and stopping the run should at least be competitive. I predicted 9-7 with a lot of close games that could go either way. That doesn't mean, however, that I disagree with CHFF's assessment. You have to do a lot of things successfully in football to win, not just run and stop the run, and while the Vikings have been competitive all season (only two losses by more than one score), it was their incompetence in the passing game that often meant close defeat early in the season and competence in the passing game that has led to impressive victories late in the season. Running and stopping the run should make you competitive week to week, but it takes a good passing game to win consistently and/or dominantly. In pro football, the passing game is critical (as Cold, Hard Football Facts also points out, the top four teams in the league are also the top four leaders in yards per attempt).

Interesting Stat
If Peyton Manning throws 3 TD passes against the Raiders, it will be his fourth season with 30+ TDs, tying Dan Marino. Brett Favre has done it eight times, and needs 6 TD passes over the last 3 games to do it a ninth time.

Fantasy Narcissism: my wacky fantasy teams
In the Ghosts of Wayne Fontes League, I somehow advanced to the second round of the playoffs with DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams starting at RB. Ridiculous. Now I match up with Empty the Bench, who starts Adrian Peterson and Reggie Wayne, two players I must root for (both are on my Hazelweird team, and Peterson is a Viking).

In the Hazelweird League, I'm in the running for a title, and this week I'm starting two wide receivers from the same team (Anthony Gonzalez and Reggie Wayne) and two running backs from the same team (Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor). Sure, it's limiting my points opportunites, but this is actually a fairly reasonable lineup. Since I traded for Chester Taylor, he's had 502 yards from scrimmage and 6 TDs in 4 games, and none of the bums I traded have done squat. He's a split-carry, #2 option for the Vikings, but Chester Taylor has secretly (and not-so-secretely) been a productive fantasy running back as of late.

I've got nothing else; grading papers is grading papers is grading papers. Enjoy the weekend everybody (except Packer fans). Make up some chili.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'll take that

SI's Reuben Frank writes up a little comparison between how Brad Childress is building the Vikings and how Andy Reid built up the Eagles.

Hey, from 2000 to 2006, the Eagles made the playoffs five times, won eight playoff games, were in four NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. Though they didn't win a title, they were often in a position to compete for a championship. If the Vikings are headed for a run like that, I'll be pleased (though obviously I'd hope in competing for a championship, they get over the hump and win one).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rodeo: on Michael Vick and Dog Fighting

Last night in my comp class, we discussed ideas/concepts that our society doesn't deem worthy of debate: we simply say they are wrong. I asked the class to come up with examples, which included many of the expected examples (e.g., child abuse). We then discuss each example further to explore whether, why, or how our society deems it beyond debate.

A student mentioned dog fighting. In discussion, I noted that while most of us agree that animal cruelty is always wrong, we certainly aren't in agreement on what constitutes animal cruelty. Another student brought up rodeos, which brought some defensiveness from other students.

But it's true, I noted: there are people (myself included) who believe rodeos are wrong, and are a form of animal cruelty. I made a flip statement that, on reflection, is perhaps not so flip: "One person's rodeo is another person's dogfight." Indeed, while there are differences between a rodeo and a dogfight (as far as I know, the animals in a rodeo are not required to participate in activities that lead to their imminent deaths), a rodeo and dogfight do fit in the same schema:

Animals are made to suffer in a contest for the sake of human entertainment.

This statement of course includes dogfights, and it includes rodeos too. Rodeos involve animals suffering for the sake of human entertainment. And yet rodeos are an acceptable and legal activity that many people openly participate in and enjoy.

And so we come to a summation on the Michael Vick dog fighting story, perhaps our last comment on the issue. I believe dog fighting is wrong, and that participation in dog fighting is unethical; dog fighting involves torturing animals for the sake of human entertainment. I've never defended Michael Vick's actions. But I haven't been able to freely join in the outrage over dog fighting, either; in a society that accepts and condones so many forms of animal cruelty, I've been slightly vexed by the outrage over one particular form. As an animal rights advocate, I'm both firmly opposed to dog fighting, and vexed over the public reaction to dog fighting.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Let's say you've got a bowl of ice cream. Then somebody gives you a cherry to put on top. You're happy, right?


So in the next two weeks, the Vikings have primetime home games against teams led by Kyle Orton and Todd Collins. If they win them both, they probably make the playoffs.

(this is the part where I remember everything that has ever happened to the Vikings, and have to curb my enthusiasm. I can use a cliche like "curb your enthusiasm" because it's the title of a show I love. And as I remember from an old Peter King column, Kyle Orton loves the show, too. Synergy).

On the couch, week 14

Washington-Minnesota Game Now At Night
I'd like to thank the NFL and NBC for moving the Minnesota-Washington game on December 23rd from 12:00 to 7:15 (NBC, via PFT). I wanted my Holiday driving to begin at around 11:00 p.m. instead of around 3:30 p.m. What about my needs? And as long as I'm confronting those who have been inconsiderate of my feelings, thanks to the block of ice in the middle of the road that caused my car to leak transmission fluid this morning.

Peyton Manning
Who throws a more beautiful, accurate deep ball in the NFL today? Brett Favre throws a good deep pass, but it often depends on a wide receiver making an athletic play on the ball (think how often you've seen a huge Packer WR leap up in the air to make a catch with a defender draping him). Peyton Manning hits those go pattern receivers in perfect stride; he's incredible to watch.

His numbers on the season are now significant for three reasons:
1. With 27 touchdown passes this season, he's still thrown at least 26 TD passes in each of his ten seasons.
2. He maintains his career average of 30+ TD passes per season, now over an incredible 10 seasons.
3. With 302 career TD passes, he passes John Elway into fourth all-time.

Peter King, the Vikings, and Us
I think a lot of members of the national media respect the Vikings more than Viking fans do. Those of us that have both eperienced all the underachieving disappointment of the past ten seasons and have watched every Viking game this season are slightly less thrilled with the Vikings' chances than some national commentators.

In particular, Peter King ranks the Vikings 7th in his fine fifteen (ahead of five teams with better records than the Vikes), and says of possible New England-Dallas or New England-Green Bay Super Bowls, "Why do I think the Vikings might have something to say about that?"

Uff dah. I don't think the Vikes are quite ready for that sort of conversation (though that conversation is certainly happening in my secret fantasies--I'm just not capable of voicing such things).

Michael Vick
Michael Vick has been sentenced for his role in dog fighting (Sports Illustrated). Every part of this story makes me sad, and I won't rehash things I wrote a lot about last spring and summer.

Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson
The 2007 Vikes have a shot at having two RBs with 1,000 yards: Adrian Peterson is currently at 1,200 and Chester Taylor is at 716. Wouldn't it be something if Adrian Peterson wins the rushing title, AND the Vikings' other tailback rushes for 1,000 yards? If you like watching the run game, you've really enjoyed the 2007 Viking experience.

December Quarterbacks
It's always slightly embarrassing watching some of the QBs that start NFL games in December. Some backups and third-stringers are in because of injuries. Some very inexperienced and very lousy QBs are in because teams have already lost their seasons and they're looking at possible future quarterbacks.

This week saw starters like Brock Berlin, Luke McCown, John Beck, Brodie Croyle, and Sage Rosenfels (and Vinny Testaverde and Kellen Clemens and Trent Dilfer). Next week will feature starters like Todd Collins and probably Shawn Hill.

The lousy quarterbacking is also a partial explanation for the high number of blowouts we saw this weekend.

Matt Hasselbeck
Here's my ranking of the top five quarterbacks in the league right now.

1. Peyton Manning
2. Tom Brady
3. Tony Romo
4. Brett Favre
5. Matt Hasselbeck

You expect the first four names (though I suspect you'd flip up the order). But Matt Hasslebeck? But it's true. With the 2007 Seahawks ranking 21st in rushing yards, 26 in rushing yards per attempt, and 24th in rushing touchdowns (with rushing numbers rather similar to the 2007 Packers), the offensive burden in Seattle has been pretty heavily on Hasselbeck. He's got the 9-4 Seahawks ranked 6th in points scored, throwing for 3,346 yards and 24 touchdowns. He's playing really good football, and could take Seattle deep in the playoffs (they also rank 5th in points allowed).

Matt Hasslebeck hasn't been getting a lot of publicity this season, but with Seattle clinching the NFC West and its fifth straight playoff appearance, you might want to take some notice of a solid quarterback.

(OK, so Ben Roethlisberger is beating Hasselbeck in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and touchdown passes. It's my completely subjective list, and right now, I'd take Hasselbeck over Roethlisberger, by just a little itty bit).

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 27, 49ers 7

Vikings-49ers Box Score at

It's amazing how quickly expectations can change. A month ago, the Vikings were beat 34-0, slipped to 3-6, and appeared to lose Adrian Peterson for the season. Today the Vikings won a road game by 20 points to move to 7-6 (above .500 for the first time since week one), and I'm disappointed how flat the Vikings played in the second half.

But we shouldn't take this win for granted. The 49ers are, indeed, quite bad, but the Vikings went on the road and took a 27-0 halftime lead behind excellent defense and a solid offensive performance, and coasted to a 27-7 win. Remember 2003, when the eventual 9-7 Vikings lost West Coast road games to the eventual 4-12 Chargers and 4-12 Raiders? This Viking team is better than that one; this Viking team goes on the road to play a far inferior team and simply takes care of its business. That's what a good defensive team does.

Tarvaris Jackson
The 49ers showed a much stronger run defense than I expected, and they certainly focused on stopping the run. So it is encouraging that in the first half, Tarvaris Jackson was able to make plays to beat the 49er defense. He picked up first downs and threw accurate passes. At the end of the game he was 16-25, for 163 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions. Today his top receiver was Robert Ferguson, as the Vikings continue to mix it up in the mostly mediocre receiving corp.

In the first half, it was very frequently up to Jackson to advance the Vikings down the field, and he did a good job. Based on his early season performance, his strong quarterbacking during this four game winning streak has been quite unexpected, and quite enjoyable.

I'm afraid Ray Edwards' absence is going to hurt the Vikings at some point in the next three weeks. Edwards hasn't been a standout this season, but he's been solid. Without him, the pass rush just looked a little flat, and the run defense looked just a little susceptible. Defensive End is now a big weak spot for the Vikings--let's hope teams led by the likes of Brian Griese and Todd Collins don't find a way to exploit it.

Take away Chester Taylor's 84 yard touchdown run, and the Vikings rushed for 33 yards on 30 attempts (with a few kneeldowns in there too). Except for that play, the 49er run defense did to the Vikings what the Viking run defense usually does to opponents. Taylor was outplaying Peterson: as long as the Vikes have them both, they should try to go with the hottest player week to week, and I'd have liked to see more carries for Taylor in the second half. But today was probably an anomaly: I don't expect future opponents to play this well against the run (and after all, despite a lousy day running, the Vikes still broke out an 84 yard TD run, the longest of the season. Good job running by Chester Taylor, and very good downfield blocking by the receivers).

Defensive Line
Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are just incredible. Before the season I called them the team MVPs, and despite Adrian Peterson, I'm not sure I'm ready to back off that statement.

Kevin Williams has so many long runbacks on turnovers, that it's almost easy to take for granted that he's a defensive tackle making these plays.

Like a lot of people who grew up with pro football in the 80s and 90s, I look at that 49er helmet and uniform and just expect a great team. But I'm not entirely sure this 2007 49er team isn't the worst team I've ever seen the Vikings play. They've got some talent to build on (Frank Gore can run like a monster, and Patrick Willis is better than I expected, and the defensive front seven obviously succeeded in shutting down Adrian Peterson), but they just look like a completely hopeless team.

Fifth Blowout
This season the Vikes have won games by 21, 21, 24, 32, and 20 points this season. Before the season, there were a few of us that thought the Vikes could compete for a playoff spot, but I'm not sure anybody seriously thought the Vikings would win five games by 20 points or more.

Coming up
The Vikings' play the Chicago Bears in the Metrodome next Monday. Earlier this season, the Vikes beat the Bears at Soldier Field for the first time since 2000, and with the way these teams have been playing lately, it's easy to be confident in the Vikings. With consecutive home games coming up, the Vikings have a great opportunity to seal their playoff destiny.

Holy Hitter has been looking forward to this game for months; he's never attended an NFL game, but he'll be coming with PV to the Metrodome next Monday to cheer on the 7-6 Vikings as they fight for a playoff spot. HH, I don't know if you're aware of this, but there's a completely ridiculous song they play at the Metrodome whenever the Vikings score. Hopefully, we will rise from our seats many a time to sing "Skol, Vikings, Skol!"

Addendum: Chester Taylor Long Runs
In 2006, Chester Taylor's 95 yard run was the longest run in the entire NFL season.

So far in 2007, Chester Taylor's 84 yard run appears to be the longest run in the entire NFL season.

Who says Chester Taylor isn't a big play running back?

Kevin Williams is some sort of demi-god

Should a defensive tackle really be returning an interception for a touchdown? And should it really be his second touchdown on an interception return this season?

You know when you create your own player in a video game, and his body type and skill versatility is just completely disproportional to his position?

That's Kevin Williams.

More on the Viking win at San Francisco later.

Friday, December 07, 2007

National Friday League, week 14

What can we really say in way of a preview for this game? The Vikings are playing very well defense, offense, and special teams right now. The 49ers are a horrible football team and feature Trent Dilfer at quarterback. The Vikings should run for 200+ yards as a team, hold the 49ers to fewer than 14 points, and utterly dominate this game.

Of course, not only did we see the Vikes lose to the 49ers 9-3 last season, we've seen QBs like Rick Mirer, Chad Hutchinson, and Josh McCown lead their teams to wins over superior Viking teams in this decade. If the game were in Thunderdome, yeah, I'd feel good, but over the years the Vikings created in me a justifiable terror of all road games. Here's where I need wwtb? to say "PV, you're living in the past, man! You gotta live in the now! That crap doesn't happen anymore!" Yeah. I hope that crap doesn't happen anymore. I hope the Vikings are a better road team than they used to be--they seem to be, anyway.

I hate 3:00 games, though.

Adrian Peterson
I mean, Adrian Peterson is a Viking. A Viking! We've got Adrian Peterson! What a beautiful world, in which Adrian Peterson is a Viking!

(We just need to express this unbridled glee more often than we do).

So we're clear on this, right?
If the Patriots lose, in the regular season or (especially) the postseason, the Patriots and all their fans are going to blame the refs, right?

Jumping off the bandwagon bandwagon
"Our boat's not very full, I know that. We don't have a lot of people left in our boat right now."

--Jon Kitna (The Sports Network)

Frankly, I don't even know what a bandwagon is. Is it a wagon with musicians on it? Or does "band" refer to a group of people, like a posse, getting together to go do or see something?

So I salute you, Jon Kitna, for seeking out a new metaphor.

The Colts are on TV!
It's weird--I get legitimately excited when the Colts are televised, and they play the Sunday Night game this week. It's like how I used to get excited to watch the Irvin-Smith-Aikman Cowboys or the Marino Dolphins. The Colts really are the only non-Viking team I really care to watch on TV anymore, though.

Dignity of all people
It really bothers me when relative income is used as an insult or assessment of a human's worth. Deadspin points out how Doug Gottlieb responded to insults in a chat (and indeed, I don't assume it's easy for Gottlieb to deal with these insults):

"...and by the way, which one of us works for ESPN... hey and next time...when I you say 30 minutes or less....get here on time with my pizza."

What is Gottlieb implying here? He is attempting to insult a reader by suggesting he has a low-paying, often disrespected job. He is insinuating that he has more worth as a human being because he works at ESPN (and thus has a good income) while somebody else is lacking in worth because he has a low-paying job. He is, in essence, "better" than somebody who delivers pizza.

Again, it's not easy for Gottlieb to respond to insults, and he should be given some leeway because he's responding to insults against him. But I still balk at this off-hand insult of a human being because of a job (can't a pizza delivery person have dignity too?), or because of money (for does our income determine the dignity we deserve?). If you wish to respond to insults with insults, OK, but isn't it rather tasteless to insult somebody in this way?

Antoine Winfield will be back this week (Access Vikings). The Viking secondary played very well in his absence, but it's good to have him back.

A lot of people are making a story out of rookie RB Adrian Peterson facing rookie LB Patrick Willis (, Star Tribune, Pioneer Press). I don't think it matters at all, but people need their stories.

The Viking offensive line is really playing together well (Pioneer Press).

Just how bad is the 49er offense? Really, really bad (The Ragnarok).

A preview of the Viking-49er game (Grant's Tomb).

Several Viking players are still upset about last season's 9-3 loss at San Francisco (Pioneer Press). Uff da, that one still stings me too. The Vikings held an opponent to no touchdowns (and somewhere very near zero rushing yards) and still lost. They scored 3 points against a defense that was getting torched. A long Chester Taylor touchdown on a screen play was called back for a holding penalty that, as much as I stared at my television, I could not see.

The Vikings are tied with the freaking Patriots in Big Play Differential, and they lead the league in Big Plays (Cold Hard Football Facts). Shall we assume this is not the same team that could lose to the 49ers 9-3 last season?

There are some assumptions about what authentic masculinity is in Mike Wilbon's comments on watching women in lingerie (Outsports).

Corey Brewer's offensive game has been rough, but you have to like a swingman that can grab 18 rebounds in a game (On the Ball).

There has been a lot of reaction to the media response to Sean Taylor's death (Edge of Sports).

It's freezing outside (this snow just seeps into your very soul--like a week ago it wasn't here at all, and now I can't envision a world without it), and it's a good weekend to whip up some chili and stare at a screen on which grown men wearing helmets run into each other chasing a weird-shaped object around the grass. Except for Adrian Peterson: he transcends the chaos, and instead runs around and past all those men trying to run into him. Enjoy your weekend, everybody. Except Lion, Cardinal, and Packer fans.

wwtb? writes at Epic Carnival about "Sweetwater Jones," the T-Wolves promotional creation (and provides the funniest poster I've ever seen).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pumping Up and a Suspension

Via PFT, Ray Edwards has been suspended for violating the NFL Steroid policy, etc.

While Edwards isn't a dominate DE, he has been very consistent and well I guess we will just hope that Robison and James can step up and fill the void.

Wednesday Blizzard

Daily Norseman takes on Stephen A. Smith's recent comments against blogging. One particular statement in the quoted passage particularly struck me:

"someone with no training should not be allowed to have any kind of format whatsoever to disseminate to the masses to the level which they can."

While I can't know Smith's intentions, doesn't that sound a lot like censorship? People without training (what sort of training? training from whom?) "should not be allowed" to "disseminate" ideas? The First Amendment guarantees us all the right to disseminate our ideas: we don't need approval, qualifications, or training to do so. And as Gonzo points out, if you don't like those ideas, you don't have to read them.

Many journalists embrace or tolerate blogs (some journalists blog themselves, or do interviews with bloggers). Journalists critical of blogs often have similar features in the criticism: a conservative traditionalism (blogs are a threat to an old way of doing things), an elitism (there is some special trait that makes journalists fundamentally different--and superior--to bloggers), and generalization (acting as if all blogs--and all bloggers--are fundamentally the same, when in reality blogs have great diversity in focus, methods, ideas, and goals).

Vikings: #10 in scoring and #10 in points allowed
The Vikings currently rank, well, #10 in scoring and #10 in points allowed. The other teams in the top 10 in both categories are Pittsburgh (#6 and #1), Indianapolis (#3 and #3), New England (#1 and #5), San Diego (#8 and #9), and Green Bay (#5 and #6). We'll see how they rank at the end of the season.

49ers this week
I couldn't be more excited about the Viking game at San Francisco Sunday. I'll write about it in detail in "National Friday League," but of course (like a lot of Viking fans) I'm thinking about last season's 9-3 loss at San Francisco (one of several games last season in which the Vikes held opponents to 0 or 1 TD and still lost). Big fun, though I hate 3:00 games.

Viking offseason
As the season has progressed, I've had all sorts of ideas about Viking needs in the offseason. I'm putting them all off until the offseason. The season is too fun, and our focus should be there; the offseason is too long, and we'll have plenty of time for offseason posts.

After the T-wolves latest loss, Britt Robson notes that we're "losing reason to care."

The Vikings rank 9th in Football Outsiders DVOA, and 12th in Dr. Z's Power Rankings.

Roy S. Johnson wanted Tony Dungy to be Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, not Brett Favre.

Sports Law Blog continues to discuss free speech issues at sporting events--really good stuff.

Leaving Football for One Minute

If (and perhaps this isnt that big of an if) Johan Santana gets traded to the BOSTON Red Sox, I will officially hate the city of Boston. I would not be able to handle the fact that so many former Minnesota sports superstars were giving that city's fans so much glee.

David Ortiz, Randy Moss, Kevin Garnett, and now you are talking possibly getting Johan Santana.

If this happens I will throw all of my non-Twins enthusiasm (and I am excited about the Twins with their trading for Delmon Young who I watched play for the Durham Bulls while I was a grad student at Duke) towards the Evil Empire known as the New York Yankees. I will loathe any Boston championship that comes after they get Johan Santana if that happens.

Now that the rant is over, we now return to our regularly scheduled football musings.

Monday, December 03, 2007

On the Couch, week 13

My initial giddiness about the Viking win is below at "Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 42, Lions 10." "On the Couch" is discussion of other NFL action, plus a little more on the Vikes.

Arizona Cardinals and Pushouts
In 2003, the Cardinals stole a division title and playoff appearance from the Vikings when Nate Poole caught a TD with no time left. Poole's feet never got down, but the officials ruled the play a pushout.

Yesterday, the Cleveland Browns almost got a miraculous late win against the Arizona Cardinals, when with no time left Derek Anderson completed a pass in the end zone to Kellen Winslow. And even the Cardinal defensive backs clearly pushed Winslow out of bounds, the officials did not rule a force out.

In 2003 the Cardinals won a game because a force out was called; in 2007 the Cardinals won a game because a force out was not called.

I now hate the Cardinals.

How did Peyton Manning become my favorite non-Viking?
A few years ago, my friends and I called Manning "Dilfer." We started using "Dilfer" as an insult with each other, because the name sounds like something you'd call somebody you don't respect. When we looked at Peyton Manning, we would think, "Man, he's such a Dilfer." But since there really was a Trent Dilfer, we didn't want confusion, so we called Trent Dilfer "Super Dilfer."

Yet somehow in the past few seasons, Peyton Manning became my favorite non-Viking player. The Colts are the only non-Viking team I'll always try to watch on TV. I root for the Colts to win (though I won't even root for them a little bit when they play the Vikes next season), and I really enjoy seeing Peyton Manning throw touchdown passes.

How did this happen? While I'm not entirely sure, I think that while the Patriots were winning Super Bowls and Tom Brady was getting praised as a great clutch quarterback, I started to identify with Manning, so great but seemingly so flawed when it mattered, a "choker" (hey, I even called him that for a while), a player who always seemed tainted by his inability to get big playoff success. Somehow I started wanting Manning to do well. I wanted to see him win a Super Bowl and shake that reputation as a playoff choker. Maybe I also hoped for Manning to break the records Brett Favre was destined for, I don't know. But I became I big fan of Manning--he's my favorite non-Viking to watch.

Adrian Peterson
Just so we're all clear here, Adrian Peterson has now played in 10 NFL games, and he's averaging 6.5 yards per rushing attempt.

6.5 yards per carry!

Jim Brown once averaged 6.4 yards per attempt. Barry Sanders once averaged 6.1 yards per attempt. In his first season, Adrian Peterson is not just potential: he is already at a level of the all-time greats. He has the single game rushing yards record with 296. And he's absolutely shredding the league with an unheard of yards per carry.

There's just incredible joy in the way Peterson runs. He's fast, strong, quick, agile, and powerful. He has great vision. He has great moves. He's worth the price of Thunderdome admission (his fakeout on his second touchdown looked great on TV; live, it was downright spectacular).

Another note on the Viking rushing game: Cold Hard Football Facts points out that in yards per carry, the Vikings are quite close to being the best rushing attack of all-time.

NFC Playoffs: win out, get in
The NFL is both a league of juggernauts (the top four teams are 11-0, 11-1, 10-2, and 10-2) and parity (in the NFC, three teams are at 6-6 and five teams are at 5-7). A lot of teams are still in playoff contention.

I'll make a basic prediction/statement for the NFC teams with at least five wins right now: if you win the rest of your games, you'll make the playoffs.

I'll be shocked if one of the 6-6 teams wins the rest of its games and misses the playoffs. I'll also be mildly surprised if one of the 5-7 teams wins the rest of its games and misses the playoffs. It could happen, of course, but I don't think so: the way things go, and the way these teams can beat each other, I think that any 5-7 or 6-6 team that wins out will make the playoffs.

The Ragnarok is once again keeping close tabs on the NFC wild card race.

Fantasy Narcissism: Matt Hasselbeck is my fantasy quarterback, and I simply need to embrace this fact.
In fantasy football, I'm usually cursed at picking quarterbacks. I drafted Kurt Warner before 2002 and Daunte Culpepper before 2005. I often get a big plan for a quarterback, and then that doesn't work in spectacular fashion, and I acquire some decent QB to just get me points and get me through that.

This season, that QB is once again my favorite Republican, Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck is a steady if uninspiring fantasy quarterback: every year he seems to average around 1.5 TD passes per game and he usually ends up throwing for just over 200 yards per game. Hasselbeck has come on to once again steady the Experience after another failed QB draftee in the Hazelweird League (Donovan McNabb). The Experience has improved immensely since he joined my lineup, particularly as this season Seattle has struggled in the running game and relied a lot on Hasselbeck's arm.

In the future, I'm not going to either spend big auction dollars or a high draft pick on a quarterback. I'm just going to wait it out and take a solid but unheralded (and thus inexpensive) QB like Matt Hasselbeck.

Of course, this is why in the Ghosts of Wayne Fontes league, I just drafted the most consistent fantasy QB of all, Peyton Manning. Manning always gets you 26+ TD passes, and he usually gets you 4,000+ yards. It looked silly to some when I drafted Manning in round one, but now my team is in the fantasy playoffs, so silly on that, suckers.

Enjoy the week
All smiles and happiness to everybody for this week. The Vikings won, and I have very little grading to do (just before the end-of-the-semester deluge of grading which begins next week). I feel like Mr. Burns in the X-Files episode of The Simpsons. I bring! I bring you...peace! But of course it's not all good...

Sean Taylor
Thoughts and prayers to Sean Taylor's family and friends on this day of his funeral. May you find your own peace.