Week Nine Matchups
This week features four games between opponents with winning records: Seattle-Cleveland, Green Bay-Kansas City, Carolina-Tennessee, and New England-Indianapolis. There are several other competitive matchups, so it could be a fun week.
I'm slightly terrified that J-rod and I are making the trek to Thunderdome just to watch the Vikings get blown out of their own stadium. Not long ago, the Vikings were built for the Metrodome, so that even though they struggled on the road against mediocre opponents, they played good opponents very strong at home. But in the process of building a team that (at least on the proverbial paper) can compete in road games, they've lost the offensive speed that made them so strong at home. Now this Viking team can get its ass kicked in the Metrodome.
But there are reasons for hope. The Viking run defense is still dominating and can contain Ladanian Tomlinson, leaving Philip Rivers to try beat the Viking pass defense (which he still could). The Viking cornerbacks have struggled against WRs this year, but if the defense can bring a scheme to stop Antonio Gates, the Chargers might even struggle to pass. If the Vikings can run the ball with Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor (which they're of course capable of doing), they can keep the Chargers' good offensive players off the field.
Should I talk myself into an upset? Or should I expect the usual: the Vikings stop the opponents' run and keep the game close, but a complete inability to pass the ball offensively leads to a one score loss. The problem, as I see it, is that the Viking defense has kept things close by playing good red zone defense: even though they've given up a ton of passing yards, they've done a good job holding opponents to fewer points with a "bend but don't break" defense. Unfortunately, Ladanian Tomlinson is an excellent red zone runner, and Antonio Gates is always a dangerous red zone passing threat. If the Chargers move down the field easily, it's not going to be easy to hold them to three.
We're still getting to know Adrian Peterson. He's only played seven games and he's already the most recognizable player on the Vikings, the face of the franchise and legitimate superstar. But we Viking fans aren't yet comfortable and familiar with his movements. It's a fun time: we're getting to know Peterson's style, and style that (hopefully) we'll be completely familiar with in a few seasons. Now it's fresh and pretty much anything he does is exciting.
So no matter what happens, Sunday is another chance to get to know Adrian Peterson.
Eghgh! I just read at the Pioneer Press that Antoine Winfield is doubtful for the game. I'm actually going to just pretend I don't know that.
A lot of people compare this game to the 1990 Giants-49ers game. But Patriots-Colts reminds me more of the Cowboys-49ers games in the early and mid 90s. Like the San Francisco-Dallas matchups, New England-Indianapolis always features two primary championship contenders, loads of talent all over the field, and teams very familiar with each other.
Which was more fun, Dallas-San Francisco or New England-Indianapolis? In 1994, 49ers-Cowboys featured Hall of Fame players like Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith. That's a whole lot of skill position star power. In 2007, Indianapolis-New England features Hall of Fame quality players like Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Peyton Manning, and Marvin Harrison (and a whole lot of other exciting skill position players). Though this matchup is extremely good, and the Colts and Patriots are very deep, balanced, and dominant, I don't think we should forget how fun those Dallas-San Francisco matchups were.
Anyway, the game.
Both teams can consistently pick up first downs in the passing game. Both teams are capable of big plays in the passing game. Both teams are capable of picking up first downs in the running game. Both teams have dynamic running backs averaging 4.8 ypc. Both teams have defensive playmakers and defensive schemes capable of dominating opponents.
Do you get the impression that the way the Pats have slowly brought Laurence Maroney back from injury was with the intention of exploding him onto the world this week? and yet the Colts have a great running game with Joseph Addai.
Perhaps this game will come down to the running game. When it gets to the fourth quarter, I have trouble seeing either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady making mistakes or failing to pick up first downs to drive their teams to points. Either team could win, because each team is capable of winning in a lot of different ways.
The Sunday Night matchup could actually be exciting--I expect a combined 600-700 yards passing between Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb. Dallas is leading the NFC East, but New York is right behind, and division losses will hurt the Cowboys. Philadelphia is at the bottom of the division but has a chance to crawl back into contention with a division win. Fun times all around.
My weekend is already off to a disappointing start, as I had to turn down free tickets to the Timberwolves' opener. On the bright side, I had to turn them down because there is a small party at my house, so the possibility of gin and rum screwdrivers might make up for missing the Wolves game live (and good company, of course). And it is the end of daylight savings, so the weekend is an hour longer than usual. So that's good.
Enjoy the weekend everybody. Except Packer fans.