Sunday, November 30, 2008

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 34, Bears 14

Viking-Bear Box Score

There was the obvious five play sequence that turned the game entirely.  The Bears had 1st and goal at the one, and the Vikings stopped them on four straight plays.  Then Gus Frerotte dropped back behind perfect pass protection and found Bernard Berrian on busted coverage for a 99 yard touchdown pass.  That defensive goal-line stand and subsequent 99 yard touchdown pass were memorable and beautiful.

And a lot of praise should be given to the Viking offensive line.  The Vikings rushed for 178 yards, but what really stood out to me was the pass protection.  Gus Frerotte was consistently given a great pocket and time to deliver good throws.

This was the Vikings' best win of the season.  They finally combined good offensive and defensive games (special teams could use improvement, but didn't badly hurt).  Jared Allen had three sacks and the Vikings had three interceptions.  The Vikings had big plays running the ball, but also made a lot of positive plays in the passing game.

I will say that I don't know what is served giving Adrian Peterson a bunch of extra carries at the end of the game; if you're going to conservatively run the ball and take the field goal, Chester Taylor (or for that matter, Naufauhu Tahi) would be just as effective, saving unnecessary hits on AP.  

AP is the league's current rushing leader (1,311 yards), and no Viking has ever won a rushing title.  He's also just 210 yards behind Robert Smith's single season franchise record.

The Vikings are now in great position to win their first NFC North title.  Kevin Williams and Pat Williams may be suspended for the rest of the regular season (today on CBS, Charley Casserly said he's never encountered a situation involving banned substances in which the players weren't suspended), but the Vikes are 7-5, and next play the 0-12 Detroit Lions (whom they should be able to beat without any defensive tackles).  Their remaining games are at Phoenix, home for Atlanta, and home for New York.  For the Vikes to win the division, they'll definitely have to earn it with at least one late-season win against a quality opponent.  But they can do it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

National Fun League Addendum

I can't imagine being more excited about this game than I already am.  A division matchup, at home, against a team sharing our record, and the winner is in sole possession of 1st place in the NFC North.  Kevin Williams and Pat Williams will in all likelihood be playing.  There's no reason not to be pumped up about this game.  I'm getting more and more excited as the game approaches, and I'm getting confident that the Vikings will win.  Four reasons:

1. The Vikings and Bears often split their home-and-home series.  The Bears beat the Vikings in the Metrodome in 2001 (when they were 13-3) and 2006 (when they were 13-3), and this Bear team isn't as good as those Bear teams (and this Viking team isn't as bad as those Viking teams).  It may be a close game, but the Vikes usually beat the Bears at home.

2. The Viking pass rush has been great at home.  In the game at Soldier Field, Kyle Orton had a lot of time to throw.  But in games at the Dome, the Viking pass rush has been dominant: sacking the QB, hitting the QB, forcing bad throws, forcing turnovers.

3. The Bear defense is vulnerable: see point three of Adam Duerson's look at the game, and this Access Vikings post.

4. The Bears' win at Soldier Field included some fluky, unlikely to be repeated plays: The Bears scored a touchdown when Chris Kluwe bumbled a punt snap, and another touchdown when the ball hit punt returner Charles Gordon as he was trying to get out of the way.

But if you've followed the Vikings for years, there is one big reason to think the Vikes will lose this game (besides general distrust of Childress and Frerotte): you've followed the Vikings for years.  Certainly the Vikes are capable of blowing a game like this.  But I don't think they will.

Against MVP candidacies
I've been following the MVP race this season because it is such an open race.  I find that intriguing.  Today I'll argue against two possible MVP candidates.

Kurt Warner: The Cardinals' record outside of the terrible NFC West: 3-5.  In his four games against NFC West opponents, Warner has one interception; against the other eight opponents, he's got 10 interceptions.  Warner is heavily benefitting from a terrible division; throwing three interceptions in a blowout loss to the Eagles in November highlights this.  Drew Brees is playing better than Warner this season, but Brees plays in a very tough division.

Brett Favre: The '08 Jets are 8-3, and the '07 Jets were 4-12.  But there is good reason to think the Jets would have improved without Favre.  First, the '07 Jets underperformed their estimated wins (just a bit: the estimated wins were 5.4).  

Second, the Jets have been fluctuating year to year since 2002:
02: 9-7
03: 6-10
04: 10-6
05: 4-12
06: 10-6
07: 4-12
08: 8-3
Their improvement this year just matches their year-to-year fluctuation.

Finally, and most importantly, the Jets added a lot of very good players via free agency this offseason, including Alan Faneca and Kris Jenkins (they also have quite a few young players that have been improving and providing significant contributions).

Favre has been good, but one must factor in other factors in the Jets' improvement, as well as Favre's league-leading 13 interceptions (some of his heaves have been dreadful).  He's an MVP candidate, but the Jets' turnaround cannot be the strongest argument to make him MVP.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

National Fun League, week 13

Let's crank it early, suckers!

Vikings-Bears Preview

MVP (QB or RB on a Playoff Team Award)
Peyton Manning
His case is getting stronger. Manning has probably had five seasons better than his 2008 season, but the context might make him MVP again. He keeps leading the Colts to close wins.

Clinton Portis
Portis is once again the league's leading rusher. The Zorns keep winning close games, and I don't actually think they're good. If they make the playoffs behind Portis, he's a legitimate, deserving MVP.

Kurt Warner
Warner is likely to throw for around 4,900 yards and 30 TDs for a team that wins 9-11 games. According to Football Outsiders' statistics, Warner is the #1 QB in the league (both DYAR and DVOA, through week 11). The question is: what do we hold against him? He plays in a terrible division (six of the Cards' games should be not only wins, but statistical jamborees), and he has incredible WRs to throw to (Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are superb with any QB).

Eli Manning
The quarterback on a 10-1 team that has thrown 18 TDs is at least worth mentioning.

Adrian Peterson
It will take a strong finish, but if Kevin and Pat Williams get suspended, it will take a bunch of monster games from AP to drag this Viking team into the playoffs.

Brett Favre
The 2007 Jets were 4-12, but they added a lot more players than just Favre. Still, Favre is the QB completing 70.6% of his passes and throwing 20 TDs for an 8-3 division leader.

Tony Romo
If the Cowboys win out, watch out. The Cowboy offense was horrible without Romo not so much because Romo is great, but because the Cowboy backup QBs were reprehensibly bad. Still, Romo puts up great numbers, and if he ends up 11-2 as a starter, he could get votes if the rest of the field weakens.
Not only were the 2007 Falcons 4-12, but they ranked 29th in points scored. Now they are 7-4, and Ryan and Turner are the biggest additions.

The Saints are in 4th place in their own division; Brees is having a fantastic statistical season, but the Saints will have to win more games for him to win.


Please, NFL, take the Thanksgiving game away from Detroit. We look forward to football on Thanksgiving: why must we always watch the stupid Detroit Lions? Tradition? The Appeal to Antiquity is a logical fallacy: just because something has been done for a long time does not mean that either a.) it is good that it has been done or b.) that it should continue to be done.

If the Detroit Lions are going to be perpetually awful, why do they deserve to take up what could be an enjoyable football game? It's ridiculous. Take that home Thanksgiving game away from the stupid Lions. They suck.

If you really want to show the Lions on Sunday, if you think it that bloody important, why don't you put that game on your precious NFL Network?

Moving on, Sunday features three big division matchups: Saints @ Bucs, Giants @ Zorns, and Bears @ Vikings. All are important and should be good.

Randy Moss
As Bill Bellamy says in How To Be a Player, "I miss him." But not as much: when I see Randy Moss making plays, I think "elite WR that I enjoy," not "former Viking." Will I ever see Kevin Garnett as anything but a former Timberwolf? Doubtful.

Donovan McNabb: Benched
Watching David Garrard this past Sunday, I thought, "He's not that good, but if he were the Viking QB, we'd be 9-2 right now." So however Donovan McNabb may have struggled at times this season, he would be a 5X upgrade for the Vikings at quarterback. And given that a.) QB is the most difficult position to fill for a team, b.) it is the most important position on a team, and c.) it is the Vikings' biggest weakness, the Vikings have to think about pursuing McNabb this offseason. If not McNabb, whom? If Brad Childress would have any role in bringing McNabb to the Vikings, then that would be a good reason to keep Childress around (but I don't know if Childress would have that impact). It's not easy to get a good veteran quarterback in the offseason (though maybe that's old conventional wisdom, since QBs like Drew Brees, Chad Pennington, and Jeff Garcia were simply signed by their teams). But it's generally a terribly difficult position to fill.

PV: Growing Up
I hate missing Viking games; I'm constantly wary of events that will try to pull me away from one of the 16 transcendent experiences of the year. Last year I skipped a big family Christmas event to go to the Minnesota-Washington game (and I only regret it because the Vikings lost). But this year, that same Christmas event is set for the day of the Viking-Falcon game. This year I'm choosing family over football. It seems like the reasonable, adult thing to do.

Of course, that commercial with the Jet fan who made his wife agree never to make him miss a Jet game for any reason sort of inspires me. But then, do I want to be that guy? It's been fun, but there are more important things than the Vikings.

[Gritting teeth]

OK, you deserve a real Vikings-Bears preview
When I think about these two teams playing each other, I think THUNDERDOME! THUNDERDOME! THUNDERDOME! THUNDERDOME!

What else matters? Nothing. Nothing matters about a Vikings-Bears game but THUNDERDOME! THUNDERDOME! THUNDERDOME! The winner is sole leader of the NFC North! THUNDERDOME!

I'm only being a little bit silly (OK, I'm being a lot bit silly). I really expect the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to win this game for the Vikings. No matter what happens or how, the Vikings and Bears share a matching record, and that's where Thunderdome must give the edge to the Vikes. Oh, beloved Dome.

We should probably be thrilled right now. The Vikings play a home game on Sunday, and if they win it, they are in sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

The Packer Defense
Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders (on ESPN) writes about defensive touchdowns:

"There is a very weak correlation of 0.09 between a team's defensive touchdowns in the first 10 games and in the final six. In other words, just because the Packers have shown a proclivity for taking returns to the house doesn't mean they're going to continue to do so."

Barnwell goes on to point out that "The issue that should really worry Packer fans is what that means for next year's performance."

Pat Reusse and the Vikings' long-term prospects
In a recent column, Pat Reusse points out that the Vikings have built their lineup more by acquiring expensive veterans than through the draft. He compares the Vikes to the Packers, noting that

"The Vikings' 53-player roster includes 13 selections from the 2006 through 2008 drafts. The Packers, the future competition in this division, have 23 such players on their roster."

His conclusion:

"What we have here in this border rivalry is one team built on splash and the other being built for the long-term, and Zygi has the former."

But look at the Viking roster at some of the veterans the Vikes have acquired outside the draft the last few years. Jared Allen is 26. Bernard Berrian is 27. Madieu Williams is 27. Steve Hutchinson is 31. Ben Leber is 29. Visanthe Shiancoe is 28. Those players should be starters for the team at least another three years (Allen, Berrian, and Williams significantly longer). How far beyond three years can you actually plan? Or put another way, how many starters on a typical NFL roster do you expect to still be starting for that team in four years? If you've got a nucleus of good players that you can keep together, and you draft well, you can compete.

When you further consider that Kevin Williams, the Vikes' best defensive player, and Adrian Peterson, the Vikes' best offensive player, are 28 and 23 years old, there's no reason to think the Vikings don't have a long-term nucleus to compete. Certainly, they'll have to continually supplement that nucleus through the draft and free agency as time goes by. All teams do.

But the Packers do have one thing that positions them to better compete long-term than the Vikings: a quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is, at the very least, a decent young QB. If the Vikings do want to compete long-term, then they're going to have to find a good QB. They're not going to be perennial NFC North contenders when they keep filling the roster with the likes of Brad Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, or Gus Frerotte.

In which animal rights advocate PV reopens the door on talking about Michael Vick, possibly offending readers, thus warning them with an excessively long subtitle so they can skip this section if they want.
Now, I'm no big-city lawyer (gasp!), but it's odd to me that, in essence, a person can face charges in federal court for conspiracy to commit a crime, and then face charges in state court for the crime itself. But I don't want to focus on the nuances of the law; November offers us a few comparisons, so I want to look at a broader point.

According to the Santa Barbara Independent, "Every year 50 million turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving dinners across the nation." Americans will celebrate family and thankfulness by eating dead birds. But Michael Vick is a criminal.

November is deer hunting hunting season in Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, "Each year, approximately 500,000 hunters harvest roughly 200,000 deer." These deer are killed for "sport" (it is only relevant that the hunters also eat the deer if you think Michael Vick should have eaten the dogs that were killed). But Michael Vick is a criminal.

The U.S. Navy conducts exercises with sonar "that can disrupt or injure marine mammals nearby." The Supreme Court affirmed that they should continue to do this without any real precautions; said Chief Justice John Roberst, "“We do not discount the importance of plaintiffs’ ecological, scientific, and recreational interests in marine mammals [...] Those interests, however, are plainly outweighed by the Navy’s need to conduct realistic training exercises to ensure that it is able to neutralize the threat posed by enemy submarines” (Christian Science Monitor). Training for killing is more important than endangered sea animals. But Michael Vick is a criminal.

Maybe you see a significant difference between making dogs fight to the death and killing turkeys for food, hunting deer, or training for military engagements despite the effect on sea animals. And that's fair: most people do see big differences, and even I recognize those differences. But my point is American society has a mostly terrible relationship to animals. We dismiss the lives of animals for all sorts of reasons. We prioritize other needs and wants over the lives of animals. Millions of animals are slaughtered for food. Millions of animals are used in scientific research. Animals are used for human entertainment, as in the case of circuses or rodeos.

But we can be more specific than that. Killing animals for sport is sometimes criminal (as in the case of dog fighting). But killing animals for sport is sometimes legal, popular, accepted, even celebrated (as in the case of deer hunting). The differences in attitude about these activities is largely cultural (subjective love of dogs over other types of animals, hunting as a traditional activity); both involve killing animals for enjoyment, most people just see them differently. But while culture can make us moralize, we also have to remember culture is often irrational and always transient.

Link (singular)
The Viking passing game (Star Tribune).

Enjoy Thanksgiving, people.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chronicle of Cliche: Don Banks

Two years ago Peter King made fun of Andre Ware's use of cliches; in that same column, I counted 22 cliches used by King himself. This inspired the Chronicle of Cliche.

In his latest "Snap Judgments," Don Banks writes:

"For good measure, ESPN's Chris Berman, never missing the chance for another cliché, warned Eagles fans, 'Be careful what you wish for Philadelphia. Don't be stupid.'"

In the very sentence Banks makes fun of Berman's use of cliches, Banks writes "for good measure," an idiom so widely used it nets over 1.6 million Google hits.

In the column in which Banks makes fun of Chris Berman for using cliches, you can also find the following phrases:

"down to just a handful"

"kicked up a notch"

"For what's it worth"

"looking like the wheels are coming off."

"Cassel is playing lights out"

"running the table"

"much ado about nothing."

Those are just some of the obvious cliches; there were several other recognizable expressions, worn-out metaphors, and uncreative phrases in Banks' article.

I think I heard something once about a pot calling a, that's not it. It was something about people in glass houses and stones...hmm, that doesn't seem right.

To be honest, I've softened my stance on worn-out metaphors a bit; Guy Deutcher's The Unfolding of Language: an Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention showed me that all language, even the most basic, develops from metaphor. Still, I can't pretend not to be amused when a writer prone to cliche (as I've noted here, here, and here) makes fun of somebody else for overusing cliches.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 30, Jaguars 12

Box Score

I've been begging for it all year.  The Vikings have constantly found themselves in close games, and they evened those out to be .500.  To believe this team could turn things around, we needed to see the Vikings control a game, winning by 2+ touchdowns.  And now they did it.

(Of course, they did it right before Kevin Williams and Pat Williams may be suspended, which would really, really, really hurt the Vikings.  Really, really, really.  Truly.  Really and truly.  But we move on.).

Of course luck played a role.  When Jacksonville center Brad Meester snapped the ball directly to his own ass, the Vikings got the luck of the fumble and Napoleon Harris ran it in for a touchdown.  Then Cedric Griffin forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff (how often do you think the phrase "on the ensuing kickoff" gets used?  Google finds 123,000 hits), the Vikings had some effective runs (including a nice end-around to Bernard Berrian), and the Vikes were up 14-0 quite quickly.  For the rest of the half, the Viking offense struggled, and the Viking pass defense was getting exploiting for David Garrard.

But the Vikings outscored Jacksonville 13-2 in the second half.  Considering last week Tampa Bay outscored the Vikings 13-0 in the second half, we have to appreciate the Vikings' ability to come out in the second half successfully today.  It was the defense that most controlled the second half, but Gus Frerotte (who mostly stinks) and Chester Taylor were able to pick up some 3rd down conversions on the game-clinching touchdown drive.

So we got treated to garbage time.

I am surprised how frustrated I occasionally got during an 18 point road win for the Vikings (short passes to the likes of Tahi and Kleinsasser: pointless.  And I don't like creativity on 1st and goal at the 2: I like plowing it up the middle three times).  But after it is all over, it's an 18 point road win, the Vikings are 6-5, and they're still in good shape in the NFC North (though the parenthetical reminder is always about Pat Williams' and Kevin Williams' looming suspensions). 

The Vikings next host the Bears in Thunderdome next Sunday night.  It's obviously a big, big game.  But let today's worries be sufficient for today.  Today, the Vikings played a road game, outdoors, on natural grass, and won 30-12.  Let's feel good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

National Friday League, week 12

Vikings v. Jaguars
Relevant Facts
The Vikes are 0-4 on grass this season.

The Jaguars are 1-4 at home this season.

The Jaguars rank 20th in rush yards allowed and 23rd in rush yards per attempt allowed this season.  The Vikings rank 4th in rush yards and 5th in rush yards per attempt.

David Garrard has been sacked 26 times in 10 games, at a rate of 7.6%.  In their four games on grass this season, the Vikings have 0, 0, 2, and 1 sacks (total lost yards on those sacks: 9).

This week's schedule offers us six games between teams .500 or better.  On the surface, these are the games that determine who goes to the playoffs (and they are--think about the Minnesota-Washington game last season).  But of course just as often a decent team misses the playoffs because it loses a game against a lousy team that it should have beaten.  Those upsets will happen, but it's more fun to watch the quality games.

Should we make wild predictions?  The loser of this game won't make the playoffs.
More stupid predictions?  The loser of this game won't make the playoffs.
More stupid predictions?  If the Jets win this game, you will hear Brett Favre's name spoken lovingly on television 5,438 times this week.
I don't get Carolina.  It seems like they should sort of be a dominant team, but it also sort of seems like Jake Delhomme sucks.  I never trust rookie QBs--Atlanta may win 10 games, but from week to week I will never expect them to win.
In some ways, Kurt Warner can't lose in his MVP campaign.  When the Cardinals win, then he's leading the freaking Cardinals to wins.  When the Cardinals lose, Warner throws for 400 yards and boosts those total numbers.  By the way, would Phoenix trade Matt Leinart to the Vikings?  We could take a shot on the lefty.
The Packers can afford to lose this game and still win their division to make the playoffs; the Saints can't.

Other games are significant.  The 5-5 Vikings play the 4-6 Jaguars: a loss likely finishes Jacksonville's season.  6-4 Indianapolis plays the 4-6 Chargers, and again, a loss could finish the Chargers' season.  

That Colts-Chargers matchup is interesting, considering the last four times the teams played:
2007 playoffs: Peyton Manning throws for 402 yards, but Billy Volek leads a game-winning drive as the Chargers upset the Colts 28-24.
2007:  Peyton Manning throws 6 interceptions, and the Chargers beat the Colts when Adam Vinatieri misses a short field goal at the end.
2005: the 13-0 Colts lose their first game of the season at home against the Chargers.
2004: Peyton Manning throws his 49th touchdown pass of the season and waves off the punter in a 34-31 overtime win.


With six games to go, let's look at the candidates. And remember, this is the MVP award, which means it is the award for the best QB or RB on a playoff team.

Eli Manning. A quarterback on a conference's #1 seed always has a shot. But why do I have contempt for any suggestion of Kerry Collins for MVP, yet note Manning as a legitimate candidate? Similar to the Titans, the Giants are a great running team (#1 in yards, #1 in yards per attempt, #2 in touchdowns) and a great defensive team (#5 in points allowed and #2 in yards allowed). But while Collins has been good, Manning has put up actual quarterbacking numbers (200 yards and 1.5 TD passes a game). I'm not saying Eli Manning deserves MVP, but if we go by the "QB on a #1 seed" standard, Manning's stats will make him look like a deserving candidate, while Collins' will not.

Kurt Warner. Warner leads the league in completions, completion percentage (a record setting pace), and passer rating. He is second in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and yards per attempt. He is doing this all on a 7-3 team. Of all quarterbacks, I consider him the most deserving. But the schedule gets tougher: they've got two more NFC West home games, but the other games are the Giants, at the Eagles, the Vikings, at the Patriots. To win MVP, he'll need to keep up the great numbers (and he does have Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Steve Breaston making a lot of plays for him) and the Phoenix Cardinals will have to win at least 10 games.

Adrian Peterson
. The only way Peterson will win MVP is if he wins the rushing title (he's the current leader) and the Vikings win the NFC North (they're currently in a three-way tie). I'm not saying he will win the MVP if those things happen, but I'm saying he won't win MVP if those things don't happen.

Clinton Portis. He's dropped behind Peterson in the rushing lead, but he's the big reason the Washington Zorns are in playoff contention--if they get in, he'll get votes. By the way, Portis and Peterson are the only RBs I see possibly winning. There are other RBs having great years (like Brandon Jacobs), but there aren't any RBs that anybody really thinks are better than Peterson or Portis right now, and I doubt anybody will vote an MVP that is considered the third best player at his position.

Brett Favre. If the Jets win the AFC East, he'll get consideration. And if the Jets get a #2 seed in the AFC, you know there are voters that will want to give the award to the current interception leader.

Peyton Manning
. It doesn't look like it now. But let's say the Colts keep rolling and end up an 11-5 playoff team. If Manning puts up his typical numbers (26+ TDs, 4,000+ yards), and there isn't another strong candidate, voters might take note of the strong finish to overcome the slow start.

Jay Cutler. It's at least a possibility, if the Broncos win 10-11 games. He's 3rd in TDs and yards, and if he gets a terrible defensive team into the playoffs (the Broncos are 27th in points allowed and 29th in yards allowed), he could win.

Drew Brees. You know that IF the Saints make the playoffs and IF Brees breaks Marino's yardage record (5,084), there will be voters that want Brees to win MVP.

Tony Romo. An unlikely winner, but let's say the Cowboys win out, and voters look back and see they were 11-2 with Romo starting? And here's an appropriate place for you to read an amusing story about Romo.

Philip Rivers. At this point, the Chargers would have to win their final six games for Rivers to win MVP. But at this point I've found myself naming every possible candidate, so I'm naming him.

Sunday's Pregame Shows have become irrelevant.
It used to be a joy to hear people talking about football for an hour before the games start, especially after a week of just waiting for football games.  It was interesting to hear opinions and fun to see highlights.  But now the internet allows us to hear opinions from all sorts of people all week long, and there are several ESPNs and even an NFL Network to give us highlights (and of course more opinions) all week long.  Do we even need a pregame show?  Basically, they need to tell us about new injury news--other than that, they are pointless.

My least favorite part?  When they go around and everybody in the studio makes predictions about who is going to win various games.  Why?  Who cares?  It's not like they spend significant time explaining why they think one team will win a game.  And does it matter to you?  Do you care whether Dan Marino or Jimmy Johnson or Howie Long or Shannon Sharpe or any of these random individuals think will win each particular game?  So pointless, so dull.

Ties, Incest, and Perspective
I don't think a tie is quite like a kissing one's sister. It is more like having sex with one's sister, and that is a matter of perspective.

Let's say things haven't been going your way, you get drunk, and somehow, you end up having sex with your sibling. Regardless of how you felt during the sex (probably terrible), you can't look at yourself in the mirror anymore. Every step you take fills you with shame. You are quite simply horrified by what you have done, and you can't understand how you allowed yourself to do it. Then you are like the 5-4 Eagles tying the 1-8 Bengals.

Now let's say you're mostly a loser and nothing ever seems to go your way; you're not going anywhere in life and you know it. But let's say your sibling is a supermodel. Just smoking hot. Now, let's say for some reason your sibling decided to have sex with you, and you do it. Of course, you don't really feel good about it. You know you shouldn't have done it. In fact you are ashamed. But despite that, you just had sex with a supermodel, even if that supermodel is your sibling. I mean, it was fun having sex with a supermodel, right? Then you are like the 1-8 Bengals tying...well, anybody.

Mike Tice
I'm big on the re-tread coaches. Nine of the last 11 Super Bowls were won by re-tread coaches, and last year, eight of 12 playoff teams were coached by re-treads.

So, do you think Mike Tice will ever be a successful re-tread coach?

Donovan McNabb
Do you think I care whether or not McNabb knew the overtime rule? Well, yes, I sort of do. But what I care more about is anything that makes McNabb available to other teams this off-season, and the possibility of Donovan McNabb and Adrian Peterson spending 3-5 years together.

One complaint, NFL Network
During the week, the NFL Network replays some of the best games of the previous weekend.  But too often, they air games that were nationally televised night games.  Most of us already had a chance to see that game; I'd be more interested in seeing games I couldn't see initially.  Granted, I probably still wouldn't watch unless it was the Colts.  I'm too busy watching shows like Gary Unmarried.  I don't even like the show, but whenever I'm making sure The New Adventures of Old Christine is getting DVRed, my wife insists that we make sure to DVR Gary Unmarried too, then later we end up watching it.  The thing is, she doesn't even really seem to like it, and we end up watching it ironically.  Anyway, NFL Network, instead of watching you, I'm watching Gary Unmarried, so don't listen to my complaints anyway.

Links and Rambling Comments
Troy Williamson doesn't care for Brad Childress (ESPN). Neither do most Viking fans. Of course, most Viking fans don't like Troy Williamson either.

Jared Allen is fined (SI).

Ryan Cook is benched (Access Vikings). Cook is unsurprised (Pioneer Press).

Antoine Winfield (Pat Reusse).

Roger Goodell on Kevin Williams and Pat Williams (Viking Update).

Albert Haynesworth for MVP (fuh- baw).  In 1971, DT Alan Page won AP MVP, Bob Griese was Newspaper Ent. Assoc. MVP, and Roger Staubach won the Bert Bell Award.  In 1986, Lawrence Taylor won AP MVP, getting 20.5 sacks for the 14-2 Giants.  It's possible for a defensive player to claim MVP when a.) he has an outstanding season, b.) he plays on an outstanding team, and c.) there's a debatable or weak field of QBs and RBs.  So it is possible.  I always like to pretend 1982 didn't happen, when kicker Mark Moseley won AP MVP.  Why not Dan Fouts, who led the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns, yards per attempt, led a 6-3 team and won the PFWA MVP and Newspaper Ent. Assoc. MVP, and was the AP Offensive Player of the Year?  I don't know why we even bother to think about these MVP awards.  MVP means a great deal in basketball, but evidently football is zany and the award makes no sense.  By the way, why do people consistently call Brett Favre the only three-time MVP, when Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas were each three-time AP MVPs?  If we're now just recognizing the AP MVP as the official MVP, why would that make Favre the only three-time MVP when clearly there are three different players that won AP MVP three times?  This award makes no sense to me: it exists for 51 years and 48 times it goes to a QB or RB, and once it even goes to a kicker.  Senseless.

To those who were with me at the 2007 NFL draft, as I excitedly anticipated the Vikings getting the chance to draft Brady Quinn, then spilled a beer and was grabbing a towel to clean it up, then the Vikings were about to make their pick, and I anxiously looked up waiting, and then the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson and everybody in the room was quite happy and I was pleased they took Peterson but really wishing they had taken Brady Quinn, here's an article from Grant's Tomb for you. If the Vikes had taken Quinn, Quinn would now be my favorite Republican. Now that Matt Hasselbeck sucks and isn't helping my fantasy team, I don't have a favorite Republican. I guess Jared Allen.  Anyway, I thought it highly likely Brady Quinn is a franchise quarterback, which would mean having the most important position on the team settled for 15 years and making the team a consistent playoff contender and potential Super Bowl contender.  Now we have Gus Frerotte.  Yes, I love Adrian Peterson, but I sure do wish the Vikings had a franchise quarterback.

On the player's union (William C. Rhoden).

Watch Marcedes Lewis; the Vikings struggle to cover opposing tight ends (Defensive Indifference).

The NFC North (Clark Judge).

Marcus McCauley never plays (Pioneer Press).  Whenever I watch Cedric Griffin tackling another receiver that has just caught a pass in front of him, I think about how the other cornerbacks must really be sucking in practice.

Adrian Peterson rested (SI).

Ties in history (Don Banks).  I'm entirely serious in my proposal that the NFL abolish overtime; if regulation ends in a tie, the game is a tie.  Why not?  The coaches won't like it because they'll take heat for decisions at the end of regulation (if you're down by three with one second left, do you kick a field goal or go for a touchdown?  If the game is tied and you have the ball with a minute left, to you play aggressively trying to score or do you play conservatively to avoid losing?).  Some fans won't like it because if they pay for a ticket to an event, they want a clearer outcome.  But having ties might lessen the need for tie-breakers to determine which 9-7 team makes the playoffs and which 9-7 team doesn't--if one of those teams is 9-6-1, that team has the edge.  And I think it would be fun: the intensity at the end of regulation would, intense.  I really like ties: I like seeing teams with the three numbers in their record.

I always love weekend before Thanksgiving.  It's a weekend that has a particular feel: you get to both relax and anticipate relaxation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Win #2.  In their tenth game.  Let's say my earlier enthusiasm has been curbed.

But what really makes me despair of the Wolves is Kevin Garnett.  Not only is KG the greatest player in franchise history, but it is obvious he will be the best player in franchise history for a long, long time.  Seriously, when will the next Timberwolf have nine consecutive 20-10-4 seasons?  When will the next Timberwolf lead the league in rebounding four different seasons?  When will the next Timberwolf be All-NBA 1st team three times, or All-Defensive 1st team six times?  When will the next Timberwolf make 10 straight All-Star teams?  When will the next Timberwolf win MVP?  These things will not happen again, maybe ever.  Seriously--ever.  And he was here for 12 seasons and the team won two playoff series.  Garnett is probably the best player the franchise will ever have.

Sports and Culture

"The People's Republic of Sport: Why Karl Marx would love America's sports--and hate Europe's" by Steven Stark

Interesting enough, but I'd be more interested in commentary on how the games themselves reflect cultural values, not the economic structures of sports leagues and franchises.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The NFC North: Path to Nine

The Vikings, Packers, and Bears are tied atop the NFC North at 5-5. It's hard to make predictions about what a .500 team is going to do over the remaining six games of the season; teams get to .500 by being inconsistent, after all. Look at each team's units. Can you guess which Packer offense will show up one week? Or which Bear defense will show up the next week? Or whether the Viking special teams will botch another play? Nope, you can't.

I think it will take nine wins to take the NFC North.  The division winner may get to 10-11 wins, but I'm doubtful the second place team will get past eight wins.

So which team has the easiest path to nine wins?

When looking at the remaining schedules (each team plays three more home games and three more away games), there are a few things to consider:

Gimme Wins: there are no sure thing wins in the NFL, but there are some truly awful teams. If you're fighting for a division title, and you see a team that is .300 or worse on your schedule, you should win that game: if you don't, you don't deserve to win a division title.  Just to be clear, any of these three teams could lose its gimme games, but I suspect the eventual division winner will win its gimme games.

Division Breakers: when there's a three-way tie for a division title, the remaining games when two of those teams play each other are really important.

Division Record: fair enough: two teams could get to nine wins.  If that happens, what matters is head-to-head matchups and division records.

Vikings (2-2 division, loss to Bears, split with Packers)

@ Jacksonville, Chicago, @ Detroit, @ Arizona, Falcons, Giants

Gimme Wins: 1
Division Breakers: 1 (home against Bears)

Lucky for the Vikings: their only remaining division breaker is at home.

Team Assessment: The Vikings have played in a lot of close games all season. Perhaps they'll get significantly better or significantly worse, but probably they'll continue to find themselves in a lot of close games. They should expect to win and lose half of their close games, so I think this is a 7, 8, or 9 win team depending on their luck. But I actually think the remaining matchups are favorable. Furthermore, the Vikings are much better indoors on turf; five of their remaining six games are on turf, and four are indoors (and the Arizona game barely counts as an outdoor game). I also think that between the Bears, Packers, and Vikings, the Vikings currently have the biggest homefield advantage.  I keep forgetting that Pat Williams and Kevin Williams may get suspended, too, which would devastate the team's chances.

Best Path to Nine: win home games against Chicago and Atlanta, road game against Detroit, and any one of the remaining three games.

Bears (3-1 division, win against Vikings, loss against Packers)
@ Rams, @ Vikings, Jaguars, Saints, Packers, @ Texans

Gimme Wins: 2
Division Breakers: 2 (at the Vikings, home against Packers)

Are the Texans really a gimme win? No, they're frisky, but they are .300. The Bears have the most in their control: the Packers and Vikings are done playing each other, but the Bears still get a chance to play both the Vikings (away) and the Packers (at home). If they win their two gimme wins, and beat the Vikings and Packers, the division should be theirs.

My take: I think perhaps the Bears revealed themselves in their 37-3 loss to the Packers. Their defense has been inconsistent this season (the freakin' Vikes laid 41 on them at Soldier Field), and the offense doesn't have a lot of talent. They should beat the Rams, but after that, they could lose to any team remaining on their schedule.

Best Path to Nine: Win the gimmes against St. Louis and Houston, beat both the Vikings and the Packers.

Packers (3-1 division, win against Bears, split with Vikings)
@ Saints, Panthers, Texans, @ Jaguars, @ Bears, Lions

Gimme Wins: 2
Division Breakers: 1 (at Bears)

The Packers get the Texans and Lions at home: that should be two wins (though like I said, the Texans are frisky).

Team Assessment: The Packers have a dynamic offense: they can throw deep, they can throw short, and they can run. They have a great secondary and the defense scores a lot of points on its own. They're probably the best team in the division, and they have the talent to beat anybody they play. One problem: they struggle to stop the run, so in particular the Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars could be tougher matchups.

Best Path to Nine: Win gimme home games against Texans and Lions, beat the Bears, and win one of the remaining games.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Coming off the ledge: Buccaneers 19, Vikings 13

8 of 10 Viking games have come down to a margin of a touchdown or less.  In all 10 of the Vikings' games, they have had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.  And so a 5-5 record is to be expected.  Until the Vikings start controlling a game during the first, second, third, and fourth quarter, they're going to either win or lose close games.  That will make them a .500 team.  

So we can dissect the details.  Jeff Garcia ran around making plays all day.  Gus Frerotte took too many sacks (one series of sacks took the Vikes out of field goal range).  Brad Childress made some questionable calls.  Adrian Peterson wasn't on the field when the game was on the line.  Cedric Griffin is a weak link in the secondary.  It's all true.

In a close game, we can pick out a few key plays, a few key calls, a few key mistakes that swung the game.  In every Viking loss this season, we could do that.  In every Viking win this season, the Vikings' opponent could do that.

But that's that: until the Vikings control a game from beginning to end, until they play a consistently good game, until they dominate an opponent and win by 14+ points, they're just a .500 team.  Certainly they're capable of improving and doing better, but they've shown us enough to make us think they won't.

Friday, November 14, 2008

National Friday League, Week 11

Random Facts
The Vikings are 5-12 playing outdoors in the Childress era.

The Vikings are 2-0 against the NFC South this season.

The Vikings and Buccaneers are the two teams that beat 7-2 Carolina. The Vikes beat the Panthers 20-10, and the Bucs beat the Panthers 27-3.

The 2008 Bucs are 4-0 at home; the 2008 Vikes are 1-3 on the road.

The Buccaneers have given up one rushing touchdown in nine 2008 games.

I can't remember the last time the Vikings won at Tampa Bay (this is a fact: I really can't remember. It's a stupid fact because your normally research-enthusiastic blogger can't think of a simple way to find out when the Vikes last won at Tampa. I remember several losses at Tampa Bay specifically, but I can't actually remember ever seeing the Vikings win there. Have I ever seen the Vikings win there? Maybe I've never actually seen such a game. I don't know, that's possible. I mean, evidently the Vikes are 31-19 all-time against our one-time NFC Central rival. But is it possible I've never watched a single road win against Tampa?)

The game
I don't like this game.  I think Frerotte will throw at least two interceptions.  The Vikes have a chance, though, because the defense has been so smothering.  They stifle the run (blogging about the Vikings' defense, I'm always trying to find synonyms like "smother," "stifle," and "stymie"), and this year the fierce pass rush is always disrupting the opponent's passing game.  They also have a chance because Adrian Peterson dons the purple, so they always have a chance against anybody.

Bears at Packers. The Bears are designed to beat the Packers. Last year two of the Packers' three regular season losses were to the Bears. These teams are similar in quality: the Bears have outscored their opponents 237-194, the Packers 237-206.

Ravens at Giants. Now this is a fun matchup. Well, fun if you like crushing defenses. Two teams combined 13-4, ranking 5th and 6th in points allowed, ranking 2nd and 3rd in yards allowed.

Chargers at Steelers If the Chargers win 10 games this season, I predict Philip Rivers will be league MVP. Playoff QBs always have an edge in the MVP race, and Rivers currently ranks #1 in TD passes, #1 in yards per attempt, #1 in yards per completion, #2 in passer rating, and #5 in passing yards. If the Chargers do make the playoffs, Rivers and Kurt Warner will likely be the playoff QBs with the best statistics.  I don't know if the Chargers will make the playoffs: they're still probably the best team in their division, but their schedule isn't cheesecake. They have a tendency to lose close games (losses this season by 2, 1, 7, and 5).

The Bears play the Packers: whom should Viking fans root against in this game?
The Vikings, Bears, and Packers are in a tight race for the NFC North, and really there's no way at this point to know which of these teams is the Vikings' strongest competition. You could argue we should root more strongly against the Bears in this game--thus if the Vikes beat the Bucs they're in first place alone, and if they lose to the Bucs there's a three-way tie for first. But I can't ever bring myself to root for the Packers, so my heart will be rooting for the Bears. No, that can't be right--I'm rooting against the Packers, not for the Bears. Frankly I'd prefer a 0-0 tie.

MVP Watch
It's late enough to pay attention.  I don't bother trying to assess who deserves MVP through week X; I try to assess who has the best chance to be MVP at the end of the season (this requires assessing how the player has done so far, and guessing how he'll do going forward).  

There's one absurd name being bandied about for MVP consideration: Kerry Collins.  Bucky Brooks currently ranks Collins #4.  Collins has thrown five touchdown passes.  Five.  In formal writing, you're supposed to spell out single digit numbers, and use numerals for double digit numbers.  I have a rule: if a QB has started eight games and you're still spelling out that QB's touchdown pass total, he's not a serious MVP candidate.  Collins just had his first 200 yard game of the year.  After eight starts, a QB has five touchdown passes and one 200 yard game, but we should consider him an MVP candidate because he plays for an undefeated team?  Even if that team is winning primarily for its dominant defense (#1 in scoring and #5 in yards) and effective running game (#6 in rushing yards)?  That's crazy talk.  If Kerry Collins is an MVP, they should just change the name of the award to "QB On The Team With The Best Record."  He's been a solid player for the best team in the league, but he hasn't done anything individually to merit MVP consideration.  He's not a top-50 MVP candidate.

Quarterbacks and Sacks
Ben Roethlisberger always takes sacks.
This year Ben Roethlisberger's getting sacked on 10.4% of his attempts--the same percentage he was sacked last season when he threw 32 touchdown passes. His career sack rate is 9.2%. Roethlisberger holds onto the ball a long time: sometimes he holds the ball and is able to make plays downfield helping his team, and sometimes he gets tackled for losses and hurts his team.

Pinning sacks on QBs.
Last season Tom Brady was sacked just 21 times, a rate of 3.5%. Through nine games of 2008, Matt Cassel has been sacked 29 times, a rate of 9.8% (in Thursday's game, he was sacked three times on around 60 dropbacks). It is the same team: it would seem that Brady's low sack rate is due to his own ability to quickly read defenses. But then in Brady's first year as starter, he had a 9.0% sack rate; he's obviously improved a great deal in all facets of the game.

Just another reason Peyton Manning is the best.
In his 10+ seasons, Peyton Manning has a 3.4% sack rate. That's 169 games of football, and Manning is getting sacked just 3 or 4 times for every 100 times he tries to throw the ball. And that I credit largely to him: he's very quick at reading the defense and throwing the ball quickly if forced to.

Cold Hard Football Facts predicts week 11.

Benny Sapp (Pioneer Press).

Mike Tanier says some things about Favre (Football Outsiders).

Your devoted Viking blogger's other love: musical theater
On Wednesday night, I saw Wicked at the Orpheum.  This was rather close to a religious experience for me.  The Vikings beat the Packers for the first time since 2005, and that wasn't even the highlight of my week.

Enjoy your weekend, suckers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

That's weird

I don't really know what to make of this, so I'll just post this without comment.

Ben Roethlisberger, 2008: 9 starts, 1,686 yards, 10 TDs, 11 INTs, 7.0 yards per attempt, 76.1 rating, 6-3 record

Gus Frerotte, 2008: 7 starts, 1,619 yards, 10 TDs, 11 INTs, 7.2 yards per attempt, 74.0 rating, 5-2 record

Chuck Foreman, Robert Smith, Adrian Peterson

Chuck Foreman's 1975 season and Robert Smith's 2000 season were the two best running back seasons in Minnesota Vikings history.

In 1975, in a 14 game season, Chuck Foreman rushed for 1,070 yards and 13 touchdowns, and also caught a league-leading 73 passes for 691 yards and 9 touchdowns. His 1,761 yards from scrimmage and 22 total touchdowns in 14 games made him a major star for the 12-2 Vikings.

In 2000, Robert Smith set the Viking single-season rushing record with 1,521 yards. He averaged 5.2 yards per rush, and totaled 1,869 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns for the 11-5 Vikes.

And now there's Adrian Peterson. Perhaps his 2007 season (1,341 yards rushing, 5.6 yards per rush, 1,609 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns, games of 224 and 296 rushing yards) tops Foreman's and Smith's best seasons, perhaps not. But his 2008 season is on its way to being the best season a Viking running back has ever had. Through nine games he has 1,015 rushing yards (112.8 yards per game and 4.9 yards per attempt) and six 100 yard games. If he keeps up that pace and helps the Vikings make the playoffs, he'll not only have the greatest RB season in Viking history--he might join Alan Page (AP MVP in 1971) and Fran Tarkenton (AP MVP in 1975) as the third Viking to win league MVP.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Adrian Peterson

The 192 yards was his third highest single game total: last season he rushed for 224 yards against the Bears and 296 yards against the Chargers.  But those games were displays of Peterson's awesome abilities.  He ripped off long run after long run with a glimmering smile.  Those games showed us he is special.

But this game was different.  The awesome talent was certainly on display once again.  But against the Packers, Peterson willed the Vikings to a victory.  He became the offensive leader of a team, taking over the game when the team needed him to.  The play-by-play of the Vikings' final scoring drive displays the dominance not just of Peterson's talent, but his competitive presence.  There was one important five yard pass to Bobby Wade on 3rd and 1.  Other than that, it's Peterson for 4 yards, Peterson for 5 yards, Peterson for 2 yards, a pass to Peterson for 16 yards, a pass to Peterson for 8 yards, and finally a touchdown run by Peterson for 29 yards.  It was Peterson's drive.  

And ultimately, it was Peterson's game.  It was a sloppy game that the Vikings both should have won by 20 and should have lost.  It was a game featuring a smothering performance by Viking pass rushers, consistently stymieing Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense.  The defense was spectacular, controlling, constantly pressuring the quarterback, even as Gus Frerotte did all he could to lose the game.  But when we think back on this game, we'll think of Peterson making up for his 4th and 1 fumble by taking the Vikings down the field to score the go-ahead touchdown.  It will be Adrian Peterson driving piles with the strength of his desire to win.  It will be Adrian Peterson cutting back across the field with dazzling runs.  It will be Peterson's 225 yards from scrimmage carrying the Vikings to their first victory over the Packers since 2005.

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 28, Packers 27

Thank you Adrian.

Friday, November 07, 2008

National Friday League, week 10

2008 Vikings
2008 Packers

I don't like this game at all.

Offensively, the Packers do a lot of things that can exploit the Vikings' defensive weaknesses. They can run Ryan Grant off tackle and outside, which the Vikings are vulnerable to. They can throw a lot of short passes over the middle, which the Vikings are always susceptible to, and I maintain it is even worse without E.J. Henderson. And they have WRs like Greg Jennings and Donald Driver that can go for some deep routes, which the Viking cornerbacks can give up. And Mike McCarthy is a good coach that can exploit those weaknesses.

The key will be the pass rush: if the Vikings pressure Aaron Rodgers, they'll have a chance to contain the Packer offense (Oh, please play Jared Allen. And please, NFL, don't announce a suspension of Kevin Williams or Pat Williams just days before a game).

Defensively, the Packers have a good secondary, and will make it difficult for Viking WRs to get any space. Bernard Berrian has been playing very well, but he'll have to make some excellent catches against good coverage Sunday. The running game has to be excellent for the Vikings. It can be, too: while the Packer defense ranks very well against the pass, it ranks very poor against the run.

The Viking special teams were at their best against the Texans last season; let's hope there has been some permanent improvement in their kick and punt coverage.

But the Packers won by five points at Lambeau Field earlier in the season. Now both teams are 4-4, and they've both had their problems and their successes. Can the Packers sweep the Vikings for the third consecutive year? That's all that gives me hope. The Metrodome, and two teams that rarely dominate this rivalry for long. And if the Vikings do lose six straight games to the Packers, if they really get swept three straight seasons, I've made my opinion clear: Brad Childress has to go. If Brad Childress can't beat the Packers once in three seasons, then for me, it would take a trip to this year's NFC championship game to justify keeping him as head coach of the Vikings. Mike Tice was 5-4 against the Packers. Dennis Green was 11-9. In the Metrodome, the Vikings under Green and Tice sometimes beat the Packers when the Packers were much the better team (1996, 2002). This is it Brad Childress: beat the freaking Packers.

When the Vikings beat the Packers, I'm filled with a giddy feeling. Remember this 2005 game? It's probably the one that's most memorable for me: after Edinger made that kick I was yelling and screaming and jumping and running. And I haven't had that euphoria since 2005. You know, normally this is the part when I would wax miserable on the trauma of rooting for the Vikings. But I'm happy this week, so I don't even want to.

Week 10's Intriguing Games
Colts-Steelers: Surprise! I'm interested in a Colts' game. When I watch the Colts play, I feel like every rushing attempt is just a waste of a down. They gain 0-2 yards, then they have one fewer down to pick up the first down with a pass. They're committed to trying to improve their running game, but I say screw it: you've got a slew of good pass catchers and the smartest quarterback in the game, just wing it 75% of the time.

Cardinals-49ers: Surprise! I'm interested in a Kurt Warner game. My fascination with his career continues, and I'm looking forward to watching him play on Monday (the Cardinals aren't really televised terribly much).

In addition to Vikings-Packers and Colts-Steelers, there are four other games between teams .500 or better: Titans-Bears, Bills-Patriots, Giants-Eagles, and Saints-Falcons.

Wacky League and MVP
Check out the standings: 21 of 32 teams are currently .500 or better. There are three divisions with four .500 or better teams. The league is very open and it will be very fun watching the second half of the season.

More than usual, it is completely pointless to discuss an MVP of the league through 8-9 games. If a star QB or RB is on a team currently around .500, and has put up even decent numbers at this point (meaning he has cumulative numbers to build on), he's still eligible. And since performance in the second half of the season is what will really stick in voters minds, it likely doesn't matter who was the best player through the first half of the season. I'll stick with my hopeful pick of Adrian Peterson. He's certainly not the MVP at the half-way point, but his team is 4-4, and his 823 rushing yards in 8 games gives him a solid total to build on. If he puts up a couple of monster games (around 200 yards), puts his yardage total around 1,800 yards, and helps get the Vikings to 10 wins and the playoffs, he can still be MVP.

But the MVP almost always goes to a QB or RB on a team with the best record in its conference. Thus, the league standings mean more than numbers when you're trying to assess potential MVPs.

2008 Leaders
I'm always interested in following the league leaders in various categories;'s leaderboard has the top-10 listed for most categories on one page, which is nice.

Brett Favre
I assume Favre is the all-time leader in two categories: interceptions returned for touchdowns, and passes hitting defenders square in the hands but being dropped. I'm sort of glad he came back: he gets to continue to showcase his immense ability to throw passes at defensive players.

Tony Parker scored 55 against the Timberwolves.
I know defense. Defense is a very good friend of mine.* You, Timberwolves' guards, can't play defense.

*This sentence isn't even remotely true.

Pat Reusse talks to a couple of Vikings about Barack Obama.

Grant's Tomb says the Vikings will beat the Packers.

Kurt Warner's season (Cold, Hard Football Facts).

Alan Faneca has epilepsy, and he tries to help others who have it, too (New York Times).

Donovan McNabb on Obama (New York Times).

Dave Zirin interviews Jim Brown (Edge of Sports).

Those "Saved By Zero" commercials (Awful Announcing, Shutdown Corner). I noticed these commercials because my toddler son sometimes dances when music comes on TV, and late on a Sunday afternoon of watching football, I suddenly wondered how many times I had heard that song. According to James Twitchell in "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz," "The American Association of Advertising Agencies [...] estimates that of the three thousand ads we consume each day, we notice only eighty and have some sort of reaction to only twelve." But if you watch sports regularly, you're watching the same networks for hours and you see the same commercials again and again. Good times. Hey, I sort of like advertisements: I even assign a paper on advertisements in my freshman composition class. But then again, I also like skipping commercials with my DVR. For over two years I blogged about sports without even getting ESPN at home, and now I watch games on the NFL Network and talk about my DVR. What happened to you, man? You've changed.

You're all suckers.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Brad Childress must beat the Packers

Brad Childress is 0-5 against the Packers, who have been better but not significantly better than the Vikings during the Childress era. Take away their games against each other: in 2006 they were both 6-8, in 2007 12-4 (playoffs included) and 8-6, and in 2008 3-4 and 4-3. Over two and a half seasons, the Packers have won just three more games than the Vikings against everybody else in the league. But because of their domination of the matchup, they're actually eight games better over that time.

Now the Vikes play in the Metrodome against a division opponent they've lost five straight games to. Both teams are 4-4. If there's any such thing as home field advantage, it should be when playing against a team with a matching record, against a team that had to win a close game at their home field in the previous matchup. If the Vikings win, they will be 5-4 with some hope. If they lose, Brad Childress will be 0-6 against the Packers, 6-10 against the division, and he will have proven that he should not be the coach of the team beyond 2008.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 28, Texans 21

Box Score

A brief Methodist-style post for now.

Bernard Berrian: through eight games Berrian has 621 yards--how many Viking fans were optimistic enough to think that would happen?  He's a real deep threat.  His 55 yard catch off play-action on the first play of the game showed the Texans they had to account for him, and his 49 yard touchdown catch later in the game gave the Vikes a two touchdown lead.  His presence is meaningful for this team.  

Pass Coverage against TEs and RBs is bad.  The Vikings really feel the loss of E.J. Henderson in this area.  Today Owen Daniels had 11 catches for 133 yards and Steve Slaton had 8 catches for 56 yards.  The Vikings contained Andre Johnson, but they got shredded by TEs and RBs in the pass game.  They're going to have to do something different in coverage.

Please, share your joys and concerns about the Vikings after their win against the Texans brings them to 4-4.