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.


  1. Given that man has disrupted and decreased the habitat for most "game" animals (fairly or unfairly, depending on your pov), the unfortunate truth for some species such as deer is that harvesting (hunting) “saves” many deer (obviously not all) from starvation over the winter. Overpopulation of deer can also lead to crop damage, property damage (vehicles), and increased levels of lyme disease. The root cause of this overpopulation? Well…that would be man. Man has long done away with natural predators such as wolves and cougars in an effort to protect their property (does man value property over life? There’s an interesting debate waiting to happen). Man has become the wolf and the cougar. I’ve heard it argued by vegetarian/vegan activists that we don’t deal with human over-population by killing humans; we deal with overpopulation by advancing birth control (fancy stuff, like pulling out). While this is true, there isn’t a deer contraceptive (or even educational pamphlets for deer) out there that I’m aware of. It’s an ethical dilemma for some. It’s not for me. I think it’s a necessity, but I’m not the one that will be doing the killing (or eating, for that matter). I’ve never wanted to do it, so I never have. I’ve hunted grouse before, but I didn’t care for that either.

    You know I’m not a vegetarian. I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism from time-to-time, but it’s never been something that has stuck. Ironically, I think I would be able to become a vegetarian more easily by moving to the country. My parents raise all of their own vegetables and that’s a life that I wish I could emulate, but it turns out that veggies don’t grow well in concrete. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction in growing your own food. It’s probably a similar sense that many have when they hunt for their own food. I know that when I eat fish that I have caught, I feel better about it than I do when I eat salmon from the store. For me, it’s knowing where your food came from and how that food was treated (chemically, ethically, etc.).

  2. Anonymous10:34 PM

    Can't wait for that turkey breast!

  3. Anonymous8:39 AM

    "Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are superb with any QB"

    Well, except for Lienart.

  4. Enjoying the header thoroughly. Any Viking win--even a last-minute Crosby FG choke--against the Pack is a good win.

    I'm with the Warner MVP crowd, and the last comment by "anonymous" sums it up. Leinart sucked with them, Warner thrived. Just like T-Jack sucked and Frerotte has "thrived" (only not as much as Warner with the Cards...).

    What's your thought on the rumor mill bringing McNabb to MN? Hmmm...

  5. Anonymous3:46 PM

    every jets player i've heard on the subject seems to agree favre's leadership alone turned their franchise around. give it to the old guy!


  6. Anonymous8:48 AM

    I sure hope Peterson has a playoff-type run to finish out the season. I need the fantasy points!