Thursday, December 11, 2008

National Friday League, week 15

Tarvaris Jackson

First let's note the negatives of Tarvaris Jackson (likely) starting over Gus Frerotte. Jackson is not very accurate on deep passes. While this affects the Vikes for only one to three plays per game (it is Brad Childress' offense, after all), it means defenses may not account for the deep pass at all. It also means the Vikes have less chance of moving the ball into scoring position in one play; for an inconsistent offense, putting points on the board keyed by one big play has been helpful. Furthermore, Jackson may take Bernard Berrian out of the game entirely; Berrian has been a threat going deep with Frerotte playing quarterback, but may get fewer targets from Jackson.

Missing Frerotte also means the two-minute offense will struggle (and perhaps disappear entirely).

But, there are several positives.

--Gus Frerotte is tied for the league lead in interceptions; Jackson turns the ball over far less frequently. Frerotte's interceptions have really hurt the Vikes this season--even in victories, his turnovers have kept games close that didn't need to be close. Even if Jackson doesn't make as many positive plays as Frerotte, he may make fewer negative plays.

--Jackson's mobility opens up other plays in the playbook; rollouts can lead to easy yards on passes to Shiancoe, Wade, Taylor, or Peterson.

--Jackson's running ability provides another way to pick up first downs.

--Jackson may take fewer sacks; last season Jackson was sacked half as frequently as the other Viking QBs, and this season Frerotte is getting sacked on 8.8% of his dropbacks. Frerotte's career sack rate is actually better than Jackson's, but at this point Frerotte hangs onto the ball too long; Jackson may find more ways to avoid sacks.

My irrational confidence level is down with Jackson instead of Frerotte; I'd like the Vikes chance better in this game with Frerotte. But as I've suggested, Frerotte is peaked; Jackson may still actually improve. I'm intrigued to see how the team plays with Jackson.

The 'o8 Cards' are 8-5, but they are 3-5 outside the NFC West.

They rank 32nd in rushing yards and rushing yards per attempt; I wonder if they'll even try to run against the stout Viking defense.

They rank 2nd in passing yards, 3rd in passing touchdowns, and 5th in net passing yards per attempt; Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston have combined for 3,055 yards receiving in 13 games. Expect to complain about Benny Sapp, Cedric Griffin, and Darren Sharper on Sunday.

The Cardinals clinched a division title last week; is there a possibility of a letdown? Such letdowns may be mythical.

Learn about University of Phoenix Stadium. It's a grass turf (retractable grass turf). This worries me: the Vikes have only lost one game on turf this year, and in particular the pass rush seems better on turf.

Adrian Peterson runs with urgency.
Tonight during the Saints-Bears game, a pass got tipped by a defender, and WR Marques Colston reached back to catch the tipped ball, but came up just short. He slowly started walking back to the huddle, before finally half-heartedly swinging his arm as if to say "Ah, darn." It's a reasonable reaction, and one I like in a player. I like even keel guys--don't get too up or too down, stay calm and get ready to continue playing. But it made me think of Adrian Peterson.

How often do we see Adrian Peterson, after being brought down for a short gain, slap the turn hard with angry frustration? It seems he could see the "almost" in the play: there was a chance for a long run, he almost had it, but was just brought down by something small. And when that happens, he expresses a passionate, natural emotion. It's like Peterson wants every play to be successful. He plays with urgency--each play he's running is the most important play there will ever be.

Last season I thought Peterson too frequently tried to break plays out to the sideline for a long gain, only to be brought down for a loss or no gain. This season, he's doing a much better job of churning out positive yards, taking what he can while still looking for big runs. But even though he runs with more patience, he still runs with that urgency. He's still emotionally invested in each play, running it for all he can.

I'm not necessarily saying that Colston's reaction or Peterson's reaction to an "almost" play is better than the other; they are just different approaches. Their reactions do reveal attitudes: Colston just missing on a play and calmly walking back to the huddle to ready for another play, Peterson just missing on a play and expressing his frustration physically. There is something positive to both approaches.

There six matchups between .500+ teams this week.

Saints-Bears (alas, Chicago won in overtime)

These are obviously not the only games worth watching; a lot of playoff contenders will lose games to non-playoff contenders in the next three weeks. The Vikings are going to Arizona for a December football game--we should remember that much.

Fantasy Narcissism: Kurt Warner
When a player on your fantasy team go against your favorite team, it's lose-lose. Rooting interests are conflicted at some level, conscious or unconscious, however little (my Viking rooting interests far surpass my fantasy rooting interests, obviously). I've still got an outside shot at the Hazelweird Trophy (it's a longshot), and Kurt Warner has been reliably giving my team solid weeks (how I'm in third place with Bernard Berrian and Anthony Gonzalez at WR is a mystery to me). But I'm seriously debating benching Warner against the Vikings this week (in favor of Eli Manning or Matt Schaub). Even in Warner's bad games his fantasy numbers are outstanding, but I still might bench him. I've usually kept my regular fantasy starters in against the Vikings, but the quarterback position seems different. I might not.

I think I love/I think I hate
I Think I Love My Wife is a funny remake of a terrible French movie Chloe in the Afternoon. For some reason, I think about Chris Rock's line at the end of the movie (the movie title) at various times. For example, when my pure evil cat hisses and lunges her claws at my feet as I walk past her, I say to myself, "I think I hate my cat."* So why not start a new feature here: "I think I love/I think I hate." I realize this bears a resemblance to Peter King's "things I think I think" business, but that's coincidental: it's an OK movie I saw years ago that I think of when my demon cat attacks me, not a football writer I don't like.

I think I hate the Minnesota Timberwolves.

I might be happier if they disbanded, or relocated, or even just changed their name and color scheme. I've stopped enjoying thinking about them. I used to take rooting for a terrible team as a point of pride (Ha, I wear a Christian Laettner shirt to school--I'm the awesomest seventh-grader ever!). Now I wish they didn't exist. I don't trust the owner, I don't trust the management, I don't trust the coaching staff, and even though I like some of the players, I feel doomed anyway (if they couldn't win a title with Garnett, who are they going to win a title with?). If the Wolves didn't exist, I would just devote my basketball passion to the UCLA Bruins and probably the Boston Celtics (who I'd probably be rooting for all along if the Wolves had never existed).

I think I hate the Timberwolves.

*I do love my cat. I have to; there are maybe three people in the entire universe that do. Who else is going to love an evil demon cat?

PW and KW will play for a while (Access Vikings 1 and 2, Pioneer Press, Viking Update, PFT)

Advanced NFL Stats' week 15 win probabilities.

Grant's Tomb is skeptical about Tarvaris Jackson.

Defensive Indifference on Tarvaris Jackson.

Bucky Brooks discusses James Harrison (and now has Adrian Peterson #1 on his MVP list). See my current MVP candidates here. Drew Brees did a lot of stinking Thursday against the Bears, but in the fourth quarter completed a huge pass on 3rd and 15, followed shortly by a go-ahead touchdown on 3rd and 7. Brees made the "clutch" plays, then events outside his control took over. The Saint defense let the Bears drive into field goal range. The Saints lost the coin toss. In overtime, pass interference was called on a deep pass, and the Bears won the game. If events outside Brees' control occurred differently, he'd be praised for his clutch finish and still be an MVP contender; instead, he likely doesn't win MVP because the Saints likely don't make the playoffs. I've been excluding Kurt Warner because he plays in a terrible division (his team is 5-0 in the division, 3-5 outside it) and he's aided by some great teammates (Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Breaston are probably the best WR trio in the league), but if the Cards win out and Warner plays well, I can see him as an MVP.

At Football Outsiders, Mike Tanier overviews "run to win" and looks at the running games of several good teams.

In his Power Rankings, Don Banks refers to Visanthe Shiancoe's "notoriously bad hands." If this statement were made three months ago, it would be true--Shiancoe dropped a lot of passes last season and continued to drop passes early this season. As the season has progressed, however, Shiancoe has been catching the ball fairly consistently. Indeed, according to Football Outsiders, Shiancoe is the third-ranked TE in DYAR, second-ranked TE in DVOA, and has a catch percentage of 67%.

When I was growing up, I mocked my parents' penchant for making so much chili in the winter. Now I have chili all the time (vegetarian chili, of course). It's great for Sundays, and then it reheats throughout the week. Cycle of life: as the hooligan voice says in Tony Harrison's poem "v.," "now yer live wi' all yer once detested..." Now I live with chili all winter.

Enjoy your weekend everybody.


  1. Anonymous1:23 AM

    I can say with confidence that I will never take to eating chili.

    I actually just watched I Think I Love My Wife again a few weeks ago. Tag and ass!

  2. Nice well thought out blog this week PV.Keep it up loved the Demon cat,we all are slaves to one.Good insight,will continue reading as always.

  3. Anonymous11:08 AM

    Have faith in Tarvaris, because right now he's our only option! I don't care what kind of gameplan Childress poisons him with, among our 3 current quarterbacks Tarvaris gives us the best chance to win at this present time. Bevel better take some risks with Tarvaris, for AP to have a monster game the passing game, even if it's a short passing game, must be somewhat functional! I have faith in T. Jack, he's the best healthy option right now and he's pissed for being on the bench! I pray L.Fraiser can bring the pressure Sun. Also I hope Sharper actually positions himself to make better plays. He needs to better position himself to make up for his lack of speed! Go Vikes - their destiny is in their own hands!