Monday, November 23, 2009

National Thanksgiving League (week 12)

We have an early edition this week. Speaking of early edition, this guy will always be the guy that got the newspaper early to me.

Vikings-Bears Preview

As a Viking fan who has studied, lived, or worked in Wisconsin for over a decade, I've come to detest and fear the Packers. I've never developed such a loathing for the Bears, however: when they're not playing the Vikings, and when they're not competing with the Vikings for a division title, I watch Bear games with mild indifference.

Instead, the Bears become a canvas on which to splatter all the paint of my Viking anxieties, a foil on which to expose all that is rotten in the state of the Purple. The Vikes struggle outdoors on the road? How about two wins at Soldier Field this entire decade. The Vikes lack a sort of toughness? Here come the Bears to hit hard and knock them around a while. The Vikings underachieve against lesser teams? Well here come the Bears for them to play down to.

Happily, this week's game is in Thunderdome, where the Bears have only beat the Vikings twice this decade (and only in their two 13-3 seasons). What might be a week of dread is assuaged: the 9-1 Vikings face the reeling 4-6 Bears, a team playing without Brian Urlacher (the most frightening player on the team, in my opinion).

The Viking defense has a real good chance to dominate against the Bear offense. The Vikes only have seven interceptions through ten games, but they'll be facing the league leader in INTs. The Vikes are one of the league's best pass-rushing teams with 34 sacks, and the Bear offensive line has struggled (Cutler hasn't taken a lot of sacks, but the pass rush helps explain his high interception rate). The Bears don't have very dangerous receivers (though TE Greg Olsen could scorch the Vikings), and Cutler hasn't been very accurate. The Bears struggle to run the ball: leading rusher Matt Forte has all of 3.3 yards per rush. How are the Bears scoring points? They'll have a chance if Cutler effective scrambles, if they utilize their TEs well, and if they can connect on 2-3 long passes, where Devin Hester or Johnny Knox can catch and run. They could also score points on defense or special teams, something they always seem to do.

The Bear defense isn't what it has been, but the jerseys alone frighten me, and make me think Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, and Percy Harvin are going to take some vicious hits from some hard-hitting defenders. But then, there is Adrian Peterson's history against the Bears: he's averaged 138.5 yards and 2 touchdowns per game against them. The Bears are also the team that Bernard Berrian got his 99 yard touchdown on last year. Shouldn't there be enough images of Viking players running wild past the Bears for me to feel somewhat comfortable? No. Never. When I see those Bear uniforms, I expect disaster.

But I will trust Thunderdome: it sets all to right.

Some people think my mental breakdown needs encouragement.
Readers of this blog will know me to be rather neurotic, and those who know me personally know I'm borderline Obsessive-Compulsive. So here's the monologue Mrs. PV provided me Sunday night (it really was a monologue, because I sat there staring, unable to interrupt):

"The Vikings are 9-1, that's pretty awesome. Actually, it's fantastic. Do you just get so excited thinking about it? This could be the year they finally do it: they could go and redeem your entire life as a sports fan. Isn't it amazing? This year that you're experiencing right now, this could be the year you'll always look back to and talk about. Don't you have trouble thinking about anything else? Is it like all you think about?"

Why I sort of hope Brett Favre throws a few INTs sometime soon
A 1% interception rate is just too low; I fear the regression toward the mean, and I fear it could come in the playoffs if it doesn't come sooner.

Improvement in the Secondary
Is anybody else seeing some real potential in Asher Allen? I'm really starting to like him. In the NFL three and four wide receiver sets are commonplace; the more competent defensive backs you have on your roster, the better.

I also just realized I've barely noticed Cedric Griffin in the last two weeks, which for a cornerback, can be a good thing (I generally notice which Viking defensive backs get beat on a play). And for that matter, Karl Paymah and Benny Sapp have played pretty admirably in Antoine Winfield's absence.

I'm starting to feel like we have a secondary that can get us through the playoffs.

Other Games of Note

Packers-Lions. on Thanksgiving, Viking fans, you get to root for the Lions in an inevitably futile effort. Lucky for us, we only root for them twice a year.

Colts-Texans. the Colts are going to go down sometime--a road loss to a division rival that's been itching to beat them has too much sense to it to actually happen though.

Cardinals-Titans. I think the Cardinals might get trounced here.

Steelers-Ravens. when I think about it, I don't really want to watch this game. I'll probably use Sunday evening to grade research papers and glance at the box score occasionally.

Patriots-Saints. it's an AFC team, but the best team the Saints are going to play this season. My hope is they lose this one and at least one more division game.

What I like about Monday Night Football
ESPN always shows a lot of crowd shots. I love crowd shots. I love to see how individual fans are reacting to the action on the field. Last week they showed some Brown fan with his face painted and some sort of crazy head gear reacting to a Browns' coaching decision with a look and a gesture that said, "Come on, be reasonable." It's especially fun seeing home team fans acting nervous and concerned; I don't know why I enjoy watching fans showing nervous concern, but I do.

Fantasy Box
Fantasy football can give us crazy, irrational ideas (watch that universal "us," sucker. Yes, I know: or as Pinker calls it, the "Straw We"). I personally believe that Norv Turner and Philip Rivers are both dickheads because they don't go to Antonio Gates in the red zone. Why not? It's like they're trying to go to anyone else. Gates averaged 9.8 touchdowns a season from '04-'08, he's averaging 70.9 receiving yards per game this year, and he only has two touchdowns? He's gone scoreless in nine of ten games? And this is a team that has attempted 23 field goals, so it's not like they're just scoring touchdowns however they want.

Timberwolves Box
Two fun games this week: Wednesday against Denver (excited to watch Carmelo Anthony) and Friday against Phoenix (excited just to go).

No turkeys for me, of course, but vegetarians can still usually find plenty to eat at the Thanksgiving table. I'm hoping for lefse (that's right, I'm a real viking).

Have a good week everybody. Except Packer and Bear fans.


  1. Birdman4:29 AM

    I had a nightmare last night: Jared Allen was injured and out for the year. Robison did an OK job replacing him, but the dropoff when they were spelled by Jayme Mitchell was huge. It was pretty scary. I thought I would share this on my favorite site for discussion of Vikings-related dreams.

  2. Anonymous6:55 AM

    Have faith in Favre. For years I told you he just needed some good players. Now he has good players and it's just as I've said. Faith. He won't let you down.


  3. Anonymous6:42 PM

    I can't find Lefse anywhere in Southern California. It makes me sad.

  4. Anonymous11:55 AM

    What to Californians eat with their coffee, then?
    The Philistines. No wonder they are going to fall into the ocean. ;)