Thursday, September 23, 2010

National Friday League, Week Three

Viking Preview
If the Vikes lose this one, Brett Favre should retire immediately.

The 2010 Vikings are more like the ’08 Vikes than the ’09 Vikes (and that’s OK, if they realize it)
The ’09 Vikings were an offensive juggernaut, scoring loads of points primarily through the passing game. If the first couple of games of ’10 are any indication, this Viking team is not like that Viking team. But this team bears remarkable similarities to the ’08 Viking team that started the season 0-2 and rallied to win the division.

The ’08 Vikings leaned heavily on Adrian Peterson (1,760 yards), and played frequently dominant defense (in nine games after the bye, they allowed opposing offenses to score 13 touchdowns, going 7-2 in the process). And if the ’10 Vikings’ first two games are indicative, this Viking team can still win games like the ’08 Vikings did. The Viking defense has done a superb job, in my opinion. They went on the road and held the Saints to 14 points. At home against the Dolphins, they allowed zero points after the first drive, and in the fourth quarter repeatedly did exactly what they needed to do to stop the Dolphins and get the ball back for the offense as quickly as possible.

The ’10 Vikes have more potential than that team, because Brett Favre has more potential for success than ’08 Gus Frerotte or ’08 Tarvaris Jackson had. But they can win games if they lean on Adrian Peterson and dominate defensively. They just have to realize that’s the sort of team they are. That means sometimes taking early field goals because you know the game will be close.* That means sometimes playing for field position because you can trust the defense to get the ball back for you quickly. It means not taking too many risks in the passing game (but picking their spots, sure).

The Vikes can rally: the defense will keep them in games, they have talented offensive players including a workhorse running back, and Brett Favre will not suck that bad in every game this year.

*I'd almost always go for it on fourth down from inside the three: if you don't get it, you're probably getting the ball back soon, and it good field position. Outside the 20, when you'd still have to gain more yards to get a TD rather than FG? With a reliable offense, yes. Without? Take the points. That's why this year the Vikings are a take the points team.

Irrational Viking Fan
Don Draper and Pete Campbell
I’ve only seen season one of Mad Men, so don’t spoil anything for me. But ever since RK madethe comparison of Aaron Rodgers to Howard from Death of a Salesman, I keep seeing Aaron Rodgers as Pete Campbell from Mad Men. And I hate Pete Campbell. When I see the look on Aaron Rodgers’ face, I associate him with all the worst qualities of Pete Campbell.

(And so I bought a fedora hat today. What, do you really think I did that in a misbegotten attempt to look like Don Draper? What do you take me for? You don't know my motivations. You can't prove anything. And anyway, isn't Draper kind of a major douche, tormented nihilistic soul or not? I suppose you think I'm silly for buying a tie for the first time in my memory, too. Well, screw you for judging me).

The Wheel of Fortune
The wheel of fortune spins: whomever it brings to the top, it will swing back down to the bottom.

From the ’04 playoffs through 2005, the Vikings won three straight games against the Packers. From ’06 through the first game of ’08, the Packers won five straight over the Vikings. And from ’08 through ’09, the Vikings defeated the Packers three straight times and claimed two division titles.

As far as the Viking-Packer rivaly goes, 2009 was Minnesota’s year. But I think I can say honestly that I did not try to rub anything in to Packer fans. I’ve been through enough Viking seasons to live in terror anytime things seem to be going well—and living in terror means little time for gloating. And I know how the wheel of fortune spins: somebody gets brought to the top, sure, but that somebody gets crashed back to the bottom again. For sure. The wheel keeps spinning.

And now, with the Vikes 0-2 and the Packers 2-0, it appears that 2010 may, broadly speaking, be the Packers’ year. Packer fans may be riding high all of 2010, and they’ll have their chance to rub it in. Maybe the wheel has spun, and it is the Packers’ turn at the top.* Maybe this is your chance to roll, Packer fans. But the wheel of fortune spins.

*Let’s stick with “maybe.” The Vikes still have a chance to salvage the season, will play the Packers strong in their head-to-head matchups, and if nothing else, Go Bears!

Season Preferences
Here are my preferences for the season, in order:

#1: The Vikings right the proverbial ship, make their way to the playoffs, and make a deep playoff run.
#2: A complete, total, disastrous collapse of the season.
#3: Stumbling toward a .500 season and missing the playoffs.

The reasons I prefer 2. to 3. are plenty. For one thing, epic failures are more entertaining to watch than muddling mediocrity (though stumbling to .500 with a shot at the playoffs makes each game more exciting and engaging. I am such a wishy washy thinker that I need to undercut my own thoughts in the parentheses). But there are other reasons. I think, eventually, Brad Childress will discover for certain that Tarvaris Jackson can’t really be a consistent starting QB—if that were to somehow happen in 2010 rather than 2011, we take a healthy step toward the future a year early. The Vikes also have some young players that have shown sparks of stardom, some who haven’t had an opportunity to do so yet, and several that the Vikings need to decide about for long-term contracts. A collapse might mean leaning more on those players. If the Vikes aren’t going to win the Super Bowl this season, then I’d rather see them move toward a future where they can win the Super Bowl—whatever that takes, even if it means a brutal nadir to get there. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's "My Kinsman, Major Molineux," Robin goes through one miserable, confusing, awful night--but he comes out of it with a new, important insight into the world. If he never saw his tarred and feathered kinsman paraded down the streets, if he never joined into the mocking laughter, he might never have learned what he needed to learn.

But preferably, the future is now. The Vikes have a fairly high number of star veterans that might not have much left (Pat Williams, Antoine Winfield, Steve Hutchinson, Brett Favre). The Vikes also have a handful of Hall-of-Fame quality starters in their primes (Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Adrian Peterson). This is no time to waste. It’s just if it’s going to be wasted, I’d prefer disaster to mediocrity.

Other Intriguing Matchups
Week Three Schedule

Falcons-Saints. If you watched the 49ers-Saints Monday, you saw another game where the Saints did not outplay an opponent, but benefitted from that opponent making one disastrous mistake after another. That was an incredible display by San Francisco: they moved the ball, and they successfully stopped the Saints, but they repeatedly acted as if it might be more fun to lose the game than win. Snapping the ball over the QB’s head out of the back of the end zone for a safety on the first drive? Sure. Drive down the field before halftime but fumble inside the 15. Why not? Muff a punt late in the game? Of course. Start a drive with a delay of game penalty? Why would you be ready at the start of a drive? Just incredible. Anyway, I don’t think the Saints are that good, and the Falcons might be.

49ers-Chiefs. One of these teams will reveal itself. I don’t know which one.

Cowboys-Texans. One of these teams will reveal itself. I don’t know which one.

Colts-Broncos. Indianapolis sliced up the Giants last Sunday in ways I haven’t seen anybody sliced up in a long, long time.

Packers-Bears. When I was a kid, I had this Chicago Bears hooded sweatshirt that somehow got passed down to me—I don’t know how or from where. I would wear it outside to play basketball or shovel snow. I don’t know what happened to that hoodie (though we didn’t call them hoodies in the bad old days of the mid-90s, did we?). If I still had it, I’d be donning it Monday night. Go Bears.

The Quarterback Position
Matthew Yglesias argues that the Eagles keeping two starter-quality QBs is a bad idea:

“it’s also mighty inefficient. Whether or not Kevin Kolb is a better quarterback than Vick, I think it’s pretty clear that Vick is one of the top 30 QBs in the league. That means he’s worth more to someone else as a starter than he is to Philadelphia as a backup and the Eagles should trade him. It never really makes sense for a team to be carrying two different starter-quality quarterbacks.”

But here’s the problem with that argument: what if the Eagles accepted this argument before the season started? Then when their starter, Kevin Kolb, got injured, they would have been left with a low-quality starter to replace him. Instead of Michael Vick leading them to a three-point win, it’s quite likely a poor quarterback would have led them to a loss.

Quarterback is a critically important position. It may seem inefficient to keep two good quarterbacks, but I’m not entirely sure it’s a good idea to go into a season saying “Oh well, if our starting QB gets hurt, we’re just screwed anyway.” I’m also not sure it’s a good idea to go into a season saying “Oh well, our starting QB only has two career starts, but if we learn he sucks the whole team can just go down with him.”

Now, why am I bothering with the sports argument of a political blogger here (especially as the situation has changed, and Vick will start)? Because I’ve largely stopped reading most sportswriters’ commentary. Most sportswriters’ commentary provides little insight, and I no longer have the inclination (or time) to read bad sportswriters just to criticize them on this blog. So I’ve quit reading them. There are some sportswriters who do offer quality analysis—but I can’t bring myself to read much about football following a Viking loss (I also can’t bring myself to write much after a Viking loss—sorry. If you’d like me to write a lot after a Viking loss, find a way to get me paid to do this. Actually, don’t: I don’t need the added responsibility. I’m writing this after mental exhaustion from grading papers). I do, however, still occasionally read political blogs, and occasionally come across sports arguments, and occasionally find them flawed. So here we are.

Things to look forward to now the Vikes are 0-2
This might finally be the season that Ted meets his kids’ mother.

Fantasy Box
No, I did not try hard to trade away Frank Gore last week. That would be crazy. If anybody tries to tell you I tried to do that, they are lying. Don't be a liar. Frank Gore is awesome, and I've always known it--I wouldn't trade him for anybody. And fantasy football is not about luck.

Have a good weekend everybody. Except Lion fans. The Packers don’t play until Monday, so Packer fans, I don’t care about your weekend. Bears fans: I hope you enjoy Monday.


  1. Anonymous4:01 PM

    Bears sweatshirt was mine as a gift from a Bears fan. (your Uncle) Eventually it became yours.

  2. J'Rod5:35 PM

    I don't remember you doing much shoveling in the mid-nineties.

  3. You'll probably want to return that fedora based on what's happening in Season 4.