Thunderdome! Sure the Metrodome is the biggest reason to have hope that the Vikes can beat the Packers Sunday, but there are others. Namely:
- The Packers are 21st in the league with 1,028 rush yards allowed and 26th in the league with 4.5 rush yards per attempt allowed. The Vikings should be able to run the ball, and while they need to commit to it, it would be good to see them run the ball in creative spots, too (not primarily on 1st and 10 and 3rd and 1).
- Aaron Rodgers wilts like a tree weighed down with slushy snow whenever he plays in the Metrodome, faces the Vikings, gets in a close game, or realizes he's a tool (OK, not a "reason" exactly, but c'mon! Aaron Rodgers is a tool!).
- I just decided to start using the bullet point feature, and I probably shouldn't stop after two. So....THUNDERDOME! In 2001, the 5-11 Vikings beat the 12-4 Packers at home (badly). In 2002, the 6-10 Vikings beat the 12-4 Packers at home. The Metrodome isn't nearly to the Packers what Soldier Field is to the Vikings, I know, but it's still Thunderdome! What do games played in '01 and '02 have to do with a game played in '10 featuring new players and coaches? I don't know. What does any Viking game at Soldier Field have to do with any other Viking game at Soldier Field? Not much, maybe, but they always end up the same way.
Once again, I think we know what we'll get. Each team will have some scoring runs. The game will come down to a few fourth quarter possessions. Probably the home team will win (if, anyway, this time around the refs don't take away an actual touchdown. That would help the Vikes win too. You know, it's easier to win when the touchdowns you actually score get counted as touchdowns).
Other Intriguing Games
Bears-Dolphins. How I root in this game (aside from rooting for Ronnie Brown to have a million yards and a thousand touchdowns, but that's a fantasy problem) will reveal to me what I really expect from the Viking season in the depths of my heart. If I feel I'm rooting against the Bears, it means I'm clinging to some tiny hope that the Vikes can catch some breaks, improve their play, and either win the division or a Wild Card. If I find myself rooting for the Bears, it means I've given up on the Vikings and am rooting for a non-Packer team to win the division. I'm afraid I'll be rooting for Chicago.
Raiders-Steelers. I've moved right past Mad Men's '60s nostalgia and to Oakland-Pittsburgh '70s nostalgia. OK, Mad Men is about a quiet desperation that is hard to be nostalgic for (but in fedoras!), but the Raiders and Steelers really did meet in the playoffs for five straight years in the '70s (72, 73, 74, 75, 76).
Colts-Patriots. Still interesting after all these years.
The 2007 Atlanta Falcons were as big a mess as I can imagine a football team being. Their star quarterback, whom the franchise had been built around for the '00s, was no longer with the team because of a felony. Their big name coach, hired away from college just that season, left the team suddenly and surprisingly. They ranked terribly offensively and defensively. That was a mess.
What did they do? They hired a good coach (Mike Smith). They signed a good free agent (Michael Turner). And they drafted a good quarterback (Matt Ryan, and if I were a Falcon fan I'd be thrilled to get to root for Matt Ryan's team for the next 10+ years). Since then, 11-6, 9-7, 7-2.
Rebuilding a team doesn't have to be a long project. It's important to get a good head coach and a good quarterback.
It's important to draft well so that you can quickly fill starting positions and fill out a quality roster. It takes both smarts and luck, but it can be done quickly.
What do the Vikings do next? They need to get somebody in charge to have a plan. Then they need to look at the roster to find their young core to build around (Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin...) and figure out what aging, expensive, diminishing players they should let go.
Brad Childress v. the Packers
If the Vikings lose this week, Brad Childress will be 3-7 against the Packers, including three home losses.
From '06-'10, the Vikings have been 37-30 against all the non-Packer teams, and the Packers have been 39-28 against all the non-Viking teams (including playoffs). Playing mostly the same schedule, these teams have been very comparable over the course of four and a half years against the rest of the league (a 2 game difference). Yet against each other, Mike McCarthy's team has defeated Brad Childress's team in two out of every three games.
You know who I like? Bears fans.
All of my interactions in life with Bears fans have been enjoyable. The Bears fans I've met have been good-natured, friendly, and good-humored about their team. Everything I know about Bears fans makes me like them.
Good luck, Bears fans. If the Vikings aren't taking the division this year, may you win it by six games over the Packers.
You know who else I like? Mike Mularkey
A lot of Super Bowl winning coaches had head coaching experience with a previous franchise. Some of those coaches had mixed or poor success in their first stints as head coaches. Mularkey has had success as an offensive coordinator, and has experience working with young QBs. And he's a coach that's willing to study and learn offensive ideas with which he's unfamiliar (the converse argument that for all his studying of innovative offenses, his actual offenses haven't been nearly as creative).
I'd like the Vikings to interview Mularkey for the head coaching job this offseason.
What happens to Jackson this offseason will be, I think, interesting. If Brad Childress isn't the Vikings' coach (and if he is, heaven help us through the blackouts), does the new coach want to keep Jackson around, if nothing else as an experienced #2 QB (or to compete as a starter in a rebuilding year)? If Jackson leaves, how will other teams view Jackson? Is he one of the better #2 QBs, or would a lot of teams not even want him for that? Or would a team with a really shaky QB situation sign him to compete as a starter?
If you want to talk yourself into something, look at the Vikings' remaining schedule: home, game against a team that just gave up 59, three straight at home, game against the team that just scored 59, then the Lions. A competent football team might be able to finish 6-1 with that schedule. The problem is, the Vikings haven't been a competent football team, and it takes an act of faith to believe they will improve to the level of competence. Is there a logical argument to be had that they could actually improve their on-the-field performance to do so? Have they shown anything to indicate an improvement is possible? Even if they do manage to win all their remaining home games (the Vikes are a good home team: they might), are they really capable of winning two of their remaining three road games? They haven't won a road game all year, and actually lost their last four road games in 2009. The pass rush is noticeably nonexistent on grass. I'm not sure the Vikings can win one road game (at Detroit, maybe), and I'm pretty sure they'll blow at least one home game.
The Commercial Life
Miller Lite ads have often featured gender policing; these ads promote a proper and acceptable way for a man to act, and ridicule some of the unacceptable ways for a man to act. This year's crop features a man doing something in some way different or eccentric, then getting mocked and lectured for it by an attractive female bartender. The lesson is obvious: conform to the norm and act like a "real" man, or you will be humiliated and rejected...and Miller Lite is for "real men."
NFC North Box
Both the Packers and Bears finish the year with pretty brutal schedules. For the Packers, I only see one gimme (49ers at home), and every remaining Bears game is losable. But we're also talking about the #1 and #2 scoring defenses in the whole friggin' league, so I'm not assuming they'll tumble either.
Kevin Love's 31 point, 31 rebound game in a rare T-Wolves win is kind of a big deal. This Michael Beasley/Kevin Love core looks like it can be something, but the Wolves will have to actually put a quality backcourt together to get near the playoffs.
Blessings on everybody. Even Packer fans, just not from noon to three on Sunday.