Thursday, December 30, 2010

National Friday League, Week 17

Vikings-Lions Preview
Who this game matters most for:

Leslie Frazier. A win Sunday, and it would be wildly unfair if Leslie Frazier is not hired as the Viking head coach for 2011.

Joe Webb. Another strong performance, and he might convince the Vikings he's the QB they can develop, starting soon (compete for the job in training camp?). A poor performance, and he looks more like a long-term project, and the Vikings try fill the position elsewhere next year.

Jim Schwartz. I'm afraid the Lions are building something. They do have a dominant 25 year old on offense and a dominant 23 year old on defense. They've had seven losses this season by eight points or fewer. And a win Sunday would mean finishing the year with four straight wins, including two division wins.

My dream: an NFL pregame show with no former players or coaches.
Why would I prefer an NFL pregame show without former players and former coaches?

They have friends in the league. Some of these guys make efforts to defend their friends, won't criticize their friends, and quite obviously have their commentary influenced by their friendships.

They have their own legacies to protect. This comes out subtly in some of their evaluations, but it's there.

They often don't bring much insight. My guess is that most of these former players and coaches made their millions, and for them this is a comfortable job. They're not spending hours studying film, not spending hours studying stats, and not spending hours chasing down sources for meaningful inside knowledge. Quite frequently the things these guys say are no more meaningful than what any other observer of the sport could provide.

Obviously a former player or coach can be very good on TV: Ron Jaworski, Chris Collinsworth, and John Madden come to mind. But a lot of the former players and coaches are either irritating or dull.

My other dream: no more "production meetings" with broadcasters and players
I think the broadcasters, after having friendly conversations with players, are less likely to harshly criticize those players. It's not always a conscious decision: in fact I think it's usually an unconscious, human feeling not to be critically harsh--even when justified--to people they have had personal conversations with, and who have generally been nice to them. But it's there: the friendly conversation they had influences their objectivity and willingness to honestly critique. Furthermore I'm not sure how much meaningful insight they get from these meetings that they couldn't get from other sources (some, I'm sure, but I'm not sure it's enough to counterbalance the soft treatment they give the subjects).

Leslie Frazier has earned this job.
When a team is hiring a new coach, there are all sorts of things to consider in the prospect's resume and personality to evaluate whether he will be an effective coach for the team's particular situation. When a coach is given a chance to audition for the job on an interim basis, it is usually under difficult circumstances, but it is a chance to actually prove what he can do "on the field."

Since Leslie Frazier became head coach, the Vikings have won their first two road games of the season (both outdoors, one against a 10 win team). The Vikings have won three games with three different QBs (Favre against Washington, Jackson against Buffalo [Favre went out on the first series], Webb against Philadelphia). The team has endured some pretty unique circumstances, and even though the Vikes are eliminated from playoff contention, the team has still been playing extremely hard. The game plans have been good (the coaching job against the Eagles was masterly), and on multiple occasions they've made difficult adjustments to new situations (Peterson getting hurt against Washington, Favre getting hurt against Buffalo, preparing a third-string, rookie sixth round pick QB).

What else can Leslie Frazier do to prove he deserves, in fact has earned with his performance, the chance to prepare a team through an offseason and coach a team through a season? In my mind he's already proven it: a win against Detroit to finish the year 4-2--including three road victories--should absolutely convince Zygi Wilf that Leslie Frazier is the man to run this football team.

I wasn't convinced when Frazier took over on an interim basis that he should be the head coach next year. I am now. I don't know who the Vikings can find that they could know will do a better job than Frazier, and I think Frazier has proven what he can do.

The Timberwolves
Basketball is an extraordinarily fun sport to watch live, if you're watching a well played, competitive game. I went to the Wolves' game against the Hornets Monday, and it was a treat. Wesley Johnson hit six three pointers from what I'm pretty sure was the exact same spot on the court (New Orleans would have had a better defensive strategy just to make a center stand there with his arms up, no matter what else was happening), and Michael Beasley was scoring every which way he could. Really a delightful game to watch. I'm really hoping they can bring in some better talent to support Beasley and Kevin Love, who are a good core of players that could take the Wolves to the playoffs with a little better guard play (and a lot better center play).

Other Week 17 Games

Bears-Packers. FINISH THEM!


Rams-Seahawks. Either another 8-8 team wins a division and goes to the playoffs (while teams with winning records in the same conference don't), and we go on with life as before, or a 7-9 team wins a division and the league either reforms or busts up the current system. Which would you prefer?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


No matter if the Vikings aren't making it to the playoffs, it is really, really fun to watch your favorite team go on the road to play against a playoff team and beat them smoothly. That was the most fun watching the Vikings I've had all season. The Vikes showed they do have the talent, that they do have a core of players to keep together, that they have something to build on.

Great credit goes to the entire defense for this effort. Michael Vick is incredible: if I was choosing a QB for my team, I'd quibble between the Manning/Brady/Brees triumvirate, but few QBs right now are more terrifying to go against than Vick. He is a game plan destroyer with his elusiveness. But the Viking coaching staff put together an aggressive game plan: they played a team with tremendous speed and big play ability, and they didn't play afraid. They blitzed a lot. The defensive line got good penetration, and the front seven made an admirable effort chasing down and trying to contain Vick. The secondary, despite several dropped interceptions, played an outstanding game: the DBs stuck with their receivers well, they deflected passes, they tackled well.

Antoine Winfield blessed us with another Antoine Winfield special: sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery, touchdown return all on one beautiful play that turned the game right before halftime.

Joe Webb gave us something to hope for, playing a game with poise, intelligence, mobility, and accuracy. Kudos to the coaching staff for both giving him plays that allowed him to be successful, and for not sitting on their hands avoiding using him at all.

Adrian Peterson quite frequently looked like the best player on the field, and Percy Harvin played better than any other WR tonight.

Leslie Frazier made his best audition to keep the Viking head coaching job. The road win against Washington and the blowout win against the Bills was very good. But after two blowout losses, after weather forced them into a Monday Night "home" game in Detroit, then a Monday night home game at TCF Stadium, and then a Tuesday Night game at NFC powerhouse Philadelphia, after the team was down to its third QB, a rookie sixth round pick, this team could have easily given up. But the team did not: this team has played hard for Frazier, and tonight they had a great game plan that they utilized almost to perfection.

That was joyous. I can't recall ever watching the Vikings beat the Eagles (I probably have watched it, but it's been a long time, and I don't remember it). I've seen the Vikings lose to the Eagles at home, in the playoffs, and live (once all of those things at once). Today they did it. It was a well-played game, featuring great effort, great game planning, and great performances from some great players. Football is still fun.

Skol, everybody.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

National Festivus League, Week 16

Happy Festivus everybody.

This is a game I would say will be the biggest blowout the Vikings endure this season: they've got no answer for Michael Vick or DeSean Jackson, and they'll be starting their third or fourth quarterback of the season. But considering the Vikings have already lost games this year by scores like 31-3 and 40-14, really, where is the blowout range going to be worse than what we've already seen?

This Viking season feels like 2001: a disappointing season with a lot of dreadful losses, an offense that suddenly goes from explosive to inept, the coach is eventually ousted in rather ugly fashion, and by the end of the year the team is on a third quarterback and it seems almost hopeless that they can even score a touchdown. I barely had the stomach to watch those games (OK, I often didn't). Watching games this season feels like a burdensome chore, like it's something I have to do when I'd rather be doing something else, and I'm just hoping the team does something in the offseason to give some hope (at quarterback, at coach, somewhere important) so that games next year can be fun to watch again. I haven't had fun watching a Viking game in a really long time.

Other Interesting Games

Panthers-Steelers. Can Carolina pull off a Festivus miracle?

Jets-Bears. There's not an NFC playoff team that I can't see beating the Bears, and there's not an NFC playoff team that I can't see the Bears beating. They're playing for a bloody two seed.

Colts-Raiders. Peyton Manning has a reason to play through all 16 games for the first time in a very long time.

Giants-Packers. Finish those suckers off now.

Saints-Falcons. All season long, I sort of rooted for the Falcons because they seemed like one of the better contenders to stop the Packers from getting to the Super Bowl (they're killer at home). Now that fear of the Packers in the Super Bowl is significantly weakened (but not dead), I still kinda sorta root for this Falcon team anyway.

I was in a waiting room the other day, waiting, when somebody started chatting with me. This fellow asked me if I played "fantasy football."

"What's that?" I said. "Does that have something to do with those football games on TV?"

"Well, yeah, sort of."

"Hmm. I've seen those football games. What is 'fantasy' football?"

"Well, you pick your own team of players, like a quarterback, running backs, etc., and then your team does well when those players do well."

"So you make up a team?"

"I guess. You draft them."

"'Draft'? Like that thing they do in April?"

"Yeah, just with the members of your league. You draft a team from all the players in the NFL."

"Sounds interesting." I then returned to my magazine and continued waiting, going back to a life with no such thing as fantasy football. It sounds like the sort of thing that will take up way too much of your energy and time and can only leave you feeling miserable.

Airing of Grievances ("I've got a lot of problems with you people!")
If there were a Bizarro Pro Bowl, where players make it by being actively bad, Madieu Williams would be the starting safety. No other defensive back excels so highly in two key areas: being wildly out of position in pass coverage, and being wildly out of position when attempting to tackle. If an opposing wide receiver made a big play this season, look around: #20 was probably somewhere nearby. This year's airing of grievances is reserved for none other than Madieu Williams.

I would watch the Bizarro Pro Bowl, by the way.

Feel free to air your grievances.

Have a good one, suckers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A bitter sort of peace

As much as I hate seeing Brian Urlacher celebrate anything, it is better than seeing the Packers celebrate anything.

And the Vikings are just two more embarrassing losses from beginning a rebuilding project; we can hope that means that these games will be fun to watch again in 2011.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

National Friday League, Week 15

Outdoor Winter Football in Minnesota
Seeing a Viking home game played in cold December, snow plowed to the sidelines, will make me nostalgic for a time I never even saw. Purple jerseys in the cold!

On not giving a shit (or, Vikings v. Bears)

The 2010 Vikings are either going to finish 5-11, 6-10, 7-9, or 8-8 (assuming no ties, I guess). I can't find myself caring where they actually end up on that spectrum: it just doesn't really matter. If this were a young team, we could hope for a strong finish to build for something next year. But this is an old team that is going to have to make some big changes next year regardless of the next three weeks (the dread rebuilding, but with a solid core of elite-level players to rebuild with so it could turn quickly, with savvy and luck).

Yet on the other side, the Bears are one game in front of the Packers for the division. I have no animosity for the Bears outside of Viking-Bear matchups, and intense animosity for the Packers. And that can, ultimately, matter: seeing the Packers in the Super Bowl would crush my spirit.

Am I saying I'm rooting for the Bears to beat the Vikings? I would never say that. And I would never feel that.

Randall Cunningham and Brett Favre
Randall Cunningham and Brett Favre each quarterbacked the Vikings to a spectacular, memorable season that ended with an overtime defeat in the NFC Championship Game. Here were their comparable numbers during those seasons:

Cunningham '98
3,704 yards, 34 TDs, 10 INTs, 60.9%, 106.0 rating, 13-1 record
(playoffs: 46/75, 502 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT)

Favre '09
4,202 yards, 33 TDs, 7 INTs, 68.4%, 107.2 rating, 12-4 record
(playoffs: 43/70, 544 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs)

Outside of those magical years, neither QB shined. In 2010, the Vikes started 5-7 with Favre as starter, and he threw 18 interceptions and added six fumbles. In 1999, the Vikings started 2-4 with Cunningham as starter, as his rating fell down to 79.1. Cunningham also finished the 1997 season, when he was the starter in a week 17 win to make the playoffs, as well as their first playoff win of the '90s.

Who did more for the Vikings? When I see Randall Cunningham Viking jerseys, I just feel empty. I don't know how I'll feel when I see Favre Viking jerseys in ten years. That depends, I suppose, on whether the Vikings win a Super Bowl before then...and whether the "Minnesota Vikings" exist at all.

Penelope waits
There are different ways to create stories and meaning from sports. Some may view through a Hero Myth, where the story is the heroism of the great individual player or the great team, whose on-field successes and failures are all part of the story of the hero's greatness (and tragedy). Or you can see sports as a Quest Myth, where the team or individual strives and struggles and takes forward and backward steps on the mission to achieve an idealized end, to cross into the Promised Land, to find that Holy Grail, to return home from Troy.

Readers know how I watch the Vikings. And during the latter parts of a season during which the Vikings will not make the playoffs, I feel like I'm stuck on some crazy half-god's island just waiting for a boat to come by so maybe, maybe I can get back on that journey home. At least then, no matter how far I am from Ithaca, I'd at least be on the water moving, quite possibly even in the right direction.

Other Games

A nice slate of games matching up teams with winning records.

Eagles-Giants. How I got my wife to give me a disgusted look Monday night: "You know how I've said if the Vikings relocate I'll become a Bears fan? Well, when Peyton Manning retires I'll need a new favorite non-Viking player. Football is way more fun for me when I have a favorite non-Viking to root for. So I was thinking, when Peyton retires, how about little brother?"




Jaguars-Colts. If the Jaguars win, they win the division and the Colts miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001. If the Colts win, they haven't clinched anything, but they're in very good shape to do so. The Vikings make me shake my head sadly; any football nerves I have now are reserved for Packer games and Colt games.

Remember Spurgeon Wynn?
Horrors. Just remembering.

Fantasy Box
Readers know my antipathy to head-to-head fantasy standings, and the absurd unfairness of fantasy playoffs (why not just pick a week at random and say the highest score from that week wins the championship?).

But I do now see the excitement of a playoff. When you're on the bubble just to get into the playoffs, it's exciting because you still have a shot at winning a fantasy football champion. And then if you get into the playoffs, even as the lowest seed, you need one good week against the top seed and you can still claim that champion. I get it.

Of course the week-to-week, every-game excitement of Cross Country standings overcomes the focused excitement of a playoff matchup. Still, this is fun.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The snow gushed forth from the Thunderdome sky, like the opening call for Ragnarok.

And so the Vikings played a game in pretend Thunderdome. And looked as deflated as the Metrodome.

The Viking offense sure reminded me of 2007. If the opponent is stuffing Adrian Peterson, the Vikings are cooked. When the Vikings are pinned with poor field position, they're cooked. When the Vikings face 3rd and long, they're cooked. If the Vikings get down by a couple of scores, they're cooked.

Let there be no mistaking this now: Tarvaris Jackson cannot be the starting quarterback for the Vikings in 2011. They need to look for a QB answer for the medium term (a veteran that can play with Pro Bowl potential for 3-5 years: think Rich Gannon with the Raiders, Brad Johnson with the Buccaneers, Kurt Warner with the Cardinals) or the long term (the proverbial franchise quarterback). And that's not to blame Jackson for the dud of a game played by the Vikings tonight. But he does continue to show his limitations, and I don't think that next year he'll be one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the NFL (but do I even need to say that? Everybody in Minnesota knows this, right? But I hear enough national commentators talk about Jackson as a possible option next year, as somebody the Vikings need to see play to find out more about him, that it almost terrifies me into thinking he could be back).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Of course this would happen.

Can anybody remember a weirder Viking season than 2010? It was already a kooky season before the Thunderdome roof fell in and snow poured onto the field, requiring the Vikings to play an impromptu Monday night home game in Detroit.

Blizzards always remind and teach an important life lesson: adapt.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

National Friday League, Week 14

Vikings-Giants Preview
The Giants are 4th in offensive yards and 2nd in defensive yards allowed. The rank 5th in Football Outsiders' DVOA. But I have a problem: I can't keep history out of my mind. Here are the four games the Vikings have played against Eli Manning's Giants.

2005: The Vikings win a road game despite scoring three offensive points, a win that was vital to the Vikings' midseason effort to keep the season entertaining. Eli Manning throws four interceptions.

2007: The Vikings go on the road and blow out the Giants, a win that helped the Vikings' midseason effort to keep the season entertaining. Eli Manning throws four interceptions.

2008: In the last game of the season, the clinched Giants rest some major starters; the Vikings are forced to come back (with Tarvaris Jackson!) to clinch the NFC North.

2009: In the last game of the season, the Giants have nothing to play for, while the Vikes need a win and help to clinch the NFC #2 seed. They blew out the Giants.

Tooling around Minnesota, there are a few fans that watch every single Viking game, but watch no other NFL games. These fans have seen Eli Manning play precisely four times. These fans think Eli Manning sucks awful. They're seeing Eli this weekend and thinking "Oh, that loser is still the Giants' QB?"

I think the Vikings have been effective against the Giants because the Vikes stop the run and force Manning into a lot of bad throwing situations. Manning can be turnover-prone, and the Viking pass rush can get to him, I think (and getting turnovers in bunches is a way for this team to beat the Giants) I feel good about this game, but that's from feeling good about a team coming off their first road win then their largest victory of the season. Albeit against lousy teams. After all, even with a new coach, the Vikes are only two games removed from getting puked on by the Bears and Packers. Trends do come to an end (I guess: the Patriots never beat John Elway).

Other Interesting Games

Colts-Titans. Which team has had a worse few weeks?

Packers-Lions. Detroit: this is your destiny. Do it!

Patriots-Bears. Chicago: this is your destiny. Do it!

Bizarro MVP
In Bizarro World1, where Bizarro PV gets a vote for the Bizarro MVP, Bizarro PV casts his vote for Bizarro Tom Brady.2

1. 37.9% of my knowledge of Superman mythology comes from Jerry Seinfeld.
2. Even in Bizarro World, only QBs and RBs on playoff teams are eligible for MVP.

Fantasy Box
In the Hazelweird League, we have a "trophy" for last place: the loser of the league is forced to keep in possession a DVD featuring college highlights of the Vikings' 2005 draft picks. I'm serious. At the last draft weekend there was some discussion of opening the box up and watching it, which led to some threats to quit the league and go start a splinter league.

This awful trophy is largely symbolic: there is a real desire among, well, yes, us, at the bottom of the standings to not finish in last place. I've never finished in last place: one year I tanked it for the #1 pick and I still didn't get last place (even when I try to lose, Abe still loses better--zing!). I'm still fighting and clawing to be respectable enough not to be last.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Clouds of Heaven

Some bullet-point reactions.
  • When you're watching a December football game between two teams that aren't making the playoffs, you want it to be entertaining: lots of points, lots of big plays, lots of turnovers, lots of stuff happening. If you're a Viking fan, that game was entertaining.
  • Sidney Rice showed he's still got it: he was making spectacular downfield catches in tight coverage, and making them look nearly effortless. He reminds me of the old Randy Moss in some ways: when covered downfield, he can still make a play without it looking like an extraordinary effort. He's smooth timing and leaping for the ball. He's really a key player to keep on the team going forward: he can make a QB look good.
  • Tarvaris Jackson made me feel like old times. He is what he is: capable of some really exciting, spectacular plays, but also capable of frequent inaccuracy and terrible decision making. The inaccurate passes and bad decisions are, I think most of us are convinced, too frequent with Jackson for him to be a successful regular starting QB.
  • Adrian freaking Peterson!
  • Defensively, this was like old times: ferocious pass rush forcing turnovers, stifling run defense, big plays from the likes of Antoine Winfield and Jared Allen. The Bills aren't good, but it's still fun to watch a defense be disruptive at every level of the game.
  • Our 0-4 Super Bowl soul-cousins do have a couple of AFL championships from back in 1964 and 1965. Bills fans, you have that over us.

(note for non-weekend readers who missed it to check out "Brett Favre as King Lear" below, if you'd be interested in that sort of thing).

Friday, December 03, 2010

Brett Favre as King Lear

Numerous pundits have compared Brett Favre to Hamlet, because of Favre's indecision over retirement and Hamlet's apparent indecision over what to do about his father's murder. But I think that comparison is too easy, not quite accurate, and not terribly insightful. But a comparison to another Shakespeare hero, King Lear, actually offers some real insight, or at least a consistent, developed interpretation, of Brett Favre the man and football player.

It's not indecision: it's a full embrace of the current emotion.
In Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, Harold Bloom argues that Lear the man "is all feeling," suggesting, I think, that whatever emotion Lear currently feels, he embraces with the totality of his person.

Might this explain Favre's frequent candor with the media, his long-time musings on possible retirements, and especially his displays of sincere, authentic tears? When Favre announced his retirement from the Packers and cried, that was real emotion: he seemed to fully feel it. But the emotion changed, and when it did, Favre fully embraced that new emotion.

And after all, King Lear begins with Lear announcing his retirement, a decision he will very quickly regret.

Love me, love me, say that you love me!
Lear is a man who, in old age, gathers all the important people of the country together, tells his daughters that he is handing them the kingdom...and then insists that they make public displays telling him how much they love him.

Does Brett Favre manipulate the media to stay in constant public attention? Maybe, maybe not. But some have suggested that when Brett Favre made his first retirement announcement, he hoped that the Green Bay Packers would express a deep desire for him to come back, and was irked at the way he perceived they pushed him out when he did want to come back (as Lear was irked when Cordelia wouldn't make a showy display like her sisters: is going to play for the Packers' rival the emotional equivalent of banishing Cordelia?). And it does seem in 2010 that he sent text messages to teammates pointing to retirement, perhaps in an effort to get them to express their love and longing for him. And he did only come back for 2010 when teammates showed up at his home to beg him to come back. He felt loved and needed, in the way Lear badly needed to feel loved and needed.

Aye, every inch a king.
Lear has a king's conviction that he can do whatever he wants, his way. That might give us some insight into Brett Favre, whether he is throwing a terrible pass into coverage and forcing an awful turnover, avoiding training camp, or calling Jenn Sterger.

Monumental Greatness, and Monumental Stupidity.
There is no question that King Lear has the capacity for greatness, that he has been a great and respected king. But as Kent warns him and as the Fool never tires of reminding him, Lear also has the capacity for utterly stupid foolishness.

With all the all-time cumulative records, with a plethora of 30+ TD pass seasons, with two and a half MVPs, there's no question Brett Favre is one of the greatest QBs that ever played. But with the all-time interception record, with a plethora of 20+ INT seasons, with a number of playoff games with multiple interceptions or game-altering end-of-the game interceptions, Favre too has the capacity for failure.

Hamlet? Nah.
In Hamlet, Hamlet is in an awful situation: his dad has died and his mother quickly marries his uncle who takes the throne, he discovers that his uncle probably murdered his father (he's not quite sure), but he doesn't know the extent of other peoples' (including his own mother's!) involvement in the crime or coverup, he has all sorts of conflicting desires, is surrounded by untrustworthy people that he has every reason to distrust, seems to be getting betrayed by everybody he knows, he's constantly being spied on, and the one thing he wanted to do (leave!) he was explicitly forbidden to do. If Hamlet is indecisive, he can hardly be blamed for that. What is the right decision? What is he supposed to do? And how is he supposed to pull it off when his enemy is the guy in charge of the whole damn country, with all sorts of power, and perhaps all sorts of allies who are aiding him? What advice would you give to Hamlet given his situation?

Hamlet's indecision is overrated, and I don't think it offers us much insight into Brett Favre. King Lear, the emotional king, longing to be loved, with his capacity for both brilliance and foolishness? There, I think, is an insightful comparison.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

National Friday League, Week 13

Ah, another game against our "0-4 in the Super Bowl" spirit-cousins. Hello Buffalo: I feel like I know you.

Look at the Bills' last five games and tell me whether you are confident for this game: OT loss at Ravens, OT loss at Chiefs, 3 point loss to Bears, 2 point win against Lions, 18 point win at Bengals, OT loss to Steelers. Since their bye week, the Bills have played everybody competitively. They do have a bad run defense (32nd in yardage allowed, 29th in yards per attempt allowed) and a lousy defense overall (29th in points allowed), but the Vikings are 30th in points scored.

2010 Viking Defense: Impressive or Disappointing?
This year, the Vikings rank 9th in yardage allowed and the team ranks 16th in points allowed. The points allowed make the Vikings seem pretty average, but considering the Vikes have 25 lost turnovers, the defense has been forced into some lousy positions to play out of (plus they once again have given up a fair number of non-offensive touchdowns). They've had some games when they needed to get stops late in the game for a chance to win, and they did it (Miami, at Green Bay, Arizona). They've also had games when they needed late game stops and couldn't at all (at New England), and games when the pass defense looked just...just...awful (at Chicago, Green Bay). The run defense is not what it once was, but still ranks #5 in yardage and yardage per attempt allowed. But the pass rush has often been invisible. By Football Outsiders' metric they are very average (17th).

Interesting Week 13 games
Jaguars-Titans: The last time the 6-5 division leading Jags played the Titans, they lost 30-3. I know this because that was early enough in the academic semester when I still watched every Monday Night game, and early enough in the season when I had fantasy hopes. Now I'm buried in research papers (I shouldn't even be writing this!) and mired in a lost fantasy season (I could list off my very concrete, easily identifiable mistakes, but why bother).

Falcons-Buccaneers. I like Matt Ryan. I like Brent Grimes (or "Grimey," as he liked to be called).

Cowboys-Colts. Indianapolis's incredibly impressive streak of seven straight 12+ win seasons will not be stretched to eight, but they are still tied for a division lead with a favorable schedule.

Chicago and whoever they play, Green Bay and whoever they play. I'm not ashamed to be at the "anybody but the Packers" stage of the season.

Steelers-Ravens, Jets-Patriots. Late in the season, it's wonderful to have extraordinary night games between division-rival Super Bowl contenders. Thanks again, DVR.

Really fascinating post at about QB "comebacks," with some special focus on John Elway, Dan Marino, and Brett Favre (Favre does not come out so well when you see what he's done with comeback opportunities).

In the no shame department, ProFootballTalk quotes an NFL statement criticizing the players' union which includes the following:

"The union’s request for state and local political leaders to intercede in the negotiations ignores and denigrates the serious and far more substantial problems that those leaders, and that state and local workers across the country face."

Ho ho ho! That's funny stuff. Either somebody writing NFL statements has a rich sense of irony, or the NFL and teams aren't bothering state and local politicians for public money for their stadiums anymore. Or something else.

December: not quite as ass-biting cold as January and February, but almost, but it's OK because there are Christmas lights. I might take a bye from blogging for the next few weeks (combination of end-of-semester workload and football-season-gone-bad exhaustion), but maybe not.

Later suckers. Go Vikings. Go Bears.