Posts Tagged Minnesota Vikings

I Make the Call–Week 5 Edition

At the quarter pole, I am at 41-23 picking the results for NFL football games, including a 12-4 week 4. There were plenty of gimme games last week, the biggest was the World Champ Packers taking on my hometown anemic Denver Broncos. How bad was it, Packer fans were so bored they started chanting for Tim Tebow in the 4th quarter. Can I say I have given up all hope and faith of the Minnesota Vikings winning a game this season after choking to the KC Chefs?

Ok, on to this week. I was totally sober making all of these. Only 13 games as we start bye weeks. Here we go:

Philadelphia vs. Buffalo: I took Philadelphia. They’re 1-3 and can’t stop anyone. Their offense is a mess as they can’t keep Mike Vick upright. Buffalo has everything going its way so far outside of a freaky win by Cincinnati last week. Philly is desperate, though. I think that hole they’re in pushes them more than anything else, including Andy Reid can. They pull this out in the 4th as for one day, everything finally looks like it clicks for them. 23-16. Confidence: 5

Kansas City vs. Indianapolis: Until Peyton Manning is on the sidelines in something other than jeans and a polo shirt, the Colts are pretty much screwed. Their defense has been playing well enough to keep them in games so far, but KC looked last week like maybe they were starting to put things together. You saw a fire lit under Matt Cassel after he took on Coach Todd Haley in full view of a national TV audience last week in their win over Minnesota. KC wins 20-7. Confidence: 4

Arizona vs. Minnesota: Minnesota couldn’t even get the comfortable halftime lead they’ve enjoyed in past weeks against the formerly winless KC Chefs. Donovan McNabb looks lost, confused, old, befuddled, and a bunch of other things that I can use to say he can’t play anymore. He’s still their starter. Arizona has the guy he was once traded for. McNabb had a hissy-fit when Philly went with Kolb and exiled him to Washington. Kolb has something to prove. Did I mention he has Larry Fitzgerald to throw to? Arizona wins 24-14. Confidence: 3

Seattle vs. NY Giants: Seattle is incompetent at all areas of the game right now. They have a QB that Minnesota was more than happy to get rid of to allow McNabb to take over. If McNabb is an improvement….Tom Coughlin has been fairly satisfied with his team’s play so far. Their talent is far greater than anything Seattle can manage to control. NY 23-10. Confidence: 12

Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is banged up. Ben Roethlisberger has spent the entire week in a walking boot; James Harrison has a fractured orbital bone; Rashard Mendenhall has a hamstring issue. Tennessee, on the other hand, has been cruising. They absolutely clocked the Browns and beat the same Ravens team that stuffed it down the Steelers’ throats. I got Tennessee 27-14. Confidence: 2

New Orleans vs. Carolina: This game has shoot out written all over it. Drew Brees and Cam Newton can and probably will exceed 400 yards passing. The problem is, the Saints have multiple play makers and Carolina has Steve Smith.  Most of Newton’s passing will come as he makes a furious comeback attempt in the 4th quarter to make the final score respectable. Brees and company show Cam how a high-powered offense operates 41-28. Confidence: 9

Cincinnati vs. Jacksonville: Last week Cincinnati didn’t allow a 17-3 halftime deficit to the previously unbeaten Buffalo Bills faze them. All they did was come back after the break and outscore them 20-3 including the game winning field goal as time expired. Andy Dalton has fans asking “Carson who?” AJ Green is as advertised. Jacksonville is a mess. At 1-3, they don’t have a winnable game on their schedule until after the bye when they face Indy—and that’s provided Jack Del Rio is still around. They have thrown rookie QB Blaine Gabbert into the fray after cutting incumbent David Garrard in favor of Luke McCown who quickly showed the nation he has no idea how to play the QB position in the NFL. Gabbert is learning the offense on the fly and that doesn’t bode well. Cinci has confidence, Jacksonville has questions—lots of them. Bengals win 20-10. Confidence: 6

Oakland vs. Houston: It’s too bad that Al Davis has passed. He would love to watch this year’s team play. It’s playing the kind of beat-the-hell outta the opponent football he loved, craved, and taught. Darren McFadden has 468 yards and three touchdowns on the season already. Jason Campbell was 25-39 and 344 yards with a touchdown against the vaunted Patriots last week in a loss. Matt Schaub will be without his favorite target as Andre Johnson sits with a hamstring that required what the team called a “minor procedure” during the week. Who’ll step up? Who knows. Arian Foster is still shaking off the rust following his own hamstring issues this season. I got the Raiders continuing to play Davis-ball and keeping Schaub in check 23-16. Confidence: 1

Tampa Bay vs. San Francisco:  Tampa has pulled as many escape acts this season as Harry Houdini did his entire career. Last week started by falling 10-0 behind winless Indy before coming back to win. They have also been sloppy committing 14 penalties. San Francisco is coming home with the confidence of winning back-to-back road games in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Alex Smith proved he can lead the team back from a deficit throwing for 201 yards and two touchdowns against Philly last week. Smith and the rest of his 49er teammates have confidence while Tampa seems to have a lot of luck on its side so far. Talent and confidence trump 20-13. Confidence:  7

San Diego vs. Denver: Denver is a mess. They’ve had injuries on defense, they’ve had issues running the ball, stopping the run, and most importantly there’s the Tim Tebow conundrum. They were blown, not just out of Lambeau Field last week, but out of the state of Wisconsin by the Packers. Tim didn’t see a second of action in garbage time and that further enraged his legions of followers. San Diego is where it usually is these days—on top of the AFC West at 3-1 and have very few issues other than not being consistent scoring touchdowns in the red zone. QB Phillip Rivers is as comfortable at Mile High as he is in his own living room. Other than doing some nice things defensively with Von Miller and a finally healthy Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey, the Broncos are destined for 1-5 and a near riot for Tebow after the bye. It was also telling that Bronco VP John Elway was personally on hand on the Stanford sidelines Saturday to witness Andrew Luck disembowel the Colorado Buffaloes. Chargers win 27-17. Confidence: 13

NY Jets vs. New England: So far Rex Ryan’s bark has been far worse than his or his team’s bite. The vaunted defense from a year ago has been largely MIA this season. No one seems afraid of Darrell Revis or anyone else defensively. Last week against Baltimore, Mark Sanchez appeared lost as he turned the ball over four times which resulted in 21 Baltimore points. He will have a better day playing against one of the worst defenses in the league. Tom Brady, however, has been his usual surgical self in leading the league in passing yards and has amassed 13 touchdowns. Mark Sanchez is a mess; Tom Brady is playing like a man possessed. Pats win 35-20. Confidence: 10

Green Bay vs. Atlanta: This is a replay of last year’s divisional round playoff game down to it being in Atlanta. That game and the rest of the playoffs resulted in the Pack taking home the hardware. Green Bay is 4-0 after dismantling what was left of Denver’s confidence last week. Aaron Rodgers has Cheeseheads wondering why they hung on to Brett Favre as long as they did. Atlanta, to have a chance to win, has to clean up its defense, and Matt Ryan has to be nearly flawless to not allow Green Bay opportunities on a short field. Green Bay is just rocking everyone and I believe Atlanta may be too amped in its attempt to exact revenge for last year. Pack win 34-20. Confidence: 11

Chicago vs. Detroit: Nick Fairley looks like a go for Detroit to assist Ndamukong Suh wreak havoc on offenses across the NFL. It will take time for it all to blend together, but their first game will be Monday night against Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears. Detroit comes into this game with the confidence that they can come back from anything after coming back from 27-3 in the 3rd quarter to beat Dallas last week. QB Matt Stafford is playing with confidence and Calvin Johnson catches everything thrown in the same zip code. The Bears come in having beat Carolina, but also giving up 543 yards to Cam Newton and friends. The defense makes life difficult on Cutler who’ll never feel comfortable in this game. Lions go to 5-0 for the first time in forever winning 20-10. Confidence: 8

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Not Worth Getting Lucky….Yet

What do the Minnesota Vikings, St Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, and Indianapolis Colts all have in common? They’re all 0-4 so far this season. At the quarter pole, it can be assumed that none of these teams are likely playoff bound. They all have serious issues that won’t be corrected anytime soon. Minnesota is starting Donovan McNabb at quarterback, a guy who has had probably one of the steepest declines at the position of anyone in NFL history. St Louis can’t stop anyone with their lines on both sides of the balls and now have serious injuries to their receivers and no one to step up. The Miami Dolphins just lost their quarterback that no one seems to want and have a coach ownership doesn’t acknowledge the existence of (kiss that vote of confidence bye-bye Coach Sparano). The Colts have one missing piece, but that piece is like missing the engine to a car in Peyton Manning. The entire offense has been built around him and him alone since he joined the team fourteen years ago. With all four of these teams you hear whispers of playing for Andrew Luck, the phenom quarterback at Stanford University.  That requires going out of their way to stay under the four win mark for the season to have any shot at that overall #1 pick in next April’s draft.

Luck had the opportunity to come out for last year’s draft, but he would have competed for attention with Cam Newton who was fresh off leading Auburn University to the BCS Championship. There’s also the teams picking at the top of last year’s draft—Carolina (who took Newton), Denver, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. I know he didn’t want to go to any of those disasters, though Buffalo is looking like a playoff team this season standing at 3-1. They were not in need of a quarterback. Denver didn’t need one after trading everything but the stadium to select Tim Tebow the previous draft. Carolina was set on Newton from the moment the final second ticked off the clock at the Championship game leaving Cincinnati where careers go to die. His decision to remain for his senior year is looking as though it may lead him to that very same BCS Championship game Newton found himself in.

That leads to an important question for these four teams, and to an extent, some of the 1-3 teams as well: Do you go all out, play to win every week and pray you come up with a decent season, even if it doesn’t land you in the playoffs, or do you half-heart it, show your fans you’re giving it your best shot, but rack up the “L”s and play for Luck? It’s a dangerous game to play. On the one hand, maybe your schedule improves, you get some guys back healthy, or someone unexpected steps up and you play the remaining 12 games in 10-2 or 9-3. Depending on the division, even going 8-4 might be enough to get into the playoffs. The flip side of this is going out week after week, giving it you almost best shot, beating some of the other also-rans on your schedule, but playing the remaining 12 at 4-8 or 3-9, maybe even 2-10. The dangers in this are alienating your fan base, who already is pissed off at your stellar start, and splitting your locker room who begin to believe that you, as coach and front office, don’t believe they’re talented enough to go out and win without the help of an unproven college player.

The last part leads to the biggest problems. Coaches stop trusting players, players stop trusting coaches, and eventually players stop trusting one another. Even if you’re lucky enough to land Luck, the damage may be too much to fix without a major overhaul of the roster and coaching staff. Now you’ve got Andrew Luck, a rookie who’s proven nothing, and a bunch of veterans who feel used and abused by the front office. If you had any thought that one person was going to reverse your franchise’s fortunes, you’d be a fool. You may win less games and potentially ruin all remaining good will with the fans, trust of the team, and may ruin any chance Andrew Luck has of finding success as an NFL quartback.

For every John Elway and Peyton Manning that’s picked number 1 in the draft, the league ends up littered with the likes of Jeff George, Tim Couch, Alex Smith, and JaMarcus Russell. The draft is a nothing more than the NFL’s version of the lottery. Every pick is a gamble. Are you getting that guy that will make the impact on your franchise that puts you on the road to a Super Bowl or is it a pick that sets things back even further? Seventeen quarterbacks were taken with the overall #1 pick since 1970. Of those, only six have won Super Bowls, the most recent being Eli Manning who was picked #1 in 2004. Do you want to risk all the issues of tanking just to take a shot at a lottery?

Teams that end up with records worthy of the #1 pick in the draft often have multiple needs. Your quarterback can’t catch the ball after he throws it, can’t block for himself, can’t cover the other team’s receivers, and can’t tackle so it’s only one part of what most teams need in order to get back into contention. Yes, the draft is seven rounds and you will get other pieces. There’s even some pieces usually available via free agency, but picking up a brand new quarterback with the number one pick is huge. He becomes the face of the franchise. He is now your leader. Everything your team does is focused on his success from the offense you run, the types of receivers you draft or acquire via trade and free agency. That guy has to be able to come in and have the confidence and attitude that the team will succeed and he is the man to lead them in that success. It is more often than not a position that is larger than the man.

I have watched plenty of Andrew Luck play over the last couple of seasons. I will definitely get a good look at him Saturday as he is playing Colorado. I can’t help but to say he is the real deal. He will be the next truly great QB to come into the NFL and be an integral part of someone’s future plans and success for years to come. His teammates listen to him. He has great on-field command from the huddle to the line, knows what he is doing the moment he gets the ball in his hands, and nothing fazes him, even if a play breaks down. He refuses to give up on a play as long as he can see the field. For his career in which he was last year’s Heisman runner-up, Luck has thrown for 6926 yards, and has 56 touchdowns against only 13 interceptions with a 24-6 career record (4-0 so far in the 2011 season) including a win in last season’s Orange Bowl. What team wouldn’t want that?

I know that every team wants that kind of leadership under center. That’s the kind of leadership that wins championships. That’s the kind of leadership that demands the respect and attention of the locker room. That’s the leadership you want as the public face of your franchise. That’s the kind of leadership that has free agents clamoring to come and play for you. My opinion is all that leadership potential becomes background to the circus that will be your locker room as guys that have been there become resentful of a kid. They don’t care about what the future will hold. All they know and understand is they were used to draft someone that they believe isn’t as good as they are; he hasn’t fought the battles on an NFL field like they have. He’s going to make millions based on a hunch. They understand that the team tanked its season on a wing and a prayer.

They say you can’t win the lottery unless you play. Wasting your money on a hunch isn’t just potentially hurtful to you; it can damage your entire organization. Any of the teams thinking about blowing off the rest of this season after just four weeks should think long and hard about that and the odds that, even though everything points to Andrew Luck being as advertised, a lot goes into getting that potential talent to show itself at the NFL level. It takes the right coaches, front office, and most importantly, teammates that have enough class and dignity to allow things to take shape.

It’s not a chance that’s worth anyone taking.

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