Friday, October 30, 2009

You can go home again

So today, I thought, "How well does a QB fare against a team that he previously won a Super Bowl with?"

The answer: Not too shabby. Here's my attempt at a comprehensive list, but since this is just for fun, I make no claims that there isn't an error or two. The record in parentheses indicates the QB's record on the road -- in other words, at his old stomping grounds.

Kurt Warner vs. the Rams: 5-2 (3-0)

Joe Montana vs. the 49ers: 1-0 (0-0)

Jim McMahon vs. the Bears: 2-0 (1-0) (both with the Vikings, ignoring this one-attempt game)

Jeff Hostetler vs. the Giants: 1-1-1 (1-1)

Trent Dilfer vs. the Ravens: 0-2 (0-1) (ignoring this game, where he threw just one pass -- hey, remember when a lot of people were up in arms about the Ravens letting their Super Bowl-winning quarterback go?)

Brad Johnson vs. the Bucs: 1-0 (0-0)

Ken Stabler vs. the Raiders: 0-1 (0-1) (in a playoff game, no less)

And some guy vs. the Packers: 1-0 (0-0) -- no, not Bart Starr

That's a total record of 11-6-1, including 5-3 at the QB's old stadium. Don't talk to me about small sample size, that's great news for this weekend!

Frankly, I'm a little surprised that it hasn't happened more often. If not for Kurt Warner winning a Super Bowl in, essentially, his first year in the league and then moving on to play for a team in his old team's division, we'd only have 11 such games instead of the 18 we currently have. If only we'd gotten Brett about five years ago...

I'm looking forward to Tom Brady's career with the Jets in 2013-2016.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I can't come up for a title for this one

Vikings coach Brad Childress dressed up as a female flight attendant during the team's flight to Pittsburgh on Saturday, ESPN reported. The coach donned a wig, blue nylons and lipstick (framed around his beard).

(Thanks to Daily Norseman for the link.)

This is the mark of a coach of a 6-1 team with a contract extension on the table? Why sure, Bill Parcells and Bill Walsh did this all the time! Those jokesters!

At least he didn't pull his pants down.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Passing Unfancy: Vikings/Steelers

The defense wasn't a problem on Sunday. Even with Antoine Winfield out (for a while, it seems), the Vikings held the defending Super Bowl champs' offense to a reasonable 259 yards and 13 points.

Unfortunately, the Vikings offense had the ball during the game too, and that rarely ended well. To wit:

* My father's name is Ronald, so whenever I see referee Ron Winter calling a game, I joke that he's my dad. If that's true, he's off my Christmas list this year. The most egregious bad call was the tripping penalty on Jeff Dugan, a play that I, my Steelers-fan friend, and the entire crew of NBC's Football Night in America, thought was an awful call. It negated a go-ahead touchdown pass to Sidney Rice, and three plays later, Brett Favre was sacked, stripped, and LaMarr Woodley was running to the end zone.

Also, earlier in the game, Benny Sapp was called for a 15-yard roughing call when he dove at Ben Roethlisberger just as he was heading out of bounds. He left his feet as Roethlisberger still had one foot inbounds, though he made contact after the quarterback was out of bounds. Dubious call, I thought, but since quarterbacks aren't allowed to be hit any more, I tried not to grouse too much...

...until a few minutes later, when Favre was shoved to the ground after releasing the ball. No flag. Again, it wasn't the most egregious sin, and one that shouldn't be a penalty in the NFL, but usually is. I hate to harp on officiating and use it as an excuse, but this was one of those kind of games where every questionable call seemed to go against the Vikings.

Except that tripping call. That wasn't questionable at all.

* When the Vikings weren't having penalties (11 in all) called against them or turning the ball over and giving up 6 points to the opposing defense, they were calling plays. Pass plays. All. The. Damn. Time.

Starting with the fifth drive, in the second quarter, here was the Vikings' play selection:

Fifth drive:
Run; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; run; run; pass; run

Sixth drive:
Pass; run; pass; pass; pass; run

Seventh drive:
Run (kneeldown at end of half)

Eighth drive:
Pass; run; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; pass; run (penalty); run; pass; pass

Ninth drive:
Run; pass; pass

Tenth drive:
Run; pass; pass; pass; pass; run; pass (penalty); pass; pass; pass; pass; run; pass; pass (penalty); pass; pass; pass

Discounting the kneeldown, from 10:34 in the second quarter until the Woodley touchdown at 6:23 in the fourth, the Vikings called 39 passes and 13 runs. Adrian Peterson had 11 runs (one negated by a penalty) and 2 receptions over that span. Five of those runs came with the ball spotted inside one team's five-yard line (four goal-line carries against the Steelers and one with the Vikings backed up on their own three), so Peterson only really had six chances for a big play for over half the game -- eight if you count his receptions (and I'm sure William Gay does).

With Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin ailing, instead of handing off to the best player in football, Brad Childress called plays designed for Greg Lewis, Jim Kleinsasser, and Naufahu Tahi, with predictable results. The Vikings never trailed by more than three during this span, and their last drive in the first half (#6) started with 3:30 on the clock, and actually included two runs in six plays (one a draw on third and long for Chester Taylor). Yes, there were some long-yardage plays in there, when passes seemed obvious, but again, are you better off running with Peterson or Taylor in those situations or tossing it to Tahi and Kleinsasser? And how exactly did you get in second-and-long and third-and-long? Perhaps by not running the ball as much as you should?

This was what I feared more than anything once it became obvious that Brett Favre could still get it done. Brad Childress desperately wanted to throw all the time when he had Tarvaris Jackson as his quarterback, so you knew that he was salivating over the possibility of throwing 50+ times a game with Favre in the game, and that's exactly what he did. The Vikings called 23 runs and 55 dropbacks (passes plus sacks), with 10 of them coming with the Vikings down and three and a half minutes or less in the game, when an all-pass approach is appropriate. Removing those and Favre's kneeldown, it was a 45:22 pass:run ratio. There is no way the Vikings should have a 2:1 pass:run ratio unless the score is out of hand or Peterson (and probably Taylor) is hurt. No way at all.

I know there are a lot of worthy choices, but this is Brad Childress's worst-called game ever. My friend and I kept saying, "This one will be a run. It has to be a run." We were rarely correct. People will say that the two Pittsburgh defensive TD returns and the questionable penalties were the reasons we lost, and while they didn't help, the team shouldn't have been in a situation where those two plays decided the game. This one goes on the coaching staff and a horrendous job of play calling.

Let's hold off on that contract extension talk, shall we?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why the Broncos are 6-0

The simple answer is, of course, "Their amazing defense and a really lucky play against Cincinnati." But consider the following two quarterbacks, each with the same number of pass attempts:

Quarterback A: 4,526 passing yards, 25 TDs, 18 Interceptions, 86.0 passer rating, 6.8 adjusted yards per attempt

Quarterback B: 3,937 passing yards, 24 TDs, 16 Interceptions, 79.6 passer rating, 6.0 adjusted yards per attempt

Which one is better? Quarterback A, but not by a large amount.

Now, suppose my team has quarterback B. I'll trade him to you for quarterback A. Not a good deal for you, but, depending on circumstances, maybe one you would make...

Oh, and I'll also throw in two first-round draft picks and a third-rounder. Can you toss me a fifth-rounder, maybe, just to even things out a bit?

I bet you're taking that deal.

Quarterback A's stat line belongs to Jay Cutler in 2008. B's stat line is Kyle Orton's stat line in 2008, adjusted to have the same number of attempts as Cutler. The reason Cutler's numbers looked better in 2008 was solely because of his high number of attempts. Plug Orton in for another 200-odd attempts in 2008, and his numbers start to look like Cutler's.

When the deal was made, I was skeptical of both sides. The conventional wisdom of Cutler as a franchise quarterback still lingered in my brain, despite my certainty that his "big numbers" were more the result of his number of pass attempts. Orton, meanwhile, while not great, was reasonably efficient in 2008, few people could dispute that he enjoyed a better receiving corps (Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal) in Denver than Orton did (Devin Hester and Greg Olson/Matt Forte) in Chicago.

(The Vikings also were supposedly interested in Cutler, and he probably would have been an upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, but I was hoping we wouldn't give up the house to acquire him.)

Admittedly, we're only looking at one season's worth of stats here, but that's about all we can do. Orton was awful in his rookie year, starting for the Bears in place of the injured Rex Grossman, and played sparingly in his second year. For Cutler, one year looks pretty much like the other. I'm too lazy to compute all sorts of advanced stats, but his passer rating his first four years in the league (counting this one) are 88.5, 88.1, 86.0, and 86.9. Decent, but not something I'd want to give up three high draft picks and a reasonable quarterback for.

So far, Cutler's performed reasonably well (the opener in Green Bay aside), but he's still looking like about the same passer he was in Denver -- willing to put it up all the time, but interception-prone. Meanwhile, we do harp on Denver's defense, and it's amazing, but Orton has nine touchdowns versus just one interception and a passer rating over 100. I don't think he's that good, but far too many people were just thinking of him as subpar, if not outright bad, going into this season.

But hey, look at how much Cutler is helping the Bears' running game. Matt Forte's 3.4 yards per carry is clearly the result of improved quarterback play.

So the next time you hear someone say Denver's just having a good season because of their defense, know that that's just part of the story. For years, it seemed like the Broncos could make any running back into a 1,000-yard back. Nowadays, maybe they can make any quarterback into a Pro Bowler...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Time to clock Big Ben

It's looking more and more like Antoine Winfield won't be in the starting defensive backfield for the Vikings when they travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday, and that could be trouble, if the second half against the Ravens was any indication. We've always had our reservations about Brad Childress' and Darrell Bevell's ability to think outside the box and craft a quality offense for the Vikings; this week, it might be up to Leslie Frazier to figure out a way to get enough pressure on Ben Roethlisberger to make up for Winfield's absence.

Roethlisberger represents a serious matchup problem for the Vikings. Yes, he holds on to the ball too long and takes a lot of sacks (3rd highest sack percentage among active quarterbacks, and highest among anyone who could be called a starter), but because of that -- and because defensive players tend to bounce off his 240-pound frame -- he keeps plays alive and completes a lot of downfield passes. He currently leads the league with 9.1 yards per attempt, which, if it holds out, would make him the third quarterback this decade (and only 11th since the merger) to average better than 9 yards per pass. He's already #3 among active quarterbacks, and his 12.6 yards per completion is the 2nd-best career mark in the NFL among active quarterbacks.

In other words, this game has all the appearance of mimicking the type of game we had against the Green Bay Packers, where Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times but had 384 yards passing. As long as the final score looks roughly the same, I'll be happy.

On the bright side, no Steelers quarterback has ever thrown for more than 300 yards against the Vikings. In fact, only one has ever managed as many as 250, and it was a while ago. That probably owes more to the fact that the teams don't play each other very often, and both have been known for their defenses (and, in the Steelers' case, their running games) than for high-flying aerial attacks. Vikings QBs haven't fared much better over the years.

Unlike Baltimore, the Steelers still have a defense, though they'll be missing DE Aaron Smith, a major key to their 3-4 who's out for the season. Without him, Adrian Peterson has a very solid chance of topping 100 yards, despite the Steelers' allowing only 74.5 yards per game on the ground. That's skewed somewhat by the 16 yards San Diego put on them in week 4. Without Smith, even Cleveland managed 91 yards on the ground, though 45 of that came from Josh Cribbs in the wildcat. I'd expect a somewhat lower-scoring game this week -- maybe just in the 20s for each team. And hopefully more for the purple.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I don't mean to alarm anyone...

But here's what happened the last time the Vikings started 6-0.

That won't happen again, of course.

We play the Cardinals in week 13, not week 17. And Nate Poole, may he burn in whatever hell he fears, hasn't played in the NFL since 2005. And there's no more push-out rule. And we have the most fun-loving quarterback in the league, who would never let his defense fall asleep like that.

(The guy's been great, I'll admit. But three hours of Dan Dierdorf praising him is more than anyone should be subjected to. Even Nate Poole.)

The 2004 version of the Vikings fared about the same, getting off to a 5-1 start before going into a nosedive and finishing the season 8-8. Beating the Packers at Lambeau Field in the playoffs was sweet, but it was still another case of the Vikings being just good enough to avoid embarrassment, but not enough to be actually good -- a hallmark of the Mike Tice ".500 and out" regime. In total, the 2003-04 Vikings were 11-1 through week 6 and 6-14 after.

Could they face a similar fate this season? We all want to say "of course not" because all we see is a very good team now and can't imagine a 3-7-like finish. But we felt the same way in 2003 and 2004, and every team that starts out well (like this one and this one) can't possibly fathom the ridiculous notion that they'll collapse down the stretch. "All that matters is wins," they'll say, no matter how ugly the wins or how weak the opposition, only to earn their "overrated" label in the second half.

(That is, by the way, a corollary of my NFL Predictions Rule. In addition to "Always pick four new division winners every year," I espouse "At the midway point, a team at 6-2 or better will fade down the stretch and finish at 9-7 or so." Last year, I picked the Redskins, the year before the Lions. The Broncos are looking mighty tempting this year.)

The questionable play of the defense the last few weeks is a major red flag that teams quarterbacked by Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Kurt Warner, and Eli Manning might exploit better than teams quarterbacked by Shaun Hill, Kyle Boller, Brady Quinn, and Matthew Stafford did. And then there's Aaron Rodgers -- wait, I think Jared Allen just sacked him again. Still, at this point, I think even JaMarcus Russell could complete half his passes for 150 yards against us. And that's saying something.

In short, the Vikings are ripe for a fall. (And please don't tell me it won't happen because you-know-who is in purple. Remember the Jets last year?) With two tough road games on the slate next, we could be in for a little disappointment after a hot start, though I'll admit I would have been overjoyed to be 6-2 going into the bye. The second-half schedule looks reasonably soft, but that 2003 team lost to four teams with 4-12 records, so anything is possible. I really hope they won't be "that team," but after years like 2003, 2004 (not to mention 1996 and 1997), I won't truly feel good about our record until we've played 16 games.

Then Gary Anderson can miss a field goal in overtime in the NFC Championship Game.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

6-0...but just barely

At the start of the season, you might have thought the over/under for the game to be around 30, but I wouldn't be shocked if each team managed 30 points.

I said that yesterday, but I wasn't hoping it would turn out quite like that.

At the start of the season, I thought our defense would win games for us and that Brett Favre would lose them, but I'm turning nearly a full 180 on that assessment. I continue to be amazed by Favre's play, especially his affinity for Sidney Rice, who had a career-high 117 yards receiving on Sunday. And Adrian Peterson was his usual excellent self, bracketing his performance with a pair of good runs in the first and final Vikings scoring drives and finishing with 143 yards on 22 carries.

But what in the name of Carl Eller and Joey Browner is happening with the defense?

We can now officially dismiss the notion that the Vikings' mediocre defensive numbers (14th in yards/game and 9th in points per game) is due to the team giving up chunks in garbage time or with backups in the game. This weeks excuse du jour will be the absence of Antoine Winfield. Karl Paymah certainly looked overmatched and Tyrell Johnson rarely provided any help at safety, but Winfield alone couldn't have made every play. The disastrous fourth quarter, which nearly cost the team the game, was a study in missed tackles, bad downfield coverage, and inability to get off blocks. The final tally: 385 passing yards for Joe Flacco, 194 total yards for Ray Rice, and three Baltimore TDs in just over five minutes.

Rice's numbers are especially galling. Except for his two touchdown runs of 22 and 33 yards, he was completely bottled up, with eight other carries for 22 yards. For a while, it looked like the old Vikings rushing defense was back. Then, suddenly, big holes materialized and Rice strode virtually untouched into the end zone.

Now, the Vikings, who have played all three of their home games against teams with winning records and have squeaked out wins against all three (3 points vs. S.F., 7 points vs. Green Bay, and 2 points vs. Buffalo) have their next two on the road against 4-2 Pittsburgh and 3-2 Green Bay (which will likely be 4-2 after a road trip to Cleveland next week). Both teams have their flaws, but both also like to throw the ball. Let's hope Winfield (not to mention Peterson and Percy Harvin) comes back soon.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Battle of the Purple, 1998

So, the Vikings play the Ravens tomorrow. Despite both teams having a reputation for defense, and both are doing fairly well defensively, neither has been as stifling as might have been predicted. The Vikings are 14th in the league in yards/game allowed, and 9th in points per game allowed. The Ravens are 10th and 12th in the same categories, respectively. There are certainly caveats in those numbers -- the Vikings have only played one good offensive team (Green Bay) but have also given up a lot of yards and points in garbage time -- but it's safe to say that neither team is at the top of the defensive ranks for fantasy football leagues.

Meanwhile, the Vikings are 3rd in the NFL in scoring and the Ravens 5th. At the start of the season, you might have thought the over/under for the game to be around 30, but I wouldn't be shocked if each team managed 30 points. Even so, we probably won't see anything as crazy as the first meeting between these two teams, a 1998 contest that the Vikings won 38-28.

Ah yes, the 1998 Vikings. We remember them well. And this December Vikings/Ravens contest was a typical game for a team that averaged 34.75 yards per game (surprisingly, just a hair more than the 31.2 this year's team is managing). But the offense sputtered a bit in this game, scoring "just" two touchdowns and getting six field goals from Gary Anderson.

Oh, and then there was that first quarter.

Take a look at the box score. After an Anderson field goal, Baltimore's Corey Harris returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to put the Ravens up 7-3. The Vikings kicked another field goal on the ensuing drive and kicked off again. This time, it was Patrick Johnson who brought the kickoff back to the house, putting the Ravens up 14-6. At this point, the special teams looked so bad, you might have thought Paul Ferraro was the coach. (It was actually Gary Zauner.) But on the ensuing Baltimore kickoff, Minnesota's David Palmer (no, not the fictional president) took it back 88 yards for a touchdown of his own. One missed two-point conversion later (nice decision, Denny) and the quarter ended 14-12...

...with three kickoff-return touchdowns. I'm going to bet that's a record for a single quarter, if not a game.

The Vikings scored the next 23 points, part of a 29-point unanswered stretch, and the 10-point margin at the final gun belied the fact that this was a very lopsided game. I'm not betting on three kickoff-return touchdowns (or six+ field goals by Ryan Longwell), but a 38-28 score? Yeah, I could buy that.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Play of the Day

Some people will tell you that the play of the game from yesterday's rout of the Rams was Jared Allen's fumble-recovery-TD. But astute fans who stuck around until the end know that the most improbable, the most unbelievable, the most "How on earth did that happen?" play was, in fact...

Naufahu Tahi's 32-yard catch and run in the late fourth quarter.

Let's put this into perspective. Going into Sunday's game, Tahi had a career 52 yards on 19 receptions, a stellar 2.7 yards per reception. With his 32-yard gain, his career numbers explode to 84 yards on 20 carries, with a Randy Moss-like 4.2 yards per catch!

I know that adding Brett Favre was supposed to help the passing game (and that it was actually Tarvaris Jackson who threw the pass to Tahi -- work with me here), but if his mere presence can even turn Naufahu Tahi into a receiving "threat," then the Vikings are nigh-unstoppable.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy birthday (and anniversary)

Happy 40th, you old coot.

Meanwhile, 20 years ago, while the Brett Favre in that picture (or thereabouts) was celebrating his 20th birthday, the Minnesota Vikings were, by all appearances, deep in discussions with the Dallas Cowboys regarding a monumental trade that would reverberate through the NFL for years to come.

Yes, it's been nearly 20 years to the day since the infamous Herschel Walker trade. The deal went down on Oct. 12, 1989 and, while it did pave the way for the Cowboy championships of the early '90s and hamstring the Vikings' development for a similar period of time, it did have the positive effect of, for whatever reason, getting me interested in football. The graphic of a bunch of Viking helmets vs. 1 Cowboy helmet on SportsCenter that night somehow grabbed my attention and sticks with me to that day. That Sunday, I watched...well, not my first Vikings game, technically...but it was the first one that I really paid attention to as a fan and tried to understand and enjoy.

Plus, it was against Green Bay. What better way to break into the realm of Viking fandom than to watch the Vikes trounce the Pack 26-14. Interestingly, it was Walker's second straight game against the Packers, having played them as a Cowboy the previous week. With Dallas, Walker ran for just 44 yards 12 carries; with Minnesota, Walker ran for 148 yards on 18 carries, his third-highest single-game total ever and the most he'd ever have as a Viking. It was all downhill from there.

When a team makes a trade for an aging. past-his-prime veteran, we often hear that the reason is not just to add that player's eroding skills to the team but also as a PR move to sell tickets and generate interest. Ken Griffey Jr. didn't do much to boost the Mariners' on-field product in 2008, but he likely evoked a lot of nostalgic thoughts in Seattle. Will Shaquille O'Neal really help Lebron James and the Cavaliers this season on the court or is he just in Cleveland for his charisma and draw at the ticket office? Oh, and then there was that guy the Vikings picked up this year who's starting to look like he might have actually been worth the hassle.

Herschel Walker was 27 when he was traded -- a bit long-in-the-tooth for a running back, but not overly so. The price in players and draft picks was a net +8 for the Cowboys (1 player and 4 picks from the Cowboys vs. 5 players and 8 picks from the Vikings), and, when you look at who the Cowboys selected with those draft picks -- Emmitt Smith, Alvin Harper, and Darren Woodson, most notably -- it could only be termed a disaster for the Vikings (though we did net Jake Reed with one of the picks we got from Dallas). Walker was run out of town just two and a half years later and the entire affair lives on in NFL front-office infamy.

But it did get people talking, and keeps them talking to this day. And it got at least one person interested in the on-field product, even if that product was damaged goods. Maybe it wasn't such a bad deal after all.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What's in a typical drive?

This post is about drives in the NFL. So, naturally, I'll be closing it out by talking about baseball.

A few months ago, I wrote an article about the merits of "grinding it out" versus "airing it out." In that article, I made the assertion that "I read somewhere that the typical NFL game has about 10 drives per team. I'm too lazy to do any real research on that, but it seems about right."

Well, I decided to get over my laziness and see what I could find out, not only about how many drives a team tends to get, but what the results of those drives usually are. I also read somewhere that about 1/3 of drives result in scores for the offense (probably in some article espousing the merits of the current overtime system), and I wanted to see if that matched up, too.

So, with a lot of help from Pro-Football-Reference's 2008 season stats (and a little help from's 4th down stats), I simply added up every "drive-ending occurrence" I could find. I counted a "drive-ender" as any instance of a:

Rush/Receive Touchdown
Field Goal
Missed Field Goal
Lost Fumble
Turnover on Downs
Blocked Punt

What I didn't count:

* Touchdown returns, since those aren't "drives" for the offense

* End-of-half/game drives that didn't result in one of the other options (like a FG attempt). The main reason was because I didn't have stats for them. But I don't think this is a huge problem. These drives usually fall into one of two categories: non-attempts to score, like kneeldowns or "protect-the-ball" runs, which I have no problem omitting; and actual attempts to score by teams in desperation at the end of the game. These should be counted, but, each team probably only experiences a few drives like this per year; often, they turn it over on downs or have a turnover before the clock runs out. Only plays that fail to score a TD on the last play of the half on 1st-3rd down should be counted, and those are really relatively rare.

So, with that exception, I should have compiled the results of every drive in 2008. And the results are:

Missed FG1552.8%
Lost fumble3286.0%
TO on downs2314.2%
Blocked punt130.2%

Drives per team171.5
Drives per team/game10.7

Scoring drives196735.8%
"TO" drives121322.1%

My early estimate -- that 1/3 of drives result in scores -- isn't too far off, as 35.8% of drives in 2008 resulted in either a touchdown or a field goal. But look at the last row. I count a "TO Drive" as a drive that ends in a very bad result for the offense: a turnover (fumble, interception, or downs), blocked punt, missed FG, or safety. In fact, your team has a better chance of bungling an offensive possession than it does of scoring a touchdown! 22.1% seems strangely high for me, but then again, I don't watch many Cleveland Browns games (ha!).

Bonus stat: The average drive scores its offense 1.89 points, if you count a safety as -2 points for the offense (and if you don't, it only raises the average by less than 1/100 of a point).

I'm also pretty close on my "10 drives per game" metric, although that 10.7 statistic would probably be pushed over 11 if it included those game-ending and half-ending drives I'm omitting. I also thought about baseball while putting this together. With 16 games in the NFL season and 162 in the MLB season, people often equate each game in the NFL to 10 MLB games, such as by saying that a three-game losing streak in the NFL is like a 30-game streak in MLB. When I was putting this together, I thought of the 10 drives/game concept and wondered if you could possibly equate each drive to an individual MLB game.

The answer is "yeah, if you're into that." With about 171 drives per season (maybe closer to 180 if we include the "invisible" drives), it's a fair comparison. And it makes one-game playoffs (which the Twins should be experts in by now) even more statistically dubious for their sample size. Imagine that two NFL teams finish with the same record on top of their division. Forget tiebreakers or even a tiebreaker game. We'll determine the division champion by giving each team one drive! It'll be just like a college football overtime game! I love what the Twins did on Tuesday night, but, in the grand scheme of things (especially when you consider how they won -- in extra innings with the lead flip-flopping back and forth), those two teams were identical in ability and the Twins got lucky, thanks to the results of an extremely small sample size.

I warned you there'd be baseball.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Now that's what I'm talking about!

When I lived in Wisconsin for three years, a fellow Vikings fan said to me, on a Monday morning in the office after the Vikings had beaten the Packers, "There's nothing I like to see more than sad Packer fans."

I don't know if Packer fans worldwide are more sad than they are enraged by their team's shoddy performance last night. Give credit to the Vikings pass rush, Jared Allen and his 4.5 sacks in particular, but no quarterback should be forced to spend time behind that purgatory of an offensive line. And any lingering Brett Favre fans in Packerland should have pretty much completely expunged whatever lingering love they had for #4 as he carved up the Packer secondary like...well, like he's carved up the Viking secondary for years.

Yes, I said it. I can grouse about Adrian Peterson's lousy 2.2 yards per carry (and fumble), or about the Vikings' letting the Packers back into the game late, or about Brad Childress's awe-inspiring new way to fail. (We didn't challenge because you couldn't get the red flag out of your pants?!? Are you actually an NFL head coach or just some guy the Wilfs found on the street outside the Metrodome?) But, apart from an interception that was overturned by a dubious pass interference call in the end zone, Brett Favre played a flawless game, completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 271 yards and three TDs, pump-faking the Green Bay defense to death while not taking a single sack. And he even threw passes consistently more than 6 yards downfield. Gee, this guy might actually have something left in the tank, at least in October. I'll have to reserve final judgment for January, though.

Admittedly, the Vikings got some help from the officials. In addition to that "pass interference" call, there were a few more that seemed almost suspiciously like some kind of "We have to make sure Favre wins" conspiracy by the NFL and ESPN. In total, the Packers were flagged for seven infractions while the Vikings, officially, only were hit with two yellow hankies, for a total of 10 yards. That said, when Jared Allen wasn't getting to Aaron Rodgers, especially on those final two Packer scoring drives, he was often egregiously held by the Packers' third-string left tackle, which was about the only way he could stop the man.

And how about that Sidney Rice? When we play pickup basketball, I want him on my team!

There were a few more flaws -- and some good plays -- in the Vikings' performance Monday night, but for now I'm happy to gloss over them and bask in the glow of a 4-0 team that's enjoying a two-game lead in its division and has a bye next week...

Wait, we play St. Louis? Same thing.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I hear there's some big football game tonight. I don't know, have you guys heard anything about this?

All kidding aside, I'll be turning ESPN on at about 8:37 p.m., and not a minute earlier, so as to avoid the HYPE (there's so much, it uses capital letters) that will be spewing out incessantly all day long. Here's hoping that I won't have to mute the TV when Official Cheerleader of Monday Night Football Jon Gruden is canonizing Brett Favre.

Short post today, as I don't want to get too heavily into the HYPE machine myself. I'll have more thoughts and analysis tomorrow, which will be the beginning of the 27-day countdown until Brett Favre goes to Green Bay to play the Packers at Lambeau. Then we can all relax.