Monday, October 16, 2006

It's a Game Week Again!

Is there anything worse than a bye week? The off season is bad, but you have the draft, free agency and hope and optimism. The bye week is different—it forces you to stop and wait—it’s like the scene in the first new Star Wars, where the two Jedi are fighting, but force fields keep popping up between them and they have to sit and stare at each other until the force fields go down and they can resume fighting. It’s excruciating. And, thankfully, it’s over, and nothing bad happened (that we know of).

So now the Vikings can focus their attention at the 11 game sprint to the playoffs, and these next two games are going to be huge. If they can split with the Patriots and Seahawks, they’ll be 4-3 and likely favored in seven of their last nine games. Now, there's no need to panic even if they drop the next two games, because they’ll still have a good shot at 10 wins and a playoff berth, but their margin for error will be pretty slim at that point.

Since it’s a game week (Have I mentioned that fact yet?), I’m going to spend today and tomorrow looking at the important match ups on both sides of the ball, starting with the offense. The Vikings can beat the Seahawks in Seattle, but they’re going to have to play their best game of the season in order to do so. And here are the match ups that the Vikings’ offense are going to have capitalize on to come away with a victory on Sunday.

  1. Troy Williamson and Marcus Robinson v. Michael Boulware

Seattle’s defense is bad against the pass. They’re the 5th worst in the NFL, allowing 239.2 yards a game through the air. If the Vikings are going to win, their receivers are going to have to get open. In order to do so, Williamson and Robinson must beat both Boulware and their suspect hands on their deep routes. If they can stretch the field, it will open up the underneath routes and create running lanes for Chester Taylor, and the offense might actually start to click.

  1. Brad Johnson v. Checkdowns

It doesn’t matter how open the receivers get if Brad Johnson keeps checking down on every play. He has to fight his instinct to dump it off immediately and look for his receivers deep, otherwise the offense is going to continue to be unable to move the ball. Due to the Seahawks' suspect secondary, the receivers are going to be open, but will Brad trust his arm enough to throw them the ball?

  1. The Offensive Line v. the Refs

The Vikings’ red zone woes can be attributed to two things—an inability to convert on third and long and the penalties that put them in third and long situations. They've only scored 3 touchdowns in 11 trips to the red zone and a lot of that can be blamed on poor line play. It seems like every time the Vikings get past the twenty, Marcus Johnson or Artis Hicks commit a holding penalty or false start and the drive stalls when they can’t convert on third and long. The Seahawks have a very good offense, and if the Vikings are going to keep up, they have to score touchdowns, not field goals.

  1. Chester Taylor v. Lofa Tatupa

It doesn’t matter how well Brad Johnson plays if the Vikings’ running game is shut down. Brad Childress has done a good job of sticking with the ground game (except against Buffalo), which means that Taylor is going to get 25-30 carries on Sunday. What he does with them will play a large factor in whether the Vikings’ offense is successful. If he can make Tatupa and Seattle’s other linebackers miss like he did against the Lions, he’ll have another big day, putting the passing game in situations where it can be successful (2nd and 5, 3rd and short). If not, the offense is going to have trouble putting together drives, since they aren't able to convert on anything longer than 3rd and 5.

  1. Bethel Johnson v. the Seahawks Coverage Team

Odds are the Vikings are going to need a big play out of their special teams or defense in order to win. That’s where the newest Viking comes in. The kick return team has done a good job of blocking, but Troy Williamson hasn’t been able to capitalize on it. If Bethel Johnson can find a hole, he has the speed to house one, something that would likely lead to a Vikings’ victory.

Don't forget to check back tomorrow, when I'll be breaking down the key matchups on the other side of the ball.


cheswick said...

I was reading your Point #1 and thinking, "No way! Not unless someone with an arm is starting at QB!" Then I read Point #2....

I agree that the Seabags have a crap secondary. I live in the PNW and we get bombarded with Seabags this and Seabags that. And they STILL talk about getting supposedly jobbed in the Super Bowl! To which I say, shut your expresso hole until you've lost FOUR of 'em!

No way the Vikes will run much. The seattle D will shut that down fast. I have my fingers crossed for some deep throws. At least some reasonable attempts would suffice, Mr Johnson.

Special teams could be a real advantage Vikings. Seattle has had problems on kick coverage before. Go Bethel!

TBird41 said...

If the Vikings aren't able to establish a running game, they are going to lose, barring some kind of perfect storm where they return a punt, an interception and a kickoff for a touchdown.

They don't necessarily need to get 150, or even 100 yards out of Chester Taylor, but if the Seahawks don't have to worry about the run, it is going to be a long day for the defense, since the offense is going to be going three and out a lot.

Pacifist Viking said...

The thing I like about the bye week is that I can spend Sunday free of stress, emotion, and torment. Just watching football without's sort of a necessary thing to do partway through the season.

I'm most worried about the Seahawks ripping up the Viking secondary. They've got four competent playmakers at WR. I don't know that we've got four competent cover guys.

TBird41 said...

I always think I'm going to enjoy not having a dog in the fight, but mainly, I just get bored. Especially when the only games on TV in my area are duds.

I'm going to discuss on the Seahawks WR/Vikings Secondary match up tomorrow. I can't say I'm all that confident in the Vikings' ability to win that one.