Friday, December 15, 2006

Back to .500?

The Jets are emblematic of the parity era NFL—talented, well coached, but wildly inconsistent. This is a team that went into Lambeau and smacked around the Packers, only to fall flat against the Bills the next week. They also stole a game from New England at Gillette Stadium the week after losing to the Browns. The difference? Whether or not they protected the ball.

In five of the Jets’ six losses, they turned the ball over at least twice, usually by throwing it to the other team. And when Chad Pennington isn’t throwing away games, he’s fumbling them away (sound familiar?). He’s thrown 15 interceptions so far and has fumbled five times, losing four of them. The picks aren’t that surprising either—he’s averaging more than an interception a game for his career.

And yet, if this game is anything like the rest of the season, he’s going to be throwing a lot on Sunday, something he should be used to by now, considering Pennington has had more than 30 attempts in each of the Jets’ last five games. It’s what the Vikings are able to do with those passes that will determine the outcome of the game—the Jets have lost five of the six games where Pennington has thrown two interceptions, with their sole victory coming against the Packers. In that game, Pennington didn’t throw his first pick until the Jets were up 31-3.

The Vikings, thankfully, have shown the ability to capitalize when they play quarterbacks with questionable decision making skills, which is why they’re third in the NFL this season with 18 interceptions. Of course, it doesn’t matter how many times the defense gets the ball if the offense gives it right back. Brad Childress needs to be smart with his play calling on Sunday. My advice for him is to stop by his impersonators’ seats before the game, borrow their play sheet and call the game from it. That way he won't accidently call a pass play.

Why? Because the Jets are absolutely horrible at stopping the run. They allow almost 140 yards a game, worse than such defensive juggernauts as the Cardinals, Lions and Vikings (take a guess which two are named sarcastically, and which one is not). No Vikings’ fan should have to complain about Brad Johnson’s interceptions, or about his obnoxious tendency to only throw short routes, because the Vikings should never be in a situation on Sunday where Johnson needs to throw the ball farther than a few yards.

As you can see, this game plays to the Vikings’ strengths. They’re playing a quarterback that likes to turn the ball over and a defense that can’t stop the running game. Those two reasons, combined with the fact that the game is in the Metrodome, are why the Vikings are going to get back to .500 on Sunday by pulling out a huge 24-17 win.

[Don't forget to stop by on Saturday to check out who to root for this weekend. Oh, and if you're curious, you were supposed to root for the Seahawks last night. My guess is you couldn't see the game anyway. Aren't cable negotiations fun?]

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