Tuesday, January 30, 2007

So...Anyone Know Who the Vikings are Hiring?

Apparently, no one has a clue about who the Vikings are going to hire to replace Mike Tomlin. After Eagles' linebacker coach,Steve Spagnuolo (Childress' second choice after Tomlin last year and likely first choice this year) was hired by the Giants the day Tomlin was announced as the Steelers' head coach, all anyone has has been able to do is speculate. Kevin Seifert has three possibilities:

• "The first choice of coach Brad Childress -- and possibly the second and
third -- opted for another position.
• Unable to make a quick hire, the Vikings are waiting to interview an
assistant from this year's Super Bowl teams, Chicago and Indianapolis. Both
teams play a version of the Tampa-2 defense Tomlin employed last season in
Minnesota, minimizing the level of disruption that goes along with changing
• The Vikings already have settled on a candidate but have not announced it
for competitive or other reasons."

If I were more creative, I'd come up with some type of humorous fourth reason, such as Zygi deciding that he would take over the defense as part of his new hands on approach. Or maybe that the Vikings are in negotiations with Bud Grant to come back, and the lack of press coverage is due to the lack of cell phone coverage where Grant is hunting white tail. Or maybe Zygi is trying to convince a legendary Giants coach to come out of retirement. Then again, that hire would almost guarantee the same outcome as Randy Wittman's.

As you can see, I really have no idea what the Vikings's plans are. No one does. Nor am I able to weigh in on what they should do (sorry folks, but I'm not very knowledgable about random defensive position coaches) until some possible candidates are discussed. And, to be honest, I'd much rather find out about the Vikings' new defensive coordinator when he's hired than have it play out in the press like Tomlin's hiring by the Steelers was. Maybe, in this era of constant rumors and 24 hour coverage, it's refreshing to not be innundated by rumors and speculation. Or maybe, after four years at Georgetown, I'm just used to the secrecy.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Look at the Offense: Whither the Tight End

Now, I know this might come as a shock to you, but apparently the Vikings did have a tight end on their roster this year. His name’s Jermaine Wiggins, and you might remember him as the one of the more valuable tight ends last year, as his 11.9 DPAR was the tenth best at the position. That’s what happens when you average 8.2 yards per catch while hauling in 69 passes for a total of 568 yards.

Wiggins is, by all accounts, still a quality tight end. And yet, he almost dropped off the map in 2006. He caught fewer passes (46) for fewer yards (386) this year, dropping from the team’s leader in receptions to the fourth option. The question, of course, is how much of Wiggins’ massive drop in production (he only posted a 1.9 DPAR, good for 29th at the position) was due to Childress’ offense, and how much was because of a decline in the quality of his and Brad Johnson's play?

Now, not having access to Childress’ infamous play card, it’s hard to know where Wiggins fit into the offense. With that caveat, however, it looks as if the drop in Wiggins’ production has as much to do with him as it does Childress. Considering that many of the passing plays were dump offs of some sort, it would seem that a good tight end would have been more involved. And, based on the stats from Childress’ last year with the Eagles, where tight end L.J. Smith lead the team in receptions and finished second in receiving yards, it would stand to reason that the tight end would normally see a healthy amount of passes come their way. And, with Wiggins’ catch rate dropping from 76% in 2005 to 69% this season; it would seem that a large part of the blame can be laid on his shoulders.

Whether or not the Vikings choose to cut bait on their Bostonian tight end, they need to get more production from the position next year. Having a quality receiver at tight end creates mismatches no matter who the defense covers him with, and is also a very effective way to attack the cover 2 defenses that are all the rage these days. Not to mention that both Super Bowl participants have quality tight ends (the Colts have two, actually) and as we saw in the AFC Championship game, having a tight end that can run a good seam route can be the difference between going to Miami and going home.

[A look at the Wide Recievers should be coming tomorrow, and if you've missed any of the other positions, the links are below]

Offensive Line

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Coordinator Moves On

Make no mistake about it--losing Mike Tomlin hurts. Tomlin took an average defense and turned it into a unit that almost carried the Vikings and their stagnant offense to the playoffs. And now that he had a year of experience as a coordinator, the Vikings defense was poised to be special next year (with the right additions).

Instead, the effectiveness of the unit the Vikings were counting on to carry the load next season is suddenly in doubt. Rather than having a talented coordinator with connections to star free agents (see Rice, Simeon), the Vikings have to reconsider the very philosophies their defense is based on. Should they go out and get a defensive coordinator that utilizes the 3-4 to capitalize on their linebacker depth, Pat Williams All Pro play at nose tackle and slide Kevin Williams to defensive end? Do they stick with the Tampa 2, let Napoleon Harris go and concentrate on finding a defensive end that get to the quarterback? Or perhaps they should move towards a scheme based on blitzing and man to man coverage, making a shutdown corner to pair with Antoine Winfield the priority.

It's because of that uncertainty that Tomlin's departure hurts the most. It forces the Vikings' to focus on what type of defense they're going to play rather than what players they need to improve it. And really, there wasn't anything the Vikings could do about it. This isn't like when Scott Linehan left to become the Dolphins' Offensive Coordinator because Red was too cheap to pay him a coordinator's salary. Tomlin was going to become a head coach sooner than later and it's just the Vikings luck that Bill Cower's retirement opened up a great job with an ownership group willing to hire a young, inexperienced minority as a head coach. [I know this probably sounds racist but I wouldn't be surprised if the Rooneys had made it a point to hire a minority if possible, since they were the lead ownership group on the minority interview rule, otherwise known as the Rooney Rule.]

Unlike a lot of other Vikings' fans, I don't believe this ends any chance of success for 2007. While it would have been nice to have Tomlin around next year and in position to take over if Brad Childress and the Vikings failed to improve next year, a suitable replacement can be found that can keep the defense playing at a high level. Zygi Wilf has shown a willingness to pay for top notch coordinators and Brad Childress has already hired one good defensive coordinator. I don't know who the candidates to replace Tomlin are yet, but I know the the Vikings should be able to get a top notch replacement thanks to Zygi's open wallet, Childress' ability to identify quality defensive coaches and the massive amount of talent they have coming back. Hopefully, when they identify the next Mike Tomlin this time, he actually sticks around for more than a year.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Tom Brady is a Choker

After the Bears and Bernard Berrian turned what was shaping up to be a good game into a blowout, the AFC Championship game somehow managed to entertain all the…how did Simmons put it again…oh yeah—“Haters”.
To be honest, I gave up on the game after Samuel housed an interception to make it 21-3 Patriots and turned on the Simpsons. Luckily for me, I flipped back to check the score in time to see the Colts threatening for their first touchdown. And after they punched it in, got a stop and somehow managed to tie it up when Manning threaded a ridiculous throw to Marvin Harrison for the two point conversion, well, I stopped caring about whether Family Guy was a rerun or not.
As a Kevin Garnett fan, I have a soft spot for athletes who get labeled as chokers. That means, of course, that I’ve always had a soft spot for guys like A-Rod and Peyton Manning. And I’m glad to see Peyton turn in a clutch performance, especially after it looked like he was going to fall short again when the Colts went three and out with less then four minutes remaining. And I have to say, I also took a lot of satisfaction in Brady’s failure on the Patriots last two drives.
Which leads me to my next point—if the Colts just completed the biggest comeback in a conference championship, does that mean the Patriots had the biggest choke job ever? I know New Englanders like to label the Yankees as the biggest chokers because of the 2004 ALCS—is it fair for Indianapolis fans to label the 2006 Patriots as the biggest chokers now?
Finally, IchirioHoya maintained a one game lead in the Playoff PickOff by going 1-1, but both Stud and Jason can catch him in two weeks with the right pick. And if you’re wondering, I’d rather not talk about my picks this week. Thanks.


Wild Card Round

Divisional Round

Conference Championship Round


























[I’ll have my thoughts on the Mike Tomlin situation up Monday Afternoon. If you’re wondering, there is a silver lining—at least Tomlin moved up, rather than laterally like Scott Linehan did when he left for the Dolphins in 2004.]

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Ragnarok's Playoff Pickoff--Conference Championships

As many others have mentioned, there are only three games left in the season. After Sunday, we’ll only have the Super Bowl left. So pay attention, because the picks made today could be the deciding factor in what has been a very close contest so far. I think we can all agree that events this momentous deserve a pre-game show. I couldn't get the "best", so instead, I had to look outside the box for the Host of The Ragnarok's Playoff Pickoff PreGame Show. Ladies and Gentlemen, Stephen Colbert:

New Orleans v. Chicago

Jason: Saints—Will Smith > Udeze [Editors’ Note: Jason is basing his picks this week on “nonsequiter, negative Vikings comments because [he’s] in that type of mood”]

IchiroHoya: Saints--Going with my heart over my head on this one. The Saints are by far the least objectionable team remaining in the playoffs. Drew Brees out duels Rex Grossman and the Saints head for the Super Bowl.

Stud: Bears. I'm picking straight against my gut on this one because nothing in football makes sense to me this season.

Mookie: Saints-- To quote Steven Colbert, “If Saints can’t beat Bears, then God is dead.”

TBird41: Saints—Rex Grossman is still a liability, and Tommie Harris was a huge part of da Bears ability to stop the run. McAllister and Bush will run all over Soldier Field and Brees will avoid the costly turnovers that would allow da Bears defense to make up for their offense’s inability to put points on the board.

New England v. Indianapolis

Jason: Colts--Ex-Vikings coaches (Dungy, Moore) > Current Vikings coaches (Childress, Bevell)

IchiroHoya: Colts--I haven’t picked the Colts yet in the playoffs and they have won twice. I figure if I finally pick them, they'll lose and I won't have to worry any more about the possibility of my father shooting someone in the wake of a Colts’ Super Bowl win.

Stud: Colts-- Same reason as above. Setting up a Super Bowl I will have no desire to watch. Kind of like last year.

Mookie: Patriots—Tom Brady’s dreamy eyes will once again mesmerize the Colts allowing him to drive for the game winning field goal.

TBird41: Patriots—I don’t believe in the Colts’ newfound ability to stop the run. More likely than not, it’s a small sample size mirage (think the Vikings’ putting up 31 points on Seattle and Arizona). That, more than anything, will be the deciding factor in the game. Of course, the media will be to full of man love for Brady and Belicheck to notice.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Look At the Offense--A Bit of Quarterbacking Hope

And now it’s time to get into the really ugly parts of the Vikings’ offense: the quarterbacks, tight ends and wide receivers, starting with the ugliest, the quarterbacks. The Vikings’ quarterback trio of Brad Johnson, Brooks Bollinger and Tarvaris Jackson produced a pathetic 5.36 passing yard per attempt, good for 26th in the league. Brad Johnson, the Black Hole of Suck, was, of course, a large part of that, turning in the worst season of his career, completing 61.5% of his passes for 2750 yards, 9 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He finished with a QB rating of 72.0, and was probably the worst quarterback in the NFL to get 400+ attempts. Vikings’ fans should be thankful that he won’t be back, as he’s well into a dramatic decline phase that will likely lead to his accepting a backup role somewhere else. Or, if the Vikings are really lucky, the Lions will sign him to replace Jon Kitna as their starter.

Sadly, the Tarvaris Revolution wasn’t any more successful. His passer rating was an awful 62.5, while his DPAR of -11.9 and DVOA of -44.8% were among the worst by any quarterback this year. Then again, that’s usually what happens when a quarterback project gets playing time his first year, especially considering he was making the jump from 1-AA. Thankfully, The Revolution’s play on the field showed that he has potential. Yes, he had some awful interceptions, but he also made some amazing throws, including a beautiful (and effortless) deep ball that Troy Williamson dropped, and a pass to Mewelde Moore as Jets defenders dragged him down that Moore turned into a touchdown (demonstrating my point). He also showed off his speed and mobility (especially in the Red Zone) and a willingness to throw the ball away when called for. As he becomes more comfortable with the speed of the NFL, the stupid mistakes should decrease, leaving only the solid decision making and big play ability.


DPAR (Season 1)

DVOA (Season 1)

DPAR (Season 2)

DVOA (Season 2)

T. Jackson





E. Manning





C. Simms





C. Frye





J. Losman





A. Smith





P. Rivers





As I said before, Tarvaris’ ugly stats do not mean that he won’t improve. Since 2003, there have been six quarterbacks who had 250 passing attempts in their first season of playing and then became the starting quarterback the following season. Only Charlie Frye failed to improve upon his first season's performance. While this table is not predictive, it does show that Tarvaris’ stats from this year should be taken with a grain of salt. Assuming the Star Tribune wasn’t lying about Tarvaris’ work ethic, I would bet he’s more likely to become the sixth quarterback in the last four seasons to make a huge improvement in his performance during his second season.

A Look At the Offense--Adding More Moore

After his hire, Brad Childress emphasized how important the running game was to a successful offense. And while the offense was not as good as the Vikings would have liked, Childress was seemingly successful in establishing a better ground game then the Vikings had the year before.

This season, the Vikings called run plays 43.1% of the time, good for 442 carries and 1820 yards. This was an increase from 2005, when the Vikings rushed only 40.3% of the time, with 381 carries for 1467 yards. The increased focus on running wasn’t the only difference between 2005 and 2006. In 2005, the load was split between Mewelde Moore, who lead the team with 40.7% of the carries and Michael Bennett, who got the handoff 33.1% of the time. This year, the Vikings featured Chester Taylor, who despite missing a game due to a rib injury, had 68.6% of the carries. Moore’s work load dropped considerably, to only 5.4%, which was surpassed by Artrose Pinner’s 9.7%.

This concentration of the carries was no surprise, considering that neither Moore nor Bennett were able to get comfortable splitting carries and that Taylor was brought in to be the feature back. That does not, however, mean that Childress allocated the carries efficiently.

According to Football Outsiders, Chester Taylor was mediocre at best this season, amassing only 6.7 Defensive Points Above Replacement and only having -10.1% Defensive Value Over Average. DPAR is “the total number of points scored due to plays where this RB carried/caught the ball, compared to a replacement-level RB in the same game situations” and is adjusted based on opponents, while DVOA “represents value, per play, over an average RB in the same game situations” and is also adjusted for opponent. Taylor’s mediocre 6.7 DPAR was the 33rd best DPAR, behind such Hall of Fame backs as Ron Dayne (12.4 DPAR) and Julius Jones (13.7 DPAR). His -10.1% DVOA was 40th in the league. DVOA is a stat that needs context, however, which is provided by Success Rate. Success rate “represents the player's consistency, measured by successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays. A player with higher VOA and a low success rate mixes long runs with downs getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage. A player with lower VOA and a high success rate generally gets the yards needed, but doesn't often get more.” There, Taylor does better, ranking 22nd overall, with a 46% Success Rate. Basically, Childress entrusted 29.5% of the Vikings’ total offense to a player in the bottom half of the league in value (and if you think that’s bad, just wait till we get to the quarterbacks and wide receivers).

What makes it worse is that the Vikings had a better player cooling his heels on the bench in Mewelde Moore. Moore racked up 3.8 DPAR in limited playing time, mainly due to his 33.4% DVOA. If he’d been able to produce that kind of value over a full season’s worth of carries, it would have been the 4th highest total amongst running backs and would likely have vaulted him into the top five in DPAR. Of course, odds are he would have been unable to do so, considering LDT had the fourth best DVOA, with 24.1%, and was only surpassed by backs splitting carries. Moore’s production was also lower in 2005, with 10.4 DPAR (19th overall), 1.9% DVOA (19th overall) and 43% Success Rate (31stoverall).

Now, when I say that Mewelde Moore is a better player than Chester Taylor, I am not advocating that Moore start over Taylor. Moore’s injury history suggests that he would break down with too heavy of a workload. He is also not as consistent as Taylor, as shown by Taylor’s superior Success Rate. Instead, the Vikings should take a page from the Saints and run more of a two back offense. Admittedly, Taylor is no Deuce McAllister, and Moore is nowhere near as explosive as Reggie Bush. However, there are similarities between the two duos. Taylor and McAllister both have better Success Rates than DVOA’s, (McAllister’s SR is 7th overall at 53% and his DVOA is 16th overall at 9.8%), while Bush and Moore are the opposite (Bush’s SR is 34th at 43% and his DVOA is 39th at -3.6%). Both pairs also have similar running styles, with Taylor and McAllister being better between the tackles, while Moore and Bush are better in space.

As we saw this year, running the ball more often does not guarantee a good offense. If those carries aren't allocated properly, it can actually become something of a drag on the offense. While the running backs added more value this year than last, they could have added even more if the carries had been allocated differently. And that’s why the Vikings need to shift their rushing philosophy by lessening the load on Chester Taylor and giving Mewelde Moore more opportunities. Just by doing that, the Vikings should have a better running game (and thus a better offense) in 2007 than they did in 2006.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Ragnarok's Playoff Pickoff--Standings

After a great weekend of football, our esteemed pickers are all still at .500 or better and all are still in the hunt for the title. And I'm the only person who has yet to do better than .500 in a round.

The Standings


Wild Card Round

Divisional Round





















[Sorry for the short entry. I'll be finishing up the analysis of the Vikings' performance on offense this week, with a look at who they should target in the draft and when hopefully mixed in]

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Ragnarok's Playoff Pickoff--Divisional Round

It’s round two of the Ragnarok’s Playoff PickOff, and this is where the knowledgeable (lucky) football fans distinguish themselves from the pack. The non Vikings’ fans are currently all tied for first with 3-1 records (IchirioHoya, Stud and Mookie) with the two Vikings’ fans only a game back at 2-2 (Jason and myself). So let’s get to the picks:

Indianapolis at Baltimore

Jason: Colts--Several advertisers breathe easier after the Peyton Manning corporate machine survives another week.

IchirioHoya: Ravens--Alot of Ravens rookies werent even born when the Colts skipped town in the middle of the night in 1984. Most of the people in attendance at the game were, and, to use my father as an example, they havent forgotten what the Irsay family did in moving that team and still can't say the name Robert Irsay without either prefacing it with an expletive or inserting one in the middle of the name.. This stadium is going to be loud. Playoff atmosphere + tenacious defense + competent offense= Ravens win.

Stud: Ravens--It's Peyton Manning in the playoffs against a great defense.

Mookie: Ravens—I’m from murrrland. I have to go with my roots. [Editor’s Note: The reasoning for the pick is fine, but Redskins fans are not allowed on the Ravens bandwagon now. Nice try though.]

TBird41: Ravens—As all Vikings’ fans know, Brian Billick (unlike Herm Edwards) knows how to run an offense. That and he has the best defense in the NFL. The Ravens run for 150 yards and pick off Manning a few times and walk away with the win.

Philadelphia at New Orleans

Jason: Saints--Brees exploits the Jim Johnson blitz schemes.

IchirioHoya: Saints--Teams headed for a conference title game don't look as bad as the Eagles did in the first quarter against the Giants. Against a real football team- the Eagles performance last week would have lead to a double digit loss.

Stud: Eagles--The only reason this game is in New Orleans and not Philadelphia is a last second field goal in Week 6. The Saints were one of the feel good stories of the year, but it ends Saturday night.

Mookie: Saints--New Orleans is awesome and the chief export of Reggie Bush is pain.

TBird41: Eagles—As much as this pains me to do, the Saints defense is bad against the run and bad against the pass. The offensive advantage the Saints have just isn’t big enough to cover for their defensive weakness.

Seattle at Chicago

Jason: Chicago--The cold conditions will prevent the Bears from entrusting the passing game, enabling grossman to survive another day.

IchirioHoya: Bears--The Seahawks essentially lost to the Cowboys. Through no fault of their own- they survived to play in this game. The Bears arent all that good either- but- the Seahawks do not deserve to be here.

Stud: Bears--The Seahawks got lucky against the Cowboys. Meanwhile, Rex Grossman admitted to not giving 100% in the Bears loss to Green Bay. The Bears will lose soon, but not this weekend.

Mookie: Seahawks--I like the neon green gloves!

TBird41: BearsChicago will have the training wheels on Grossman on Sunday, preventing him from screwing up too much. That, combined with the fact the Seahawks are not in any way, shape or form a good team, means that Chicago should be able to win easily.

New England at San Diego

Jason: Chargers--After losing Belichek goes on a Napoleonic rage pushing Marcus McNiel and Jamal Williams and consequently dies. Robert Kraft sends Bill to a cryogenic lab and continues to coach Patriots for three more seasons.

IchirioHoya: Patriots--I hate all the sportswriters who perform fellatio on Tom Brady every time they write an article on the NFL as much as anyone else, BUT, I cannot in good conscience pick Phillip Rivers over Brady in this one. Something will happen that enables the Pats to win.

Stud: Chargers--Hardest game of the weekend to pick. It's hard to pick against the Pats, but I have to go with my gut. Schottenheimer proves his critics wrong, for one week anyway.

Mookie: Chargers—I heart LT!!

TBird41: Patriots—Belicheck owns young quarterbacks, quarterbacks making their first playoff start usually lose and the Chargers, even with Tomlinson, have been average if Rivers doesn’t play well. Unless Shawne Merrimon injects himself with a herd’s worth of cow steroids before the game, the Chargers are going to lose.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Look At the Offense--The Line

I'll be honest--as I was thinking about the performance of this year's offense, I was fully prepared to place a lot of blame on the offensive line. After watching all the penalties, the lines inability to protect the quarterback and the Vikings' average rushing game, I thought the unit was mediocre at best, and possibly as bad as the one from last year, despite the additions of Steve Hutchinson and Matt Birk.

Before I started typing however, I went searching for some numerical backing. And I'm thankful I did, because I was dead wrong. The offensive line was not the problem this year. In fact, the offensive line was the only aspect of the unit that improved from last year, according to the stats used by Football Outsiders and Cold, Hard Football Facts. Both sites use different measures, but both agree--the 2005 Vikings had one of the worst offensive lines in the league (31st according to FO, 30th according to CHFF) while the 2006 line was above average (14th according to FO, 11th according to CHFF). Clearly, the talent infusion worked well enough (at least on the left side) to vastly improve the performance of the offensive line.

That does not, however, mean that the line does not need to be upgraded this off season, or that it should not be a priority. The penalties are still an issue, and a sign of a line that is either undisciplined or not talented enough or both. Nor did my eyes deceive me--the stats also say the Vikings' line was awful at protecting the QB. And last time I checked, inexperienced quarterbacks do not mix well with continuous pressure. So while the offensive line was not the black hole of suck that I thought it was, if the Vikings want to improve their offense, one of the their goals for this off season should be to continue upgrading the offensive line, particularly on the right side and focusing on linemen that can protect the Tarvaris Revolution.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Thoughts on the Weekend of the Playoffs

  • After a first round with one well played game, two close games and one clunker, there's a three way tie atop the Playoff PickOff leaderboard: Stud, IchirioHoya and Mookie were all 3-1, with Jason and myself bringing up the rear at 2-2. How people arrived at those totals was also kind of interesting. Jason went 0-2 on Saturday, but was 2-0 on Sunday, while I did the opposite. To go along with that, Stud, Ichirio and Mookie all got different games wrong.
  • Weirdly enough, the game I enjoyed the most was the Patriots-Jets game. It was the only game that was well played by both teams (at least it was until the Jets fell apart at the end). The other three games were all pretty much slopfests, filled with turnovers, missed tackles and poor execution. Of course, despite this, the media has already started calling the two NFC games "Instant Classics" because they were close.
  • While I enjoyed Tony Romo's mishap immensely (Schadenfreude is the best), I don't think I'm going to enjoy the media'a rehabilitation of his image, They've obviously chosen him as the next overhyped quarterback that plays with a love of the game that no one else can match (or as I like to call it, the Farve), but they can't do that if people view him as a goat. So far, it looks like they're going to paint him as a victim of fate, but make no mistake about it, they'll switch tactics if that doesn't stick. Just you watch.
  • Can someone explain to me why Herm Edwards doesn't get skewered for being so happy after his team lost? Or at least explain to me why Kansas City was willing to give up a draft pick for a coach that wasn't able to exploit the Larry Johnson-Colts Run Defense matchup?
  • I think (and hope) that Tomlin is just getting interviews because he's a minority , rather than because he's going to get a head coaching job. I know it's crass, but I like watching the Vikings when they have a good defense and I'd like to have that experience again next year.
  • Finally, for those who aren't confident in Brad Childress' abilities as a head coach, I offer some hope--Bill Cowher will be a head coach in the NFL again in a year or two (or right around when the Vikings would be looking for a replacement for Childress).

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Ragnarok's Playoff Pickoff--Wild Card Round

Welcome to the Ragnarok’s inaugural Playoff PickOff contest. We have five brave souls who put their fingers to keyboard and came up with their picks. The winner gets to post on whatever they want (there are some exceptions, pretty much all of which fall into the category of “My girlfriend trying to embarrass me”). Trash talking and late entries are encouraged in the comments. So let’s get to it:


Jason: KC. I heard something on radio this morning regarding cold teams entering the playoffs and the radio never lies.

IchirioHoya: CHIEFS--You win with defense. The Colts will not be able to stop LJ. If he gets 30 carries, the Chiefs will win. A typical Peyton Manning so-so January performance will ensure that the Chiefs win.

Stud: Indianapolis--We're all winners here because NBC will probably show Herm Edwards' press conference from this week during the pregame. As for the game, it's at the RCA Dome against a 9-7 team that hasn't beaten a playoff team since October, so I'm going with the Colts.

Mookie: Indianapolis--Peyton Manning is ridiculously good.

TBird41: Indianapolis—I just can’t pick a team led by Herm Edwards. Yes, they have Larry Johnson, but Edwards will find a way to mess that advantage up.


Jason: Dallas for 2 reasons. One, Parcells just admitted to having a cat named Cody that can do “athletic and amazing things”, which is too good a story for a one and done playoff contender. Two, Seahawks just signed a mortgage broker at Cornerback. If Vikings have pass protection breakdowns due to the loss of Davonte, this should not bode well for Hawks.

IchirioHoya: SEAHAWKS--The real Dallas Cowboys are the bunch that we saw play against the Lions on New Years Eve. Without momentum and with plenty of internal dissention- this team just plain isn't that good.

Stud: Cowboys --Neither team had a very good December, but somebody has to win the game.

Mookie: Seahawks—Their QB has the hot wife from the View. Plus the Cowboys can die in fire.[Editor’s Note: Not quite—that’s Matt Hasselbeck’s brother, Tim]

TBird41: Seahawks—In a battle of mediocre teams, I think that home field advantage and Romo’s newfound tendency to turn the ball over will be the deciding factors.


Jason: Patriots. In the battle of 2 teams that thoroughly embarrassed the Vikings I’ll take the chalk straight up. I think Vegas is begging people to take the Jets, and Vegas has big shiny hotels that cost a lot of money to construct.

IchirioHoya: PATRIOTS--Tom Brady is a little banged up but, its January, he'll figure something out. Chad Pennington just doesnt stirke me as being able to lead a playoff upset in Foxboro.
Stud: Patriots--The Pats may not be as threatening as they were a few years ago, but the Jets don't give me enough confidence to pick against them at home.

Mookie: Patriots—They’re at home, and Tom Brady is both ridiculous and dreamy.

TBird41: Jets—I’m taking the Jets for two reasons: Tom Brady is football’s Derek Jeter (really good but somehow still overrated by the media) and because I want the Mangenius to be able to quote Darth Vader. I am a nerd sometimes.


Jason: Philly. I kind of want to take Giants, but think Tiki is a poor-mans Westbrook and think Eli will throw a TD pass to either Lito Shepard or Brian Dawkins.

IchirioHoya: EAGLES--Tiki Barber won't be able to make the Eagles defense look as silly as he made the un-motivated Redskins look in week 17. Without him having a monster game, the rest of the Giants flaws will show big time!

Stud: Eagles--The G-Men are offended that they are underdogs. It could be that 2-6 skid to close the season. Or maybe that 4 of those losses were to NFC playoff teams, including a 14 point loss to the Eagles and a game where they never had an offensive play in Saints territory. But no, that makes too much sense. I guess they're blaming global warming.
Mookie: Giants—I want Stud to cry after the Eagles lose.

TBird41: Giants—I’m having flashbacks to the 2004 playoffs. Probably a mistake, but I can’t say I really care, because I really enjoy reliving the Vikings’ victory over the Packers in the playoffs.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

2007 Vikings=2000 Ravens?

The Vikings' defense was unquestionably their best unit in 2006. If they'd exerted a little bit of effort in their last game, they would have broken the 2000 Ravens' record for fewest rushing yards allowed in the modern era. Their pass defense, however, left something to be desired, finishing tied for last in yards allowed. But here's the thing--that statistic is misleading. The Vikings pass defense (or at least their secondary) was a lot better than it appeared.

In Cold, Hard Football Facts.com's (from here on out, they're going to be CHFF) defensive passer rating metric, the Vikings's pass defense makes a huge jump in the rankings, going from last to fifth, as quarterbacks only turned in a 73.1 passer rating against them. Basically, the Vikings turned every quarterback they faced into Rex Grossman (73.9 passer rating). That means the yards that the Vikings defense gave up through the air were not a product of shoddy pass defense, so much as a product of the massive amount of pass plays their opponents ran against them.

There's a reason, however, that I included the parenthetical remark about the Vikings' secondary in the first paragraph. While the Vikings' defensive passer rating was remarkable, their defensive line play on pass plays was not. The low number of sacks is one indicator, as is the Vikings' low standing in the negative pass play percentage aspect (27th) of CHFF's Defensive Hog metric. And they likely would have placed higher than 5th in the time of possession aspect of that metric if they'd had an improved pass rush.

So what does all this have to do with this entry? Quite simply, the Vikings, barring any injuries, could have an even better defense next year if they improve their pass rush. The run defense's performance this year speaks for itself, and as I just showed, the secondary is a lot better than it looked. The only piece missing this year was a pass rush. If the Purple had been able to get to the quarterback this year, their defense would have been the best in the league.

And they should be able to bring in a quality defensive end, whether it's Simeon Rice, Dwight Freeny or Gaines Adams. And Erasmus James and Davonte Edwards should also be back from injury. With those additions, the only question marks will be at middle linebacker (if Napoleon Harris is allowed to leave to make way for Chad Greenway) and at safety (if Greg Blue replaces Darren Sharper). The reality is that the defense should be more talented next year than it is this year. Which is why they should be able to chase the 2000 Ravens for not just the title of best rush defense of the Parity Era, but for the title of best defense of the Parity Era.

[Today is your final opportunity to get in on the Ragnarok's Playoff PickOff--all you have to do is get your picks in for this weekend's games to me by this evening to enter, and you could win a post at the Ragnarok to do with as you wish!]

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Philosophy, A Defense and Draft Advice

It might be the offseason, but there's still a lot going on in Vikings' land. And there's still time to enter the Ragnarok's Playoff PickOff. Entries are due by Thursday evening, and the winner gets a free post to rant about whatever they want in a forum read by tens of Vikings fans. If you're looking for a preview, check out Vegan/Pacifist Viking's (or, you know, pretty much any website that covers football).

  • A philosophical question: was Travis Taylor officially done with the Vikings when the police tazered him, or did it not become final until they actually slapped the cuffs on him?
  • Is it just me, or should the Vikings take a page out of the police's book and just tazer Troy Williamson every time he drops a pass? I bet that would cure him of the drops. It couldn't make him any worse, that's for sure.
  • Brad Johnson is deluded if he thinks that some team is going to want an almost 40 year old quarterback with a 72.0 QB rating to start for them. Then again, he thought he deserved a pay raise earlier in the year and he wasn't afraid to agitate in the press for it.
  • Whoever this is, I applaud them. Well done, sir, well done.
  • Curious as to who the Vikings should be targeting in the draft? Well, according to Cold, Hard Football Facts, the Purple would be making a big mistake if they go after Dwayne Jarrett, Ted Ginn, Jr. or Calvin Johnson.
  • Luckily for the Vikings, they have other areas of need on offense. The right side of the offensive line was awful, which played a major factor in their league leading 123 penalties. It wouldn't hurt to bring in someone who can rush the passer either. Counting on the injury prone Erasmus James to fill that void by himself is the best idea.