Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Tradition of Purple-Christmas Gift Ideas

Prior to Thanksgiving, I was contacted by a publicist who was promoting a new Vikings book, focusing on the history of the franchise. Would I be willing to promote the book on my site for an advanced copy? Well, of course--I love me some books, especially when they are 1) free and 2) on the Vikings. And I'm always willing to help a fellow Vikings' fan out. Not to mention the fact that, being a younger fan, I'm quite hazy on the history of the franchise. I've just started reading the book, and I promise a full book report when I'm done with it. If you're interested in checking it out, you can email the publisher to buy a copy. I'm through the first chapter, and it's looking like a book that pretty much any Viking fan would enjoy. The press release on the book and a picture of the cover is below.

Tell me you wouldn't want that book on your desk
St. Paul, MN – Since 1961 Minnesota Vikings fans from around the world have embraced their team no matter the record. One of those fans, St. Paul author Jim Bruton, has written a book detailing the team’s love affair with its supporters. Bruton, a 41-year season ticket holder, is more than a fan; he tried out for the team in 1967 and 1971 as a place kicker after finishing his football career and degree at the University of Minnesota. “A few years ago, after the team was criticized by the sports media for one unfortunate incident, I decided I needed to do something to show how important this team and its tradition are to our community,” said Bruton.

A Tradition of Purple: An Inside Look at the Minnesota Vikings published by Sports Publishing L.L.C., or toll-free at 877-807-6034, the nations number one ranked sports book publishing company, chronicles the great moments and positive influence the team has had on Minnesota and beyond for nearly a half-century. Told from a fan’s perspective, A Tradition of Purple recalls the games, players and fans that make the Vikings who they are today, Minnesota’s most popular sports franchise.

While his NFL career may not have been long, Bruton’s passion for the Vikings is evident in the connections and friendships he has maintained with former teammates, staff and coaches over the years. In fact, coaching legend and NFL Hall of Fame Member, Bud Grant wrote the forward to Bruton’s new book. “I had a fantastic experience writing it. With the help of the team I interviewed many former players and fans to capture the real reason we have embraced this team for so many years,” said Bruton. “The book is full of humor and stories that pull at the heart and illustrate the team’s connection and appeal to a wide ranging audience.”

Bruton isn’t new to writing about subjects close to his heart. His first book, The Big House: Life Inside a Supermax Security Prison, gives readers an inside look at the corrections system. A system Bruton knows first-hand after spending 35 years in the field of corrections and retiring as the warden of the state’s maximum security prison at Oak Park Heights. “I am always fascinated by people’s fascination with learning about what goes on behind the scenes of any business or organization,” he said.

When not writing about his passions, Bruton teaches corrections courses at Hamline University and the University of St. Thomas. But on Sunday’s and the occasional Monday night, Bruton can be found cheering on his favorite team from his seats at the Metrodome.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blitzing, Rushing Titles and RIP

One of the new wrinkles that Leslie Frazier has added to the defense is a blitz package to employ against easily confused and jittery quarterbacks. He first used it against Philip Rivers, who completed only 19 of 42 passes for 197 yards and an interception. He shelved it the next game, however, knowing that Brett Farve would likely pick apart the Vikings secondary. However, he's brought it out again against the Raiders and now the Giants and it's been very successful against two quarterbacks who don't make the best decisions. Against the Raiders, while Daunte was able to rack up 344 yards through the air, he was also sacked five times, fumbled twice and threw an interception. And we all saw how the blitzing worked against Eli Manning.

I fully expect the Vikings to continue blitzing for the rest of the season, since words like "easily confused", "jittery", "turnover machine" and "easily sackable" can be accurately used to describe Jon Kitna, Alex Smith/Trent Dilfer, Jay Cutler, Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell.

Rushing Titles
Want to know how good Adrian Peterson has been? He is 15th in rushing attempts, 12th in attempts per game and has sat out 2.5 games and still has 75 more rushing yards than Willie Parker, who leads the NFL in rushing attempts and in rushing attempts per game, yet is second in rushing yards with 1008.

RIP Sean Taylor
Whatever you want to say about Sean Taylor and his lifestyle choices, this was a young man with a young daughter who had his whole life before him. Not to mention the fact that he is an honorary Viking, a title he earned when he intercepted Brett Farve twice in October, interceptions that tied and broke George Blanda's career interception mark. His death is a tragedy, and the entire football world grieves for his family's loss.

The Purple Creed

I believe in AD, the Running Back almighty,
creator of new records.
and in the Purple Jesus, his other name, our star.
who was conceived by the power of Rob Brzezinski
drafted with the 7th Pick.
hurt his knee under Harris' Helmet,
was injured, sat out, and was buried.
He descended into rehab.
For the third game he rose again from the dead.
[More to come later today...and it won't be another ode to the Purple Jesus...I promise]

Monday, November 26, 2007

NFC Playoff Picture--There's Still Hope

After the big win against the Giants, the Vikings have played their way back into the playoff picture. I know, I wrote them off after the Green Bay game as well. And it's not going to be easy, but, more likely than not, the Vikings control their own destiny. I've left the division leaders (DAL, GB, TB, SEA) out of the following table since they are all up by at least two games and have included every team within a game of the final wild card spot (and there are a lot). If two teams are tied in the same division, the first tie breaker is head to head and then division record. Any two way ties of non division teams would be broken by head to head and then by the teams conference record. Ties between three or more teams would be broken by head to head (W-L against other teams), then conference record. If none of those work, well, we'll worry about it if it happens. The tiebreakers are all laid out here if you're interested.



NFC Record

Division Record

Tie Breakers

NFC Games Left

AFC Games Left





















@ SD, KC




































With games remaining against Detroit, Chicago and Washington, and with the tiebreaker over the Giants, the Vikings could conceivably play themselves into the playoffs. If they are able to win only those three games, that would put them at 8-8, with 6-6 NFC record and 3-3 division record and tiebreakers over the Giants, Washington and Chicago. Only Philadelphia would hold a head to head tiebreaker over them. If they managed to pull out another game, their 9-7 record would almost assure them a spot, especially if their ninth win came against San Francisco. All of their remaining games are winnable, but they have to at least win their three games against the other contenders, starting next week against the Lions.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Three Stars and Some Hope

Well...who saw that one coming? I did (well, sort of). The Vikings pressured Eli Manning all day and, well, as we saw against Philip Rivers, when you pressure an error prone quarterback, good things happen. Four interceptions later, the Vikings walked out of Giants Stadium with a victory and with a renewed sense of hope, only one game out of the final Wild Card spot. I'll have more on the Vikings' playoff hopes later this afternoon, because this post is about the players that made the Vikings' fifth victory happen. First, the honorable mentions:

  • Chad Greenway picked off his second career pass and outran Plexico Burress for his first career touchdown that ended any thought of a Giants comeback.

  • Ben Leber picked up a sack near the end of the game, which he deserved, because he helped keep the pressure on Eli Manning all day. He also contributed to the play of the game, by tipping Manning's pass at the line so that it was nice and easy for Dwight Smith to pick off and return for a touchdown.

  • Tarvaris Jackson had another efficient day, completing 10/12 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 5 times for 38 yards, including a 19 yard run that converted a 3rd and 4 and an 11 yard run that picked up a first down on 2nd and 11 on a drive that ended with a Ryan Longwell field goal that pushed the Vikings' lead to 27-10. He was sacked four times, however, and fumbled once. The juries still out on Tarvaris--his accuracy has come around the past two games, but most of his completions are on short patterns. He's shown he can air it out (his 60 yard pass to Sidney Rice today being a good example), but he hasn't shown that he can do much more than be an efficient (his career high is 213 passing yards).

  • Chester Taylor didn't have as good a game against the Giants as he did last week. In fact, he wasn't all that effective, gaining less than 2.5 yards per carry on 31 carries. That being said, his eight yard touchdown run in the second quarter was a thing of beauty. He ran left, broke a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and then ran into two Giants defenders at the line. He ran through them, bounced outside and then dragged another two Giants into the endzone with him. He earned that touchdown.
Those were the honorable mentions--now it's time to move onto the Three Stars of the Game:

Third Star: Sidney Rice
Sidney Rice continues to prove the Vikings' personnel people right--his 23 receptions is tied for fourth amongst rookie recievers, his 312 receiving yards and his three touchdowns are tied for third and no receiver has more receptions for 40+ yards than he does. And he made a great catch on a deep sideline pattern that opened the scoring for the Vikings. Everyone that thought he was another Troy Williamson should apologize.

Second Star: Darren Sharper
The game was tied. The Vikings had been forced to punt just shy of field goal range. The Giants were facing a third down play that, if they converted, would have swung the momentum completely in their favor. Eli Manning dropped back to pass, felt the rush, stepped up, threw and Darren Sharper stepped in front of Jeremy Shockey, picked off the pass and dashed for the end zone. The Giants wouldn't score again until the third quarter. Sharper's touchdown was his tenth, and he became the fifth defender in NFL history with ten defensive touchdowns, behind only Rod Woodson (13) and Aenas Williams (12).

First Star: Dwight Smith
Hopefully, he doesn't choose to celebrate this like he celebrated last preseason. If he does though, can you blame him? He had two interceptions, one which set up Chester Taylor's eight yard touchdown run and one that he returned 93 yards for a touchdown himself. His 112 yards on interception returns were only 17 yards less than Tarvaris Jackson threw for and more total yards than any none quarterback. Not a bad game for a safety who'd been battling hamstring issues all season. Not a bad game at all.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Look at the Giants Game

Earlier this year, I thought that the Vikings game against the Giants would be one of their more winnable games. The team seemed to be in full meltdown mode coming into the season, exchanging barbs with the now retired Tiki Barber and playing for a coach they didn't like who was in the final year of his contract. Looking at the Giants now, however, shows a team that should be good enough to beat the Vikings, but may actually be a good matchup for the Purple.

Despite having a big name quarterback and a big name receiver, the Giants' offense has mainly come on the ground. They're currently averaging only 5.77 yards per passing attempt, which is well below average at 20th in the NFL. In fact, it's only a little better than the Vikings 5.52 YPA. Football Outsiders also has a low opinion of the Giants air attack, as their passing DVOA is 0.0%, 20th overall, though much better than the Vikings' -11.0% DVOA. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Eli Manning has not played well at all. He has an 81.3 QB rating, which is 18th overall, and has 19.9 DPAR, which is 20th overall, .6 DPAR behind Philip Rivers. He doesn't really add any value, as his 0.5% DVOA (25th overall) shows. This is partly due to the fact that his best receiver has been hobbled with injuries for most of the season and partly due to the fact that he's not much better than an average quarterback. Of course, as the Vikings have demonstrated many times this season, you don't have to have an above average quarterback to be successful through the air against the Purple. It doesn't help that Antoine Winfield is still having hamstring issues and is listed as doubtful for the game.

Winfield's injury will also hurt the Vikings ability to stop the Giants' running game, which is among the best in the NFL and the key to stopping the Giants offense. The Giants' are fifth in yard per carry with 4.38 YPC and fifth in rushing DVOA. Of course, there's nothing the Vikings like more than facing a team that relies on its rushing game. Not all that surprising, considering the Purple are holding their opponents to 2.88 YPC, second best in the NFL and have the best DVOA against the run with a -29.6% DVOA. I'm also sure that Pat Williams, E.J. Henderson and company are looking forward to facing the Giants third string running back, one Rubeun Droughns, since Brandon Jacobs is out and Derrick Ward is doubtful.

The Vikings' offense also matches up pretty well against the Giants' defense. New York allows 4.0 yards per carry, 19th in the NFL. This is a team that can be run against, whether or not the Purple Jesus plays (make no mistake about it-he should not play. There is no reason to rush him, and letting him play on Sunday is definitely rushing him). Where the Giants' defense excels, however, is in creating negative pass plays, a statistic they lead the league in. 12.27% of the time that a quarterback drops back to pass against the Giants, something bad happens, which makes a lot of sense, considering they lead the league in sacks and have three players in the top 15 in sacks (Michael Strahan-8.0, Osi Umenyiora-8.0 and Justin Tuck-7.0). They are missing one of their defensive stars, however, Mathias Kiwanuka, which will have a significant effect on their defense. Kiwanuka moved to outside linebacker this year from defensive end and has been a dominant force for the Giants. He had 4.5 sacks and 46 tackles, both the 4th best on the Giants and he was an important part of their pass rush and their run defense. He won't be on the field, however, as he broke his leg against the Lions last week.

As you can see, the Vikings are facing a beat up Giants team that they match up well with. Whether that will be enough will depend largely on whether the defense can shut down Eli Manning and Jeremy Shockey the same way they shut down Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates and whether the offense can keep the Giants pass rush off of Tarvaris Jackson long enough to allow him to be an average quarterback. If they can do both of those things, they should win. If not, the Purple will come up just short, just like they have 5 times already this season. My guess? They come up short, falling 27-20.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Hallowed LCL and Negativity Despite the "W"

And in the Third Game...
The Purple Jesus' rehab assignment is going very well so far. He hasn't been ruled out for the Giants game yet (though he should be, as he should not play without practicing for a whole week), but he could be running on land by Wednesday. As of today, Peterson should be back by the game against da Bears in Week 15. That would give him three more games to add to the 1081 yards he's run for so far. His closest competitor for the NFL rushing title, Willie Parker, is still more than 100 yards behind him (Parker has 925 yards). He's still got a shot at the title if he's able to come back by the Lions or Niners game. If he's not back until Week 15, he'll need to have a few Purple Jesus type games to make a run at the crown

The Failure on Third Down
The Vikings went 1/7 on third down yesterday. They're now 1/15 over the last two games and are now 36/118 on third down. That's 30.5%. If you're looking for an indictment of the offensive play calling, that stat says it all. The Vikings aren't able to convert in third and long situations and aren't able to get into third and short plays. They either get a first down on first or second down, or they punt, a situation all the more confusing because the Purple have a strong running game and run an offense that focuses on short passes.

Getting Torched
The Vikings secondary looked awful against the Raiders. And when I say awful, I mean "gave up 344 passing yards to a quarterback that had gotten benched for Josh McCown earlier this year" awful. And it's not like the Raiders gave up on the run, as they only passed 60% of their plays, a percentage that wasn't that high, considering the Vikings were ahead for most of the game.

I know it was Daunte making those throws, but lets be honest here--this isn't the Daunte we remember from the Vikings. This Daunte has had one, maybe two, good games since leaving the Vikings and had his knee shredded. Antoine Winfield had to leave early because of his hamstring injury, but that doesn't really explain why the Vikings' secondary were leaving people so wide open. Cedric Griffin has regressed and Marcus McCauley isn't playing up to his potential. To be honest, I think it has to do with the scheme and with the coaches, because the problem last year wasn't the secondary-it was the inability to get to the quarterback combined with the fact that teams did not even try to run the ball against the Purple, something that wasn't a problem on Sunday.

At some point between 8am and 9am today, the Ragnarok received its 20,000th visitor. As someone who writes because I need an outlet to talk Purple while surrounded by NFC East fans, I never really thought I'd hit that mark (Never really thought I'd hit 10,000, actually). So, just a word of thanks to everyone whose stopped by and Skol Vikings!

[I'll be traveling for the Holiday starting tomorrow. Not sure if I'll be able to post much over the Holiday, but I should be back by Monday at the latest. I'll be visiting family, so odds are I'll want to get away-it's just a matter of whether I can. Make sure to check back and see throughout the week.]

The Return of the Three Stars

Man, was it nice to get a win yesterday, what with all the negativity going into the game and the rumors that the team had quit on Childress. Not to mention the fact that it was a comfortable win that featured a number of quality individual performances, including:

  • Tarvaris Jackson, who turned in the first solid performance of his year, completing 17/22 passes, a career high 77.2 completion percentage. He also had a nice scramble up the middle that converted a 3 and 10 in the fourth quarter, the only time the Vikings converted a third down, and the first time since the ten minute mark of the fourth quarter against San Diego. This is both good for the Vikings' outlook this season and bad for their future outlook, unless Tarvaris starts turning in good performances, not just solid ones.

  • Erasmus James had his first sack of the season, and his first sack since Week 15 in 2005.

  • Brian Robison had his team leading fifth sack of the season and forced a fumble. That, my friends, is how you make a fourth round draft pick.

  • Robison would be tied with Ray Edwards in sacks, except Edwards wasn't credited with one of his two sacks when he forced Daunte into an intentionally grounding penalty in the end zone. Then again, I doubt Edwards is really complaining about scoring two points for the team.
Enough about those who played well, but not good enough to earn a star. Let's move onto the big time performers--the three stars:

3rd Star: Sidney Rice
There aren't many rules for the three stars, but when a wide receiver completes the longest pass of the season, and then comes back and completes another pass? Well, that's star worthy. Rice threw for 35% of the Vikings passing yards AND caught two passes for 18 yards. That's 44% of the Vikings passing yards that started with, or ended with, Sidney Rice. Not bad for a rookie. Not bad at all.

2nd Star: Pat Williams
The Raiders had 61 rushing yards on 27 carries for a 2.26 yards per carry average. That's awful. And that was almost all due to Pat Williams and his nine tackles. There really isn't a whole lot else to say about his dominance, except that I really enjoy his full body belly flop tackles. Man, that has to leave a mark on the running back.

1st Star: Chester Taylor
164 yards rushing, 202 total yards, three touchdowns and a 38 yard touchdown run that was Purple Jesus-esque (yes, I went there). If there was any question before today, I think Taylor's dominating performance put it to bed--the Vikings have the best backfield combination in the NFL and a combo that has almost singlehandedly won three games for the Purple.

[More thoughts on the game coming later today]

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More on the Hallowed LCL

Stephanie Bell of has a very informative piece on Adrian Peterson's outlook and what an LCL injury is. I'll be honest--I was shocked to see it, but only because I haven't read anything on that I could describe as "informative" in a long time. So what's an LCL?

"The LCL is one of the four main stabilizing ligaments of the knee, situated on the outer aspect of the joint, and it runs from the far end of the thigh bone (femur) to the near end of the outer bone of the lower leg (fibula). It is opposite the medial collateral ligament, which occupies the same spot on the inner aspect of the knee joint, running from femur to tibia (larger lower leg bone). The main function of the LCL is to protect the knee from excess bowing outward (also called varus stress), or more simply, it helps control lateral stability. It is injured if a bowing or varus force is applied that exceeds what the ligament can handle, typically as a result of direct contact. Peterson told Minneapolis' Star Tribune that he felt a helmet or a shoulder hit his knee and then felt the pain."
She goes on to state that Peterson's LCL injury is a "Grade II+" which means that it's serious enough to raise questions as to when the Purple Jesus will return. And while it means that he'll be at risk to reinjure it throughout his career, it is not unusual for injuries of this nature, and that does not mean that it's that big of risk in the future.

The most important part? The Purple Jesus should be able to return in his full glory:
"Peterson will be left with some decreased lateral stability in his knee; the ligament is forever altered based on the extent of his injury. However, his ability to compensate for it with muscular support (and he may wear a protective brace as an additional measure) could allow him to return looking like the same running back."
So we've got that going for us. Which is nice.

Resurrecting the Purple Jesus

Gonzo from thinks that the Vikings should put Adrian Peterson on IR and shut him down for the rest of the season. I have to respectfully disagree. Now, I'm in no way arguing that the Vikings should rush him back onto the field, or give him forty carries in his first game back. In fact, I think it is imperative that the Vikings bring Peterson back slowly. They should not, however, shut him down.

First off, it appears that his injury is relatively minor. The Vikings think he could be back by the Giants game. That seems to be rushing it to me (Peterson shouldn't play until he's cleared for an entire week of practice), but the fact that he might be able to play after one week off implies it's not a major injury.

Secondly, it is important for him to play in games this season if he is healthy. It's not easy to return to form after sitting out because of an injury. As we've seen many times, it takes time for an athlete to learn to trust their body again. For example, after blowing out a knee, running backs don't usually return to their preinjury form until the season after their return. If Peterson is healthy this year, it will be better for his performance next year if he can learn to trust his knee again, something he'll need to play to do.

Personally, I think it'd be best if they gave him at least one more week off prior to his return. Assuming there are no complications or setbacks and the Vikings (and Dr. James Andrews) aren't underestimating the timetable Peterson would return for the Detroit game, rather then the Giants game. This would give him two full weeks to heal and give him a full week of practice prior to his return. It would also mean that on the third game, he rose again. Awfully poetic, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Debacle

[Otherwise known as "I award you no stars, Goodbye Childress and Pray for Purple Jesus]

First off, let me apologize for the lack of posts over the past week. I was moving, which, combined with a busy week at work, meant that I wasn't able to properly consider the Packers game. And after that effort, it's probably for the best. I mean, who wants to put hours into contemplating an event that turns out so unbelievably poorly?

And make no mistake about it--there were few, if any, noteworthy performances by the Purple in that game. Not too surprising, considering that was the worst loss the Vikings have ever had to the Packers. Unlike other losses, I'm not going to be searching for the silver lining, the positives, or any of that other nice stuff. This team did not come to play on Sunday and they got pounded.

The defense wasn't there, at all. I'm used to the Purple having problems stopping the pass. However, I'm not used to them getting run over by a team that cannot rush. The Packers had more yards on the ground than their season average in the first half. Ryan Grant had 120 yards rushing. Not only was that a career high, it was the second time Grant had ever broken 100 yards rushing and the only time he'd done so against a defense that wasn't the worst in the NFL in stopping the run (his other 100 yard game was against Denver). Part of it was that the Packers attacked the edges, running quick off tackle plays. A lot of it, however, was the Vikings defense playing poorly.

The offense's problems weren't similar to the defense's in that they weren't new. They were a lot worse than normal, that's for sure. The Vikings did not have a drive longer than 5 plays (including punts) until their second drive of the second half. They failed to convert a single third down, failing eight times. EIGHT TIMES. Zero for Eight. I don't have any problems with my blood pressure, and I don't particularly want any, so I'm going to move on to another fun topic.

Is there any reason to bring back Childress next year? The team is 9-16 under his watch and the offense, which is supposed to be his speciality, is so bad that every adjective I've come up just doesn't seem to describe it. The team has quit on him at least once (Week 17 last year) and likely quit on him again on Sunday. His personnel decisions have been mediocre at best and he's made two decisions (cutting Robinson and docking Williamson's pay) that have likely cost him a lot of support in the locker room, both of which could have been avoided if he'd thought them through. The most damning thing is that not only has the team not been successful, it has gotten worse as each season has worn on. I'm not going to be one of those people that pines for Mike Tice. He had more success than Childress, but he wasn't a good enough coach to get the Vikings to the Super Bowl. I am, however, ready for the Vikings to start looking for a coach that will get the Vikings to the Promised Land, because Childress is clearly not.

Finally, if you haven't heard, the Purple Jesus has a lateral colleteral ligament tear in his right knee. It won't require surgery and he should be back this season. The injury probably ends any chance he had at breaking the rookie rushing record, but he's still well ahead of the back with the second most yards. Peterson has 1081 yards, 208 yards more than Willie Parker, who is in second place with 873 yards.

Monday, November 05, 2007


He was anointed. It was done jokingly, but he was anointed. Who the hell calls a rookie "Purple Jesus"? (Kissing Suzy Kolber, actually, but that's not the point here). That's not the question here though. The question is, what kind of football player lives up to that nickname? What kind of player turns in a game that makes everyone stop calling him "Purple Jesus" ironically and starts doing it seriously? And then what kind of player turns in a game that makes "Purple Jesus" seem like it's inadequate?

Adrian Peterson, that's who. 296 yards in one game. 30 carries, each of which gained an average of 9.87 yards. 253 yards in the second half. The only player to crack the 200 yard mark twice in a season. He broke tackles in every way possible, going through, around and over defenders. He slipped through holes that were closed. He found another gear when he saw open field ahead of him. In short, he rushed for TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY SIX YARDS.

I'm not John Updike. I'm not going to be able capture Adrian Peterson's performance with words the way Updike captured Ted Williams. Instead, I'll let his performance speak for itself. 296 yards on 30 carries. An NFL single game record. As a rookie.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Pray for Interceptions

One of the Vikings strengths this year has been their ability to make big, momentum changing plays. They're currently second in the NFL with a +14 big play differential, and have had 30 big plays so far this season, also the second most. Of those 30 big plays, almost all of them have been made by the defense, which, considering how inert the Vikings pass game is, is not all that surprising.

The Vikings are going to need both their defense and their passing game to make big plays if they hope to upset the Chargers on Sunday. Defensively, the Vikings best hopes for a turnover will come when Philip Rivers drops back to pass. Rivers has ten turnovers so far this year, having thrown seven interceptions and lost three fumbles. He's also had two of his fumbles recovered by the Chargers as well. If the Vikings can get pressure on him, he'll give them the ball. The fact Cory Withrow will be playing for the Chargers will help the Vikings' pass rush, but if Antoine Winfield isn't on the field, it will probably be a moot point anyway, as he's one of the few defenders that the Vikings count on to help stop both the run and the pass.

The Vikings' defense isn't really likely to be what it decides the game, however, just like it hasn't been the deciding factor in any game so far this year (except for the Atlanta game). What it will come down to is the Vikings' ability to move the ball on offense, which means it will come down to their ability to pass the ball. The Tarvaris Revolution cannot be held down, and he'll be starting on Sunday.

And you know what? Contrary to what I said earlier this week, Tarvaris Jackson should be starting every game that he is healthy enough to play in. The Vikings are not making the playoffs this year, so it doesn't matter whether Kelly Holcomb or Brooks Bollinger gives the Vikings a (slightly) better chance to win. What matters is gathering enough information on Tarvaris to find out whether he is the quarterback of the future. If he's not, he's not, and the Vikings will have ample opportunity to find the quarterback of the future in the draft. If he starts hitting open receivers and learns when to take off, then he is. Either way, nine games of the Tarvaris Revolution should give the Vikings all the information they need to make the decision.

[If you're interested, Football Outsiders has a nice breakdown of the play that resulted in Visanthe Shiancoe's first touchdown catch for the Vikings]

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Chargers Through Their Last Three Games

Just a few weeks ago, the Vikings game against the Chargers looked very winnable. After four weeks, they were projected to finish under .500 and had absorbed some ugly losses. Now, they look like one of the best teams in the NFL and a likely playoff team.

After getting handled by the Chiefs in San Diego, the Chargers have finally started to play up to their talent. They're now in the top 5 in DVOA, are 9th in offensive DVOA and are 14th in defensive DVOA. They've won their last three games by a combined score of 104-27. Neither the bye week nor the wildfires could slow them down.

While Houston, Oakland and Denver all have worse defenses than the Vikings by DVOA. Only Oakland has a better pass defense than the Vikings, and none of them stop the run as well as the Vikings (you already knew that though).

Offensively, the Vikings are about as good at throwing the ball as Houston and Oakland, which is to say, that Houston and Oakland suck at throwing as well. Tarvaris Jackson will be back under center on Sunday, but will likely be without his leading receiver, Bobby Wade. That should mean more running plays, hopefully, which means more Purple Jesus and more Chester Taylor and hopefully more success. The Vikings will only be the second team the Chargers have faced this year with a potent rushing attack (New England being the other). It might not be enough to generate some offense for the Purple, but it's a reason to hope, which is better than nothing.

The Chargers took a little time to adjust to Norv Turner, but based on their last three games, they seem to have finally got it. That doesn't bode well for the Vikings, seeing as how the Chargers are amongst the most talented teams in the NFL.

[Tomorrow, I'll have more on Sunday's game, including a baseless, optimistic prediction, as well as thoughts on Bollinger v. Jackson and why Phillip Rivers might just be the difference maker in a Vikings win...]