At 6-4, the Vikings are better than you probably thought they were in the middle of August, and aren't as good as you probably thought they were in the middle of October. Some of their units are better than we thought (the secondary); some are even worse than we feared (those wide receivers!).
What I'm struggling to adjust to is the Vikings just being a decent team. They seem on their way to being average (indeed, Football Outsiders has them 15th in the league with a near-average -0.4% DVOA), a mediocre team that will probably finish right around .500 and miss the playoffs. The Vikings have been steeped in drama for so long, I don't even know how to be a fan of an average team. So many years have offered us high hopes and bitter disappointments, transcendence melded with tragic flaw. So many genres of theater have played out on and off the field for the Vikes--tragedy, farce, comedy, absurdism--that the Vikings can't be just a football team. They need to be a team that could be a Super Bowl contender but just needs a quarterback. They need to be a team that woos the one-time legendary rival, goes 12-4, and misses its first Super Bowl since the '76 season in an NFC title game featuring Shakespearian intensity and error. They need to be a team that crashes horrifically when it brings that quarterback back. They need to be a team that blows halftime leads in its first four games en route to going 2-9 in games decided by seven points or less in their worst season since Les Steckel. If the Vikings are a .500ish team, full of regular strengths and regular weaknesses, without surprises or explosions of personality, why are they special? And what makes our fandom unique? Obviously we have a history (a history that I think has psychologically damaged us collectively as a fanbase), but right now are we just like any other fanbase watching an OK team try to be better?
Of course with Adrian Peterson, they aren't just a football team. The '90s Lions would have been just a football team if they didn't have Barry Sanders, a player so wonderful to watch you could get excited for Lion games just to see him play. The Viking run blocking has often been terrific at getting Peterson into open space, and Peterson has been unbelievable and avoiding tacklers. The combination has been stunning, especially considering opponents have utterly no reason to fear a deep pass and can try to clog up space closer to the line of scrimmage. It is Adrian Peterson that is the central story of the Vikings' 2012 season, and in the end, he alone may be the story.
So the Vikings are out: what are we watching? (Interesting Games)
Week 11 Schedule
Packers-Lions. Twice a year I root for the Lions, and twice a year I'm terribly disappointed. After watching the Vikes complete a season sweep of the Lions, it's hard to believe I won't be disappointed again.
Chargers-Broncos. Philip Rivers is entering the late-Drew Bledsoe phase of his career: a quarterback that was always good but never quite great, that had a lot of team success on good teams, but has a certain sloppiness to his game, and eventually plays well enough to stay a starter for a long time, but not well enough to impress anybody while doing it.
Colts-Patriots. This is a game between 6-3 teams that I should think is interesting, but sort of don't. Watching Andrew Luck is just going to make me jealous, and the Patriots have made me jealous for a decade now.
Ravens-Steelers. The game for those of you who ever asked, "Hey, what ever happened to Byron Leftwich?"
Bears-49ers. The game for those of you who ever asked, "Hey, who is Jason Campbell?"
After 10 weeks of football, it is time to begin monitoring the Award For Best Quarterback or Running Back On a Playoff Team, also known as the NFL MVP.
1. Drew Brees. If Brees ends up leading the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns and takes the Saints to the playoffs despite a terrible start, terrible defense, and everything else, this award is his.
2. Adrian Peterson. The only thing holding Peterson back is that "On a Playoff Team" requirement. If Peterson continues to average 112.8 rush yards per game and 5.8 yards per rush, and the Vikes get to the 9-10 wins, it will be hard to deny him (especially since it will take some heroic performances against some good teams for Peterson to get the Vikes to those 9-10 wins).
3. Peyton Manning. I don't know that MVP voters are going to vote for a 5th MVP for Manning (it would actually be four and a half, but whatever), but I thought they wouldn't vote for a 4th, either. If the Broncos end up with a #1 or #2 seed in the AFC, people are going to want to give him this award.
4. Aaron Rodgers. I don't think about Aaron Rodgers outside of when the Vikings are playing the Packers. This is not entirely easy, as I work in Wisconsin. It also means I don't have anything to say, other than that Rodgers looks like an MVP candidate.
Kick Ass Links
Viking fans, ladies and gentlemen! (City Pages, and again)
I think I would like knowing Steve Young. I think he'd probably hate me (Yahoo!).
Your Minnesota Viking punter, ladies and gentlemen! (MinnPost)
Recover well, Darren. Have a good weekend everybody.