Thursday, December 13, 2012

National Friday League, Week 15

Vikings-Rams Preview

There are things to like about this matchup for Viking fans. It's in a Dome. St. Louis doesn't have the WR talent to consistently exploit the Viking weaknesses in pass defense (the way physical, athletic WRs have been able to). Adrian Peterson is going against NFL Defense X (it doesn't really seem to matter what NFL Defense X is).

But the Rams are a sneaky good team, with pass rushers (17 sacks between Robert Quinn and Chris Long), good talent all over the defense, and typical Jeff Fisher things.

We used to be treated to good passing games.
Let's be absolutely clear about one thing: the Vikings are trying to win football games without a professional passing offense. The Vikings aren't just 32nd in passing yards, 27th in passing TDs, 30th in net pass yards per attempt: those numbers include the early part of the season when Ponder occasionally looked decent and at any rate the Vikings had Percy Harvin doing things. In November and December, Christian Ponder is 80/139 (58%), 653 yards, and four touchdowns. In the last five games then, Ponder is averaging 130.6 passing yards per game--and even that is exaggerated by games when the Vikes were incapable of passing while the game was competitive but had to attempt passes when down by multiple scores. It's hard to overstate just how nonproductive this is.

And as I look at the Viking WRs and see Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashadu, and Jerome Simpson, hopelessness sets in. Was Travis Taylor, Troy Williamson, and Marcus Robinson a better trio? Were Bobby Wade and Robert Ferguson more useful? It's been bad for a while. The franchise of Gene Washington, John Gilliam, Sammy White, Ahmad Rashad, Anthony Carter, Cris Carter, Jake Reed, and Randy Moss has suffered through its longest stretch of terrible WR play probably ever. From 1993-2004, the Vikes had at least one receiver with 1,000 yards in each of 12 seasons. From 1994-2000, the Vikes had two 1,000 yard receivers in seven straight seasons. From 2005-2012, we've seen precisely one 1,000 yard receiving season (Sidney Rice's 2009). If Jake Reed in his prime walked into the Dome today, we'd say "Look at that Adonis on the football field: who knew an NFL player could do such things!?"

The Chosen and the Blessed
Steve Marsh's essay on his trip to Lambeau Field and his appreciation for Adrian Peterson at Grantland makes me think about why fans of historically good teams, with deep-rooted traditions in their sport, can sometimes annoy the rest of us.

Think not just of the Green Bay Packers, but of, say, Notre Dame football, or Duke basketball. Their current fans did not build those traditions. Certainly they participate in them, in the same sense that I participated in American democracy by voting in November, which felt meaningful and important though nothing I voted on won by a single vote and so the tradition of American democracy would have gone on just the same without me. If you're a member of a fortunate group, but you know that you personally didn't make that group what it is (even if in a small way you help continue what it is), you can consider your group membership in one of two ways (allow me to borrow some religious language).

One way is to consider yourself the chosen. The chosen are special. The real spiritual meaning of being the chosen is beyond you, out of control, but it can give your group a certain sort of pride. If we're the elect, that means God chose us for that, so we must be pretty neat. There's a sense of entitlement in being the elect.

Another way to consider yourself is the blessed. The blessed are lucky. The blessed know they aren't responsible for their fortune and have done nothing to deserve it. They are thankful and appreciative of the grace they've been given.

I'm not going for generalizations or stereotypes, so I won't even use the plural here. But if you've ever been irritated by a Packer fan, or a Duke fan, or a Notre Dame fan, or maybe a Boston Celtic fan, or a New York Yankee fan, it might have been when that fan was acting like the chosen: entitled and superior, rather than the blessed, a lot luckier than you that they root for a winner and you don't.

And then of course there are the cursed, fans of teams that treat us to long droughts of little success and/or oh-so-close historic heartbreaks, so that we come to wallow in our misery as if it is unique and we are especially tormented because of it. I'm guessing that as a fanbase, we could have a tendency to annoy with that sort of attitude, too.

Other Interesting Games
Week 15 Schedule

There a six matchups between teams with winning records this week.

Colts-Texans. The Texans' loss to the Patriots meant one and only one important thing: Houston may not be able to rest its fantasy stars this season! This is terrific news.

Packers-Bears. There's nothing like hate-watching a football game.

Broncos-Ravens. Losing Willis McGahee was a big deal: he did a lot of things to keep the Bronco offense moving the ball down the field.

Giants-Falcons. Falcon players got you pretty far in your fantasy season--but is the show over? Can they get you farther?

Steelers-Cowboys. At 7-6, both teams really need this. And Ben Roethlisberger has restored the joy that is Mike Wallace. It should be fun.

49ers-Patriots. The 49ers of 1981-1998 and Patriots from 2001-present are similar awesome dynasties. The 49ers went to 10 of 18 conference title games; the Patriots went to 6 of 11. Both teams went to five Super Bowls during their stretch (the 49ers winning all five, the Patriots winning three). The 49ers had six 13+ win seasons, the Patriots five. The 49ers made the playoffs in 16 of 18 seasons, the Patriots in 9 of 11. The 49ers were under .500 once during those 18 seasons, the Patriots have been over .500 now in 12 straight seasons. The 49ers had 10+ wins in 17 of those 18 seasons (the one off was the strike-shorted '82 season), the Patriots had 10+ wins in now 11 of 12 seasons. In those 18 years the 49ers led the league in point differential seven times; the Patriots led in this category three times, and are currently leading this season.

Fantasy Box: what is fantasy football for if not hating your friends and family?
I started listening to fantasy football podcasts in late June. I got a magazine in early July. Now it is December and I am going to try contend for a fantasy championship starting (wait for it) Bilal Powell and Kenny Britt.

In my Hazelweird fantasy league with cross country scoring (where every team plays every other team each week), my brother and I sit at #1 and #2 in the standings (he's ahead of me by one game, and there are other contenders). In another league with a playoff, my first-round playoff game is against, yes, my brother. This may be why he sent in the mail (disguised as an early Christmas present I was told to open early) the karmic curse: a DVD called Vikings Stars of Tomorrow: Collegiate Highlights of the 2005-2006 Draft featuring Troy Williamson, Erasmus James, Marcus Johnson, Ciatrick Fason, Dustin Fox, and Adrian Ward. I've never seen this film: I heard if you watch it seven days later Troy Williamson crawls out of your TV and drops footballs on you. But it has become Hazelweird's curse: a last place trophy that the loser often "forgets" at the draft host's house, and now evidently it is a weapon to be wielded competitively. The Spirit of Fantasy Football frowns on your attempt at karmic victory, brother. For shame.


  1. I hear it is a great DVD!

  2. The "Chosen" vs "Blessed" is a pretty good way to think about it. Honestly though, I'm annoyed at the success of the teams they're fans of - not necessarily just their attitude about it.

    I was laughing through the losing trophy bit. Pretty funny stuff, that. I'm glad to report that Britt will be on the bench for my playoff game this week, although Brian Hartline is the guy keeping him off the roster. (sigh)

    It's hard to get excited about the St Louis game being winnable when we're speculating that the Texans may not be resting starters in week 16. If Minnesota defeats the Rams, they'll need a game like the one they had against the 49ers to have a chance in Houston.

  3. I am stealing the early gift idea for next year's playoffs. Your brother fights dirty, just the type of guy you want to play fantasy football with.

  4. My goodness, that was a funny story. Also depressing to think about that draft class.