Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Other Vikings Previews from around the web

ESPN - Camp Report by the biggest nerd in sports, John Clayton. "I am on the record for saying this: I didn't think this team was void of talent," Childress said. "My thinking was this was one of the best of the seven jobs." Sounds to me like Major Dad is declaring this a team full of Super Bowl talent. And he's the guy to bring it all together.

SportsIllustrated - Projected at 6-10 and 3rd in the NFC North. Remember though, SI picked the Vikes to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl last year, so apparently they know their stuff.

Deadspin - "the only NFL team named after a race of Scandinavian explorers who prized raping and pillaging over cartography." This is a pretty funny preview of why we should love the Purple. *** (Not a safe link for kids due to language) ***

"New staff, new system, even new uniforms. We all understand it's time to be accountable." 3 guesses who's quote THAT is... give up? Well it is the recently release Koren Robinson, you can't make this stuff up folks.

Monday, August 21, 2006

2006 Vikings - Kool-Aid(ed) Preview

Well after Saturday's beat down on the defending Super Bowl champs it seems to me an apples to apples equation that we beat the defending Super Bowl champs, ergo Vikings will be the 2006 Super Bowl Champions of the world.

BUT, many of us remember the amazing offensive dominance displayed by Culpepper/Burleson in the 2005 preseason. And that awesomeness was followed up by interceptions at a Favre-like pace and Burleson disappeared like a Lion's fans after and 0-2 start.

So we can't put too much stock in this mighty preseason win. Here is what we can expect though...

(semi) Realistic Outlook - Vikings finished 9-7 last year and I argue the 2006 version is slightly better than the team that finished last year.

Offense - QB, WR, TE, RB are all basically the same as last year. Chester Taylor is the new RB, but he is a question mark. At worst he is as good as the Moe Williams / M. Moore combo last year. Upside could make this a significant upgrade over last year. The WR core is essentially the same. Burleson and Robinson are gone but they were not significant contributors last year anyway. This position may be a slight downgrade, but not much as they were pretty average last year anyway and if Williamson can emerge as a good and reliable WR this may be an upgrade. QB is essentially the same situation since Week 5 when Culpepper went down. Backup QB is an issue but it was last year and is for nearly every team in the NFL.

Offensive line is where there is a massive upgrade. We brought in the best OG in the league and the former best C in the league returns after 2 years of injury. Birk may not be the same but he HAS to be better than last year. The right side of the line is a question mark but it was a year ago as well.

Defense - the corners and safeties are essentially the same as last year with the addition of Darren Smith at a safety spot. He is an upgrade, making our defensive backfield slightly better. Linebackers are a HUGE question mark!!! The signing of Ben Leber was pretty low profile, but he may be a guy who can make the plays in front of him and maintain his assignments. EJ Henderson is supposed to be having a good camp but I predict that once the season gets started, the offense starts moving faster and our defense gets more complicated he'll return to his old form of being out of position on most plays. Napoleon Harris is, well read the EJ Henderson remarks above. The loss of Greenway will seem bigger in Week 4 than it does now. The D-Line is basically the same as last year. I would expect James and Udeze to improve on their inexperience but I would also expect a slight drop in production from Pat Williams.

Special Teams - we have upgraded at kicker, punter will remain the same (hopefully better with age), and our return game will probably take a dip assuming K-Rob doesn't every play another game in a Vikings uniform.

Now as I mix the Kool-Aid, sit down at the computer, drink it down and begin typing I see things much more clearly. I open a new tab in Firefox and go to Orbitz and start booking a hotel room. Where am I going? Well, I'm booking my room for the Super Bowl in Miami!!!

  • Brad Johnson is the greatest thing since white bread. Wonder-Brad!
  • Wiggins should be your #1 scoring TE in the league (a free fantasy tip)
  • Troy Williamson will have a monster break out season as WR and PR and make us forget about K-Rob
  • Chester Taylor will have Prieste Holmes break out season
  • The O-Line will dominate all opposing defensive fronts.
  • James and Udeze will combine for at least 27 sacks.
  • Napoleon Harris will return to the Hardest Hitting LB!
  • Smoot/Winfield will both start in the Pro-Bowl
  • Longwell will hit 100% of kicks in the regular AND post season.
You think those statements seem outragious? Well, here is how I expect it to happen...

Offense - the O-Line is the key to everything. Holes will be tank sized for Taylor and Wonder-Brad will have all Sunday afternoon to pass and find Williamson downfield or check down to Wiggins. And if Brad goes down you ask? Well we have a unique combo of Vick and Warren Moon in Tarvarus Jackson. And that combo is Vick's legs + Moon's arm (not the other way around).

Defense - the last 10 games of the year the defense led the purple. That will continue and they will improve in the "Tampa 2." Winfield/Smoot is as good as anybody else in the league (EVER). EJ Henderson and Nap Harris will use their incredible speed and athleticism to make plays all over the field on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Most importantly, Major Dad will have us much more prepared each and every week. He'll have us ready and put us in position to win every single game if the players can execute. Seems so easy, almost too easy.

The more I drink the more clear my brain becomes. 9 months from now you will all be scratching your heads and wondering why didn't I see the Vikings coming? Well, it's cause you aren't drinking the Kool-Aid. Drink up Vikings fans!

Pesimistic Prediction - 9-7, maybe 10-6 and a wild card birth
Kool-Aid(ed) Assesment - I'm going to go conservative on this one and say 15-1 and a Super Bowl victory (the first of a few).

Friday, August 18, 2006

2006 Chicago Bears - Kool-Aid(ed) Preview

The story of the 2005 Chicago Bears was DEFENSE and 2006 should be no different. The unit led by MLB Brian Urlacher drew comparisons to the '85 Bears D that is widely considered the best in NFL history.

  • 2nd overall in yardage allowed
  • 1st ovearll in points allowed (by nearly 3 full points)
  • 4th in NFC in takeaways
  • 2nd in NFL in INTs
The Bears D was greater than any of the offensive weaknesses and question marks. The running game of Thomas Jones was solid and helped to overcome their 31st ranked air attack.

Overall they finished 11-5, earned a bye and home playoff game which they lost to Carolina 29-21.

Where does this leave the Bears for 2006? Well that depends on your perspective...

Reality? - The Defense may not be quite as dominant as last year but they'll still be one of the top units in the NFL. The offense will likely be virtually the same as last year. Muhammed is a solid WR and has the ability to dominate a game. Thomas Jones is also a very underrated RB who runs behind an underrated O-Line. Logic tells me that they will have a very similar record to 2005 and will be a playoff team. This is a good team that is well coached.

Let's put back a few cups of Kool-Aid - Last year's defense was injury free and played out of their butts all year. Their offense was generally mistake free and couldn't put up enough points to beat the Cubs most Sundays (OK they could beat the Cubs with a safety or FG, but for sure not the White Sox).That scoring trend will continue and expect more turnover as the QB carousel will begin spinning early. I would expect their defense to reselemble the 2002 Bears more than the 85 Bears. The last 2 times the Bears has a double digit win season they followed it up with 5-11 (in 1992) and 4-12 (in 2002). Actual Prediction - 11-5 but will be playing at home Wild Card Weekend
Kool-Aid(ed) Prediction - 6-10, 2nd in division but only because the Pack and Lions are so terrible.

2006 Detroit Lions - Kool-Aid(ed) Preview

After spending 5 straight 1st round draft picks on offensive skill position players the Lions offense was supposed to be a significant threat. The group of Harrington ('02), Kevin Jones ('04), Charlie Rogers('03), Roy Williams('04) and Mike Williams ('05) was thought to primed and ready for a breakout offensive season. Well Lions GM Matt Millen forgot 2 very important factors.

  1. You need an offensive line to block and protect. Without this in place the other pieces are meaningless.
  2. Joey Harrington is a bad QB. Putting your eggs in the Harrington basket is a recipe for disaster.
The Lions are finally ready to move in a new direction. Out is Harrington and former Head Coach Stever Mariuchi. In is Jon Kitna and Rod Marinelli? Talk about making the moves necessary to put people in the seats of Ford Field. I don't think you'll be seeing Kitna in "Honolulu Blue" on the cover of Madden anytime soon.

The Lions did not address any of their needs in the offseason after signing Kitna and backup QB Josh McCown (that BASTARD).

Defense ranked 21st in ppg
Offense ranked 28th in ppg

The prospects of 2006 being the first time the Lions make the playoffs since 1999 (or chances of first playoff win since 1992) seem pretty slim.

Realistic Prediction - 4-12
Purple Kool-Aid(ed) Prediction - 2-14 (who cares if they have a high draft pick, Matt McMillen won't do anything with it.)

**To both of my loyal readers I apologize for the harsh language above!

Speed Kills

Koren Robinson is fast. He runs fast to catch the ball, runs fast away from defenders, drives fast, drives fast away from the LAW.

I think the only faster than K-Rob will be the speed at which his career ends!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

2006 Green Bay Packers - Kool-Aid(ed) Preview

2005 was a rough year for Green Bay fans (I feel terrible for you). 4-12 tied their worst season since 1991 when they had the same record. Packer fans will tell you that the season could have been totally different as they lost 5 games by 3 points or less. Well, it is hard to make up those points when you give the ball to the other team on a regular basis and then give up your kicker in the offseason.

Through my purple colored glasses it was a great season. The Vikings swept the Pack for the first time since the 98 season and evened the overall regular season record to 44-44-1. The Vikings have actually won 3 consecutive games vs. Green Bay dating back to their playoff victory at Lambeau in 2004.

One statistic jumps out that the Packers need to correct. Turnovers!

  • Offense - 18th in yardage
  • Defense - 7th in yardage (19th in scoring)
  • Turnover Margin -23
That is incredible. 29 interceptions led all QBs by 12 (Aaron Brooks was 2nd with 17). What did they do to rectify this problem? Nothing, Ol'#4 is back behind center for another year. Favre needs just 24 TDs to break Dan Marino's career record of 420 (which would be a truly great accomplishment), but he is also on pace to set the career record for INTs (needing 22 to tie George Blanda at 277).

With a QB who will throw more INTs than TDs, an oft injured RB who is prone to fumbles, an inexperienced offensive line, a weak defense that was only slightly improved and having lost their reliable kicker;
this could be another disastrous season for the state of Wisconsin.

I don't have to drink much Kool-Aid for this preview.

Reality says this team will finish right around the 5 win mark again.

After a gallon of Kool-Aid I think I actually want them to finish 7-9 and go 0-2 vs. MN. This way they don't get a top 10 draft pick and hopefully this will perpetuate their mediocrity.

Prediction is 5-11, 5th in NFC North
Hopeful for 6-10, 5th in NFC North

Regardless of how they finish, I'm sure we'll all hear multiple times about how many Super Bowls the Pack have won and how the Vikings are 0-4 in the big game (blah, blah, blah). While that is all true, they can cling to that while they participate in the 2007 Brady Quinn Sweepstakes.

Offseason Review

This was an offseason full of change at all levels for the Vikings.

Coaching Staff - Mike Tice and his ineptitude is out, Brad Childress (aka Major Dad) and his discipline is in. Owner Ziggy Wilf and his front office wasted very little time hiring Childress. What does it mean for Vikings fans?

  • Sippin the Kool-Aid - Childress has no head coaching experience and he didn't even call plays as offensive coordinator in Philly. He seems to be disciplined, straight forward and prepared, but can he lead a team full of massive egos and a long police blotter.
  • Gulp, Gulp, Gulp the Kool-Aid - This is the guy Ziggy wanted. He didn't need to interview anybody else cause this is our guy. He put up with TO and developed McNabb into the superstar that he is today. An offensive genius who will whip these kids into shape and have them ready to go each and every week. Culpepper wasn't on board so he shipped him out and we'll move forward as Major Dad leads us to Super Bowl ring after Super Bowl ring!
Free Agency - With more money to spend than most NFL teams the Vikings new staff was busy in the free agency period getting guys that they targeted. Here is basic rundown...
  • G - Steve Hutchinson - We used the "Poison Pill" to steal one of the best Guards in football away from the Seahawks. The O-line goes from a weakness to a superior left side with the addition of Hutchinson.
  • RB - Chester Taylor - The 5th year back has had limited carries in his first 4 seasons as the back up to Jamal Lewis in Baltimore. As the feature back expect him to have a Priest Holmes type breakout and post 1400+ yards this season.
  • LB - Ben Leber - this addition should help to stabilize the biggest question mark on defense. Leber is young, hungry and ready help turn the purple defense in to a dominant group.
  • K - Ryan Longwell - the former Packer has been very consistent and reliable in his 10 years in Green Bay. Now he comes to a domed stadium and will remind Vikings fans of a regular season version of Gary Anderson.
  • FB - Tony Richardson - a FB is necessary in the West Coast Offense and Richardson is as good as anybody out there, this may be one of the best signings of the year. Let's see, lead blocker for Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson I like where this is going!
  • S - Dwight Smith - a late release by the Saints and the Vikings outbid other suitors. This turned out to be a valuable signing as Tank Williams was lost for the season. This completes the defensive backfield and makes it one of the best in the league, Brett Favre will have 7 INTs vs. the Purple this year!
  • QB - Mike McMah0n - back up QB. He's OK. But he knows Childress' system and will speed the learning curve for the rest of the offense so we can hit the ground running in Week 1.
Draft - After trading Culpepper to the Dolphins the Vikings owned several picks in the 2006 Draft. They owned the #17 overall pick then made trades to end up with three 2nd round picks. Here is the analysis...
  • #17 LB - Chad Greenway - this is a great pick for need. The Vikings have question marks all over with their LB core. Greenway is a straight laced kid, who works hard, follows his assignments and makes plays. He will be a solid if not great for years to come.
  • 2nd Round #48 CB - Cedrick Griffin - the CB from Texas will likely be a in immediate contributor backing up Smoot and Winfield. This adds depth and athleticism to the defense.
  • 2nd Round #51 C - Ryan Cook - this one was considered a reach by many. Cook is an BIG, athletic O-lineman who will provide depth at all positions. Likely will be moved to T at some point but also is insurance if Birk should go down with injury for a 3rd straight season.
  • 2nd Round #64 QB - Tarvaris Jackson - this was considered a reach by everyone outside of the Vikings organization. Jackson played 1-AA football, but is considered to have unlimited upside. Whether or not he reaches that potential is the gamble that Chidress took. But this is the guy he wanted, so look for Jackson to develop into an outstanding QB!
Conclusion - The team added key personnel in the right areas. All that remains to be seen is whether we are wearing our purple or white jerseys in Miami for the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

NFC North 2005 Review

5 weeks into the 2005 season the NFC North looked like they belonged in the CFL, not the NFL.

Detroit 2-2
Chicago 1-3
Minnesota 1-3
Green Bay 1-4

Week 6 is when things started to separate.
  • Chicago pounced on a wounded (or was it sea sick) Vikings squad 28-3 and went on an 8 game win streak.
  • Minnesota was victorious in 7 of their next 8 games to put themselves in the NFC playoff picture.
  • Detroit finished 3-9 beating only Arizona, Cleveland and New Orleans to finish 5-11.
  • Green Bay continued it's ineptitude finishing 4-12 which was their worst record since they tied that mark in 1991.
The Bears were the class of the division. Their defense was drawing comparisons to the '85 Bears and rookie QB Kyle Orton played just well enough to not lose games for them.

Overall the division was weak. Chicago finished 11-5, earned a 1st round bye and a home playoff game which they lost to the Panthers. But the Vikings were mediocre and GB/Det were 2 of the worst in the NFC.

Vikings 2005 Season Review

Here are 2 views of the 2005 season.

Sippin the Kool-Aid
In a nutshell the Vikings started poorly finished better against weak competition. Culpepper was terrible in the first 5 games as the team stumbled to a 1-4 start. Beating only New Orleans at home and Green Bay on the road as both teams went on to finish with 2 of the worst records in the NFL. It would be easy to argue that their seasons may have been more successful than the Vikes 9-7 season, as NO was able to draft Reggie Bush and GB was able to upgrade their defense with AJ Hawk.

Week 9 was a turning point for the 2005 Vikings. Brad Johnson started for the injured Culpepper and the defense started to play with some consistency. Their record down the stretch is mis-leading since they played weaker teams including Detroit(5-11) twice, Green Bay(4-12), St. Louis(6-10), Cleveland(6-10) and beat Chicago in a meaningless December game after the Bears had locked up the division.

The defense appeared to be better than any in recent memory. They finished 21st in overall yardage allowed and 19th overall in ppg. This is a stark improvement from the previous several seasons, but it doesn't exactly bring back memories of the Purple People Eaters.

The offense was consistent but lacked any real threat and finished 25th in the league for yardage (19th in points). Culpepper was terrible in the first 8 weeks of the season, the running game was 27th in the league, the offensive line was a sieve, Burleson was never able to handle the load as #1 WR and our red zone production was last in the NFC North 13th in the NFC. All of this bleak production still led to a winning record and 1 win shy of a playoff birth.

This was Mike Tice's last hurrah as his team came out unprepared and schematically over matched each and every week. As much as he stared at that play sheet, game plan chart, grocery list or whatever it was it didn't seem to help.

Double Fisting the Kool-Aid
The Vikings started the year with a tough schedule. Including home vs. a tough Tampa team then on the road vs. Cincy, Atlanta, Chicago and Carolina. After their 2-5 start the team rebounded nicely to finish the year 7-2 (including winning 3 of their last 4 road games) and
narrowly missed making the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

Defensively the additions of Fred Smoot, Pat Williams, Sam Coward and Darren Sharper led to a vastly improved defense that kept the team in nearly all of their games as they snagged 24 INTs. While adjusting to new schemes the unit surrendered 27.6 ppg in the first 7 weeks, but only 16.8 ppg in their final 9 games.

On offense Brad Johnson was able to provide the leadership and experience necessary to put his team in position to win. The numbers won't overwhelm you, but he didn't make many mistakes throwing only 4 INTs all year and always gave us a chance to win. Koren Robinson stepped up and became a difference maker down the stretch on offense and on special teams where he made the Pro Bowl as a returner.

Tice made wise decisions regarding his coaching staff as he brought in 2 experienced coaches as consultants to help his current staff.
The right buttons were pushed and the hottest team in the 2nd half of the season was 1 break away from making the playoffs and making a run at the Super Bowl. Nobody wanted to play the purple down the stretch! In the end it wasn't quite enough and the new ownership decided to make a change and the entire coaching staff was let go.

Ultimately many of the team's losses were much closer than the score indicated. Take away a couple key injuries (Birk and Culpepper) and if the ball just bounces our way just once and the 2005 season is a whole lot different in our memories. 2006 is our year!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Drink the Kool-Aid

Wikipedia states that this phrase is "frequently used in discussions about sports; when a fan makes an overly-optimistic prediction or hopeful statement, usually about a traditionally woeful team or franchise, others may comment that he is "drinking the Kool-Aid."

Well, Viking's fans, time to embrace this phrase. Don't fight it. Why try to be objective? Objectivity would tell you that this season your favorite team will do something to make you optimistic and excited about the playoffs only to destroy that hope in the most horrific and unfathomable way. There are countless examples for Vikings fans. Cubs fans, Bills fans and Red Sox fans (prior to 2004) have nothing on Vikings fans. Gary Anderson's missed FG, the Debacle in the Desert and the 41-doughnut NFC Championship game are only the recent heart breakers. Don't forget about the 4 Super Bowl losses and the "Drew Pearson Push Off"(the play which spawned the phrase "Hail Mary".

But I'll let you read about 22 of the worst moments in the Vikings dubious history here and here!

Enough negativity. 2006 is coming up, it is the Brad Childress Era and if this isn't the year then next year is. So grab your Ragnar doll and helga horns, put on your Hovan jersey, practice your best Vikings Horn imitation and let's get our roll on (wait, don't get your roll on anymore).


Kool Aid Drinkers