Bonkers on Bye Week

So the bye week will probably get me a little loopy, with no Vikings game to look forward to. There are, however, some great matchups that will get this neutral-for-a-week football fan pretty, pretty excited. Beyond the Ravens-Steelers blood feud, which will be boosted by the return of the too-good-to-go-to-the-Whitehouse ‘backer they call Silverback, there is an intriguing NFC South showdown. When the Bucs visit the Saints, we should be in for quite a treat. Coming off a horrendous loss against the lowly Rams, you know that Sean Payton and Drew Brees will be playing with a chip on their shoulder. Coach Morris always keeps his squad brash, whether by exclaiming his team’s hate for the Dirty Birds or prematurely declaring last year that Tampa Bay was the best team in the conference. The last contest between these two came down to an end zone interception thrown by #9, and with a stake of the NFC South lead on the line, expect some punches to be thrown. With the letdown of post-bye week performances this year,  dome field advantage, and the fact that Sean Payton will not allow this team to be embarrassed in back-to-back weeks, I like the Saints. Then again, there is that issue of New Orleans’ suspect defense…
Stadium Musings

As much as I would have liked to seen the ball get rolling on the new stadium ASAP, the refusal to bend by the GOP majority demonstrates refreshing political consistency. The tact on cleaning up finances and not accommodating special interests has been the train that all those Republicans rode into office in 2010, so I cannot condemn them for following through. This is also a good development because, quite frankly, it seems much more logical to use gambling as the revenue stream for this project, especially since a sales tax would have only been imposed had it been undemocratically rammed down the throat of Ramsey County residents. For a clean, simple breakdown of the funding options check out this Pioneer Press bit. The racino plan seems the best way to attack this; there is additional funding that could be used for other areas that have been seemingly neglected (education, anyone?), and politically, it has less of a special interests-vibe than the Block E casino, whose construction would surely be rife with rumours of graft and the like. The electronic pull-tab idea is what will probably go down, given that it is the least politically contentious, but I think the additional revenue afforded by the racino proposal is appealing, considering that it could be used to mitigate some of the costs of gambling, by say funding addiction programs. It will also bring some of the gambling money already spent in Native casinos into state coffers. This revenue-maximizing motive may represent the growth of government, anathema to many, but it hardly distorts economic activity in the same way other, more broadly-based tax increases would. Further, if the state is going to tow a hard line against new taxes in order to increase Minnesota’s competitiveness, this plan certainly gives Saint Paul more flexibility with respects to taxation. “Wilfare” may appear unpalatable to casual and non-fans, but public financing is kind of the rule of the game when it comes to competing in the NFL, and there is no way a market like Minnesota can avoid that. In summary, yes to gambling, yes to racinos, and hate the game, not the player.

Ponder the Wily Competitor

We have all talked about his surprising athleticism, third-down competency, and leadership qualities, but here are two things I have seen that have not been oft discussed and make me like Ponder even more. Firstly, on one of the interceptions he threw against the Packers, you may have noticed, it was feisty number seven who tackled Heisman-winning, all world defensive back Charles Woodson. Between Sam Bradford and others, we have seen many quarterbacks, especially those with injury histories, shy away from contact. Not Chrsitian; he went in there and lowered the boom.  The other play I really liked was a non-play, statistically speaking, against the Panthers. Closing in on another score, in the red zone during the third quarter, the young QB was moving when he tossed the ball down the field, seemingly to nobody. Great play.  Ponder had spotted the contact between Aromashodu and Captain Munnerlyn, so he helps draw attention to it with his throw, and the result is a Minnesota first down. All Day just did what he does on the next play, and knots the game up at 21. Talk about a crafty move by Ponder-osa.

Hardly Sliced-Bread

Most of the media is abuzz about Pittsburgh’s defensive heroics against the Patriots. They are talking about their use of press-man coverage like it is one of the greatest inventions ever. I strongly disagree. Press-man has its uses, and it certainly worked in this game. Bunch formations, however, and good protection can easily trump this stratagem unless your defensive backfield is composed entirely of Darrelle Revis (or Jango Fett) clones. New England’s typically rock solid o-line did not play up to its usual standard, and I suspect this was much more integral to Pittsburgh’s victory. That being said, New England does really need an improved flanker in order to become an even tougher opponent. I expect if anyone can handle Owens’ personality, it is Belichik. Just saying. In any case, don’t expect zone blitzing and the Tampa 2 to simply vanish.

Draft Cynicism

I respect the opinion of all those “enlightened” folk, such as Judd Zulgad, who decry every win as a burden. Sure, it is hardly likely that we make the playoffs. Sure, we have many holes. Sure, certain studs won’t be available beyond pick number five. Nevertheless, all this cynicism is gobbeldygook to me. The facts are, if you look at offensive tackle, a position that needs to be upgraded, there are guys like Sebastian Vollmer, Matt Light, Michael Roos, and Jason Peters, none of whom were picked in the first round, and all of whom have made an All-Pro team or two. I think Messrs. Frazier and Spielman would welcome any of the latter to our team. Guys like Tony Mandarich, Robert Gallery, Levi Brown, and Andre Smith were all taken in the top 6 and none of them, thus far, have been able to hack it, as an OT, at anywhere near Charlie Johnson’s level. Let the scouting department deal with the hand their dealt, and in the mean time build some good feeling for a playoff run next year, much like the 2009 Buccaneers in the second half of the season. If Spielman et al. decide a move should be made up the draft board, there will be extra ammo in the chamber as the Vikes should get a compensatory pick this year (although, history does seem to suggest that Spielman will not move up). One final note to put things in perspective: wide receiver is another position of need for the Purple; last time we drafted one in the top 10 it was a real stud named Troy Williamson. The second round did not prove so fruitful, however, the best the Vikings have been able to do there was another guy from South Carolina named Sidney Rice. In summary, let’s kick some green and gold tail next weekend.

I said some not nice petrological things about Husain Abdullah in my last post. He had an outstanding game against Carolina last week, especially in the final drive, where he forced Legedu Nanee too close to the sideline to make a catch, cleaned-up Greenway’s whiff in sacking Newton, and got in Olsen’s face in the end zone to deny the Panthers a game-winning touchdown. Good stuff. My nod for defensive player of the game if not for the free release he gave Olsen on the latter’s td grab, although let’s face it, he should have never been placed in tight coverage on Olsen anyhow. Keep it up!

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