Tag Archive: Minnesota Vikings


NFL Weekly Picks: Week 3

Hey guys, sorry I didn’t have time to get my weekly picks post up last week. I just moved back to Minnesota so now that I am settling in hopefully I will be able to get into a groove with all of these weekly posts that I want to do. So, without further ado, here are my NFL Weekly Picks!

Eagles over Chiefs- I think the Eagles’ offense will be too much for the Chiefs to slow down, but it may come down to whether or not the Eagles defense can stop anyone. Thus far the answer to that question is no. Still, I’m going with Chip Kelly and the home team Eagles in this match-up, especially since the Chiefs have Dunta Robinson on their roster.

Packers over Bengals- The Bengals got a solid win against the Steelers last week but the Packers offense looked borderline unstoppable last week against the Redskins. The Bengals defense is a significantly better unit, but I think the Packers will be able to put up enough points to win this one. If Andy Dalton plays well he could make things interesting though, and I’m not sold on the Packers defense yet. Still, it’s tough to bet against Aaron Rodgers in this match-up even on the road.

Rams over Cowboys- This might surprise some people, but the Rams are a good football team and they gave my Falcons a run for their money last week. The Cowboys couldn’t quite figure out the Kansas City Chiefs, and while the ‘Boys have a lot of talent on offense the Rams are a talented defensive football team that I think has a chance to match-up with the Cowboys on offense. Of course, if Dez Bryant goes off for 180 yards and a touchdown like Julio Jones did last week then I would be completely wrong on that. Still, I have a feeling the Rams will play well in this game and I think they can beat Tony Romo and the Cowboys on the road.

Chargers over Titans- I’m realizing I’m picking a lot of road teams here so far, but I think the Chargers are the better football team in this match-up and it’s tough not to go with Philip Rivers over Jake Locker here. If Locker can pass accurately and use his legs effectively they could give the Chargers defense some problems, but most of us know the likelihood of both of those things happening consistently for four quarters is not likely.

Vikings over Browns- This would have been a more interesting game prior to the Trent Richardson trade, and there is something funny about the Browns making this trade with the Colts just days before they travel up to Minnesota to play the Vikings given that the Vikings are the team that traded down with Cleveland to allow them to move up to number three overall and select Richardson in the first place. The Browns offense has been struggling even with Richardson in the lineup, and it’s hard to imagine them being better without him even with Josh Gordon returning from suspension. The Browns do have a good defense though, so I expect both teams to score less than 20 points. The Vikings have the offensive advantage in this match-up though thanks to Adrian Peterson and a solid game from Christian Ponder, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson should be enough to win this one for the purple. However, it is worth mentioning that this is the kind of game the Vikings traditionally find a way to inexplicably lose.

Patriots over Buccaneers- The Buccaneers aren’t in great shape right now and while the Patriots have barely managed to defeat two rookie quarterbacks in consecutive weeks I don’t think Tom Brady and that offense are going to stay out of synch for more than a couple weeks. That should play to the Bucs advantage this week, but I don’t think it will be enough to get them a victory.

Saints over Cardinals- Originally I had the Cardinals winning this game, but it’s tough to travel into the Superdome and get a victory, particularly since the Saints defense looks significantly better through two weeks than it ever did last season. Carson Palmer has reinvigorated the Cardinals offense, and their defense is still respectable despite the loss of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, but I don’t think it will be enough to go into the Saints’ house and beat Drew Brees on his home turf.

Redskins over Lions- The Lions have shown plenty of flashes through the first two weeks, but I think they are going to come up short against a Redskins team that will likely be very motivated and focused after starting 0-2. It remains to be seen if the ‘Skins defense can get on track, but going up against the Eagles and the Packers in the first two weeks isn’t exactly a fair barometer for a defense, especially since they were essentially the NFL’s guinea pigs against Chip Kelly and his up-tempo offensive scheme. I think the Redskins will be motivated and hungry this week, so I’m giving them the edge over the Lions.

Giants over Panthers- I definitely didn’t expect the Giants to start the season out 0-2, but if Eli Manning can’t stop throwing interceptions they may be in for a long year. However, I am well aware that not all of those turnovers are his fault and I expect he and the Giants to get back on track against the Panthers. It would be really nice if David Wilson would get his act together and stop fumbling the ball, but the addition of Brandon Jacobs back into the fold should help provide at least a little stability in the running game. Maybe Cam Newton and the Panthers will surprise me, but I think the Giants are going to be motivated after starting 0-2 just like the Redskins are. I’m not sure if I can say the same thing about the Panthers yet or not.

Texans over Ravens- The Ravens offense has been ineffective thus far this season and I don’t anticipate them getting back on track against the talented Texans defense. If Andre Johnson can play the Ravens will get to see the Texans explosive combination of Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Andre Johnson AND DeAndre Hopkins who was one of my favorite wide receivers in last year’s loaded draft class. He caught the game-winning touchdown last week against the Titans, so I think the Texans are ready to beat the Ravens on the road this week.

Dolphins over Falcons- It pains me to do this, but the Falcons got way too banged up last week to go on the road and beat the Dolphins in my opinion. I think Ryan Tannehill is about to go off, and Lamar Miller may have a big day as well. Not only that, but Brent Grimes is a sure bet to pick off Matt Ryan in this game and I just don’t think the Falcons will be able to overcome Roddy White not being at 100%, Steven Jackson being out (though Jason Snelling will hopefully get a lot of touches), Kroy Biermann being out for the year, Bradie Ewing being out for the year, AND Sean Weatherspoon being out until Week 11. That’s a lot to replace and account for in one week, and while I think they will be able to survive those set-backs long term I’m not sure they can get away with it this week, so I give the advantage to the Dolphins at home.

Bills over Jets- In the battle of rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Geno Smith I’ve got to give Manuel and the Bills the edge in this one. The Jets defense is still a quality unit despite the departure of Darrelle Revis, but Geno Smith made some questionable decisions and poorly executed throws in the elements against New England last week, and I have been shocked by how well EJ Manuel has been playing thus far. The Bills coaching staff has done a great job managing him thus far, and I trust Nathaniel Hackett to gameplan well more than I trust Marty Mornhinweg to do the same, so I am going with the Bills in this one. May the best rookie QB win. I must say, I was shocked and critical of the Manuel pick at 16 overall, but defeating Geno Smith (who I expected to come off the board first of all the quarterbacks) would be a pretty big vindication for EJ Manuel and the entire Bills organization. It would also make me look stupid, so that’s probably why it will happen.

49ers over Colts- This is an interesting one and it will be worth monitoring just how involved Trent Richardson will be in this game given that he is unfamiliar with the system and has no chemistry with the team at all, but the 49ers are the better squad and are likely very pissed off after the way they lost that game to division rival and offseason Cold War opponent Seattle on Sunday Night. The 49ers should come out firing and it will take a terrific performance from Andrew Luck to leave Candlestick with a victory.

Seahawks over Jaguars- #BecauseJaguars and #AllRussellWilsonEverything

Bears over Steelers- I thought Marc Trestman might give the Bears offense a tune-up and he appears to have done just that, and it makes me happy to see Jay Cutler playing well. The Steelers offense is completely devoid of playmaking at this point and I don’t anticipate they will be able to take advantage of the Bears defense enough to come away with a victory even at home.

Broncos over Raiders- The Broncos are playing some terrific football right now and they are looking especially sharp on the offensive side of the ball so far. They simply have more talent than the Raiders do at this point, though I think Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden may give the Broncos defense a few headaches. It would be a truly fantastic upset if the Raiders were able to come away with a victory against the Broncos on the road, I just don’t see it happening.

Thanks for reading, hopefully I do better this week than I did during the openers. Enjoy the games this weekend!

–Tom

Current 2013 Pick Record: 9-6

NFL Quick Hits

This is a feature I’m going to try every week where I post some hopefully brief thoughts on the past weekend of NFL games. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do the same with College Football games, but I will post them if I have time to write them all up. Hopefully you guys enjoy this segment.

1- The Falcons Are Who We Thought They Were- I’m sure most of you guys know I’m a Falcons fan by now, and that loss to the Saints was tough. The Falcons scored on their opening drives in both halves, but otherwise were very inconsistent on offense. I’m wondering why they ran the ball so infrequently despite Steven Jackson having solid success on the ground, and I’m also wondering how they managed to hold Drew Brees and the Saints to 23 points despite a lackluster pass rush. I’m not too worried about the offensive line yet, I think they will gel and become a stronger unit, but the amount of pressure in Matt Ryan’s face and the inexplicable avoidance of the run game and quick-hitting pass game to try to counter the pressure was frustrating. Brees was on point as always and I was impressed with the Saints dramatic improvement on defense. Rob Ryan has done a great job with them up to this point, and the pressure they got on Ryan and the looks they were showing him pre-snap stuck out to me. The Falcons will be fine, but I don’t think they are a 13-3 team like they were a year ago. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think they are in the 10-6/11-5 area. We shall see.

2- Peyton Manning Needs To Stop Playing On Rookie- The way Manning was playing on Thursday night it is evident to me he was just playing Madden on a rookie setting, and a veteran with his resume should be playing on All-Madden at least, and preferably with a number of the sliders raised manually beyond that. Manning was obviously masterful, and that was despite having no running backs with a yard per carry average over 3.8 and only gaining 65 total yards on the ground. Joe Flacco came down to Earth after his fantastic playoff performances and it’s clear to me that he is missing Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta right now. Torrey Smith is a stud, but he can only do so much without a significant threat to take some pressure off of him. Dallas Clark surprised me with 7 catches for 87 yards, and if he can keep that up the loss of Pitta shouldn’t be quite as significant. I am a huge Demaryius Thomas fan and had a top 20 grade on him out of Georgia Tech and he has completely lived up to my expectations for him. I definitely expected Decker to be the #2 guy and Welker to be the 3rd option, but if the first week is any indication then Welker is going to get a lot of love from Manning this year. I don’t think 2 catches for 32 yards will be a typical week for Decker by any means, but I think I definitely underrated Welker’s potential impact coming into the year. I was also blown away by how well Duke Ihenacho and Shaun Phillips played. I liked Ihenacho out of San Jose State but realized some of his athletic limitations, however he had 12 tackles (including ELEVEN solo stops), 1 tackle for loss and 3 pass deflections as well as some pretty nice hits in this game. Phillips had 2.5 sacks and 3 QB hits on the night and definitely helped make up for the absence of Von Miller for at least one night. The Broncos looked like they were in mid-season form, but I don’t think the Ravens are going to have that much trouble on offense or defense for the entire season. They have lots of new faces on their roster and they need time to gel, and Manning took full advantage. Don’t hit the panic button yet Ravens fans.

3- EJ Manuel Is Making Me Look Stupid- I was pretty clear that I was not a fan of EJ Manuel at FSU and while it is still very early in his career my analysis of him is looking quite foolish right now. I have been very impressed with how Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have managed Manuel starting from his first pre-season snaps. They haven’t asked him to go out there and be Tom Brady, but much like Cam Newton his rookie season they will likely open up the playbook and let him attack more as he becomes more comfortable. I was happy to see Robert Woods get his first NFL catch and his first NFL touchdown, but Manuel got to see first hand that there’s almost nobody better than Tom Brady when the game is on the line. He may not have had a great day statistically, but when it counted he took the Pats down the field and got them in position to win the game. Danny Amendola predictably had a good game, I loved what Shane Vereen did and I was very sad to see that he is going to miss significant time due to a broken wrist (which he apparently suffered on the first play of the game!). I am hoping that Spiller was given limited touches because of his lost fumble, and not because he is inexplicably being mismanaged again in 2013. Regardless, Bills fans should be very encouraged by the early returns on EJ Manuel.

4- “Same Old Bungles”- That is for my good friend Ryan Koons who is now an active duty marine. He is a die hard Bengals fan and whenever they manage to lose a game like this that is what he would always say. I have to say I really thought those days were behind Cincinnati because on paper I thought they were ready to win the AFC North. However, Andy Dalton continues to make me wonder about just how far the Bengals can go with him as a quarterback even in spite of the absolutely fantastic play of AJ Green. The Bengals have tons of talent on defense, they’ve got weapons on offense, but if they are going to win close games and go deep in the playoffs they need Dalton to play better and limit his turnovers. The run game deserves some ire as well as the Bengals only averaged 3 yards per touch and totaled 63 yards on the ground. On the other side I thought Jay Cutler, overall, had a good game and Brandon Marshall was fantastic. The Bears running game was sluggish as well, and hopefully that offensive line will slowly gel and improve over the course of the season. I know that probably makes Bears fans nervous because they’ve been waiting for that offensive front to improve for years, but I’m hoping this is the year for their sake.

5- Reggie Bush Is Dangerous, Christian Ponder Is Not- The Lions put up 38 points on the Vikings defense and a lot of that is due to Reggie Bush totaling 90 yards on the ground (4.3 ypc) and 101 yards and one touchdown as a receiver (with a long of 77). That’s very impressive production, and it comes despite only hauling in four of his eight targets on the day. Matt Stafford had another high attempt, high yardage day and while it wasn’t the most efficient performance it certainly got the job done. I wouldn’t expect too many four catch, 37 yard days for Calvin Johnson, but Bush, Nate Burleson and Joique Bell took the pressure off of him this week. On the other side Christian Ponder continues to prove his doubters right as he threw 3 interceptions, got sacked three times and lost a fumble on the day. He also spoiled a fantastic game for Jerome Simpson who had 7 catches and 140 yards which I certainly didn’t expect from him. Adrian Peterson had a 78 yard touchdown run on his first carry but gained only 15 additional yards on his next 17 carries, but still managed 93 yards and two touchdowns rushing as well as 18 yards and another touchdown receiving. I will be the first to admit that I liked Ponder out of FSU (clearly I’m 0/2 on scouting Florida State quarterbacks right now) but he doesn’t have the same velocity he had prior to the injuries he sustained his senior year, he isn’t making good decisions and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matt Cassel start at some point this season for the Vikings. That’s not a good sign, and it likely means the Vikings will be looking to draft a quarterback early in the 2014 NFL Draft. I have been patient with Ponder and he occasionally shows signs of life, but unfortunately now that he’s in his 3rd year these kinds of struggles won’t be tolerated anymore. He’s got to step up his game and quick.

6- Pryor Makes Oakland Offense Almost Competent- I really feel like I am ruining any credibility I have as a quarterback scout but I liked Tyler Wilson a lot out of Arkansas and I didn’t like Terrelle Pryor out of Ohio State, but I am glad the Raiders elected to start Pryor over Matt Flynn. Pryor’s legs gave the Raiders life in this game and while I don’t think it will get them to the playoffs it should make them more competitive than they would have been with Flynn at the helm. I didn’t get to see as much of this game as I wanted to because the feed went out for it multiple times at the bar I was watching the games at (for some reason it was streaming online, not sure why), so outside of Pryor impressing me as a runner and Andrew Luck being a stud I don’t have too many thoughts on this game. Sorry guys.

7- Nolan Nawrocki Your Crow Is Ready- I know it’s early, and I know it’s only his first start, but it was fun to see Geno Smith rally the Jets to an unlikely win against Tampa Bay week one. I’m not going to say he made some unbelievable plays on that final drive to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, but if Sanchez was the QB on that final drive I don’t think the Jets would have won that game. Smith isn’t known for his scrambling, but his athleticism was obvious at the NFL combine and he gave the Jets a chance to get lucky thanks to his skill set. He wasn’t mind-blowingly efficient by any means, but it was definitely a solid first start based on what I was able to see. Unfortunately for Bucs fans Josh Freeman struggled (though the Jets do still have a good, well-coached defense) and despite 154 yards from Vincent Jackson he only managed 210 yards on 31 attempts, was sacked three times and threw one touchdown and one interception. I wasn’t a Freeman fan coming out and his first season it really looked like he might make me eat my words, but he seemed to plateau after that rookie season and hasn’t quite been the same since.

8- Kaepernick Is The Truth- I wasn’t wild about Kaepernick’s throwing motion or accuracy coming out of Nevada, but Jim Harbaugh has done a fantastic job with him and that offense is now tailor made for him. It certainly helps having weapons like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis (even though Davis had a drop or two that he shouldn’t have) while Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are injured, but his athleticism, pure arm strength and seemingly improving accuracy really stood out to me against the Packers. Green Bay had absolutely no answer for the Kaepernick-Boldin connection and while they managed to keep him bottled up as a runner he shredded them for 412 yards and three touchdowns as a passer. The Packers will have to go back to the drawing board now to try to figure out how to slow Kaepernick down if they meet again in the playoffs. I thought Aaron Rodgers was great as usual even if he did come up just short, I still love Randall Cobb, and I was happy Jermichael Finley bounced back from that drop that led to Rodgers only interception with some solid catches, good yards after the catch and that impressive touchdown. The Packers should be fine and I think they will be a playoff team, but I’m sure they and their fans are annoyed that another referee controversy led to a do-over for the 49ers that led to an Anquan Boldin touchdown. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think the NFL downgrading Bill Leavy for that mistake is ridiculous. Leavy is a veteran official and while he made a mistake this just reeks of an overreaction to me.

9- RGIII Was Rusty, The Eagles Offense Wasn’t- The Eagles defense made this interesting in the second half as RGIII and the Redskins started to knock some of the rust off, but in the first half RGIII had a lot of issues fading away from throws and not stepping into his passes. He still did some of that in the 2nd half, but he was definitely much more crisp and effective once his receivers stopped dropping passes and Kyle Shanahan adjusted to get him into a rhythm with quicker, easier throws. Michael Vick was impressive, though he’s still the same Michael Vick that will hold onto the ball too long and take unnecessary risks with his body at times. LeSean McCoy looks like an ideal fit for Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme and he should have a huge year. I was also happy to see that one of my favorites from a couple years ago Mychal Kendricks looked much better (based on what I saw live) and was pressuring RGIII pretty consistently. I’m not sure he’s great in coverage, but it was fun to see him rushing some of Griffin’s throws. Additionally, that interception Cary Williams made on that out route that Griffin threw was nothing short of fantastic. What a terrific play.

10- Oh Philip Rivers, You Poor Bastard- Rivers was absolutely fantastic in the 1st half and he started off the 2nd half in the same fashion. He had the Chargers up 28-7 and seemed poised for a statement victory in week one of the 2013 season. Unfortunately, much like he and the Bolts have in the past, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Rivers and the offense began to sputter, the Texans woke up on offense, and the rally was complete once Brian Cushing read Rivers’ eyes beautifully and made a diving interception that he then returned for a game-tying touchdown. The Texans would go on to move the ball down the field and position Randy Bullock for a game winning 41 yard field goal. Andre Johnson continued to show why he is one of the best in the game with a 12 reception, 146 yard performance, Owen Daniels chipped in 67 yards and two touchdowns, and Deandre Hopkins added five receptions and 66 yards. I thought Arian Foster seemed determined to make a big play all game and didn’t seem focused on doing the little things. He was palming the ball and holding it away from his body, he dropped multiple catchable balls, and almost seemed to be showing off and looking to make someone look foolish. Maybe that’s just me over-extrapolating, but he seemed off tonight. I’d be surprised if Gary Kubiak doesn’t talk to him about how he’s holding the ball after he and the other coaches watch film.

Alright, so that was a LOT less brief than I expected it to be. I guess I had more to say than I anticipated, though I shouldn’t really be surprised since I am so long winded anyway. Sorry that was such a long post, hopefully you enjoyed it anyway!

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

Wild Card Playoff Picks

Hey everyone,

If you haven’t seen it already, check out the new site that I am writing for The Football Standard. The NFL Draft Monsters team has combined with Draft Hub and many other talented people to form this new site and it’s going to have great content on there throughout this draft season. I’ll still post articles on here when I can, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to post everything on here that I write for the site. But I appreciate you guys reading and I’ll post things on here when I can.

Today I’m going to post some Wild Card picks, so we’ll see how I do!

Cincinnati-Houston:

I am picking Cincinnati here. Almost no one is picking Houston, but their defense has been a problem since November and the Bengals should be able to run on them thanks to their quality offensive line. I’m not a big Dalton fan, but Matt Schaub hasn’t been anything to write home about lately either and hasn’t seemed to be playing confident lately. Dalton has had an up and down year, but I think this game will come down to which QB can limit his mistakes (IE, interceptions) and which defense slows down the run game better. If I have to be on one of those I’ll take the Bengals.

Green Bay-Minnesota:

This is an easy pick- Green Bay. Minnesota needed every bounce and break that they got last week and they beat the Packers by 3 points at home in a packed Metrodome (I would know, I was there). Now the Vikings must travel to Lambeau and play out in the cold which the Vikings historically struggle to do since they play in a Dome. If you are picking the Vikings in this game you are just asking to be wrong, because the Packers and their fans are not happy that they lost to one of their rivals and let them into the playoffs, and they are going to beat them by two touchdowns. Sorry Vikings fans, but the game against the Packers in week 17 was your Super Bowl. You won, but your season ends tonight.

I’ll post my predictions for the Sunday games either later tonight or tomorrow morning.

–Tom

I will readily admit that I was opposed to playing Christian Ponder this week against the Packers. I tend to be more conservative when it comes to quarterback development, and if you commit to sitting a QB and letting him learn I believe that you should stick to that and not rush him into the starting role before he is ready. The Vikings don’t exactly have a beautiful track record when it comes to developing quarterbacks (the last one they developed that amounted to anything was Daunte Culpepper if I remember correctly, unless you’re one of the few Tarvaris Jackson fans left) so it’s hard for me to trust their judgement on playing Ponder this early in his rookie season. I had my reasons, and I thought they were legitimate. Why play your rookie quarterback in his first start of his career against the defending Superbowl Champion Green Bay Packers, especially when they love to apply pressure off the edge with interesting blitz packages?

Shows what I know.

Ponder didn’t have an insane stat sheet at the end of the game, completing only 13/32 passes for 219 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He had a QB rating of 59.2, and threw a couple of passes that could have been potential turnovers. The Vikings couldn’t complete the comeback against the Packers, and the Vikings limped to a 1-6 record on the season.

But somehow, that all doesn’t seem to matter.

I haven’t watched every single Vikings game this season, but it’s safe to say they looked like a different team than they did previously. They fought throughout the entire game, they didn’t look like absolute garbage in the second half (though they did struggle in the 3rd quarter as Green Bay adjusted to take away Ponder’s roll-out plays that accounted for so much of their success in the first half) and Ponder gave the Vikings a significant spark on offense. It will be interesting to see what happens the rest of the year, but I have to give the Vikings credit: They were in the right when they chose to start Ponder today.

Had McNabb started the offense would have had no confidence, it would have been the same vanilla play-calling, and McNabb’s seemingly disinterested attitude would have continued to permeate through the offense and the rest of the team. Instead, Ponder’s excitement and up-tempo attitude became contagious and the team seemed to be fighting harder than they did in other weeks. I was very impressed by this, and it was actually fun to watch the Vikings on offense today. That’s not something that I’ve said often when watching them in previous weeks.

Adrian Peterson had a great game against a very good rushing defense, and while you have to give credit to the Vikings offensive line and blocking schemes, it’s hard not to argue that a lot of it had to do with Ponder. McNabb struggled to stretch the field vertically and I have seen him get sacked so many times off of play-action I’m not sure he even expected to throw the ball after he turned around to scan the field anymore. Ponder was only sacked twice tonight, which says a lot about the game-plan the Vikings had (AKA, get the ball out early and let Ponder use his mobility to extend plays outside of the pocket) but it also speaks to Ponder’s ability to process information and how ready he was to play this game.

Now, this wasn’t just about Ponder. Ultimately, Ponder and the Vikings lost and that had everything to do with Aaron Rodgers. It has been said time and time again, but he is without a doubt the best quarterback in the NFL right now. The things he is doing right now are just out of this world. At one point Rodgers had thrown three incompletions in the first half. Two of them were a result of dropped passes that should have been caught, and the other was a spike. He was unbelievable in this game and it was really something amazing to watch. He hasn’t had a QB rating under 100 yet this year and he had one of his best games of the season against the Vikings. You have to feel for the Vikings because their defense was just not up to the task of slowing him down, especially in the secondary.

Overall I was obviously incredibly impressed with Rodgers, but Ponder really impressed me because the Vikings offense just looked totally different. It looked like he was unleashing some of their potential whereas McNabb was holding them back in previous starts. Again, I didn’t think Ponder should play in this game because I like to be conservative with QB development, but it is clear that he was ready to start. The Vikings absolutely made the right decision playing him in this game. It will be interesting to see how he does the rest of the year, particularly when teams make a concerted effort to take away so much of his passing outside of the pocket (especially on designed roll-outs).

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

It’s beginning to look like McKinnie is out as Minnesota’s left tackle. I don’t just mean the starting line-up, he might be off the team altogether.

McKinnie was placed on the NFI list (Non-Football Injury) signaling that he may have arrived to camp out of shape. There have been rumblings for at least one or two years that the Vikings have wanted to either move or upgrade the LT spot, as McKinnie has had trouble off the field more than once since joining the Vikings. However, there was never an upgrade available (at least realistically), so a move was never made.

That changed yesterday when the Vikings were able to snag Charlie Johnson, the starting LT for the Colts last year, for a 3 year deal worth around $12 million from what I have seen. Johnson is versatile, and may be best as a LG, but showed he can play LT last year (even if he gave up 6 sacks protecting Peyton Manning, which doesn’t speak glowingly in terms of his ability to stick at that spot). He doesn’t have any character concerns that I’m aware of, which certainly makes him more attractive than McKinnie (especially if they don’t consider his six sacks allowed as an indictment on his ability).

Adam Schefter just tweeted that McKinnie has been cut, so he is officially a free agent and ready to be signed (if anyone wants him).

It’s been an interesting run for McKinnie in Minnesota, but his time has finally run out. I’ll update this as I hear more.

–Tom

It sounds like McNabb may be sporting Vikings colors soon after NFL teams are able to trade their players, and for only a 6th round pick.

Donovan McNabb appears to be on the move, finally being freed from the doghouse in Washington. According to NFL Network and Jay Glazeer, McNabb will be dealt to the Vikings for only a 6th round pick. This reported deal is conditional on the Vikings agreeing to a restructured contract with McNabb, but that shouldn’t be a monumental issue considering the Vikings would likely want to have him for more than just one season (and probably don’t want to pay him $12.5 million for that one year either).

I regularly give the Vikings grief for stupid signings, trades and overall poor management, but this is a suave move that is not typical of their organization. They pick up McNabb for a cheap price and fill a significant need with the acquisition, and should be able to get him for a reasonable cap number once they restructure his deal.

I will update this once this is confirmed in the coming days, but right now it sounds like this deal is promising and should go through once contract negotiations are completed. This is a great trade for the Vikings, and Christian Ponder and the rest of the organization should be excited for this move to go through.

**Update** According to Pro Football Talk and Jay Glazer the deal is for a 2012 6th round pick and a conditional 2013 6th round pick. I will keep this post updated as more details (such as contract info, confirmations) become available.

–Tom

Reactions from Round 1:

There were obviously some surprising trades and picks in round one, so here are some of my reactions from the first round of the NFL Draft:

1- The Falcons trading up for Julio Jones- I am a huge Falcons fan and I can get behind this, but we gave up a LOT for Julio and he’s going to have a lot of pressure on him from the second he starts working out with the team. I don’t know how I feel about that, but hopefully Roddy will be able to take him under his wing and help him improve his concentration to help eliminate some of the simple drops that he has occasionally. Roddy and Julio could be a very lethal tandem and I have been hoping we would go after an elite WR to get a future #1 to eventually replace Roddy, and we finally did that. Drafting a talented player at a position with a very good player already really strengthens the position in the present and the future, so I like the pick but boy… we gave up a lot for him.

2- The Vikings selecting Christian Ponder #12 overall- I like Ponder but dang… that is 15+ picks higher than I thought he would go. I imagine they were trying to work a trade to slide down a bit and they couldn’t pull it off so they drafted the player they were trying to move down and get as a result of the trade down. It looks like a big reach right now, and I definitely would have picked Nick Fairley at that spot, but the Vikings were clearly very high on Ponder and they needed a QB. I disagree with the pick because I think you have to go BPA there, but QB is one of the only positions that does not play by the BPA rule. It’ll be interesting to see how Ponder turns out in comparison to Nick Fairley because they will be in the same division.

3- New England selecting Nate Solder #17 overall- I didn’t have a 1st round grade on Solder so it will be interesting to see how he does in the NFL. The Pats draft as well as anyone so I am interested to see how that plays out, because I was shocked that they picked him over Castonzo, a player that I’m high on. We’ll see how they both play, but I was shocked that New England picked Solder this high considering it’s 10+ picks higher than I would have picked him (I probably had him as a 2nd/3rd rounder but thought he might go 29 to Chicago) and because I thought he was a better athlete than offensive tackle.

4- Washington selecting Ryan Kerrigan #16 overall- I don’t think Kerrigan or Aldon Smith are good fits for the 3-4 OLB position, but Smith is a better fit than Kerrigan. It occurred to me that if the Redskins played a 4-3 they’d actually have a very promising defensive line with Orakpo at RE, Haynesworth at DT and Kerrigan at LE, but they are all at least somewhat out of position in the 3-4 which is the actual scheme they are running. We’ll see how that works out.

5- Cleveland selecting Phil Taylor #21 overall- They have Ahtyba Rubin who is a similar player, a guy who can occupy blockers and stuff the run, and I thought this pick would have been great if they were still running a 3-4, but they are moving to a 4-3. So now they have two potentially quality 3-4 NT prospects and they are running a 4-3. Neither Rubin nor Taylor will offer much at all as a pass rusher, so I can’t really envision Cleveland’s pass rush being potent unless they get incredible production from their DE’s this year. I imagine their run defense will be impressive however, at least up the middle.

6- Da’Quan Bowers sliding all the way through round 1- I thought Bowers would slide because of his knee injury but I didn’t expect him to slide all the way through round 1. It will be particularly interesting to see where he is picked today, because the team will have to be willing to roll the dice. I could see the Vikings considering him at their 2nd round pick if they are worried that Ray Edwards might leave.

7- My mock did a bit better than I expected. When Von Miller went #2 I thought my mock was going to unravel but I got six picks right and got a solid amount of players in the 1st round. I never could have guessed the Falcons would move up that high for Julio, nor did I expect Ponder to go as high as he did. I am glad Dalton didn’t go in round one though, I have thought he was overrated for a long while.

That’s about all I’ve got, I can’t wait for round two to start. I have to say the draft really got boring after about the top 15 or so picks. It got very slow and I found myself daydreaming waiting for the teams to make their picks. Let’s hope the 2nd and 3rd rounds are more interesting!

Thanks for reading! Enjoy the draft!

–Tom

Donovan McNabb Benched?

McNabb's Eagles used to torment my Falcons on a yearly basis but even I know he doesn't deserve to be treated this way.

I know this isn’t exactly “NFL Draft” related, but it’s something I felt that I needed to talk about. I am honestly shocked and a frankly a bit disgusted that the Redskins have decided to bench Donovan McNabb. Now, I would definitely not call myself a fan of McNabb’s. In fact, for many years when he was on Eagles teams that knocked my beloved Falcons out of the playoffs I despised him. But despite my hatred for him and those Eagles teams who always got in the way of my team come playoff time I always respected him because he was and is a quality NFL QB. The Redskins made a play to bring him in and like the Redskins always do they raised expectations too high with veteran acquisitions with too little well-developed talent to ever live up to the expectations of the front office, the media and the fans.

Now, I still believe McNabb is a good QB and his play this season will not change my mind about that. Why you ask? Let’s consider what he is working with on the offensive line. He has a rookie protecting his blind side in Trent Williams, and despite his high draft status he can’t be expected to step up to the NFL level and dominate talented DE’s that he will face, especially in a division with the Giants who have been pressuring QB’s consistently for years, the Eagles who usually have a stable full of quick edge rushers, as well as the Cowboys who have one of the best in the business at getting after the passer in DeMarcus Ware. In addition to Williams the Redskins are starting Kory Lichtensteiger, Casey Rabach and Will Montgomery in the middle of their offensive line. Lichtensteiger was a fourth round pick by the Broncos two years ago who moved to guard because he didn’t have much experience snapping in a traditional pro-style offense, Rabach is a former third round pick of the Ravens who has, to put it lightly, not had a very good season of pass protection. Montgomery is a former seventh round pick of the Panthers, and he plays next to Jamaal Brown, the former Saints left tackle who they tried so hard to get rid of last season. Not exactly a stellar group of players blocking for him, they have needed significant help up front for a couple of years but they have continued to ignore it, even while drafting Trent Williams. They could use an upgrade at LG, C and RG and depending on how Brown looked at RT they could use help there as well.

Not only that, but McNabb doesn’t have a whole lot of talent around him. Two guys who were supposed to contribute, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, have produced nothing since being drafted and it is probably fair to label them busts at this point having been picked in the second round. Santana Moss is still there, as is Clinton Portis, but as most people know Portis has not been healthy much this season and that has left Ryan Torain as the lead back. However, it is well known that the Redskins need a wide receiver capable of being a go-to guy on offense which they currently lack. So besides their woeful offensive line they have little talent outside at the skill positions outside of TE where they have reliable targets in Chris Cooley and Fred Davis (even though Davis can be inconsistent).

So is it really fair to blame McNabb’s career high 15 INT’s entirely on him? I don’t think so. That makes this benching all the more confusing. Yes he has had a down statistical season, but if you are going to bench McNabb you should bench at least three members of the offensive line, Ryan Torain, Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong so they can see what they have in other players. Because if Rex Grossman and John Beck, two NFL journeymen who have little value as potential starting QB’s if they have any at all, warrant exploration, then anyone on that roster has a legitimate case to get some playing time over the next three weeks.

If Shanahan actually releases McNabb not only would the Redskins shoulder a substantial cap hit, he would put a quality starting QB on the free agent market.

There is one intriguing thought I had about all of this. If the Redskins, despite the contract extension they gave McNabb and any evidence I or anyone else can come up with to support the idea that this season really isn’t a great reflection of McNabb’s ability as a NFL QB, do ultimately decide to release him there will be a number of teams lining up for his services, the first of which should be the Minnesota Vikings. I think it is pretty obvious that Brett Favre should have retired last season, and I don’t think that he should come back for another year. It’s a shame that his career may have to end this way, but it really is his own fault for coming back one year more than he should have. But without Favre the Vikings will be searching for a new QB. I, like most people, am convinced that Tarvaris Jackson is not the answer at QB for the Vikings. I am not even sure he is a reliable enough option for an interim-only basis. Joe Webb will get his first career start on Monday Night Football against the Bears in TCF Bank Stadium, so that will be a good opportunity for the Vikings to evaluate whether or not he is worth keeping as a developmental QB or as a potential #2 at some point.

Beyond that, though, the Vikings literally have no talent at QB. They should be in the market for a veteran to take the reigns for at least a year and a young QB to develop into an eventual starter this year, and should McNabb become available I imagine the Vikings would spare no expense to get him to Winter Park to sell him on the organization. If they were able to get McNabb it would save the Vikings from potentially spiraling into the bottom of the NFC North with the Detroit Lions for a couple of seasons. He won’t fix the offensive line, the defensive line or the secondary, but he would solidify the QB position which is probably their most pressing need at the moment, and that’s something. Not to mention having McNabb would be a great buffer for whoever they draft to play QB in the future because ideally he would play well enough for at least a year or hopefully two years to keep fans from clamoring for the young gun to play.

So it will be interesting to see how this situation plays out. Hopefully the Redskins don’t just release McNabb, but if he doesn’t want to play there anymore and they do cut him then I’m sure the Vikings would be more than happy to scoop him up. God knows McNabb deserves a team who will treat him with some respect. Maybe the Vikings could be that team.

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

Moss is one of the best receivers of all time in my opinion, and while I understand why the Vikings released him I still think it was a poor decision.

As most football fans are well aware, the Minnesota Vikings placed future Hall of Fame Wide Receiver Randy Moss on waivers this week. For those of you who don’t understand the waiver wire process, placing a player on waivers means that all other 31 teams have 24 hours to put in a “claim” for him. There is a list of all of the teams eligible to claim the player ranked from one to 31 based off of their 2010 win/loss record. In this instance the Bills were number one and the New England Patriots were 31. That simply meant that if the Bills put a claim on Moss they would get him, while the Patriots would only get Moss (assuming they put a claim on him at all) if all thirty teams ahead of them on the list passed on him. The Tennessee Titans put in a claim for him and officially claimed him off of waivers on Wednesday the 3rd of November. They were the 22nd team on the list, meaning that 21 teams passed on Moss before he was finally claimed by Tennessee.

Now, I understand why the Vikings released Moss. He made some inflammatory comments and the Vikings were not going to tolerate it. However, Moss has always been very outspoken about his desire to win. He has been quoted as saying that he would be fine not having a single pass in a game as long as they win, and he is happy to play the role of decoy. However, he has always had a problem when he doesn’t get the ball and his team loses, and that has been the situation he has been in since arriving in Minnesota. In his four games on the Vikings he had only 13 receptions, 174 yards and two touchdowns. He did not produce more than 81 yards in a single game while he was in Minnesota, and in his last two games he had only four catches, 38 yards and a touchdown. Those are not typical Randy Moss numbers, and it is because he was being targeted less. He was drawing his regular double teams and opening up the field for his teammates, most notably Percy Harvin, but ultimately Favre was not delivering him the ball. I am not sure if that’s because of a lack of familiarity that he and Favre had with each-other or because Moss was not well versed in the offense, but it is obvious that he was not getting the ball enough.

I think placing Moss on waivers was a desperation move by Brad Childress to try to prove he still has control of the team.

Obviously he did not react well to this, and I think it warrants consideration that in New England when he was concerned about something like this he would answer questions about the situation but he would not say something as opinionated as he did at his most recent press conference. I think that speaks volumes about how much respect he has for Brad Childress and the Vikings coaching staff compared to the respect he had for Bill Belichick and the Patriots coaching staff. This is a tremendous display of disrespect, and that is why Childress wanted him gone. This was not a move that made the team better, it was a move by Childress to attempt to save face and show he still has control of the team. However, I am of the opinion that he has lost control of his team. I don’t think the majority of the Vikings’ players believe that they are a championship caliber team with or without Randy Moss, and I don’t think they believe in what Childress is trying to sell them anymore. I will give him until the end of the season, but barring a remarkable turnaround I do not think Childress will be back coaching the Vikings next season, and even if they play better for the remainder of the year I think he may be on his way out.

The Vikings need a number of things, most notably a new quarterback and a new head coach, because I don’t think they can win a Superbowl with Brett Favre and Brad Childress at those two critical positions anymore. Honestly, I never thought they would win a Superbowl with Brad Childress at head coach in the first place. For the sake of the Vikings and their fans I hope they realize that Brad Childress does not deserve to be back next season. They made the mistake of keeping Childress and letting a great coaching mind walk out the door when Mike Tomlin was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they will be faced with a similar situation regarding their current defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. It will be interesting to see how they choose to handle this the second time around, and it will be just as interesting to see how the Vikings do without Moss and how Moss does in Tennessee.

Thanks for reading, I promise I will have more NFL Draft content up soon!

–Tom

This is my analysis of Matt Ryan’s Week 1 performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played poorly in this game as evidenced by his statistics: 27/44, 252 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, a completion percentage of 61.4% and a QB rating of 67.6. But there is definitely more to his performance than just his stat line, so when I re-watched this game and took twelve single spaced pages of notes on it I paid particular attention to Matt Ryan and how he played. Here is what I found:

”]Ryan had a poor performance in this game. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was when I watched it live, but he still had a pretty bad game considering everything that happened. The interception he threw to Polamalu was an incredible play on Polamalu’s part because of the instincts, closing speed and just overall uncanny ability to pick the pass off and get his feet inbounds, but it wasn’t an impossible play to make. Ryan had been throwing that same ball to Roddy all game long, he probably threw it at least 10 times or more over the course of the game. The Steelers’ corners started to key on it and had blanket coverage on a number of them as the game went on, but finally Polamalu tried to jump one and he came away with a great interception. That is on Mularkey for calling such a predictable game, but it is also on Ryan for staring Roddy down on that route and for throwing to him on that same deep curl over and over for the entire game. Plus Ryan doesn’t have the arm strength to throw a deep curl to the sideline like that, so his passes hang in the air a bit which gives the defender more time to close on the ball and make a play on it. Hence why Pittsburgh’s corners and defensive backs were in Roddy’s hip pocket all game regardless of how crisp he was going in and out of his break.

He had a number of bad throws in this game (I counted about seven in this game), some of which were due to bad footwork (I counted about five or so instances of this, meaning an off balance throw, throw off his back foot, etc.) and some just due to him getting flustered in the pocket and panicking. There were a few instances where he had time to throw and just missed his target, which will happen. However, we really need to stop making the deep curl and deep out such a critical route in our offense. Ryan can throw it and complete it, but if we keep doing it over and over like we did in this game teams will key on it and have some easy interceptions because of how long the ball stays in the air. He has to time the throw perfectly, throw an accurate ball and put it on the right shoulder for Roddy or anyone else to have a good chance at catching it, otherwise the defensive back will be able to knock it away if they close on it well or if they are expecting it. Mularkey really needs to work to Ryan’s strengths which involve beating blitzes, quick throws, throws over the middle and throws that require more touch and accuracy rather than pure arm strength like throws to the sideline require. We can’t scrap them from our offense entirely obviously, but there’s no reason we should be blatantly playing to one of his greatest weaknesses on such a regular basis.

Ryan threw the ball 44 times in this game. That number is much higher than I would prefer, especially when our running game was as ineffective as it was.

Ryan had a number of good throws in this game, I counted about seven good throws, five very good throws and fourteen solid throws overall. As you can tell, we threw the ball way more in this game than I think we would ordinarily want to. Our running game was just not effective for the majority of the game, but I will touch on that more when I break down how Turner, Snelling, Norwood and the offensive line did. However, Ryan and Roddy had a lot of pressure put on them to perform well and Ryan did a very good job of coming up with big 3rd down conversions in this game. He started out playing poorly on 3rd down at the beginning of the game which coincided with him looking very uncomfortable with his offensive line. He showed a number of examples of poor pocket poise at the beginning of the game as well as some bad footwork and bad decisions that occurred when he panicked in the face of pressure. That is definitely not something I expected to see out of Ryan so I made sure to see how he looked in those situations as the game progressed. As the game continued he definitely settled down and played better, made better decisions and showed a lot more poise. However, he was getting away with those deep curl throws to Roddy and Roddy made some very nice catches with defenders blanketed all over him which had to help Ryan’s confidence. So after he threw that interception to Polamalu his confidence took a huge hit and he resorted to his earlier antics a bit during the drive in overtime, but still looked better late than he did early in the game.

Ryan definitely had a mixed bag as far as good decisions and bad decisions as well as good/very good throws and bad throws. Again, we threw the ball way more than I would normally like (44 times, which is way too high for a run-first team like us) and we were completely ineffective running the ball (25 attempts, 58 yards and only 2.3 yards per carry). We couldn’t run the ball well so we got into 2nd and 3rd and long situations far too often, and Ryan had to throw us into field goal position to get us any points what-so-ever. We had no balance and eventually we just became entirely too predictable and mistakes were made like Ryan’s interception late in the 4th quarter. Because I am writing this after the fourth game of the season I have the benefit of looking for trends, and I found some that were similar to those I identified three years ago when he came out of Boston College. When he was at Boston College he regularly had to throw the ball a lot to keep the team in games and often when he did that he would turn the ball over more often than when the team had a semblance of a running game. In the two games that we have had no running game (against Pittsburgh and San Francisco we had a combined 156 rushing yards on 54 attempts for a pathetic 2.88 yards per carry average) Ryan threw the ball 44 and 43 times, respectively. In those two games he threw three interceptions versus only one touchdown, had an average of just under six yards per attempt versus over seven yards per attempt in the two games against Arizona and New Orleans, and an average QB rating of about 67 against Pitt and San Francisco versus about 112 against Arizona and New Orleans. In this case I truly believe the stats speak for themselves: When Ryan has to carry the offense by throwing the ball 35 or 40+ times in a game, we struggle and he struggles as well. The only times we will have to do that is when we get behind early in the game or when our run game sputters, which is what happened against Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

The disparity in Ryan's stats when he throws the ball more than 40 times versus 35 times or less is staggering.

Now, I haven’t re-watched the past three games yet so I can’t accurately describe how Ryan played in each of them, but I can tell you right now that the dominant running game we had against Arizona and New Orleans played a significant role in Ryan being vastly more effective and efficient. He is very good off of play-action, especially when we don’t roll him out to the sideline and we just let him make his progressions naturally. However, when the running game isn’t effective and he has to do a lot of straight three and five step drops to try to throw the team into the game he is going to turn the ball over more. That is just who he is as a player. He doesn’t have the rocket arm strength or arm to put the team on his back like Peyton Manning and throw for 400 yards and pull out a win in my opinion, which I now realize means that I don’t think he will be one of the best QB’s in the NFL for his entire career. That is a bit disappointing considering the incredible hype he had after his great rookie season, but he is definitely a good enough QB to put together a crucial game-winning drive when we need it most. I know that because he has done that regularly during his first two and a quarter seasons on the Falcons. That means we can win a Superbowl with him if we surround him with enough talent along our offensive line to consistently run the ball and if we give him enough weapons to keep the defense off balance by spreading the ball around. We don’t have those pieces in place yet so it will be interesting to see how we go about acquiring those pieces to allow Ryan to flourish. Because if we surround him with that talent I absolutely believe he will.

Overall I think Ryan had a below average game, but it was not nearly as horrible as I thought it was watching it live. The Polamalu interception was so late that it made everything seem so much worse than it was. Our offensive line really made it hard on Ryan, but he made quality throws to convert for first downs on at least eleven or twelve 2nd and 3rd downs with seven or eight yards needed to pick up a first down. Many of them were on 2nd and 10 or 3rd and 10. That had a lot to do with our ineffective running game obviously, but Ryan still stepped up to the challenge and did the best he could. He definitely missed some open targets in this game because he got too locked in on Roddy, and I saw probably three or four instances when he could have made a routine or solid throw and picked up a nice gain or a significant chunk of yardage. That will happen, but Ryan is usually much better about going through his progressions than he was in this game. It was a poor effort on his part, and that was reflected in his stats, but there was plenty of silver lining to be found in this game in the form of his number of good, accurate throws, his poise in the pocket getting consistently better throughout the course of the game, and his regular conversions in long yardage situations on 2nd and 3rd downs. It will be interesting to break down the rest of the Falcons games this year to see how Ryan progresses as the season goes on during my careful film study of each game.

Look out for more in-depth Falcons analysis! Go Falcons!!

Thanks for reading, hopefully you enjoyed this piece. I will have a number of other Falcons-focused reviews coming throughout the course of the season as I get around to re-watching each of the games, taking a lot of notes on each play, and then analyzing the information I gather and summarizing it for everyone to read. I’d like to do this for more teams than just the Falcons, but I think it makes sense to start with the Falcons and perhaps try analyzing a critical game for another team every once in a while. I’m sure I will have a Vikings and Packers game analysis at one point during the season since I see them play so often and I am so familiar with their rosters.

Thanks again!

–Tom