When the Eagles traded up for NDSU Quarterback Carson Wentz in the April draft, Sam Bradford was not thrilled. Bradford, who finished the 2015 season with the Philadelphia Eagles in good fashion, demanded to be traded. Understandably, NFL teams balked at what it would cost to get Bradford, as NJ.com reported, it was going to cost, “more than a second round pick.” Fast forward to Tuesday, August 31st: The Eagles got more than they could ever bargain for by trading Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings for a 2017 1st round pick and a 2018 4th round pick.
Bradford has never lit up the league or taken any teams to the playoffs, but in his defense, the playmakers around him over his years with the Rams and his one year with the Eagles were rather non existent. The best name to come out of that group was Danny Amendola in St.Louis. Bradford now goes to a team with Charles Johnson and Stefon Diggs on the outside, Kyle Rudolph at TE, and Adrian Peterson in the backfield. There’s also Laquon Treadwell waiting in the wings to take over Charles Johnson’s starting spot.
Several talking heads in the NFL considered the Vikings to be contenders for the Super Bowl with Bridgewater under center and now there’s no reason why Minnesota couldn’t have the same hopes and dreams. Mike Zimmer has built the Vikings to be a contender with an old school style of ball. Zimmer is going to grind Adrian Peterson to the bone with Jerrick McKinnon as a change of pace running back. It doesn’t hurt that the defense is filled with young studs (Barr, Smith, Floyd, Kendricks, Hunter) and savvy veterans (Newman, Griffen, Joseph) and were at the top of the league last year in points allowed (17.1 per game).
When news broke about QB Teddy Bridgewater’s injury last Tuesday, I immediately was banging the drum for Colin Kaepernick to get to Minnesota. The idea of Kaepernick, McKinnon, and Peterson coming out of the backfield and making people look foolish with their legs sounded really intriguing over potential vanilla veterans that Vikings’ offensive coordinator Norv Turner has worked with: Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer, or current backup Shaun Hill. Most people around the league never thought that Vikings General Manager, Rick Spielman, would make such a bold trade to try and save the season. Bradford does’t need to put up elite stats for the Vikings to contend for a playoff birth. Zimmer is going to preach ball control and mistake-free football. It’s exactly how Zimmer wants Teddy Bridgewater to run the offensive unit. Bradford can do the same, and arguably push the ball down field a bit better.
Here’s an interesting fact from Pro Football Focus: “Last season, Bradford played with the worst receiving corps in the league, a group that dropped 7.6 percent of his passes to lead the league. He missed all of 2014, and while there was some early-season rust, he was one of the top-graded quarterbacks during the second half of the season. On the year, he actually finished 12th in PFF quarterback grades, at 85.3, one spot ahead of 13th-place Bridgewater at 82.6.”
Spielman was indeed bold with this move, but the Vikings are built to go deep into the playoffs now. It’s not so much that they don’t trust Shaun Hill to win a couple of games, but I don’t think the front office viewed him as a 16 game starter and remaining healthy. Bradford has been bitten by the injury bug since joining the NFL, but he won’t have to throw as much with the Vikings. My only concern is that the Vikings run the most plays with 7-step drop backs and frequently use the play-action pass. Getting Bradford up to speed on the playbook will be a priority for the Vikings and we’ll more than likely see Hill split reps with Bradford during practices. Another thing to consider: Bridgewater may not be ready to go next season.
One major plus going for Bradford in Minnesota is that tight ends coach, Pat Shurmur, was Bradford’s offensive coordinator during his rookie campaign in 2010 with St.Louis and his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia last year. Although Shurmur doesn’t call the plays, I am guessing that Shurmur and Norv Turner can help Bradford with the playbook and the terminology at an accelerated rate. For me, this doesn’t stink of another Josh Freeman disaster.
One thing that the Vikings will miss with Teddy Bridgewater being out: mobility in and out of the pocket. Teddy Bridgewater has underrated wheels and elusiveness and the fact is Bradford just doesn’t match up with him there. I had the Vikings at 11-5 with Bridgewater as the QB, but I think they drop off a game to go 10-6, but still make the wildcard spot for the playoffs.
Take a deep breathe Vikings fans….it’s either going to be a really smooth or really rocky flight.
There are some teams in the NFL who seem like they make the playoffs every single year. These organizations continually field competitive squads that give their fans something to cheer for every Sunday. For the rest of us who aren’t spoiled little shits living in New England, we hope and pray that enough things can go right for us to make the playoffs every once in a while. We are the salt of the earth when it comes to NFL fandom. We know what it’s like to miss the playoffs because it happens more often than not for most franchises. The following playoff teams will be joining us this season in the land of the have-nots as they fall from grace and miss the NFL postseason after making it to the dance last year.
This has got to be the year that Marvin Lewis and the Bengals get exposed. For the first time since 2010 they will not make the playoffs. With the losses of Marvin Jones and Muhammad Sanu, and the injury to Tyler Eifert, I find it hard to believe that they can get back to the postseason. With that much yardage and that many touchdowns out the door, there may be times when the Bengals’ offense looks stagnant. They have some new faces along the offensive line and it might take some time for them all to gel. Because of that, we will see Andy Dalton regress a bit from last season. With the Steelers as the favorites in the division and the Ravens not likely to stay down for long, this could be Cincinnati’s year on the outside looking in.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs rattled off 11 wins in a row last season before losing to the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs. That is no easy feat in the NFL and one that they are not likely to repeat. I still find it kind of unbelievable that they were able to do it last year actually. Andy Reid has been a consistently solid head coach during his career, but too much of this team’s success is predicated on the health of Jamaal Charles and Justin Houston. Both of whom are another knee injury just waiting to happen. If Alex Smith can make some magic they might be headed back to the playoffs but I see the San Diego Chargers as the favorite to win that division, leaving the Chiefs out in the cold.
Apologies to staff writers Bryce and Noah, but I can’t help but see the Vikings as anything other than wildly overrated by just about everyone. They are a nice team with some solid pieces, but by no means are they world beaters. They have a talented starting running back in Adrian Peterson to be sure, but he is also getting older by the day. I don’t care what he says, once you get over 30 years old as an NFL running back, the decline in production is real. Without a dominate AP, I don’t think that Teddy Bridgewater can keep the offense afloat. You also have to factor in that the Green Bay Packers should be back in their usual form and that I already picked the Lions to make the playoffs too. That just doesn’t leave much room in the postseason for the Vikings.
Sorry to all these teams but you’re in for a disappointing 2016 campaign. You really might as well not even play the season. I’m just kidding. But don’t be surprised to see these guys imploding come December. You heard it here first.
Fantasy Football is almost here people. For many of us with real jobs and grown up responsibilities it’s our last way to be competitive with our friends and acquaintances. We get to be downright mean and hope for the misfortune of others. If you’re like me, you are looking for any type of insight in order to make yourself the best team possible, and if you strike out with a high draft pick then it can haunt you for the rest of the season. With that in mind, here are some players that you should really avoid in 2016.
Frank Gore had a pretty decent 2015 while playing for a pretty bad Indianapolis Colts team. He rushed for 967 yards and six touchdowns, while fumbling the ball four times, including once on the 1-yard line. That’s not too bad for a guy who is 33 years old and was running behind a garbage offensive line. But don’t be fooled. Frank Gore is still 33 years old, and although the Colts drafted four offensive linemen, I foresee the play up front being subpar as they figure out what works and what doesn’t. With a decent back up (Robert Turbin) and some talented youngsters (Tyler Varga and Josh Ferguson) looking to take carries away from the old dog, it would be smart to pass over Frank Gore this year. You just don’t spend draft picks on a running back who is that old and has a poor offensive line.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t draft Jeremy Hill if he comes to you in a late-middle round, but the fact is that someone is going to draft him very high. Don’t be that person. Muhammad Sanu and Marvin Jones are gone, and Tyler Eifert is hurt. That’s just 1,929 total yards and 19 touchdowns, no big deal. Defenses are going to key in on the run game and hope that they can contain AJ Green. Look for the Bengals to see eight men in the box much more than they have in recent years. On top of that, Giovani Bernard is still going to split carries with him. I just don’t see enough here for Jeremy Hill to be worth the inevitably high position he will enjoy in most drafts. Do yourself and your team a favor and get someone else.
Once upon a time Jimmy Graham was arguably the best tight end in the NFL. When he got traded from the Saints to the Seahawks many people thought that he would excel in that offense, but that did not happen. Before his season ended with a torn patellar tendon in week 12, it was clear that he was not a good fit in the Seahawks run-heavy offense, where the team misused him by trying to make him block for Marshawn Lynch. I just don’t see the Seahawks changing up the style of their offense and utilizing Jimmy Graham as the full-time receiver that he truly is. Add to that the fact that the patellar tendon injury will likely cause him to lose at least a little bit of that quickness and agility, and I just don’t see this as a very smart pick at tight end. Pass on Graham.
After a pedestrian rookie season in 2014, many people thought that he would see a big uptick in his production in 2015. When he came into the NFL, accuracy was supposed to be one of his strengths but that seems to have disappeared now that he is in the big leagues. He just doesn’t throw the ball all that well. And he looks especially shaky on longer throws. To make matters worse, this might be the year that Adrian Peterson finally starts slowing down. Meaning a lot more pressure on a young and inaccurate quarterback. He’ll make some plays, especially with his legs, but look for his interceptions to be up and completion percentage to be down. You would be wise to let Teddy slide if he comes to you. Sorry Vikings’ fans.
Fantasy Football can be a cruel beast. One player can be the difference between a trip to the playoffs and a December full of sadness and loathing. If you want to field the best team possible then sometimes that means eschewing some big name players that have helped you be successful in the past or that you just plain like to watch. This isn’t business though, this is Fantasy Football, so avoid these guy and maybe you could be heading to the Championship this year.
Technically, free agency isn’t over, but the big name signings (Anquan Boldin, where you at?) are over. The draft was a month ago and now I’ve had time to process how the Vikings will do against their 2016 opponents.
Week 1 @ Titans
USA Today recently ranked Mike Mularkey as the worst head coach in the NFL. I have to agree here and the move to hire him as the head coach is baffling. The Vikings will start out slow but explode in the 2nd half. Harrison Smith returns a Marcus Mariota interception for a TD early in the 4th quarter that seals the game. Treadwell scores his first NFL touchdown on a 5 yard back shoulder fade. Vikings win 31-17
Week 2 vs Packers
I don’t like the fact that the Green Bay Packers are the new stadium home opener at all. The Packers will be coming off a blowout win against the Jaguars and be extra confident in thinking they’ll spoil Minnesota’s big night. However, this isn’t the cutesy Leslie Frazier era of Vikings football. Vikings can win a close game here versus Green Bay. This game screams “Adrian Peterson rushes 20-160-2” stat line. Rodgers keeps it close with some ridiculous throws late but the Vikings get a critical sack from Everson Griffen on 4th down to seal it up. Vikings win 21-18
Look for more of this.
Week 3 @ Panthers
Carolina is easily the most well rounded team in the NFC and it’s not even close. Cam Newton had a fantastic MVP campaign in 2015 and he continues to roll coming into week 3 versus the Vikings. The Vikings can hang with Carolina, much like they did vs Denver in week 4 last year, but Carolina’s weapons will be too much for the Vikings. Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess (aka Fun-Fun according to Cam Newton) will make Rhodes and Newman look silly in a tight contest. Cam Newton gives the Vikings fits by rushing for 60 yards and a score. Vikings can expose the middle of the field (if Kuechly is blitzing) with crossing routes and deep posts with WR Stefon Diggs. Vikings lose 27-23
Week 4 vs Giants
Ah, I’m sure the world is waiting for a Giants vs Vikings primetime match up. The last two times these two teams have met in primetime? 2015: The Vikings obliterated the Odell Beckham Jr.-less Giants 49-17 on Sunday Night Football. 2013: THE JOSH FREEMAN MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL GAME. Holy hell, does anyone remember that game? I was on tour in Providence, RI watching this game on a day off and I had such high hopes for Freeman. Turns out he was concussed early in the game and the Vikings kept him out there. I drank a bunch of bad craft beer and had 20 buffalo wings to drown my sorrows out. Also, I’m pretty sure Freeman threw 4-5 footballs out of MetLife Stadium that night. Anyways, the Giants spent a grip of money on high priced defensive free agents (DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison, and CB Janoris Jenkins) and actually drafted a productive-in-college WR in Sterling Shepard to go across Odell Beckam Jr.
Their OL is a bit of a concern and RB Rashad Jennings turned 31 this offseason. Beckham is going to make Zimmer an extremely angry coach this night and Rhodes or Newman might get chewed out by halftime. I really hope Zimmer is mic’d up for this game. I think Adrian Peterson and McKinnon can 1-2 punch this game for the Vikings and they win a close contest with a much improved New York Giants team. Rudolph becomes a nice target for Teddy Bridgewater and gives the Giants fits all night. Eli throws a late game pick to Captain Munnerlyn that sets up the Vikings in the red zone. Adrian rushes for a 20 yard TD to put the nail in the coffin. Vikings win 28-21
Week 5 vs Texans
Houston spent a ridiculous amount of money on a QB (Brock Osweiler) who played 7 games last year and got benched in Week 17 for a revived corpse version of Peyton Manning. I think Bill O’Brien is an interesting coach (probably the best Bill Belachick student) and has gotten the best out of the talent he has but Houston does absolutely nothing for me. Houston wins this game if JJ Watt plays QB, RB, and all of the defensive positions. DeAndre Hopkins is a top 5 WR in the NFL and will more than likely make Rhodes look silly on a couple of plays, but I get the feeling Brock Osweiler throws multiple picks and is strip sacked for a touchdown by Danielle Hunter. Teddy won’t have to do much and can lean on the running game to win this game after the defense sets the offense up with great field position on multiple drives. Vikings win 30-14
Week 6 BYE
Week 7 @ Eagles
It’s anyone’s guess as to who will be the Eagles’ starting QB in week 1, but I think by this time the Vikings are going to see Sam Bradford. The Eagles are rebuilding, however, they force a good amount of turnovers and Sproles is still dangerous in the return game. I get the feeling Anthony Barr is asked to play coverage against Eagles TE, Zach Ertz, a handful of snaps this game. New Eagles coach, Doug Pedersen, loved to utilize the TE position in Kansas City under Andy Reid’s offense. The WRs that Philadelphia has can be contained, and feel like Munnerlyn can handle his own vs slot WR, Jordan Matthews. Bold prediction: Bradford is benched at the half and we see Carson Wentz take over. Vikings win 27-17
Look for some Barr on Ertz action in this one.
Week 8 @ Bears
Halloween Monday Night Football at Soldier Field. The Vikings finally won at Soldier Field in 2015 for the first time since 2007. However, I think this will be a Halloween nightmare for the Vikings. I’m actually impressed with the personnel the Bears have landed on defense this offseason. This has the makings of a rainy, cold, sloppy mess of a game. Cutler seems to shine from time to time against the Vikings and I think Alshon Jeffrey and Kevin White have monster games. Harsh conditions are not helpful for an average armed QB like Teddy Bridgewater and the Bears defense looks like a legit unit. Vic Fangio is one of the better defensive coordinators in the game and he’s starting to get guys (OLB Leonard Floyd, ILB Danny Trevathan, ILB Jerell Freeman, DL Akiem Hicks) he can mold for his system. Fangio was the defensive coordinator for the 49ers from 2011-2014 who had players such as: Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Dante Whitner, Eric Reid, etc. Vikings lose 24-14
Week 9 vs Lions
The Vikings should be thankful they played the Lions in the first half of the season last year. Matthew Stafford was absolutely money the end of the season and the Lions finished with a semi-respectable 7-9 record after starting the year 1-7. I cannot figure out the identity of this team now that Calvin Johnson is gone. The Lions made protecting Stafford a priority during the draft by selecting OT Taylor Decker in the first round. If the Lions can get RB Ameer Abdullah going to take pressure off Stafford, this could be a scary team. Golden Tate is a really nice WR and adding ex-Bengals WR, Marvin Jones, wasn’t a horrible move. The Vikings are the better overall team and will prevail by a Cordarrelle Patterson kickoff return for a TD late in the game. Vikings win 27-20
Week 10 @ Washington
I had predicted Jay Gruden getting fired last year, but hey, turns out his team won the division at 9-7 with Kirk “YOU LIKE THAT?” Cousins at QB. WR Josh Doctson was a nice grab for Washington in the first round in the draft. Between Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis (you never know with this guy), Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, Josh Doctson, and Matt Jones, the Vikings will have their hands full. They can win it if they force turnovers and get to Cousins. Vikings lose a heart breaker in the final seconds of this game. Vikings lose 21-20
Week 11 vs Cardinals
The Vikings hung with the Cardinals in a 2015 matchup pretty well. Arizona ended up winning the game (23-20) on a brilliant strip sack by Dwight Freeney. Carson Palmer got exposed by Seattle (Week 17), Green Bay (Divisional Round), and Carolina (NFC Championship) last year but I think part of that had to something to do with his finger injury. He had hardly any zip on his throws during those games but Palmer knows this year is his best shot for a Super Bowl and will have another great regular season. Vikings hang with the Cardinals but lose in close fashion again due to David Johnson being a monster. Vikings lose 24-21
David Johnson will be too much for the Vikings to handle in this one.
Week 12 @ Lions
The Vikings haven’t played on Thanksgiving since facing the Cowboys in 2000. Randy Moss was known for lighting up the world during the 1998 and 2000 Thanksgiving games and I think Laquon Treadwell will get his chance in this game. Vikings defense sacks Stafford 5 times and Teddy and Treadwell connect for two touchdowns. Vikings win 31-21
Week 13 vs Cowboys
Thursday Night Football usually is a stinker, but thankfully both the Vikings and Cowboys play on Thanksgiving and will be coming off a normal weeks of rest. Dallas has an elite level offensive line and Ezekiel Elliot will make life for Romo so much easier. Mike Zimmer coached the Cowboys’ defense from 1995-2007 and it’s fair to say he probably knows about some of Tony Romo’s tendencies. This is nail biter game where Tony Romo throws a late pick to Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh successfully converts on a time expiring field goal to clinch the win. Vikings win 27-24
Week 14 @ Jaguars
Remember how the Raiders were going to destroy the Vikings in their 2015 matchup? There’s no way Minnesota’s defense can handle the Raiders ariel attack! The Jaguars hype train comes to a crashing end in a blow out game vs the Vikings. Bortles will throw 2-3 interceptions, giving Teddy Bridgewater excellent field position for 3 touchdown scoring drives. Adrian Peterson daggers the game late with a 60 yard touchdown run to put the Vikings up by three possessions. Vikings win 38-17
Week 15 vs Colts
Andrew Luck has thrown 55 interceptions in 3.5 seasons. He had the worst QB rating in the league last year (when healthy) and struggles versus stingy defenses. Though, I still can’t figure out how he picked apart Seattle in 2013 but looks lost versus defenses like the Jets, Patriots, and Bills. The Colts drafted a good center in Alabama’s Ryan Kelly to protect Luck, but the Colts are going with 33 year old Frank Gore as their starting running back. Adrian Peterson goes wild versus a soft Colts defense and cruise to an easy victory. Vikings win 28-20
We’ll be getting a good look at that classic Andrew Luck interception face.
Week 16 @ Packers
This game is for the division and will be played in horrible winter weather on Christmas Eve. Packers RB, Eddie Lacy, is in a contract year and is currently slimming down with the P90X founder. Rodgers gets quick completions to Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson to wear out the corners and grind Eddie Lacy to wear out the Linebackers and Defensive Line. Adrian Peterson has a nice day to keep this close, but ultimately the Packers take the NFC Division Championship. Vikings lose 24-17
Week 17 vs Bears
Thankfully the Lions lost their week 16 game and the Vikings have clinched a wild card spot. Zimmer is furious and makes his starters play versus the Chicago Bears. The Vikings look sharp and refocused and take it to the Bears in all three phases. Chicago will be a 7-8 team at this point and will be playing for pride. Cordarrelle Patterson returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Vikings never look back. Teddy shows poise and throws for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns (Diggs, Treadwell, and McKinnon each with a score). Zimmer’s defense rattles Cutler into forcing 2 turnovers and one for a score. Vikings win 45-18
Vikings will be the #5 NFC seed in the playoffs at 11-5.
BOLD PREDICTION: Mike Zimmer is the AP Coach of The Year.
The Minnesota Vikings went into the 1st round of the NFL draft desperately needing help on the offensive side of the ball and they got it. Arguably the best Wide Receiver in the draft, the Vikings stole Laquon Treadwell with the 23rd overall pick. Vikings General Manager, Rick Spielman, has been known to wheel and deal in the draft, but his patience paid off.
Spielman played it smart by not getting the fastest player, but they got the guy that fits QB Teddy Bridgewater’s strengths the most. Minnesota tried having an outside “burner” with Mike Wallace in 2015, but that was an unmitigated disaster. Treadwell is an outside receiver who ran a 4.64 forty-yard-dash, but you don’t need blazing speed for his skill set.
Some comparable wide recivers: Anquan Boldin (4.71), Larry Fitzgerald (4.63), and Hakeem Nicks (4.63) that matchup with Treadwell. The Vikings also feel that Treadwell can get faster as he heals from his broken left tibia/dislocated ankle. By shoring up offensive line concerns in free agency (Alex Boone and Andre Smith), the Vikings got to focus on their weakest position in the draft.
The personnel for offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, is going to be real cute for a franchise quarterback (Bridgewater) who has been labeled as a “game manager” during his short two year career. Minnesota frequently runs the ball with Adrian Peterson on first down, but by adding Treadwell, they can keep defenses on their heels. Surprisingly, New York Giants passed on all of the WRs in the first round. Eli Apple (CB), the Giants 1st round pick, may pan out wonderfully, but why not pair up Treadwell with Odell Beckham Jr?
Most expect to see Treadwell and Stefon Diggs to be the starting outside WRs for the Minnesota Vikings on opening weekend at Tennessee.
Is there anything more anxiety inducing for both teams than a final minute drive with the game on the line? The answer is no, not really. No. ‘Ole Pretzel’s highlight this week comes via a stout Denver defense that stood up to a potentially dynamic drive and sealed up the game for goodsies.
Prior to this play Bridgewater connected with a sharp 17-yard pickup, but shortly thereafter Denver releases the hounds as T.J. Ward rushes in for the strip to make all of Viking fandom gasp in terror. This game winning play is particularly impressive in that it proved to be a team effort as Brandon Marshall sprawls out, pushing the bouncing pigskin back towards the Denver line and into the waiting arms of (who else?) Von Miller who covers it up for good. In a matter of seconds the Vikings’ drive ends with a showstopper on the backs of three baaaaaaaaaaad men.
Week 4: Cabin Still Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
As the Lions fall to 0-4, partially due to a badly blown call (sound familiar?), a broken man’s fancy turns from the frivolity of beer to the darker sanctuary found in hard corn liquor. What better way to drown one’s sorrows with a high quality, yet cheap as sin whiskey? Friends, I bring you Cabin Still. So maybe the “high quality” claim is a little overblown, but for my money this is the best bang for your buck if you’re gonna go dangerously discount. Sometimes you can find it at barbeque joints, and occasionally at dive bars, but in my opinion it’s always worth keeping an eye out for.
One time I was driving through Kentucky back in the day when I shouted words in a crude facsimile of singing for a band. We had to stop for gas, and so I ran across the highway to a liquor store for the novelty of buying bourbon in Kentucky, which I would argue, we needed for our travels anyway. We were in a hurry so I had to move fast. I scanned the well-stocked aisles but couldn’t find my favorite yellow label.
I ran up to the old pot-bellied counterman and asked about Cabin Still. The man laughed with a hideous cackle that I prefer to remember as a charming southern chuckle and said: “Sheee-it boy, we ain’t stocked Cabin Still in but the longest time.” So I just picked up a bottle of Ancient Age instead, which lasted us all the way to St. Louis.
It was fine, I guess. Certainly no Cabin Still that’s for sure.
Alright young’uns, until the Lions get a win, you can find me on the porch with a generous slug of granddaddy’s cough medicine. I’ll check in with you next week.
Well, here we are. Early August and the Minnesota Twins are set to break my heart again. This is a team that lost 6 out of their first 7 games, including losing 12-3 at the home opener, then bounced back for a sweet, fleeting moment to have the best record in the AL in July. Now, in the back-end of the season, they’re chipping away one loss at a time toward the .500 mark and the depths that await beyond.
As a Minnesota sports fan, I’ve gotten used to crushing disappointment. The Vikings’ last-moment loss to the Falcons in 1998 in the playoffs after winning 15 games in the regular season, the second-highest post-season losing streak in MLB history (which is currently active and, assuming we get to the post-season this year, could launch us into the number one spot as we are only one game away from first place etc. etc. boo hoo yadda yadda.)
To misquote Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s rumination on the nature of being Irish after the death of JFK, “I don’t think there’s any point in being a Minnesota sports fan if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.” What’s my point? Over the last 30 years of triumph and tragedy (mostly tragedy), I’ve developed some coping mechanisms for when it all comes crashing back to earth. So here are six ways to deal with being let down by your baseball team.
1) Think about how stupid the other team is.
Josh Donaldson is a big, fat crybaby. Every time he strikes out he whines to the umpire, even if he struck out swinging. Alejandro Rodriguez looks like Mickey Rourke from The Wrestler had a baby with John Leguizamo. How much of the Yankees’ bullpen could fit into one pair of CC Sabathia’s pants? There’s no end to the stupidity of whatever team your team is playing against, even and perhaps especially if they’re winning. Give it a shot. It’s fun.
2) Remember that this is a building year.
Basically any year when you don’t get deep into the playoffs can always be written off as a building year. The only time when this doesn’t apply is when your team sells the farm for some big names only to fizzle-out mere months later (I know this to be the case because I live in Oakland where A’s fans are bitching pretty hard about this right now). There’s always next year, keep your head up.
This one may seem obvious. That doesn’t make it any less effective. Drinking and kibitzing about baseball (or sports in general) is a time-honored tradition. Legend has it that beer was actually invented so some Mesopotamian dudes could hang out in a (literal) Man Cave and complain about the astronomical ERA of a Sumerian southpaw named Grong.
4) Watch YouTube videos of times when your team was good.
The Internet has revolutionized the art of wallowing in your own misery. From Facebook stalking ex-girlfriends to saying mean things to celebrities on Twitter, the Internet has a veritable cornucopia of tools you can use to grovel in the basement of despair. Watch some Randy Moss highlights, maybe relive Game 163 (which happened on my 25th birthday).
5) Drink some more.
Once you’re getting deep into the season and it’s starting to look bleak, it might be time to bust out ol’ grandpappy’s cough medicine and take a few slugs. Ahhh the soothing comfort of whiskey.
6) Remember that football season is right around the corner.
When every new day dawns, we’re one step closer to football season; another four months of opportunities for disappointment! Huzzah! I heard that Teddy Bridgewater guy is looking pretty good though, and this is going to be the year that Cordarrelle Patterson learns how to run a route, I just know it!
I hope this has been useful (specifically looking at my Tigers and A’s boys right now) and don’t forget, tomorrow’s another day, keep ya head up.
With the rise of the Lions from laughingstock to “that team no one believes in,” combined with a schizophrenic Vikings squad and a Bears crew struggling to hang on to mediocrity, the NFC North has gotten a little goofy. Besides the Packers no other team is currently considered a viable Super Bowl threat.
But I’m a Lions fan, and the NFC North is my home sweet home, so I’ll be following it much closer than the guys who actually get paid to write about it. Granted, the people who get paid to write about it are professionals as opposed to a disgruntled old crank who talks to his cat.
Enough pretense! The visions are taking substance…
The good folks in Minnesota love Teddy Bridgewater, and I can’t blame a fan base hungry for a franchise quarterback, but I found it a little irksome that the media fawned over this kid from the get go. It happens all the time in a hype-fueled profession, but I wish some of these guys could be held accountable for their big mouths. At least put them in a dunk tank or something with Brett Favre throwing footballs over his shoulder at the target. I saw a lot of potential in Bridgewater, but I also saw a lot of kinks that needed ironing out. He can scramble and hit some good passes on the run, but for all those nifty highlights, there were costly interceptions as well.
The return of Adrian Peterson in purple and gold surprised me. I thought the reconciliation to this uncomfortably troubled marriage was possible, but I wasn’t counting on it. Hey, the crystal ball is cloudy after all. Now that AP is back in the game, I’m fascinated to see what happens. I don’t care how good he is: age and expectations are going to be a factor.
The crystal ball says:
Teddy’s gonna have a decent season, but he’s more of a long term threat than a breakout stud. Talking Heads will continue to praise him to high heaven until the last fourth of the season when they turn on him and ask whether or not he’s any good. He’ll stay the same, continuing to grow and improve unless he proves injury prone. Adrian Peterson will have a solid season, keeping his hyperbolic god-like status, but he’s going to be eclipsed on the stats sheet by some of the hungrier young guys.
Da Bears are hurting right now, and I think there’s an inevitable degree of soul searching going on in the organization regardless of the coaching change. John Fox is certainly going to liven things up as much as he can. Fresh blood will flow, the slate will be cleaned, but there’s no getting around the elephant in the room: Jay Cutler’s competency, commitment, and the club’s decision to stick it out with him. Personally, I’m not as down on Cutler as many people are, but I do feel that his remaining presence in Chicago has metastasized into an untenably toxic relationship. Even if they win a few more games this season with Cutler, the team’s long-term success is going to be in the hands of their next quarterback. And let’s not act like a break with the Bears would be bad for Cutler: he could gracefully transition to a lower-tier team and play with a squad that would actually appreciate him. Not the worst way to play out the rest of your career.
The crystal ball says:
Another abysmal year for Soldier Field’s finest. There’s little hope in restructuring and re-growing without faith in your lynchpin. Chi-town will spend a year taking its losses while John Fox settles in and shows off what he has to offer.
Green Bay Packers:
Green Bay is easily the least fun team to pontificate on in the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers is currently in top form with a rock solid team behind him. I won’t be surprised if this group keeps on clicking and humming along together, giving opposing NFC North fans fits. The crew is well-oiled, well-managed, and has that “cool factor” of playing in an open stadium during the rudest of Midwest winters. You can certainly criticize The Pack when it comes to the league as a whole, particularly that they don’t deal well with unexpected loss, but in the NFC North, this is the team that everybody wants to dethrone.
The only real worry is keeping Rodgers healthy. We’ve seen in the past how this team has collapsed without its sometimes-mustachioed heart on the field. If I were Mike McCarthy, I would be spending an inordinate amount of time working with that O-line on QB protection.
The crystal ball says:
A clear division victory for The Cheeseheads, with Detroit and possibly Minnesota nipping at their heels. However, the entire house of cards collapses if Rodgers misses four or more games.
Like last season, Detroit has a great chance of giving the Packers a run for their money, but it’s not going to be easy. Detroit is currently a team full of potential and unanswered questions. I’d love to see the defense as dominant as it was last season, a tall order considering the loss of Ndamukong Suh. Yet the return of Stephen Tulloch and acquisition of Haloti Ngata are hard to dismiss. Of course I’ll be watching that offensive line closest. It’s the single factor in Stafford having as productive a season he did in his INT-happy, record-breaking slinger days, though he’s likely to have a more disciplined system that actually wins games this time around.
The run game is going to be the x-factor. I love Joique Bell, but he can’t carry the team like a Marshawn Lynch or a Jamaal Charles. He gets you three yards on a 3rd & 2, and punches his way into the end zone in short yardage situations, but he’s not going to break off 15 yard chunks with any regularity. And sure, there’s Theo Riddick and a very “maybe” George Winn. I’m hopeful for Ameer Abdullah, but I also think there’s a lot of bluster and hype for the second round pick.
Crystal ball says:
Detroit has so much talent on the roster, but also has trouble putting it together. I see the defense not being as strong as last year, but staying damn close to that caliber thanks to the prior season’s proof of concept. The offense is going to pop more this year in the passing game, but the running game will remain blue-collar. Green Bay has a good chance of winning both games vs. the Lions, but the really exciting divisional games are going to go down with the Vikings. The division title will most likely go to Green Bay, but the Lions will make the wild card slot and head to the playoffs for the second year in a row.