Three reasons why Seattle will win today

1. Percy Harvin. Being a VIkings fan is just that bad. We’re talking about a team that is 0-9 in the final four. In a five year stretch in the 70s they lost three SBs and one NFC Championship game and were knocked out of the playoffs on a blatant, uncalled push off by Drew Pearson during a play that generated the term “Hail Mary”. They lost to the Saints in ’09 in the most poorly officiated game in sports history because they had 12 guys in the huddle. 12 guys in the huddle. Guess what? Turns out the Saints cheated. In ’98 they missed going to the SB with an offense that would have DESTROYED Denver because a guy who hadn’t missed a kick all season missed a THIRTY EIGHT YARD FG IN A DOME and ruined all of our lives forever. Percy Harvin running the opening kickoff back for a TD would just be another appropriate piece in our narrative of suffering.

2. Racism. No one ever calls a white guy a “thug.” Thug is just what racist people who can’t say (you know the word) say when they really want to say (you know the word). Richard Sherman is a “thug”, huh? Okay, maybe not so much a reason they’ll win but a decent reason to root for them if you don’t otherwise care. Just think of all those stupid rednecks rooting for the great white hope and dropping N bombs every time Richard Sherman is on the screen.

3. Karmic retribution for Peyton Manning murdering Austin Collie’s career. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who remembers wincing in painful anticipation every time it looked like Manning was audibling into a slant when Collie was in the slot. For some mysterious reason, he continuously led him into jarring hits by slightly overthrowing Collie right into the hardest hitting Safeties and LBs in the league. All this despite the fact that Collie had already been knocked unconscious by the same play multiple times. How many times do we have to see the same guy carted off the field in a neck brace on a stretcher before you stop calling that play? Don’t worry about it, Peyton. Why don’t you just spend the TV timeout looking at ‘All-22’ photos of previous plays while doctors from both teams try to stabilize his spinal column and his family freaks out in a suite 40 yards behind you? It was as if he hated Austin Collie. Maybe he just cared more about picking up 7 yards on 2nd and 6 than Austin Collie’s ability to have a normal future without agonizing health concerns. Nobody ever calls Peyton Manning a thug.


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Hey, at least it wasn’t the Packers

Five positives from the loss to the Bears

1)      Christian Ponder.  He successfully audibled out of a play at least once and changed the protection scheme at least once.  This is unprecedented.  We are talking about a person who regularly forces the ball into quadruple coverage on third down and throws it away on fourth down.  They actually let him use his brain this game.  His feet and arm and in-play decision making are still ugly, but maybe his pre-snap reads will help?  Hey, I didn’t say how positive these positives would be.  All things considered, The fact that he audibled at all is a giant leap for purple kind.
2)      The play calling was marginally improved.  Again, our enthusiasm will have to be measured proportionately against our incremental gains in positivity.  They ran some plays from the gun.  Adrian Peterson released into the flat a few times.  They ran a couple of bubble screens.  They threw to Greg Jennings a lot.
3)      Greg Jennings is really good.  Maybe my hatred for the Packers blinded me to how good he is or maybe on the Packers he just seemed like another receiver or maybe I’m so used to horseshit wideouts that he now looks like a superhero just because he can catch footballs as if he is outrageously compensated to do so professionally, but he has great hands and instincts for where the ball will be and he seems to get himself open routinely.  He has flawless footwork on the sideline and always knows where the first down marker is.  Then again, it is an obtuse neon orange sheet of rubber that is probably visible from orbit, but we’re talking about the Vikings here and we are, therefore, chronically desperate for silver linings.  He’s like a poor man’s Cris Carter and, let’s face it, we are pretty piss poor right now.
4)      Cordarrelle Patterson is wicked fast.  This one requires little elaboration, if any.  Cordarrelle Patterson is wicked fast.  If only they would get the ball into his hands more than twice per game.  Here’s your opportunity to spread out the defense, Musgrave.  I was in a really good mood when I started typing that sentence and then I made myself sad when I realized it was going to end in comma Musgrave.
5)      Harrison Smith is legit.  He hits people viciously and legally (mostly).  He is around the ball a lot and has pretty good hands.  In any other defensive scheme unimaginative announcers would refer to him as “ball hawking safety” Harrison Smith.  If he played in the 80s they would say “receivers think twice about coming across the middle with Harrison ‘the Hammer’ Smith lurking back there”, because in the 80s athletes had even dumber nicknames than they do now. 
6)      Wait…six? Bonus positivity!  It’s raining happy thoughts!  What is this, a field of cow shit in central Wisconsin in which one has so little hope for a meaningful future that one attaches one’s self worth entirely to the fortunes of a football team? And your bonus positivity point is:  at least it was only the Bears and not the Packers.  Just think, we’d have to tolerate a barrage of nonsensical, creatively bereft, sophomoric, clumsily humorless, and grammatically incorrect facebook memes from the innumerable ‘sconnies that have moved here and manipulated us into friendship. Assholes.
Five negatives from the loss to the Bears
1)      Christian Ponder.  The likelihood of Ponder throwing a pick six to Tim Jennings was so predictably obvious that I started both the Bears’ D and Tim Jennings in my fantasy league fully confident that this was the move that would win it for me.  In case you give a shit, I still lost by 3 because at the last minute I pulled Cutler and started Russell Wilson.  The fantasy lesson here is to ignore the numbers and just stick with your gut.  Also, Christian Ponder’s footwork in the pocket makes him look like a kid trying out roller skates for the first time. 
2)      Linebacking corps.  Holy shit are these shits playing like shit.  Chad Greenway looks like he’s in about his 27th year and the rest of them are at least one step late on every play.  They are no help in the pass rush, can’t tackle running backs, and have about a 3 ½ percent chance of covering anyone downfield effectively…and those are only the 3 ½ percent of guys that fall down running their routes.
3)      Leslie Frazier.  The basics of arithmetic seem to escape this stoic gentleman.  I wouldn’t mind seeing him yell at somebody once in a while either.  It would show that he at least has some understanding of the boneheaded shit storm happening in front of him.  It’s hard to evaluate accurately how much of a team’s failure is on the coach, but no one can say his clock management skills are beyond reproach.  The Vikings’ coaching staff seems to be on a short list  of staffs in the NFL that can’t look at the scoreboard and come to sensible conclusions about the few relevant numbers before them.  I can not figure out why this is.  They are handsomely paid leaders of men, right?  The only thing they do day and night and evenings and afternoons is think about football, right?  I mean…right?
4)      Bill Musgrave again.  It wasn’t the worst game he’s ever called.  He still seems to love rolling Ponder out to his left even though it has worked exactly zero of the one hundred and fourteen times he’s tried it.  It also looks like he gets so focused on one aspect of the game that when he realizes he’s ignored a guy on his offense all day he deliberately calls five plays in a row for him and then goes right back to ignoring him again.  It’s weird.  I don’t get him at all.
5)      The entire history of the Minnesota Vikings weighing down on us oppressively like Chinese air pollution.  It is a myopic haze of disappointment and apprehension and resignation at this point.  With the Vikings up by six with two and a half minutes to play every Vikings fan in America had already accepted defeat and began bitterly muttering obscenities at their televisions with their fingers covering one and a half eyeballs.  Why?  Because we are the only fan base that unflinchingly KNOWS that no one on our defense has any idea that Cutler will throw the ball to the end zone with :16 on the clock  and that no one on our coaching staff will bother telling them.  Touchdown Bears!  Oops.

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NFL Week One.

Christian Ponder’s five biggest problems:

1)      Bill Musgrave.  I think we have a large enough sample size to make a few judgments about Mr. Musgrave’s offensive game-calling.  The word baffling comes immediately to mind, but let’s dig deeper.  He seems to be following what I’ll call the “Costanza Method”.  When a course of action makes a reasonable amount of sense just do the opposite no matter how absurd it may initially seem.  4th and inches with the league MVP averaging 6 yards per carry?  Give it to the backup.  3rd and 1 against an all pro front seven?  Naked bootleg left against the quarterback’s natural throwing motion.  Playing a team with immovable DTs named Fairley and Suh?  Continuously try to pound the ground game right at them.  Why test the edge?  Because it might work?!  No, you haven’t been paying attention. Try again.  We are leaving Cordarrelle Patterson on the bench most of the game because using him to spread the defense does what?  That’s right.   It makes too much fucking sense.

2)     Leslie Frazier.  The word from the ivory tower at Winter Park is that Ponder is not allowed to audible or change anything at the line of scrimmage or make menu suggestions for the team cafeteria.  Have you ever seen him so much as call a timeout on a crucial down because he didn’t like the matchups?  No.  No, you haven’t. This may just be in keeping with the Vikings’ recent history of avoiding in-game adjustments as a matter of strict principle.  A Viking head coach hasn’t made a meaningful half time adjustment since Brad Childress changed his underwear during the 2009 NFC Championship game.  You almost successfully forgot about that game, didn’t you?  You just replayed the whole nightmare in your head, right?  You’re sarcastically welcome.  Mike Tice stabbing himself in the eye with a stubby pencil is the most dynamic shift in offensive strategy we have seen here since the Moss-Carter era.

3)     He doesn’t just throw ugly, telegraphed, wobbly interceptions.  He throws ugly, telegraphed, wobbly interceptions at the worst possible moment.  After this many starts and this many opportunities to show improvement one can only surmise that he wilts like a daisy under pressure because he is a born loser.  Even his greatest moment as a Viking on a crucial 4th quarter third down was an overthrow to a wide open receiver who made a leaping fingertip catch to keep a drive alive so AP could be carried off the field on national television.  And that’s the best play of his career.   He choked in college and he’s choking here and he’ll always choke.  He’ll likely die by asphyxiating himself somehow unless Adrian Peterson is there to perform the Heimlich or cut the lego out of his trachea with his laser vision. Yes, of course he has laser vision.

4)     He turns his back to the line of scrimmage a LOT.  Some of this is even part of the play design.  It’s as if the coaching staff is actively trying to make everything harder for him.  The Vikings brain trust seems to think that eighty percent of passing plays should be play action that takes longer to develop than the routes the receivers are running.   It also appears, after a season and a half of watching Ponder fail to get better at it, that they think the best way for the QB to perform play action is to fake the hand off and then take at least four steps back with his head down.  They also seem to think that you cannot run these plays from the gun.  It must be what they think or they would just teach him another way because it’s not that complicated.  Now, the secret sauce of this style of play action is for it to take a minimum of three and half seconds because you definitely want the QB to have less than one second to decide where to throw the ball before the whole thing turns to shit in his hands.  That way, when he does throw the ball he will be rushing his motion and he’ll find himself awkwardly off balance for silly and easily avoidable reasons.  Watch good quarterbacks play fake.  Their first action is usually to scan the initial movement of the DBs and LBs after snap for a nearly imperceptible moment.  They turn to the RB briefly and quickly fake the hand off, but return to scanning the field immediately.  They know that they don’t need the LBs to stand still for so long that they actually freeze like statues.  It’s just a figure of speech.  Freezing them for one tentative misstep is all it takes to free a TE or WR.  This is also something that can be coached.  Well, not here, but places with real coaches.

Watch his footwork in the pocket.  His first step away from pressure is almost always backwards and, if it isn’t backwards, it is blindly forward into a wall of Defensive Tackles.  He has the opposite of poise.  It’s like he’s one scary dream away from bringing back Tarvaris Jackson’s patented panic-jump pass.  I imagine him whispering the plays in the huddle in a quivering voice so that his teammates have to lean in closer to hear him as they look at each other with resigned indifference.

5)  Inaccuracy.  Even when he manages to see what’s going on in front of him because he’s facing the right direction he misses easy throws.  Kind of an important part of playing quarterback, throwing.  The Vikings lose a lot of YAC yards because he’s throwing behind guys on timing routes.  They’re timing routes, man.  You should practice that.  Oh, you do?  Well then you just suck at it.

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My Hero

“The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” Hunter S. Thompson 

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