The Quarterbacks the Vikings will face this year
It is hard to look ahead at a team's schedule: who knows what state their December opponents will actually find themselves in when December comes? So let's look at the Vikings schedule in a different way: let's just consider what quarterbacks the Vikings will have to face. This is a fairly predictable--of course there are injuries and benchings, but those will generally mean an even easier quarterback to face than expected. I'll try to make a reasonable guess which QB we'll actually see line up against the purple (you can judge what situations might be different). So this year, the Vikings will face:
1. Blaine Gabbert
2. Andrew Luck
3. Alex Smith
4. Matthew Stafford
5. Jake Locker
6. Robert Griffin III
7. John Skelton
8. Josh Freeman
9. Matt Flynn
10. Matthew Stafford
11. Jay Cutler
12. Aaron Rodgers
13. Jay Cutler
14. Sam Bradford
15. Matt Schaub
16. Aaron Rodgers
When you look at the Vikes' schedule that way, does it seem more difficult or more manageable?
Outside of the Vikes' own division, they actually get to avoid most of the elite and/or scary QBs. There's no Brady, Brees, Rivers, or Romo, no Vick, no Newton, and neither Manning. No Matt Ryan, no Ben Roethlisberger. And the first nine weeks are really promising: there are bad QBs, young QBs in their first few starts, and QBs who have been up-and-down in their careers. Tell me you don't see at least eight QBs in the first nine games fully capable of pissing a game away.
Of course, there is the division. When I look at the schedule this way, I can see the Vikes with a winning record outside their own division (based on the schedule, where they avoid a lot of good QBs), but struggling to get one win in the division. The Vikings usually play the Lions tough home and away (they get to avoid the outdoors), and their losses to Detroit last year were reeealllly painful (an overtime loss where they blew a 20-0 halftime lead, and a road loss where, in the final seconds down by six, they had the ball at the Lions' one and fumbled on the final play). I also expect the Vikings to play the Bears strong at home, and quite often even when overmatched the Vikes play the Packers close at least once. But Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, and Aaron Rodgers twice each is brutal for a team that has struggled so mightily against the pass. Those will be games that Jared Allen and the pass rush must dictate for the Vikes to have a shot.
Fantasy Advice: It does not follow (or, don't go get Rashad Jennings)
1. Maurice Jones-Drew is awesome (this is mostly universally accepted).
2. The Jacksonville offense is terrible, except for MJD (this is universally accepted).
3. Rashad Jennings, MJD's backup, hasn't really shown much of anything (I guess his '10 numbers intrigue people. They don't intrigue me: the '10 Jags weren't as atrocious on offense).
4. Why does it follow that if MJD is out, Jennings is a worthwhile fantasy player? MJD is clearly not a product of the system: the Jaguar offense sucks. And Jennings hasn't shown enough to think he has any major talent of his own. Sure, opportunity and workload make him worth a roster spot if MJD is out, but I do not understand giving up anything substantial to get Jennings. If Jennings is an average RB, he's going to be a below average fantasy producer on a terrible offense.
Kick Ass Links
Ever since Dr. Z's stroke robbed him of the ability to write about pro football (still wish you the best Z), I've been waiting for the essential football writer: somebody who cuts through hype and convention to give real insight about what's happening on the football field. I think Bill Barnwell might be a contender. At Grantland, Barnwell explores four key team stats that help predict future performance (Viking fans: Barnwell notes that in '11, "Minnesota [...] lost as many games by seven points or fewer as any team has since the advent of the 16-game season.").
Why punt so often? (The New Yorker). Chris Kluwe doesn't exactly cover himself in glory; I think Wiedeman is right that "Fans and other outsiders are almost always ahead of coaches and team executives when it comes to statistical revolutions in sports."
You can see a former NFL cheerleader on The Office (Yahoo!).
From last year, The Onion: "Insane Moron Draws Conclusion From NFL Preseason Game." This actually gave me pause, as I'm considering the depths of my fantasy rosters based partly on these preseason games.
If you try to write a fantasy column where you must cover a good and bad player on each team, I guess you end up giving advice like don't draft Jacoby Jones (you got it, David Sabino), and other such brainbusters (so don't draft Bernard Scott or Montario Hardesty? I'm on it!). (Sports Illustrated).
A reminder from Chase Stewart's excellent blog Football Perspective: "The Preseason is Meaningless."
The Viking Secondary, improving from last year (Access Vikings, 1500 ESPN Twin Cities).
Marcus Sherels, punt returner (Pioneer Press).