Vikings: 2011, 2012
Colts: 2011, 2012
I have a feeling that 2012 teams that have the Colts on their schedules will be happy to see them there early. Sometimes quarterbacks who are eventually very good suck very hard in their first rookie starts. Peyton Manning had a famously terrible start: in his first four games he threw 3 TDs, 11 INTs, and the Colts averaged 10 points per game. The '93 Patriots went 1-8 in Drew Bledsoe's first nine starts, before finishing their season with four straight wins. Alright, I could cherry pick favorable examples for the rest of the night, and we could also find plenty of examples of rookie QBs that looked immediately awesome (if we think really hard, anyway)--those are just two at the top of my head (yes, Peyton Manning and Drew Bledsoe spend a weird amount of time at the top of my head). By the end of the year, you know you'll be seeing Luck in a Football Night in America game review leading the Colts to a win against a playoff contender. In Week Two, when he's leading a team that isn't particularly good at anything (or wasn't last year, when they ranked poorly passing, running, stopping the pass, and stopping the run), a team like the Vikings has a much better shot.
Of course we've seen lesser QBs than Andrew Luck torch the Viking secondary; if he gets time to throw, Luck could pick apart the Viking secondary, picking up a bunch of long first downs. And that's the key to this game: if he gets time to throw. Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and the rest of the Viking defensive line need to consistently penetrate the line of scrimmage to pressure, hit, and harass Luck. If they limit his time and force him to make decisions and make throws under duress, he could have a very poor game. The Colts struggled in pass protection against the Bears (and thus Andrew Luck struggled), and the Vikes will be on turf: it will be a disappointment if Luck gets consistent time to throw.
The Colt defense isn't very good, and may be without Dwight Freeney. This is an opportunity for Christian Ponder to settle into the position and get the team off to a good start: the run and the pass should be available against a team that struggles against both. A poor offensive start against Jacksonville kept the game close all along, and allowed the Jaguars to simply run their offense. But if the Viking offense can sustain drives and score early, the Colts may be forced to limit their run calls, expose their rookie QB, and allow the fearsome Viking pass rushers to key in on attacking the quarterback.
It's best not to be too confident: if a few seconds of last week had gone differently, we might be telling ourselves the Vikings blew a home game against a terrible team and thus may well be one of the worst teams in the league, with no real shot of going on the road and getting a win. But you should know me by now. I'm not in Viking fandom for the pessimism; I'm here for the elevated hopes followed by disappointment.
Other Interesting Games
Week Two Games
Steelers-Jets. In week one, the Jets' passing offense looked good, and the Steeler defense looked bad, but I suspect based on past evidence that neither of those things will hold true for the entire season (though Stephen Hill could a big factor for the Jets' continued improvement. Steven Hill certainly won't be such a factor). The Steelers are one of the most interesting defenses to watch, just to see how Troy Polamalu affects the game.
Broncos-Falcons. Watching Peyton Manning dice the Steeler defense was like seeing Bill and Ted pull some historical figure from the past out of their phone booth and asking him to do a little demonstration for the crowd to teach them about who he was. Maybe it hasn't been that long since he last played, but it sure felt like it, and he showed all of his PeytonManningness in that game. But the Bronco defense also had some trouble getting off the field: the Steelers held the ball for 35:05 and converted 11 of 19 third downs (plus one of two fourth downs). Now they go to the house of Julio and Roddy. It will be a Monday loaded with fantasy starters and stars (Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, probably Tony Gonzalez, Willis McGahee, and some kickers), which is also a big thing you want for a Monday night game.
The Commercial Life
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the All-State Mayhem guy usually just describing the difference between, you know, Liability and Full Coverage insurance?
Thing I read about sports in non-sports media
At The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik says "As everyone with an eye for football knew, Mark Sanchez is a terrific young quarterback with a good record in big games." Sure, sure, any reasonable football observer sees that. Well, except for the fact that he's below average. In 2011, he ranked 23rd in passer rating and 27th in yards per attempt. Other advanced numbers similarly show a bad quarterback. By the efficiency numbers, he's not good. And then Gopnik goes on to say "The overriding problems with the Jets involve a failure to use that young Q.B.," and suggests that the Jets are foolish to employ their run-heavy offense in a pass-heavy league. I might suggest that the reason they are trying to run the ball a lot is because their quarterback is, well, below average, and so not using him might actually be their best use of their young (and below average) QB.
Sanchez may take a leap this year and become a terrific quarterback (and yes, his playoff numbers are much better than his regular season numbers). But to suggest based on his current record that "everyone with an eye for football" knows that he's a "terrific young quarterback" is pretty odd.
I drafted a Packer this year. Greg Jennings just sort of fell to me in an auction, and I didn't really understand why at the time. He was on my team for one week: I just traded Jennings and Michael Bush for Mike Wallace. As it happens, I traded him with rational calculation of my current needs and depth, not because he is a Packer. Still, it's not easy to root against your own fantasy players (which is why I hate starting players against the Vikes, too). Instead I now get to root for one of my favorite non-Vikings in the league. Now when that memorable question is asked, I'll know the answer.
Kick Ass Links
A look at the Vikings' game-tying drive through the all-22 film (Bleacher Report, via Football Outsiders). These all-22 shots allow for some really nice analysis.
The NFL now reveals snap counts; Football Outsiders posts them. I find this really interesting. These are the things you don't need to know and didn't know you wanted to know but discover you find fascinating. Notice my free use of the word "you."
I agree with Jared Allen: I don't think he was offsides on that sack, but was so perfect timing the snap that it appeared he must have been (PFT).
Some moron took to this post last week to claim that the extra point is nothing but ritual. Sorry. Matt Kalil blocked an extra point last week (Pioneer Press). Brian Murphy also notes that Kalil blocked six kicks in college: this will be a legitimately interesting aspect of Kalil's contribution to the team.
The guy who played Mickey on Seinfeld is a Viking fan! (Vikings.com). I enjoy this. My wife tells me that given how popular football is, and given that you'd expect roughly one out of every 32 celebrity football fans to root for the Vikes, this is not something special. Still, I like the idea that during a Viking game, the guy that played Mickey is experiencing something like what I'm experiencing. He's the guy that once yelled at Kramer for failing to realize that communism is a sensitive issue. Worlds are colliding!
When you're looking for my Christmas gift, it's the "Top 20 ridiculous Viking-themed merchandise" (City Pages).
Have a good one, suckers. Except Colt fans.