My arrival was met with exasperation as she hadnt quite finished her project yet. Daddy, I NEED to finish this! I only have a few more beads! I agreed to wait while I tried to find a pegboard for little sister to play with. But big sister is a sweetheart and she was kind enough to ask her younger sibling to join. You take some green beads and put them on the tail. Of course, being three, lil sis knocked a half dozen beads off while she was trying to help. NOOOOO! my oldest shouted. Thats not how you do it!
Thats why Im going to get your sister her own to play with, I explained. Just take a quick break and lets all go find a board for her.
NO! I NEED to finish this! Then she focused her attention back to her little sister. Now here. Look how I do it.
If you avoided the Vikings when they got knocked off by the Bills, now might be the time to use them. Moving forward, their best remaining games to be used are at home against the Detroit Lions in Week 9 and at home against the Miami Dolphins in Week 15. Theyll win plenty of other games, but they are just inconsistent enough that you might want to use them against a bad Cardinals team.
Honey, just wait, I pleaded. I really dont think you want your sister to help on this one.
The NFC North gets a crack at the bottom of the NFC West in Week 6. The Cardinals got their first win of the season in Week 5, beating the 49ers in a hideous affair. The 49ers doubled up their yardage, and had three times as many first downs, only to lose thanks to five turnovers. The Vikings and Packers should roll in these two home games.
Im fine, daaadd, was her response, in a tone that gave a glimpse into what her teenage years will be like.
OK, fine. Ill be quick. I raced to the other table knowing what would happen if I took too long.
I heard the beads scattering on the floor before I could turn around to see the incredibly guilty look on the youngests face. Her big sister sat in stunned silence for a couple seconds before unleashing what had to be the loudest wail that has ever escaped her lungs. Giant tears rolled down her cheeks. The project that she had painstakingly worked on for almost an hour was completely ruined. She was inconsolable for a full five minutes before her teachers, friends, and I were finally able to settle her down.
After she came around, I sat her on my lap and explained, Thats why I told you to wait. Im sorry your unicorn is ruined, but you already saw that your little sister messed it up the first time. She doesnt know any better. [Note: little sister might know better, but at this age she certainly DGAF.] Did you learn your lesson?
She looked up at me with her giant blue eyes and nodded. The episode was over as quickly as it had started. She wiped her nose, got down from my lap, and started to gather her things so we could leave.
So why am I sharing this parenting adventure before talking about anything that has to do with football? Two reasons:
Oh, gosh, all you have to do is look at the going rate for quarterbacks, Keim said. Probably at the low end its $22 million or $23 million, and the high end now of $33 million with Aaron Rodgers, and somewhere in between, even if you are $28 million, to be safe, youre looking at in excess of $25 million to spend at other positions. I cant tell you how valuable that is.
Like my older daughter, Vikings fans have already been burned by inviting someone they didnt view as a threat into their personal space—in other words, the Buffalo Bills in Week 3. A few weeks later, theyre welcoming another team with a shoddy record into US Bank Stadium. Will the Vikings be able to sidestep the trap game and ensure that we arent left with giant tears rolling down our cheeks? How can they avoid another disaster they should have seen coming and ensure their project—namely the 2018 season—isnt damaged beyond repair?
For starters, it would serve them well to refrain from making another rookie quarterback named Josh look like an All-Pro. In Week 3, Josh Allen took advantage of an early lead and a sloppy Vikings defense to literally leap over the competition for his first NFL victory. Although Josh Rosen went three picks after Allen, he was widely regarded as the more polished quarterback in this years NFL Draft. Arizona fans are rightfully excited about the new kid, especially when compared to the guy he replaced only eleven-plus quarters into the season—our old checkdown-happy pal Sam Bradford. Rosen led three touchdown drives en route to the Cardinals first win of the season in his second NFL start last Sunday over C.J. Beathard and the 49ers.
Rosen may not have Mahomes mobility, but mirroring his situation would be an ideal outcome for the Cardinals. The Chiefs have been able to flank Mahomes with elite playmakers. They already had wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt and then added high-priced wide receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency.
You wouldnt think so upon first glance of the box score though. The 49ers out-gained the Cardinals by 227 yards and had the ball over 20 minutes longer. They were able to move the ball early and often by using some of Kyle Shanahans creative play calling. San Francisco neutralized the dangerous pass rush of Chandler Jones on multiple occasions by using misdirection and throwing behind Jones rush.
Cousins is set to make $29 million in 2019 and $31 million in 2020, according to OverTheCap.com. Rosen, meanwhile, will earn a combined total of $14.4 million over the next three seasons. The Cardinals have some holes offensively that need addressed, and the heavy savings at the quarterback position will allow Keim maneuverability.
Kyle Juszczyk had six catches for 75 yards last week; I could see John DeFilippo using Dalvin Cook (if available), Latavius Murray, and C.J. Ham in a similar manner on Sunday. The Vikings Offensive Coordinator might have called his best game of the season last week against the Eagles. Counteracting a formidable pass rush with misdirection is just what the Vikings did several times in Philly. This crucial 3rd and 1 conversion to Kyle Rudolph late in the game was a perfect example.
Even with all the smart play design and big offensive numbers, San Francisco still lost by ten points and Jones was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week. The Arizona defense forced five turnovers, sacked Beathard four times, and scored a touchdown. For some reason, #55 speed rushing around the left tackle for a crucial strip-sack to spark an upset for a previously winless road underdog feels vaguely familiar.
The first TD was on an admittedly beautiful throw to Christian Kirk; the rest of Rosens day was spotty at best. While he certainly seems to possess many of the traits needed to be a successful NFL quarterback, he has flat out missed several makeable throws early in his career. Rosens current 49.2% completion percentage simply isnt going to cut it, even if hes much more willing than Bradford to take shots down the field. The body language of Larry Fitzgerald after this incompletion last week says it all.
Minnesota Vikings running back Leroy Hoard falls across the goal line to score his third touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC divisional playoff game in Minneapolis, Sunday, Jan. 10, 1999. The Vikings defeated the Cardinals 41-21 to advance to the NFC Championship game.
Granted, Arizonas weapons in the passing game arent the greatest. Fitzgerald is a legend, yet hes at the tail end of his Hall of Fame career. Kirk, a second round rookie out of Texas A&M, has shown some promise. Other than that, Ricky Seals-Jones is ranked 41st out of 43 qualifying tight ends in DVOA. Jermaine Gresham has had the words when healthy follow him throughout his career; hes still working his way back to full strength from a torn Achilles. Chad Williams ranks 141st in yards per route run per Pro Football Focus. Judging from what we saw in Training Camp, I have my doubts that new signing Kendall Wright will add much to a team thats already saturated with slot wide receivers. But hey, at least they have David Johnson, one of the most dynamic running backs in the game, right?
If you think Cook has had a rough go of it running the ball this season, I implore you to watch some Cardinals game tape. Arizona is dead last in rushing yards and somehow averaging fewer yards per carry than Minnesotas train wreck of a ground game. Watching the film, I was amazed at how many of Johnsons carries went exactly where it looked like they were going to go before the snap. With an offensive line as weak as Arizonas, its surprising that Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy isnt using more creativity to manufacture some space for his star back.
“There’s no similarities there,” Fitzgerald said Thursday. “But [McCain] took a liking to me and I learned so much from him. I think that’s an example of what the world is capable of. It’s not about the color of your skin or religion or political affiliations or role in society, it’s about judging people based off character and I think that’s what made our relationship so special.”
Speaking of facets of the offense that are somehow even worse than the Vikings, the Cardinals offensive line has been pretty bad this year. Minnesota is 27th in PFFs offensive line rankings through five weeks; Arizona is dead last. To make things worse, theyre beat up too. Starters D.J. Humphries, Mike Iupati, and Andre Smith all sat out of practice on Wednesday. Danielle Hunter should have plenty of chances to continue his streak of getting a sack in every game in 2018. The continued improvement from Stephen Weatherly could pay off in a big way on Sunday as well. His sack sparked the oxygen mask-inducing touchdown by Linval Joseph last week. Courtney Cronin had a great article explaining how Weatherly is growing into his new role in the absence of Everson Griffen. The Vikings defensive front should be able to generate plenty of pressure on Rosen without getting too exotic.
Off the field, he’s lauded by teammates and opponents alike as the “consummate professional.” Fitzgerald was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2016 for his charitable efforts including his First Down Fund, which was established in 2005 and focused on K-12 education and efforts to prevent and cure breast cancer, for which his mother was being treated when she died in 2003.
Perhaps keeping it simple is how the Vikings defense is better served right now. Mike Zimmer suggested that he was possibly over-coaching that side of the ball after the Rams game that featured several schemed mismatches, blown coverages, and missed assignments. Last week in Philadelphia was a big step back in the right direction. Its hard to quantify without knowing the play calls, but after watching the All-22 I got the impression that the coverages were noticeably less complicated. You still had Harrison Smith doing his thing before the snap and some late shifts on the defensive line; after all, this is still Zimmers defense. But defenders seemed to have more rigid coverage roles instead of the pattern-matching that has backfired at times early in the season. (Something that also helps your defense look better: not going against a play calling warlock like Sean McVay.)
But he’s often got time for a round of golf, picking his Vikings opponents wisely. He said he doesn’t go near receiver Adam Thielen, known as the Vikings’ best golfer on the team. But he “whooped up” on quarterback Kirk Cousins a few times this offseason. Despite the loss, Cousins said he wants to keep in touch with “the mayor of Phoenix.”
Arizonas offense is statistically toward the bottom across the board, including third down percentage (25.9%, 31st in the NFL). Even with all the defensive hiccups through five weeks, Minnesota still ranks third on third down, allowing a 29.6% conversion rate. If the Vikings can avoid the early pratfalls they suffered against the Bills, the defense should be able to get off the field and win the field position battle.
And why wouldnt we want to see more of the wizardry thats taking place between Kirk Cousins and his prodigious pair of pass-catching personages? Cousins and Adam Thielen have already connected to set a couple league records and are on pace to shatter many more. Stefon Diggs isnt far off the pace either. Of course, putting up Arena League numbers isnt unique to the Vikings this season. The huge jump in offensive stats, especially in the passing game, is a league-wide phenomenon. Literally dozens of single-season NFL records could be shattered in 2018 if the current rate holds up. For example, only five different players in league history have had more than 5,000 yards passing in a single season. (Drew Brees has done it five separate times.) Kirk Cousins is currently on pace to have the third most passing yards in NFL history and he isnt even leading the league! The 5,000 yard plateau has been breached a grand total of nine times ever, and only once before the 2008 season. There are eight quarterbacks currently on pace to do so this year. (It would have been nine if Ryan Fitzpatrick wasnt benched.) Calling this years offensive outburst video game numbers is probably an exaggeration for the video games.
The best Minnesota-born football player to never wear a Gophers or Vikings uniform, Fitzgerald says he wouldn’t be a future Hall of Fame receiver without Minneapolis. He returns on Sunday when the Vikings play host to the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium, which could become the 27th NFL stadium in which he has caught a touchdown pass.
Even if the numbers are inflated, that takes nothing away from how great Thielen and Diggs have been this year. They are easily two of the best route runners in the league. Nick Olson over at Vikings Territory broke down how Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby were unwitting attendees of a route running clinic put on by Thielen and Diggs. While Patrick Peterson is still one of the very best corners in the NFL, he cant cover both by himself. In fact, with how well Minnesotas dynamic duo is playing, hes going to have his work cut out just covering either one.
All signs are pointing to a relatively comfortable Vikings victory. The Arizona Cardinals have never beaten the Vikings in Minnesota—their last win in the Twin Cities came in 1977 when the franchise was in St. Louis. The Vikings have won nine straight home games over the Cardinals in that span. (Yeah, yeah, Im Jinxy McJinxerson, yada yada yada. Whatever.)
Those signs were obviously pointing in the same direction before the last home game too. Unlike my daughters and the fuse bead fiasco, the Vikings should be able to avoid falling for the trap the second time around. The Griffen situation had to be weighing heavy on the Vikings minds against Buffalo; they were down by three scores before they knew what hit them. The home crowd and pass rush should make Rosen uncomfortable all day. If Minnesota can get off to a better start, its going to be tough for Arizona to maintain drives.
The Cardinals defense is opportunistic and has performed pretty well despite consistently being put in tough situations by the under-performing offense; theyre currently 8th in DVOA. But even with the possibility of the Vikings needing to shuffle their sub-par pieces up front, Cousins and company are playing at a high enough level to take care of business on Sunday.
Currently in his 15th NFL season, Fitzgerald said he will put off retirement thoughts until the end of the year like he has “the last three or four years.” He came close to retiring last offseason, according to his father, after coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer walked away.
If disaster somehow strikes twice and the Vikings once again lose as huge home favorites to an anemic offense with a rookie quarterback, I might need my kindergartener to stop me from throwing a tantrum. Nobody wants to see that.
Philadelphia going further into their tailspin is a tasty proposition, but New York is too much of a mess, even at home on a short week. Im sad that Ereck Flowers will no longer be around to remind me that it could always be worse at tackle.
“I’d like to believe the Lord put me on the Earth for something much more important than catching a pigskin ball,” he said. “The game has given me a wonderful platform and helped me do some things off the field that I’m really proud of.
I wouldnt be surprised if the losing team of this game had 35 points or more. Defense optional in this NFC South clash.
Every time I think this could be the perfect game for Chicago to come crashing back down to Earth, two words pop into my head: Khalil Mack.
Cincinnati is the better team right now. So why cant I shake this feeling that theyre going to lose at home and spur a cascade of the Steelers are back articles?
I cant believe Im saying this, but Im kind of excited for this game. Both teams are a ton of fun to watch and totally cant be trusted to close out games.
I went back and forth on this game at least a dozen times. Each time I clicked the respective teams radio buttons, it felt wrong. So I might as well go with the underdogs. Or something. I dont know man, I have sucked at picking games this year.
Jon Gruden is earning that $10 million per year based strictly on his quotes that lack any semblance of self-awareness. I tell ya what man, Im likin all these players on other teams that I coulda signed in the offseason instead of the guys I got.
I have Todd Gurley on both of my fantasy teams. Is it weird that Im already worried about him in the fantasy playoffs because L.A. might have everything wrapped up with three weeks to go?
Unless Blake Bortles is in a particularly giving mood again, how is that Dallas offense going to score against that Jacksonville defense?
A battle between the two teams that can easily beat and easily lose to anyone in the league. Ill give Baltimore the nod since they have been just a bit more consistent.
Easily the game of the week, and possibly the season thus far. Id feel a lot more confident about this pick if it was a playoff game though. ANDY REID BURN!
My Survivor Pool pick of the week, now over .500 for the first time this season after the Pats took care of business last Thursday. And since Im already out, I wouldnt mind getting this one wrong too just to watch the schadenfreude-filled fallout in Green Bay.