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The Seven Good (and One Bad) of The Vikings After The Bye

The Minnesota Vikings are 7-1, and after this weekend’s results, they’re clearly in the driver’s seat in the NFC North.

So, the question is how’d they get there? Clearly, the massive upswing started one mid-August afternoon, when Brad Childress hopped into an SUV and finally delivered the Vikings a starting quarterback.

Nobody believes that Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson would be sitting at 7-1, but Brett Favre isn’t the only reason why the Vikings in control of their own destiny this season.

Here’s a look at the seven things the Vikings have going right, and one thing they need to improve in the second half of the season.

1. The Favre Factor

Clearly the elephant in the room is Brett Favre. At 40 years old, Favre is having one of the best seasons of his career. His stat line, particularly 16 touchdowns against three interceptions, is practically unbelievable. Even when he was healthy and young, he didn’t often put up stats like that.

However, the greatest benefit that Favre brings to the table is faith. For all the talk of schisms and Favre’s prima donna status, every player in the Vikings locker room believes that Brett Favre can win any game on the schedule.

That’s not a benefit they’re willing to give a Tarvaris Jackson, as much as they may like him as an individual, or Sage Rosenfels. And so far, it’s something that’s borne itself out during the season.

Favre has built an instant rapport with his receivers, has developed his own audible and check down systems, and has put some flair into a very rough and generic offense in desperate need of some life.

2. Rookie Development

There’s little doubt, at least at the moment, that Percy Harvin will be the offensive rookie of the year. With all due respect to Baltimore’s Michael Oher, nobody has splashed onto the scene quite like Havin.

He’s picked up the offensive scheme faster than anyone imagined, and has become Favre’s favorite third down target. And while the “Percy-Cat” formation hasn’t delivered much fruit, Harvin has shown his versatility as a receiver, runner, and return man.

The Vikings’ other big draft pick, both figuratively and literally, was Phil Loadholt.

And while Loadholt has struggled at times, at least in part due to injury, he has made the right side of the Viking’s line infinitely better, and as he continues to develop this season, it’s clear that he will be a force in the running game.

Of the Viking’s other draft picks, Asher Allen has played well as the nickel back in Antoine Winfield’s absence, and linebacker Jasper Brinkley and safety Jamarca Sanford have both played very well in special teams coverage.

3. Cooking Rice

Sidney Rice flashed a lot of potential in two seasons, but injuries threatened to derail his talent. Last season, Rice only had 15 catches, with four touchdowns, but he never looked comfortable.

This season? Rice already has more than four times as many yards as he did last season. Part of that is due to his quarterback. But part of it is due to Rice elevating his play.

Working out with Larry Fitzgerald and Chris Carter this offseason has given Rice a shot of confidence. He’s running routes more effectively and efficiently, and as a result, he’s looking more and more like a number one receiver.

4. Jared Allen and the Williams Wall

Jared Allen is having a career year. 10.5 sacks at the midway point and three forced fumbles put him near the top of the league as a defensive lineman. Exactly what the Vikings had hoped he would be, even more so now that he’s playing healthy.

While Pat and Kevin Williams don’t have as gaudy numbers, what’s more important for the Vikings is that they’re playing. Their suspension is tied up in the court system, and Kevin, in particular, is making the most of the opportunity.

While Pat hasn’t been the dominant run stuffer he was in years past, he’s still doing a good job eating up space, and with Jimmie Kennedy playing well backing him up, he should be well rested down the stretch.

5.  Special Special Teams

The Viking’s special teams were among the worst in the league last season, setting the wrong kinds of records for points allowed. They looked lost and missed easy assignments and tackles, most notably against Reggie Bush last year.

This year, however, the unit looks much improved. Partially because new coordinator Brian Murphy has a more tight scheme in place, but also because of the new blood on the field this season.

Percy Harvin, of course, has provided the Vikings with a spectacular kick returner, but perhaps more important is the return of Heath Farwell.

The Vikings’ leading tackler in 2007 missed all of 2008 with a knee injury. It’s no shock that Farwell’s return to the squad has improved the tackling significantly. In addition, the Vikings added two big hitters in Jamarca Sanford and Jasper Brinkley in the draft, as well as Canadian stand out Kenny Onatalu to shore up the coverage teams.

6. Scheme Change

Throughout his tenure as head coach, Brad Childress has been under fire for having too simple a game plan. The Vikings’ playbook was smaller than the one for Tecmo Bowl. Run up the middle, run up the middle, three yard pass on 3rd-and-4. It didn’t matter what personnel grouping was on the field.

Now, however, Brad Childress has been able to launch his much vaunted “kick ass” offense. Which means shaking up the packages on first and second downs, trying to find ways to bounce Adrian Peterson off tackle, and, shock of all shocks, passes for more than three yards.

It’d be dumb to suggest this didn’t have something to do with Brett Favre, of course, but most of it has to do with trust in the players on the field at any given time.

Phil Loadholt isn’t going to waffle under pressure like Ryan Cook.

Visanthe Shiancoe can actually catch passes. Sidney Rice has more than one good knee. Harvin is just as reliable as Bobby Wade, but can actually make plays downfield. All things the Vikings can count on this season that they haven’t had in a long time.

7. Soft Schedule

Of course it’s worth noting that the Viking’s schedule isn’t exactly threatening. They’re not 7-1 by accident. Well…I guess that depends on how you feel about the 49ers game.

Of their first eight games, the Vikings beat Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis all among the league’s worst. As well as Green Bay and San Francisco, two young teams that are still finding their groove. So the only “quality” win was Baltimore in Week Six.

But consider the rest of the schedule. They’ve got Detroit again, an up and down Seattle team, slumping Chicago twice, and Carolina. The only truly competitive teams that the Vikings play before the Playoffs are Arizona, Cincinnati, and the Giants. The Giants game will be at the end of the season when the Vikings are likely to have clinched the division, at least.

More importantly, however, is that the schedule clearly favors Brett Favre, since only the Chicago game on Dec. 28th will be played in a cold weather climate, and isn’t likely to be of much consequence barring a disastrous second half. 

And consider that, unless the Giants suddenly charge and the Saints fall off, the Vikings are likely to be able to play every Playoff game in a dome or warm weather stadium, as well. This isn’t last season where he’s going to have to test his bicep in bad weather nearly every week.

-1. Missing Presence

There are a few negatives to the Vikings this season, of course, but one really glaring one. While many veterans are playing hard to keep the team in first place and try to secure a Playoff spot, many highly paid veterans haven’t shown up yet this year.

E.J. Henderson, who was the spark plug of the defense last season and was playing at Pro Bowl level before he got injured, hasn’t looked the same this year. He’s played decently as the Vikings’ middle linebacker, but he’s had a tendency to disappear in the second half when the team really needs him to make stops.

Bernard Berrian is another veteran who put up great numbers last year, and seemed well on his way to proving that he was worth his exorbitant contract. But since he missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, Berrian has not picked up the new Vikings playbook or any connection with Brett Favre at all.

Finally, the bane of the Vikings’ defense this season has been the poor tackling of safeties Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams.

And while I’m willing to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt, seeing as how it’s his first year as a true starter, Williams is a six year veteran who needs to start playing to the standards of his $33-million contract.

With everything that’s gone right for the team this season, and with luck seemingly falling their way more often than not, it’s not difficult to see the Vikings as Super Bowl contenders.

The real question, however, won’t be answered until after the bye, when we find out how many of those seven bye week positives, can actually be maintained for the rest of the year.

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Vikings Win Again, and They Didn’t Even Have to Play

Well, the Vikings won this week without ever stepping on the field. Both the Bears and Packers fell this week. And they didn’t just fall, they collapsed and sucked it up against the Cardinals (a so-so team), and the Buccaneers (a terrible team).

The Bears let Kurt Warner come back from a five-interception game (jokingly referred as that week’s best Jake Delhomme impression), to have a five-touchdown game. Meanwhile poor Matt Leinart showed again, that despite two-and-half-years to mature behind Warner, he’s still no better for it. At this rate Warner doesn’t have to worry about losing his job in the near future.

Of course say all you want about Favre, but no quarterback in history has the ability to go out on the field and look like the most awesome guy to ever throw a football and then on other days completely implode. Favre has had one or two incidents of utter implosion, but Warner has him beat. In fact ,Warner has the ability to look awesome and terrible at the same time! Last year, in the Cardinals game where Favre threw six touchdowns, Warner had something like five turnovers yet still directed four second-half touchdowns and had nearly 400 or over 400 yards passing.

I don’t think I even have to say anything about the Packers’ loss—that speaks for itself. So, by and by the Vikings had a huge win this week without even playing; heck, they don’t need to these days. So here is the fallout as I see it:

Seems that this is the straw that broke the camel’s back for most Packers’ fans. At least it would appear that way from the online reaction to this latest loss to a winless team.

I am seeing on a large scale, fans that formerly were still standing by Ted Thompson, now ready to lose it and get a fresh start with new management. Possibly with Mike Holmgren, who expressed interest in managing a football franchise in the future when he retired from coaching.

Of course it’s also Mark Murphy, the guy that insulted Brett Favre by attempting to bribe him to stay retired after Thompson pressured him out in 2007. All this drama goes back years though. Packers’ fans should be upset at the run they could have had without Thompson’s strange and inept leadership style.

His first act was to get rid of Pro-Bowl guards Wahle and Rivera, which led Favre to get the crap sacked out of him the next few seasons (Thompson’s subtle way of trying to end the legend’s career?). Looking back, I am still shocked Favre survived those years, might be why we won’t see the 49-year-old Favre flicking touchdown passes.

Then he blew a first-round draft pick on Rodgers, a great quarterback but a move made way too prematurely. Thompson jumped the gun on moving to a post-Favre era.

Then, of course, there is the way they completely ignored the various attempts Favre made to get them to use free agency to put together a ready-made veteran team to make a run for his last few seasons. That’s the ultimate disrespect in my mind. It was selfish, yes, but Favre deserved it. He deserved his chance to lead a good team to some Super Bowls. Heck he shared an agent with Randy Moss, it doesn’t take a genius to know he had some inside dealings and knew Moss would have liked to go to Green Bay.

And what does Thompson do? Effectively gives Brett Favre a big F.U. and skips getting the one-and-only Randy Moss, so he could draft another one of his hopeless second-string talents with a fourth-round draft pick.

I just want Packers fans to imagine it: A fantastic two-to-three year run with maybe a pair of Super Bowls.

Teams collapse. That’s pro football. But in the NFL you make your run at what you can get now, and if you can get that kind of team you go for it. You don’t say, “Oh, I think I’ll skip those two Super Bowl runs so I can build up for five seasons from now.” Rebuilding is a great medicine, but it’s a bitter medicine and only taken in desperation. Thompson started rebuilding from scratch instead of working to put the finishing touches on a veteran Super Bowl team for the then and the now.

That’s why I found Mark Murphy’s statements about being annoyed with Favre’s constant attempts at team management and trying to give input so funny. Favre obviously knows what he’s talking about, the Vikings have found out that having him on a team is the closest you can get to having a coach out on the field directing things as he plays. I can’t think of any NFL player that can read offenses and defenses better than Favre, nor one that can pick up sacks or call audibles as well. When he retires I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come back and start coaching a team, he has the knowledge and the leadership and the drive to do it and he has always done it on the teams he plays for.

So, in hindsight, the Packers probably would have been better off letting Favre work with the management in building the team up, after all this was the guy leading it. They’d have almost certainly had a much stronger run these last few years.

What’s more is that it appears that Thompson’s choices for rebuilding have done absolutely nothing to help the team. It’s four years in and this Packers team is still utterly lacking depth at the lines, despite a multitude of talent at linebacker, corner, receiver, and quarterback. And it becomes constantly more apparent this is not a well-coached team, which also goes back to Thompson.

Now, to briefly dive into the Favre controversy, there are certain undeniable talents he has that Rodgers doesn’t. One is his frankly unparalleled pocket presence. As some Green Bay players, (or might have been coaches), said after the last game, they avoided most blitzes because of Adrian Peterson, but they still mixed in a few.

Only the thing was, Favre caught them and redirected blocking, one player was literally saying it was like he had a sixth sense, they weren’t even showing the blitz yet and he would be pointing out blocking to the line so that they would pick it up.

Of course the Vikings don’t do anything special to get their sacks, Frazier rarely puts heavy blitzes in, they get most of them with their D-line, which is unarguably the best in the NFL. I mean name me a line comparable to Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, Ray Edwards, and Jared Allen.

But Rodgers is a great quarterback. His coaches just aren’t providing him with a system to avoid these sacks.

It’s like McCarthy really doesn’t learn anything from these losses. He makes no adjustment to his system, he keeps moving ahead like eventually he’ll force his offensive line to suddenly become a Pro-Bowl protection unit. He doesn’t provide the short-outs and screens to relieve the pressure; he doesn’t provide the receiver and the route that Rodgers can just dump a ball away to if pressure is heavy.

Their offense works astonishingly well when those center-field slants and flies and in-and-outs have time and that deep group of speedy receivers spreads out a defense and Rodgers threads the ball where it needs to go. But the big point is that defenses catch on to that and they’ll just continue to add more and more pressure to shut down the passing at its source.

They know, quite frankly, with that group and Rodgers’ accuracy, they can’t beat the offense down the field. The Vikings have short throw-away guys; Favre can throw lots of screen options or hit Percy Harvin for a quick pass to get rid of the ball.

The biggest difference it seems is that McCarthy has refused to develop a short passing game to deal with high-pressure instances, which is a huge blunder; he just can’t do that, his line is not good enough and that is a fault of the coaching staff.

I actually see a huge improvement in Aaron Rodgers this year. He’s working more to find receivers, he’s looking for second and third progressions, he’s not as completely dependent on Donald Driver as he was last year, progress is being made.

Now, he still doesn’t make use of Greg Jennings like Favre did for years, and he doesn’t have the same pocket presence. That’s obvious. Favre managed with virtually the same line two years ago.The reason is he’s neither as fast at whipping along his progressions as Favre is, nor he is as good as Favre is at pulling out a quick and convincing pump-fake ,and then with that extra second spinning around and finding the open crease.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Rodgers’ has the talent, the one thing I don’t see in him yet is the leadership, that ability to overcome adversity and pull out signature victories, which seems to be Favre’s strong point.

Though a full comparison between the two of them deserves an extensive article comparing them, and comparing when Favre had his weakest years and why, and what Favre could have done had he been a Peyton Manning or Brady or Brees, constantly surrounded by that much talent on both sides of the ball (Marques Colston by the way is perhaps the biggest steal ever out of a draft, gotta hand it to the Saints for going out and finding the players they need, Bush, Sharper, Brees, Colston, etc).

As it is the Vikings won this week and they didn’t even have to play.

That whole team must be happy to see their two main division opponents implode, both falling to 4-4, and both looking utterly awful. Meanwhile they got a godsend in this perfectly placed mid-season bye-week, giving Berrian, Harvin, Favre, and Winfield time to recover and lick their wounds.

Now they get to come out the stall kicking and making a major statement as they have a trio of home games against the horrible Lions, the slightly better Seahawks, and the mediocre Bears.

Favre’s record in home games is one of the best in NFL history, and the Vikings have played far better at home than they have on the road. That crucial three-game streak is what they get to focus on now.

They get to put up huge numbers, prop themselves up as the major contenders this year, and then be ready to make a possible run at 15-1, with the Bengals being the only dangerous challenge they face and they get to face them at home.

It has been a perfect year so far. The Vikings have definitely done good to keep Favre fresh and as the chemistry has grown stronger the sacks have grown less frequent and the team has looked better. Favre looks really comfortable and natural wearing purple, sitting in that pocket changing around blocking, calling audibles. Even Berrian, behind the game in getting incorporated into this offense, despite being its best speed threat down the field, is starting to get back into the flow.

Most importantly, he seems to have the respect from these players now as a team leader. They are playing as a team. There’s no locker-room tensions or unhappiness like with the Jets, where neither side ever wanted to be with each other. Even the other QBs don’t seem to have any resentment. Favre called Jackson T-Jack when talking about almost not starting during the Green Bay game. If anything Jackson is getting an opportunity to develop his abilities, he’s getting the chance to get more experience before stepping up to the big time. They’re not only playing as a team, people are really having fun and beyond respect, Favre is actually getting along and having fun with these guys (Peterson, Harvin, and Rice) and that’s possibly the most important thing in football.

We’ll see how well they roll out of the gates into the second half of the season, but don’t be surprised to see domination. They could have beaten the Steelers, only two improbable defensive miracles in a row stopped them. As long as they don’t make those mistakes and find ways to punch the ball in more, they’ll be unstoppable, as they finally succeeded in shutting down a strong offense late in the game during that game.

At this rate, the Vikings will be talking about picking up Terrell Owens at the end of the season and setting up an even more potent passing attack for Favre next year, if, as Wyglif thinks he will, he comes back for his best John Elway impersonation (except Elway wasn’t playing this well at the end of his career). 

What’s more is I’m happy Favre’s came back this season. It helped me come across the single funniest football quip I’ve ever seen, (hopefully you guys agree with me), When a few weeks ago someone stated, “The City of Green Bay doesn’t own the Packers anymore, Jared Allen does.”

Oh, and Favre will be mailing Ted Thompson the news stories when he wins a fourth MVP award, along with an autograph.

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The Favre Drama: Our Fault, or His?

The halfway point of the NFL season is preparing to be a faded afterthought for most NFL fans, and as we begin to usher in the latter half, media outlets are still being inundated with article, after article regarding Favre, and the drama that has become synonymous with the old graybeard gunslinger.

Whether you’re a Viking fan basking in his unheralded talent to lead a team—any team it sometimes seems—to victory, or a Packers fan seething at his departure, and coined “betrayal”— classic—or if you’re just an innocent NFL bystander caught up in the melee centralized mainly in the NFC North, the all too familiar news of Favre has become a bit overwhelming.

But who is to blame.

Sure, Favre appeared to dupe everyone with the press conference show of tears the first time around, as well as the comments made about Thompson.

Then there was the curious cell phone calls to not only Childress, but also Mangini, that eventually landed him in the big apple.

And of course, for those of you with a short memory, the last minute acquisition by the Vikings neatly presented to the public with a nifty limo escort to the practice field.

But although all of these things warrant a great deal of questions, and even jaded emotions, are they enough to justify the ever apparent obsession? Is all of this truly his fault?

To me, this isn’t about betrayal, or a shady character getting over on—not only the NFL fans but the entire NFL—or even a bitter, Wrangler jean wearing, old timer from the south.

Favre’s constant departure, and re-emergence into the NFL has been about what he loves to do most—play football.

The Packers thought it was time to move on, and give their QB of the future a chance, yes they may have interfered with Favre going to a rival team—something we won’t ever truly know—but that leaves him without fault in the matter, should those allegations really be true.

The Jets had already committed to bringing in Sanchez if they found him available in the draft, and with all the other moves in personnel, and Favre’s injury, the situation was handled in a gossamer type fashion that left Favre the odd man out.

All of this is popularly considered to be hi in to finally getting to Minnesota to exact revenge against the Packers, and TT.

Really? A professional football player that is already enshrined in the HOF for all intents and purposes, an individual who has shattered every record available to break, a man of his level of leadership went back home, and sat at his kitchen table drawing up Phase Three of his diabolical vengeance mission?

C’mon.

The drama that surrounds Favre, and the continuance of his “saga” rest within the countless articles being ushered out over, and over again by the same people who write more about him than any other topic looking to increase read count.

It is this type of topic that is even creating full blown arguments—watch there’s bound to be one here I’m sure.

As true football fans, we should realize that the man simply wants to play football, nothing more, and it is us who should let him play. His offseason antics are a thing of the past, Aaron Rodgers is the man in Green Bay, which means Favre needs to be let go, and the drama that surrounds him is something we all must remember is a creation by us more than it is by him .

I know this will be the last article of this type regarding Favre I ever write, and it was only my second, what about you?

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Brett Favre: The Saga Continues

My response to an article written by a friend of mine, who is a die hard Packer fan.  You will have to read his before mine to understand how it started.

A Brett Favre fan’s rebuttal:

Well said, Ben.  I commend the class and dignity in this article.  You spoke your mind without stepping over any line or boundary and you had me intrigued the whole way through.

Allow me, if you will, to share my viewpoints on why I feel the boo’s that were represented on that field were completely and utterly uncalled for.

As a Packer fan, you claim that the Packers are part of your family.  You live and breathe them.  While I will concede that you guys are some of the most passionate fans I have ever seen I won’t ever understand the fact that you claim they are like family to you.

What kind of family treats someone who dedicated 16 years to you the way you have?  What kind of family actually says, “But Brett kept wavering and we couldn’t stand his indecision and lack of commitment to the team and community.  We were tired of the stupid interceptions, poor decisions in the playoff games, and growing ego of the past few years.”

You grew tired of his stupid interceptions?  Did you grow tired of his stupid touchdown throws, too?  Did you decide to take a nap when he came within one game of taking your beloved team to the Super Bowl before retiring?

Glad I wasn’t born into this family.

Please, tell me what he did to show a lack of commitment in the community. 

Please, help me understand why all of a sudden you were tired of this growing ego, when it was something every one of you bragged about for years.

Please, explain to me why the interceptions and the play-off performances were now all Brett’s doing.  Not that I am making an excuse for his poor judgment calls in the pocket.  I know how he was careless at times, but it would never make me quit on someone that had given me the moments Brett had.

I couldn’t quit on my family.

You all speak of Brett’s constant wavering on retiring and coming back.  Yes, we all know about that and I think it is safe to say everyone was a little tired of it.  It was pretty back and forth and had to be hard for you guys.  I am, in no way, taking that away from you.

Have you ever thought for a moment that the wavering came because he didn’t want to disappoint his fans, his team or himself? 

One-hundred percent is the only thing that man knew how to give and his body was telling him different.  What did you expect from a man that takes every loss so personally, every win so heartfelt and every game like it’s do or die?

The last throw he made for Green Bay was an interception. 

Ever wonder if maybe, just maybe, he felt he let down all of you and that was his biggest fear come true?  Or were you guys too concerned about the fact he was the one that threw the pass that ruined a championship for you?

Wow, some loyal fans you are. 

And here’s something else to nibble at while you are donning the #12 jersey.

The guy that you used to root for, you know the one that has never missed a game, the one that led you to a Super Bowl victory, the one that even to this day describes you guys as the best fans he knows, wanted to play for you all along.

You were, and from where I see it probably even still, where he really wanted to be.  You were his home.  Had Brett forecast what may have happened by retiring and changing his mind, I can assure you this probably would have never happened.  Hindsight is always 20/20 though, isn’t it?

You can’t hold it against Brett Favre for still being the same Brett Favre you all once knew and loved. 

The love he has for the game, well it’s still there.  The competitiveness he has for the game, it’s still there. 

Vikings or Bears, he knew what he was doing.  He wants to win.  Selfish or not, that’s what he cares and always has cared about.  That is what you fell in love with.

He is still indecisive, that’s how he will always be.  Nothing has changed on who he is, yet everything has changed on where he is, and that is the difference you refuse to see.

If you actually think his heart is with the Vikings, well, you are either ignorant or naïve. His heart lies within football, which is why this story is still being told.  He has captured so many of us with his love for the game and the emotions he brings to each one of them, that though many complain about hearing about Brett over and over, some of us never tire from it.

Have fun booing Brett. 

Hope you have a lot of voice left in you, because from the looks of things, might be booing him all the way to his second Super Bowl championship.

As Brett Favre so eloquently put it, “But Packer fans cheer for the Packers first,” he said. “I know that. But I hope that everyone in the stadium watching tonight said, ‘I sure hate those jokers on the other side, but he does play the way he’s always played.’”

He sure as hell does.

 

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Evaluating Lindsey’s Vikings Predictions and Making More

If you are a Vikings fan you have to be enjoying this season as Minnesota sits atop the division with a 2 game lead, the Vikings have beaten the Packers twice and the team has suffered only one injury that has caused a key player to miss more than one game. Further reason to smile, the team comes out of the bye against the Detroit Lions. Yes, life is pretty good in Viking land.

Before the season began, I offered 5 predictions for the men in purple from the NFC North. As the Vikings have no game this week and I have been really enjoying the season the past two weeks it seemed like a good time to dust off what I said at the beginning of the season to evaluate my crystal ball gazing skills and to offer a few more predictions.

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Fantasy Football: NFL MVP Week Eight

This article was originally published at FantasyPros911.com

Each week, Dan Parzych will take a look at the top performers in the NFL with Parzych’s 2009 NFL MVP, whether they are at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, or tight end. 

Along with the best performers each week, be sure to check out Parzych’s 2009 NFL LVP, in which he covers the Least Valuable Players each week in the NFL.

Here are the results for Week Eight of the 2009 NFL regular season:

 

Quarterback: Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings

In case you’ve been living under a rock the last couple of months, Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre made his return to Lambeau field last week, the place he built his legacy in his 17 seasons playing with the Green Bay Packers.

As he ran onto the field, he received a mixed reaction of boos and cheers from the beloved fans who had cheered him on throughout his career. If Favre was nervous about going against his former team on their own turf, it sure didn’t show with the type of performance he had.

To make Packers fans feel even worse about their beloved quarterback playing for their division rivals, Favre finished 17-of-28 for 244 yards and four touchdowns against his former team in a 38-26 win for the Vikings.

Not only was the win a major relief for Favre, but the Vikings improved to 7-1 and remain atop the NFC North standings. Congratulations Brett, we all know how much this win means to you.

 

Running Back: Ryan Moats, Houston Texans

For the record, Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson was close to earning this spot with his performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in which he ran for 228 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. However, Houston Texans RB Ryan Moats had a career day against the Buffalo Bills, earning him the award this week.

In Sunday’s 31-10 win against the Bills, Texans RB Steve Slaton was benched early on after recording his fifth fumble of the season. As his replacement, Moats finished with 126 yards on the ground and three touchdowns—all of which came in the fourth quarter.

Whether or not Moats will start for the Texans next week against the Indianapolis Colts is still up in the air. However, he showed head coach Gary Kubiak he has what it takes to be the No. 1 starter if needed.

 

Wide Receiver: Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts remain as one of two undefeated teams left in the NFL, and WR Reggie Wayne is a major reason why the Colts have been successful.

Wayne’s 22-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter from RB Joseph Addai ended up as the game winner for the Colts in their 18-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Overall, he finished with 12 receptions for 147 yards to go along with his touchdown. 

Once again, Wayne stepped it up for the Colts offense while WR Anthony Gonzalez continues to nurse his injured right knee. In seven games, he’s hauled in 51 receptions for 689 yards and six touchdowns. This isn’t the first time he’s made the MVP list, and there’s a chance we’ll see him on it again before the season ends.

 

Tight End: Kevin Boss, New York Giants

The New York Giants may have been blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles in their 40-17 loss. However, Giants TE Kevin Boss still managed to have a solid game for his team in the losing effort.

While the Giants offense struggled to get anything going against the Eagles defense, Boss lead all wide receivers, hauling in three receptions for 70 yards—including an 18-yard touchdown from QB Eli Manning.

While Boss has yet to record a 100-yard game in 2009, the Giants have to be pleased with the fact he recorded his first touchdown of the season against the Eagles. Hopefully, he can continue to find the end zone over the next couple of weeks for the Giants.

 

Kicker: Matt Stover, Indianapolis Colts

While the Indianapolis Colts struggled to find the end zone against the San Francisco 49ers, K Matt Stover played a major role in the team’s 18-14 win.

Other than Wayne’s touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Colts relied on Stover’s four field goals to continue the team’s unbeaten streak in 2009. He managed to hit field goals from 38, 33, 31, and 41 yards for the Colts.

It’s hard to find a place kicker that stands out from the rest each week. However, it’s safe to say the Colts may be sitting at 6-1 without Stover, which is the reason why he earns the MVP award this week.

 

Defense: Baltimore Ravens

Everyone knew the matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos would be intense. However, the question on everyone’s mind was which Ravens team would show up.

The Ravens defense could not have put on a more impressive performance as they handed the Broncos their first loss of the 2009 season in a 30-7 win. They held the Broncos to a total of 218 yards on offense while recording two turnovers and two sacks.

With the win, the Ravens increased their record to 4-3 and won for the first time in three games. Next week, they look for revenge against the Cincinnati Bengals, who pulled away with a 17-14 victory in Week Five thanks to a late 20-yard touchdown reception from WR Andre Caldwell.

If their defense continues to shut down opposing offenses like they did against the Broncos, the Ravens could climb back to the top of the AFC North in no time.

Dan Parzych is an analyst at FantasyPros911.com

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Brad Childress On Brett Favre’s Groin: What Was He Thinking?

Brad Childress came under a bit of fire in Week Eight as it was revealed that Vikings QB Brett Favre had played through a groin injury while leading his team to victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Favre was  listed on the injury report, as probable, with a hip injury but “groin” was nowhere to be seen in the report and it is against league rules for any athlete injury to be hidden, possibly keeping the other team at a competitive disadvantage.

Nothing to worry about here, as witnessed by Brad Childress’ hilarious press conference .

Yes, you heard correctly. The man who also spent last week deciding to “motivate” his team by dressing like a flight attendant also uttered the words “rub it” while talking about Brett Favre’s groin.

What is Brad Childress thinking?! I know…

10) Think Green Bay felt like a jilted lover before…

9) I haven’t been asked this much about another man’s groin since dinner with Jeff Garcia.

8) Why hasn’t anyone mentioned my haircut?

7) Aww crap, those boys from Coors Light are going to have a field day with this!

6) I missed that day in health class, what DO you do with a groin?

5) Hey, a text from my agent, Vivid Video is looking for a spokesman!

4) Why does Jared Allen keep asking if I still have that flight attendant outfit?

3) Next team bonding session…TWISTER!

2) Hmm, I wonder why Sage Rosenfels is crying over in the corner?

AND THE No. 1 THING BRAD CHILDRESS WAS THINKING…

1) Why won’t John Madden stop calling me!

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Reeling Green Bay Packers: Sorry, Titletown, It’s Not 2003 Anymore

It was Ted Thompson’s worst nightmare, and fittingly enough, it happened just hours after Halloween ended.

Brett Favre. Celebrating at Lambeau Field. After having just beaten the Packers. As a member of the (shudder) Minnesota Vikings.

But the true nightmare for Mike McCarthy’s team is not that Brett Favre is now ahead of Ted Thompson in the greatest ongoing battle of will and ego since Roger Waters and David Gilmour fought over the use of the name “Pink Floyd.”

The Packers’ true nightmare, or at least it should be, is that by losing 38-26 to Favre’s Vikings on Sunday, they have virtually lost any hope they had of winning the NFC North title this season.

By sweeping the Packers and taking a 7-1 record into their bye week, the Vikings are virtually three games up on Green Bay’s soon-to-be 5-3 record (yes, I’m already putting next week’s game against Tampa Bay in the Packers’ win column; it’s the very definition of “lock of the week”).

That three-game lead will be nearly impossible to erase over the course of eight weeks.

But hold it, you say. Aren’t the Minnesota Vikings the biggest choke artists in the history of professional sports?

Aren’t they the team that a decade ago went 15-1 in the regular season and didn’t even make the Super Bowl? That started the 2003 season 6-0 and didn’t even make the playoffs? And then followed that up the next season by starting 5-1 only to finish at 8-8?

Well, yes.

It’s particularly tempting for Packers fans to look back on that 2003 season for reasons to believe that Green Bay has a shot at the NFC North title in 2009; in 2003, the Vikings held an even greater four-game lead on the Packers just seven weeks into the season. In the eighth game of the season, Green Bay beat Minnesota at the Metrodome, sparking a 7-2 run over the last nine weeks.

The Vikings, meanwhile, went 3-6 over those nine weeks, culminating in a last-second loss to the terrible Arizona Cardinals that sent the purple home for the off-season and the Packers into the playoffs.

Unfortunately, the 2009 Vikings are not the 2003 Vikings and the 2009 Packers are not the 2003 Packers.

The 2003 Vikings had the turnover-prone Daunte Culpepper, the malcontent Randy Moss, the two-headed-garbage backfield of Michael Bennett and Moe Williams, a truly awful defense, and a true bonehead (Mike Tice) for a coach.

The 2009 Vikings have, at worst, a very good defense, an infinitely better rushing attack with Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, unselfish receivers, and (yes, you knew I had to throw this in) a major upgrade at quarterback. And while Brad Childress isn’t exactly the second coming of Bud Grant, he’s not as big a putz as Tice was.

The 2009 Packers, meanwhile, look great on paper, in meaningless preseason games, and in lining up against the dregs of the NFL, but they carry with them major problems that are apparently irreparable under the current roster and regime.

This year’s Packers take too many penalties. Scratch that. They take too many stupid penalties.

They don’t get pressure on the quarterback.

Due to injury, they have an over-the-hill power running back returning kicks.

And, most glaring of all, they possess one of the worst NFL offensive lines in recent memory, which severely hinders their run game and makes Aaron Rodgers, who has become one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in an astonishingly short period of time, the biggest whipping boy since Saved By The Bell ’s Screech.

If the 2010 Packers can shore up that offensive line, they can play with anyone.

But this 2009 Packer team will be in a dogfight for one of two NFC Wild Card spots, and despite the alarming increase in godawful NFL teams this year, the Packers will face some stiff competition for those spots: Atlanta, Chicago, and any team from the NFC East not based in the nation’s capital are talented teams that will be fighting with the Packers for a postseason berth.

To make matters worse, the Packers have already played the majority of their cupcake games: After Tampa, Green Bay must play Baltimore, a rejuvenated Dallas, plus road games at Pittsburgh, at Arizona, and at Chicago.

The Vikings, meanwhile, get a very winnable three-game home stand after their bye week, and while some may question Favre’s durability as the season progresses, it seems just as likely that having the Packers games behind him has to be such a huge relief that he might even start to play better.

Favre continuing to play better? Now that he’s swept the Packers, that’s the NFC’s nightmare, not Ted Thompson’s.

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Tuesday Moring Running Back Week Eight: Return of the Lambeau Legend

It was a sight we thought we’d never see. It felt like hell had frozen over and Santa Claus had suddenly converted to satanism.

There was Brett Favre, the man responsible for the reversal of fortune of the Green Bay Packer franchise, running on to the field in the putrid purple of the hated Minnesota Vikings.

Surprisingly, he was met with a chorus of boos.

On one hand I can understand that. I would feel jilted too if I ever saw David Ortiz come back to Boston in a Yankee uniform.

However, this man did make the Packers a force to be reckoned with again after so many appalling years under such luminaries as Anthony Dilweg and Don Majkowski.

But as always, sports fans are entitled to feel what they wish about whoever they want.

So amid a smattering of boos and cheers, Favre was intent to prove he still could competently quarterback a team at his advanced age.

When it was over, Favre had thrown for 244 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-26 victory.

Even when it appeared the Packers would rally in the third quarter, Favre never let his guard down and was able to count on the reliable footwork of Percy Harvin, who is quickly becoming a candidate for rookie of the year.

So in essence, while Green Bay fans have the right to feel betrayed, they have to admit that their one time hero still can adequately run an offense.

Now, heading into the bye week at 7-1, the Vikings stand atop the NFC as the team to beat.

Elsewhere in week eight action.

• You’ve got to feel bad for the Giants. It isn’t often that a team goes from first to third place in the course of a day.

• I don’t think there’s a more dynamic wideout in the NFL right now than DeSean Jackson. His big touchdown catch literally knocked the wind out of the Giants sails.

• Sooner of later you knew the Broncos were gong to crumble for at least one game. The Ravens desperately needed a victory to keep pace with the Bengals and they not only won, they made a statement.

• Maybe Rex Ryan was half right when he said he felt like the Jets outplayed the Dolphins. It certainly appeared that way on offense. But on special teams, Ted Ginn, Jr. obliterated the Jets in taking two kicks to the house. That my friends was the difference.

• Even though Peyton Manning was out of sync with his passes, Joseph Addai proved that not only can he throw, but he can do it left-handed. An equally sloppy 49er defense helped the Colts escape defeat.

• Vince Young may have given the Titans a shot of confidence in leading them to a win, but it was Chris Johnson who was the difference maker as he rushed for a franchise record 228 yards.

Tony Romo proved that he isn’t afraid to use all of his targets by connecting with three of his receivers for touchdowns to beat the Seahawks. The win also moved Dallas into a tie for first with the Eagles in the NFC East.

• On most Sundays, the Panthers have trouble holding onto the ball, as Jake Delhomme currently leads the NFL in interceptions. But this Sunday, a savvy Panther defense forced Kurt Warner into throwing five interceptions of his own in a surprising win over Arizona.

• Even though Owen Daniels is done for the year, the Texans learned that they can exploit a power running game for the rest of the season. Backup RB Ryan Moats stepped in for Steve Slaton and scored a team record three rushing touchdowns in one game.

• The Chargers used the reliable LaDainian Tomlinson and the tenacious defense of Shawne Merriman to defeat the Raiders for the the 13th straight time.

• Isn’t it interesting that more and more reports about Tom Cable being an abusive person are now coming out of the woodwork. While I personally think his former lovers are beating a dead horse into the ground, I find it odd that they waited this long to come forward.

• So much for Derek Anderson being the guy to snap the Browns out of their funk.

• Sometimes I think Rodney Harrison likes to hear himself talk. He suggested Eric Mangini cut Derek Anderson to send a message to his team. Uh, Rodney, a lot more people need to be fired or released before the Browns can ever think about turning it around.

• All you need to know about the Rams/Lions game, a game I affectionately called the Toilet Bowl, is that the Rams James Butler intercepted a pass and forgot to take it out of the end zone. Congratulations to Steve Spagnuolo on his first NFL coaching victory, I think.

• The Falcons gave it a good effort against the Saints last night, but maybe they could have won if Michael Jenkins didn’t drop an easy pass in the red zone in the third quarter.

• Next week we got a couple of key divisional showdowns with the Dolphins at the Patriots and the Giants at the Eagles. See you next Tuesday for the analysis.

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Brett Favre Still on Top: The Packers Not So Much

At the risk of contradicting myself, I must say the Pack is not as good as I thought.

Still very much in the hunt at 4-3, they looked like a team struggling to survive this past Sunday.

Despite another decent game from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 287 yards and three TDs, the defense and the offensive line looked horrible and ultimately lost this one.

The defense fell flat, not only allowing Adrian Peterson to rack up 97 yards and a TD, but let Brett Favre all but destroy them with 244 yards and four TDs.

The odds were in the Packs’ favor on a night that one, marked the first time, and probably the last time ever Favre has played in Lambeau Field since the 2007 season and first ever as the opposing quarterback, and two, he not only faced a jacked up Packers team, but for the first time the fans that adored him for 16 seasons.

As he jogged out to the huddle for the first time, he heard something he has never heard in this stadium.

As the boos surrounded Favre, he met them head on with that same country-boy grin he gave for so many years playing here, and began once again to pick apart this secondary.

I think it is safe to say the Vikings are just flat-out better than the Pack.

I mean Favre alone has torched them in two games for 515 yards and seven TDs.

Of course Rodgers has put up phenomenal numbers as well, with 671 yards and five TDs, but it’s not been his fault that he’s been sacked 14 times between the two games and the Pack has run for no touchdowns.

It’s not his fault this defense has allowed 685 total offensive yards and 68 points in the two contests.

The Pack failed miserably in what was needed to be done to stop the Favre/AP train. There was virtually no pressure applied by the defense and the O-line again was unable to protect Rodgers.

If they do not cure their problems, missing the playoffs could be the least of their worries. With Rodgers having injuries to both feet, I’m not sure he can take much more punishment.

For all who still want to pile on Favre for his performance last week, don’t.

First of all Favre was blindsided on the fumble, because Phil Loadholt could not hold his block. Steve Hutchinson was running alongside Favre in pursuit of Lamar Woodley, the linebacker for Pittsburgh who recovered the fumble, and made a poor effort in an attempt to tackle Woodley, same as Favre.

Favre only gave up on the play after he was blocked and then realized there were three other Vikes there to make the play. Anthony Herrera was in position to make a stop, but was blocked as well. No one called Loadholt’s, Hutchinson’s, or Herrera’s intentions into question.

Secondly a little screen pass that was intercepted, that for some reason Chester Taylor was unable to hang on to even though it hit him right in the hands, is not Favre’s fault.

Again, Favre’s intentions with the team have been called into question in the pursuit of the defender when he again supposedly gave up on the play.

For someone’s intentions to be called into question after he has done everything he has been asked to do is ludicrous.

Favre has played second fiddle to AP, has been smart with the ball, only three interceptions after eight games, and has fought the urge to force plays and make risky decisions. This does not sound like a guy who is out for himself.

As far as not giving the extra effort, I do believe it was old number four who ran 50 yards to throw a crucial block on a 49ers linebacker with no regard for himself.

What more does he have to prove?

Nothing.

The man can mash.

With the Vikings at 7-1, they are at most five wins from making the playoffs with eight games left.

The Packers are 4-3 now, but very much still in contention. With another game against the Lions and one against the Bears, plus games against the Buccaneers and Seahawks they can definitely clinch second place in the division and still have a good chance at a wild card spot even if the Vikings were to win out the season.

Let’s not forget, no offense to Favre, but the Vikings are two to three games away from Favre’s annual end of season slump. Unless he avoids it, this could turn into a battle for the division.

In a season where I’ve had to stomach my favorite player demolishing my favorite team and have had to show respect for my team’s rival because of Favre and two early season stompings, anything is possible.

Lastly to all you Favre bashers:

If there is one thing I’ve learned during the past 18 seasons, Favre thrives on adversity. So go ahead heckle, boo, and bash all you want. You might just boo Favre right into the Superbowl.

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