Quotulatiousness

January 9, 2016

Your get-on-the-bandwagon guide to the NFL playoffs

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:51

If your favourite team isn’t in the NFL playoffs (that’d be 20 of the 32 teams), Draw Play Dave is here to help you figure out which of the lucky playoff teams you should be supporting:

The 2015 NFL Playoffs ARE FINALLY HERE! Playoff football is the most fun part of the entire year, except if your team is actually in the playoffs, because then the stress is unbearable. But this isn’t for those fans of (twists face into sheer contempt) “good teams.” Not all of us were so lucky to have our team actually do well this year. For most of us, our team sucked, and we need someone to fill that hole for the remainder of the year. It’s time to sidle up and pretend to be friends with a winner so you can save what’s left of your sports emotional state.

This is a difficult process. Which team is so deserving of your love? Why should any of these teams win if your team had to sit at home? Which of these teams winning would piss off people you hate the most? Well, there are a couple of guidelines to follow if you need assistance:

  • Root for the underdog, unless they are a hated rival team
  • Root for the team with least amount of historical success, because those fans deserve some happiness, unless they are a hated rival team
  • Root for the team that annoys you a little less
  • If you are a glory seeking butthole who doesn’t care about anyone but you, root for the team with the best chance to win

With those guidelines in mind, let’s take a look at every team in the playoffs, with pros and cons for bandwagoning each team.

December 28, 2015

Vikings beat Giants 49-17 to set up showdown in Green Bay for NFC North title

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:27

Everyone knows the Vikings do not play well in prime time and even more so on national TV. They also don’t score a lot of points. Except when they face Eli Manning and the New York Giants, perhaps. Eli has had some terrible games playing against Minnesota, and last night might have been the worst of the lot:

And a few minutes after Judd posted that, Eli was picked off again, this time by Captain Munnerlyn who nearly got into the end zone.

Mid-game, the NFL decided to switch next week’s showdown at Lambeau Field into the prime time Sunday night slot. (See opening paragraph above…) Winner will host a playoff game in the Wild Card round, while the loser will play on the road. If the Vikings win in Green Bay, they’ll host the Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium. If they lose, they go right back to Green Bay (if Seattle wins) or to Washington to face the Redskins (if Seattle loses). While the Vikings have done well on the road this season, they’re still historically bad in prime time on national TV:

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December 21, 2015

Vikings beat the Chicago Bears 38-17 to go to 9-5 season record

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Due to mundane concerns (starting to organize the household for a move), I didn’t get to watch the first half of Sunday’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears, but I got enough worries from the text messages as the first half wound down … with running back Adrian Peterson leaving the game during the first half with a leg injury, among other scary updates). This meant that an offensive plan built around Peterson would have to be re-tooled on the fly to work to the strengths of second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. I’m on record as believing in Bridgewater as Minnesota’s quarterback of the future, but it wasn’t clear whether the current personnel grouping would allow Teddy to carry the team in the absence of Peterson. I probably shouldn’t have worried about it, as Teddy put in his first career five touchdown game (four passing, one rushing, with no interceptions).

1500ESPN‘s Judd Zulgad, not known as a Bridgewater fanatic, put it quite well:

Three weeks ago, there was growing concern among Vikings fans that Teddy Bridgewater might not be this team’s quarterback of the future. On Sunday, that same quarterback had to call a timeout in the fourth quarter because the crowd at TCF Bank Stadium was chanting his name so loudly and wouldn’t keep quiet.

This is why it’s never a good idea to attempt to write off a second-year quarterback based on a bad game, or even a series of subpar performances.

Bridgewater probably isn’t as good as the guy who completed 17 of 20 passes for 231 yards with a career-high four touchdowns and no interceptions in the Vikings’ 38-17 victory over Chicago, and he certainly isn’t as bad as the guy who hit on only 17 of 28 passes for 118 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in a 38-7 loss to Seattle two weeks ago in the same stadium.

In what he acknowledged was the best game of his pro career, Bridgewater accounted for five touchdowns, including a 12-yard dart into the end zone during which he got spun in the air, and had a 154.4 passer rating. That rating is the second-best all-time for a Vikings QB in a single game, second to the 157.2 rating Gus Frerotte posted in a 35-7 victory over San Francisco on Sept. 28, 2003. A perfect passer rating is 158.3.

“These past two weeks I’ve seen a different look in his eyes,” Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said of Bridgewater.

Peterson wouldn’t be the only one who has noticed his quarterback has responded impressively since a poor performance against the Seahawks in which no element of the offense performed up to expectations.

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December 17, 2015

The Minnesota Vikings wine club

Filed under: Football, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

For all I know, the Vikings may actually have a formal wine club (the NFL is always interested in leveraging their league and team branding for additional revenues), but this wine club is an informal group of cornerbacks and safeties:

The Minnesota Vikings, currently leading the pack for an NFC wild card playoff spot, have a top-10 pass defense that is built on tight cornerback coverage and an aggressive pass rush. And red wine.

In a move that is part health fad, part bonding exercise, the Vikings defensive backs have started dabbling as wine connoisseurs, with some believing that it may even be helping their bodies. “Whatever [you’re] doing, drink some red wine and you’ll do better,” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

The Vikings’ taste for wine is the product of 37-year-old defensive back Terence Newman, who previously starred for the Cowboys and Bengals. Newman began exploring wine earlier in his career and has since emerged as the NFL’s answer to Robert Parker.

Newman began drinking Merlot four years ago, but found it too bitter and dry, he said, so he quickly dropped the habit. He later got into bolder Cabernets, which were more his style, he said. “I was married to Cabs for a while,” Newman said. “But then I had some Pinot Noir, and that’s when I said: ‘Wow, this is where I’m going to settle down.”

Over the years, Newman’s interest in wine has grown more and more serious. He orders cases of DuMol Pinot Noir and samples organic wines from Oregon. Before last season, he took a tour of the Pride Mountain winery in the Napa Valley. But this season, his appreciation for fine wine finally began to trickle down to his teammates.

Early in the season, Newman made a tongue-in-cheek reference to Pinot Noir as the secret to his remarkable longevity. His teammates drank it up. “They start joking ‘Oh, is that the key?’” Newman recalled. “But I promise you that night, five guys took pictures of a glass of wine they were drinking.”

December 11, 2015

Vikings lose 23-20 in Arizona

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Before the game started, even the most fanatical fans were looking at this as a likely loss: the team got eight wins this season primarily due to the stout defence and the running of Adrian Peterson. On Wednesday, the team had already declared that their three best defenders were out (each ranked in the top 3 in the NFL by Pro Football Focus), and might even start a newly signed street free agent and a player just called up from the practice squad as their safeties for the game. On Thursday morning, Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan explained why a loss to the Arizona Cardinals might not be the end of the world for the Vikings:

It’s time like these that cause overreaction. Here’s the right way to react to three key issues:

1. Losing to Arizona won’t be disastrous, unless injuries mount.

If the Vikings lose tonight, they’ll be 8-5 with two winnable home game between now and their season finale at Lambeau Field. That’s about where any optimistic realist would have projected them to be before the season began. They still can reach 10 victories and make the playoffs for only the second time since 2009, and they might be better off finishing second in the division if that means a chance to play against the NFC East champion instead of Seattle.

In a theoretical world, you could argue that the Vikings would be best off resting as many important players as possible against Arizona and preparing for the final three games. In the real world, you can’t expect the Vikings not to try. For at least two or three quarters. Then they need to save their most important bodies.

2. Adrian Peterson is the kid who won’t eat his spinach.

Just as the Vikings are bound to try to win against ridiculous odds on Thursday night, Peterson will want to carry the ball 25 times. And like trying to beat Arizona, that’s a fine plan going in, but if this game turns into a blowout the Vikings would be right to again put him on the sideline.

Peterson hated missing 15 games last year, but that rest probably led to his remarkable performance this season. He hated getting only eight carries against Seattle, but that game became unwinnable and he and the Vikings might benefit if he’s fresh going into the last three games and the playoffs.

This might be a good time to develop Jerick McKinnon, who has played well and might be a bigger help than Peterson to the passing game.

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December 7, 2015

Vikings lose at home to Seahawks, 38-7 in blowout

Fortunately for me, I was unavoidably busy on Sunday afternoon and missed what sounds like the worst game Minnesota has played in the last two years. If there were any bandwagon fans left after the loss to Green Bay, they’re probably all gone now. The bad news started long before kickoff, as nose tackle Linval Joseph was listed on the injury report all week and then downgraded on Friday, so he and starting strong safety Andrew Sendejo were both out. Middle linebacker Anthony Barr and free safety Harrison Smith both started the game, but were standing on the sideline not long after the game started. Without Barr, Joseph, and Smith, the Vikings defence was a hollow shell, and Seattle took full advantage of the weakness. Usually, after a game I didn’t get to watch, I’ll read through the hundreds of Twitter posts in my Vikings list. Today, after looking at a couple of dozen of the most recent ones, I decided that I should just give the rest of them a miss:

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December 6, 2015

Cleveland – the “Factory of Sadness”

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Matt Waldman tries to get to the root of the problem … the problem of being a Cleveland Browns fan:

The Seahawks’ exploits have been a thrill, but I’ve never hung on every play with the same passion I did when I watched Steve McNair and company in Tennessee. You see, Titans and Seahawks fans got a taste of Han in those games, but by the time that happened I had already been marinated in it in Cleveland:

    Han or Haan[1] is a concept in Korean culture attributed as a unique Korean cultural trait which has resulted from Korea’s frequent exposure to invasions by overwhelming foreign powers. Han denotes a collective feeling of oppression and isolation in the face of insurmountable odds (the overcoming of which is beyond the nation’s capabilities on its own). It connotes aspects of lament and unavenged injustice.

    The minjung theologian Suh Nam-dong describes han as a “feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one’s guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong — all these combined.”[2]

    In some occasions, anthropologists have recognized han as a culture-specific medical condition whose symptoms include dyspnea, heart palpitation, and dizziness. (Wikipedia)

Whether they know it or not, the Browns are the unofficial NFL team of Korea. Cleveland embodies Han more than any team – and possibly, city (Detroit gets props) – in American sport.

It’s what happens when your team is this close to it all coming together and its spirit gets kidnapped to Baltimore.

Baltimore Colts great Art Donovan got it right when he said that he had mixed feelings about the Ravens’ arrival in Charm City. He was happy for the fans to get a team, but not at the cost of another great fan base losing theirs.

The Ravens still have the soul and guts of the real Cleveland Browns. They’re Mickey Rourke’s detective Harry Angel from Angel Heart. a war veteran kidnapped by crooner Johnny Favorite, who, to avoid paying up his side of the deal he made with the devil, performs a gruesome ritual on Angel to inhabit the detective’s body and hide from Lucifer – and himself.

[…]

I wish I could say Angel Heart only applies to Art Modell performing his satanic ritual on Cleveland and hiding in the Ravens purple and black. Then it could make DeNiro’s Lucifer the collective embodiment of vengeful Browns fans everywhere.

But I experienced my own personal horror of discovering who I was in the wake of the Browns 42nd last-minute loss since 1999: Despite 20 years of trying not deny it, I’m still a Browns fan. I’ll always be a Browns fan.

It’s not a choice. It’s part of who I am.

I had this epiphany last night while watching defeat snatched from the foot of victory against the team that made off with our mojo. Watching my shitty team lose a game to its mortal enemy that’s so deeply wounded that it’s starting an ATM for interceptions, pissed me off more than the Titans and Seahawks’ one-yard debacles in the Super Bowl.

November 30, 2015

The Pennsylvania Steagles

Filed under: Economics, Football, History, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle talks about the plight of Pennsylvania’s two NFL teams during World War Two … oh, and some boring stuff about financial regulation:

Fun fact: During the 1943 professional football season, the World War II draft had so depleted the ranks of football players that the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles were forced to unite their teams into a joint production that became colloquially known as “the Steagles.” In a heartwarming turn, this plucky band of men went on to one of the winningest seasons in the history of Pennsylvania football. That was, alas, their only season; the next year each city fielded its own team, and the proud name of the Steagles retreated into history.

I’m beginning to think that we should revive it, however, not for football players, but for those intrepid souls who continue to fiercely agitate for the return of the Glass-Steagall financial regulations. Like the Steagles, these people are not daunted by the many obstacles in their path. Like the Steagles, they are passionate in their determination. Probably also like the Steagles, they mostly don’t know much about Glass-Steagall.

And we desperately need a name for Team Steagles, because they seem to have become a powerful force in the Democratic Party. Last night’s Democratic debate, like the first one, featured lengthy paeans to the joys, and urgency, of a modern Glass-Steagall act. Somehow, an obscure Depression-era banking regulation has turned into a banal political talking point. Or worse — a distraction.

You, like the Steagles, may not know much about Glass-Steagall. That’s all right. There is no particular reason that most of us should know about Glass-Steagall, and many people manage to live perfectly happy and fulfilling lives anyway.

Vikings beat Atlanta 20-10 to move to 8-3 on the season and first place in the NFC North

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Adrian Peterson was the engine that kept Minnesota in this game (29 carries for 158 yards and two touchdowns) … with more than a bit of help from a stout defence that didn’t give up a touchdown until the final two minutes. Atlanta committed enough mistakes to cripple their own scoring chances, including a Terence Newman interception in the Vikings end zone.

Minnesota’s defensive secondary was missing star safety Harrison Smith who injured his knee in a collision with Newman in last week’s loss to Green Bay and rookie first round cornerback Trae Waynes. Despite that, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan didn’t seem to test the deep secondary much during the majority of the game. Even more puzzling was that pattern continued after Andrew Sendejo, the Vikings’ other starting safety, left the game with an injury to be replaced by Robert Blanton (Antone Exum, Jr. got the start in Smith’s place). On the other hand, linebacker Anthony Barr was everywhere, notching tackles, a strip-sack, a forced fumble that prevented a touchdown, and a dramatic pass break-up. I imagine his Pro Football Focus rating this week will be pretty gaudy.

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November 29, 2015

Does Teddy Bridgewater hold the ball too long?

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Over at Vikings Territory, Brett Anderson endangers his health, eyesight, and even his sanity by exhaustively tracking, timing, and analyzing every throw by Teddy Bridgewater in last week’s game against the Green Bay Packers. A common knock on Bridgewater is that he’s holding the ball too long and therefore missing pass opportunities and making himself more vulnerable to being sacked. It’s a long article, but you can skip right to the end to get the facts distilled:

What The Film Shows

It became clear pretty quickly that plays with larger TBH [time ball held] had a lot happening completely out of Bridgewater’s control. There were only a couple of plays where it clearly looked like Bridgewater held the ball too long while there were options downfield to target or that he hesitated to pull the trigger on guys that were open. And consistently, there were three issues I kept noticing.

  1. Receiver route depth – The Vikings receivers run a ton of late developing routes. I don’t have any numbers to back that up – we’re talking strictly film review now. But on plays ran out of the shotgun with 5-step drops or plays with even longer 7-step drops, by the time Bridgewater is being pressured (which happens about every 2 of 3 plays), his receivers have not finished their routes. And I know that just because they haven’t finished the route doesn’t mean Bridgewater can’t anticipate where they are going to be but… We’re talking not really even close to finishing their routes. It seems that a lot of the Vikings play designs consist of everybody running deep fade routes to create room underneath for someone on a short dig or to check down to a running back in the flat. So, if this player underneath is for any reason covered (or if the Vikings find themselves in long down and distance situations where an underneath route isn’t going to cut it, which… surprise, happens quite often), Bridgewater’s other receiver options are midway through their route 20 yards downfield. What’s worse? Not only are these routes taking forever to develop and typically only materializing once Bridgewater has been sacked or scampered away to save himself, but also…
  2. Receiver coverage – The Vikings receivers are typically not open. It was pretty striking how often on plays with higher TBH receivers have very little separation. (Make sure to take a look through the frame stills linked in the data table above. I tried to make sure I provided a capture for plays with higher TBH or plays that resulted in a negative outcome. Red circles obviously indicate receivers who are not open while yellow typically indicates receivers who are.) The Packers consistently had 7 defenders in coverage resulting in multiple occasions where multiple receivers are double teamed with safety help over the top. But even in plays with one on one coverage, the Vikings receivers are still having a difficult time finding space. So now, we have a situation with Bridgewater where we have these deep drops where not only are receivers not finished with their deep routes but they are also blanket covered. And why are teams able to drop so many players into coverage creating risky situations for a quarterback who is consistently risk adverse? Because…
  3. Poor offensive line play – The Vikings offensive line is not good. And it may be worse than you think. It’s no secret by this point that the Vikings offensive line had one of its worst showings of the year against the Packers. More often than not, simply by rushing four defenders, Green Bay was able to get pressure on Bridgewater within 2-3 seconds. This is a quick sack time. And more often than not, Bridgewater is having to evade this pressure by any means necessary to either give his receivers time to finish their routes or give them time to get open. (Or more frequently – both.) As a result of this, what we saw on multiple occasions against the Packers is Bridgewater being pressured quickly, him scrambling from the pocket and dancing around while stiff-arming a defender once or twice and ultimately throwing the ball out of bounds or taking a sack. Are you starting to see what the problem here?

Conclusion

Bridgewater is not holding the ball for a length of time that should reflect poorly on his play. The data shows that Bridgewater is about average when looking just strictly at the numbers. The tape shows a quarterback who really doesn’t have a lot of options other than holding on to the ball. When Bridgewater is presented with a quick 1- or 3-step drop and his receivers run routes with lengths complementary to the length of his drop, it typically results in Bridgewater finding a relatively open receiver, making a quick decision and getting the ball there accurately. When Bridgewater is faced with longer developing plays behind an offensive line that’s a sieve and receivers who are running lengthy routes while closely covered, he tries to make a play himself. Sure, there were a couple of plays during the Packers game where it may have been a better decision for Bridgewater to take a sack when initially pressured and saving the yards he lost by scrambling backwards. However, it’s difficult to chastise him for trying to create plays when they aren’t there when it doesn’t work and applauding him when his evasiveness, deadly stiff arm and surprisingly effective spin move result in a big play.

Bridgewater has been far from perfect this season. But after this extensive exercise, I can comfortably say that the amount of time Bridgewater is holding on to the ball should not negatively reflect on his performance considering the above mentioned external factors.

November 26, 2015

Inflation hits high school football, where there are now more than 400 “state champions”

Filed under: Football, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In this week’s football wrap-up, Gregg Easterbrook looks at the most tangible evidence of the popularity of football in America: that there are more than eight times as many high school state championships as there are states in the union:

High school football playoff season has begun across the country, and continues nearly till Christmas. The result will be not 50 titlists but at least 425 state high school football champions. In the N.F.L., every team save one is ground into dust. In high school football, it’s trophies galore!

Expanding postseason brackets at the high school level are another indicator of the runaway rise of football popularity.

Back in the day, there weren’t hundreds of high school state champions; many states had no postseason. I graduated from Kenmore West High School near Buffalo; in 1969 the football team finished ranked first in New York state. That storied squad appeared in eight games, then put away its gear because there were no playoffs to attend. This year’s Kenmore West team suited up for 10 regular-season dates followed by two postseason contests. The Blue Devils’ 10-2 finish got them only to the subregionals of a now-sprawling postseason tournament producing 16 New York state football champions.

New York state pales before Texas and California. In the crazed Texas system, 704 public high schools playing 11-man football made this year’s postseason; plus playoffs for private institutions and schools in the six-man rural version of the sport. Texas offers 10 brackets of 64 schools, each football bracket about the size of the March Madness basketball tourney. Hundreds of Texas playoff games build up to the Lone Star State naming 26 state high school football champions. The last trophy will not be determined till the double-whistle of a night game Dec. 19 at the stadium where the Houston Texans perform. To win a Texas state title, a high school needs to appear in 16 games — exactly the same wear-and-tear on the body as in an N.F.L. regular season.

All this expansion of the high school football year is great … for the fans and the coaches. It’s definitely not so beneficial to the players on the field: not only significant increases in the chance for injury, but also increased distraction from actual school work. Too many football players are hoping to get into college on a football scholarship (and many of them also nurture unrealistic dreams of a professional career in the NFL after college). Perhaps it’s because high schools don’t cover the statistics on that:

The old shorter seasons allowed high school football team members to participate in the extracurricular activities that are essential for college acceptance. Admissions officers know that teenagers with weak grades and only “football team” on their application are not prepared for college.

But won’t the guys get recruited? This is the Grand Illusion of contemporary high school football — devote your high school days to playing in a huge number of games, as well as to year-round conditioning, film study and 7-on-7, because recruiters will come calling. Hundreds of thousands of tween and teen males happily dwell in this Grand Illusion. Then recruiters don’t call.

Each spring, roughly one high school senior football player in 60 is offered an N.C.A.A. scholarship. Roughly one in 125 receives an “ath admit,” acceptance to a college he would not otherwise have qualified for. Athletic admits to the Ivy League or the New England Small College Athletic Conference are solid gold, better in many ways than N.C.A.A. offers. Rolled together, about one high school letterman in 40 gets a college boost from football. While one in 40 gets great news, many more on the football team end up with reduced chances of regular college admission plus regular financial aid.

Expansion of high school football seasons and playoffs has not happened to serve students. More high school games serve the interests of coaching-staff adults who want to pretend to be Don Shula, of state sports organizations that want to be more important, of hustlers who run the growing universe of “showcases” and “combines” that bilk parents of fees in return for the false promise of a recruiting edge for their children.

It’s been nearly a generation since most companies stopped accepting job applications for “entry level jobs” on a career path without at least a university degree. Encouraging teenage boys to ignore academic work through high school to get a microscopic shot at getting into college through football is a form of fraud. Worse, the way high school football players are treated (both in the form of adulation from fellow students and pampering by staff) further encourages them to keep dreaming rather than to keep football in its proper place and getting an education. At least to the extent that high schools are still equipped to teach, anyway.

November 25, 2015

If only Minnesota got the Mike Wallace they thought they were getting

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In my post on Sunday’s awful outing at TCF Bank Stadium against the Green Bay Packers, I aired my opinion on the value of having wide receiver Mike Wallace on the roster. I’m not the only one wondering if Wallace was this year’s worst acquisition for the Vikings, as Judd Zulgad clearly feels the same way:

Mike Wallace arrived in Minnesota last March with the reputation for being a headache off the field but with the promise of being a dynamic playmaker on it.

The Vikings’ hope was that Wallace could serve as the team’s deep threat in the passing game and that the chemistry he would develop with Teddy Bridgewater would keep everyone happy.

According to all accounts from Winter Park, Wallace hasn’t created any issues in the locker room and has been pleasant enough to be around. Unfortunately, for the Vikings, Wallace hasn’t come close to living up to expectations and, unless something turns around quickly, his stay in purple will be a short one.

The statistics don’t tell the story of how ineffective Wallace has been.

The 29-year-old wide receiver is third on the Vikings with 28 catches for 318 yards and a touchdown. A guy who was supposed to stretch the field has a season-long gain of 22 yards.

Through 10 games, Wallace is the biggest disappointment on the Vikings’ roster and it would not be unfair to label him a bust.

Zulgad also pulls up a statistic which surprised me as much as it seems to surprise him: “Pro Football Focus has Wallace with only four drops this season, but anyone who has watched the Vikings on a regular basis would put that number closer to 10.” I haven’t been able to watch every game this season, but I was pretty sure I’d seen Wallace do his patented butterfingers routine on at least a dozen passes.

Zulgad also senses the growing inevitability of the end of Wallace’s time with the Vikings:

Considering Wallace’s lack of productivity, one would think that Johnson and Wright should get more work. The pair certainly has better chemistry with Bridgewater. But benching a guy making $9.85 million for a guy making $510,000 (Johnson), or $1.5 million (Wright) might be a tough sell to the front office.

What won’t be a tough sell is cutting ties with Wallace long before he collects on those eye-popping paydays of $11.45 million he’s due each of the next two seasons.

November 23, 2015

Vikings struggle against Green Bay, give up NFC North lead

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Vikings held the NFC North lead for only one week, as Green Bay came to Minnesota and got lots of help from Minnesota to take control of the game. While Teddy Bridgewater did just about everything he could (he would have thrown for over 300 yards if Mike Wallace had caught anything thrown his way), the running game never got going and Bridgewater was under pressure for much of the game, absorbing six sacks (second most of the season after the Denver game). A critical Adrian Peterson fumble put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. One of the deciding factors in the outcome was penalties, particularly ill-timed penalties at critical moments on the guys in purple. The Vikings entered the game as the least-penalized team in the NFL, but you’d never have guessed that watching the first half of play … yellow flags seemed to fly after every other play, uniformly against the Vikings.

(more…)

November 16, 2015

Vikings beat Raiders 30-14 in Oakland to move into first place in NFC North at 7-2

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Unfortunately, the game wasn’t available in my area, so I had to follow the Twitter feed to keep track of the game. It was a fascinating day in the NFL, as Peyton Manning set a new NFL passing record and got benched in the same game, Detroit finally beat the Green Bay Packers for the first time in 24 years, and Adrian Peterson notches his first 200+ yard game in nearly two years (and the sixth in his career, tied for the most in NFL history).

It’s been a while since the Vikings had a five-game winning streak … since 2009, as a matter of fact. And the significance of Adrian Peterson’s 2012 numbers above? That’s his career best year when he fell just a few yards short of setting a new NFL single-season rushing record.

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November 14, 2015

The scandal of NCAA “graduation” rates

Filed under: Football, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Gregg Easterbrook on the statistical sleight-of-hand that allows US universities to claim unrealistic graduation rates for their student athletes:

N.C.A.A. Graduation Rate Hocus-Pocus. [Hawaii coach Norm] Chow and [Maryland coach Randy] Edsall both made bona fide improvements to the educational quality of their college football programs, and both were fired as thanks. Edsall raised Maryland’s football graduation rate from 56 percent five years ago to 70 percent. Chow raised Hawaii’s football graduation rate from 29 percent five years ago to 50 percent.

At least that’s what the Department of Education says. According to the N.C.A.A., Hawaii graduates not 50 percent of its players but 70 percent, while Maryland graduates not 70 percent but 75 percent.

At work is the distinction between the Federal Graduation Rate, calculated by the Department of Education, and the Graduation Success Rate, calculated by the N.C.A.A. No other aspect of higher education has a graduation “success rate” — just a graduation rate. The N.C.A.A. cooks up this number to make the situation seem better than it is.

The world of the Graduation Success Rate is wine and roses: According to figures the N.C.A.A. released last week, 86 percent of N.C.A.A. athletes achieved “graduation success” in the 2014-2015 academic year. But “graduation success” is different from graduating; the Department of Education finds that 67 percent of scholarship athletes graduated in 2014-2015. (These dueling figures are for all scholarship athletes: Football and men’s basketball players generally are below the average, those in other sports generally above.)

Both the federal and N.C.A.A. calculations have defects. The federal figure scores only those who graduate from the college of their initial enrollment. The athlete who transfers and graduates elsewhere does not count in the federal metric.

The G.S.R., by contrast, scores as a “graduate” anyone who leaves a college in good standing, via transfer or simply giving up on school: There’s no attempt to follow-up to determine whether athletes who leave graduate somewhere else. Not only is the N.C.A.A.’s graduation metric anchored in the absurd assumption that leaving a college is the same as graduating, but it can also reflect a double-counting fallacy. Suppose a football player starts at College A, transfers to College B and earns his diploma there. Both schools count him as a graduate under the G.S.R.

[…]

Football players ought to graduate at a higher rate than students as a whole. Football scholarships generally pay for five years on campus plus summer school, and football scholarship holders never run out of tuition money, which is the most common reason students fail to complete college. Instead at Ohio State and other money-focused collegiate programs, players graduate at a lower rate than students as a whole. To divert attention from this, the N.C.A.A. publishes its annual hocus-pocus numbers.

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