The Time To Panic Debate Verdict

October 18, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

The Dallas Cowboys are 1-4 and are a full two games back from even climbing out of the NFC East cellar, let alone contending for a playoff spot. They have a lousy rushing offense, averaging only 95 yards per game, and join Miami and Buffalo as the three teams in the NFL to score only one rushing touchdown on the season.

But at least they are not the Minnesota Vikings.

I can appreciate the fact that the Vikings have a better record than the Cowboys, and that the Vikings actually BEAT the Cowboys last Sunday. But if we are talking about identifying the team that is in most need of a panic-driven overhaul, I have to agree with Loyal Homer that it is indeed the Vikings.

I will agree with Babe Ruthless’ sentiment that coaching in Dallas is a real issue. As a head coach, Wade Phillips has never accomplished remarkable things, even though he has been blessed with remarkable talent. He has instead inherited great teams, and accomplished only the average with them.

He has coached players like John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Steve Atwater, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and most recently guys like Terrell Owens, and Tony Romo. He has led teams like the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys on to a career record of 82-58 (VERY respectable) during the regular season, but his playoff record is a horrible 1-5.

For as much as Wade Phillips should be replaced in Dallas, though, there is a difference between needing a coaching change and needing an overhaul.

The Dallas Cowboys, struggling though they may be this season, are just a few mistakes and special teams plays away from being 4-1, or even 5-0.

They lost to the Redskins without giving up an offensive touchdown (a fumble returned for a touchdown was the difference for Washington). An excessive celebration penalty late in the game against the Tennessee Titans set up a game-winning score for Chris Johnson. If not for a 95 yard kickoff return by Percy Harvin the Cowboys would have potentially put away the Vikings.

Realistically, the Cowboys are still just a few plays away from finding themselves right back in contention. Felix Jones is getting better every week, and the combination of Tony Romo and Miles Austin is one of the most exciting and talented passing duos in the entire league. They are a potent offense that can put points on the board, and despite their record, have a defense that has allowed the fourth fewest yards per game.

That does not sound to me like a team in need of an overhaul.

By comparison, the Minnesota Vikings are in a very bad state right now. The main reason for that is because they have mortgaged their entire future on this one season. As Loyal Homer points out, there is no tomorrow for the Vikings. This is it.

In fairness, we knew they were going all-in this season before it even began when they sacrificed any value they could have realized from training camp by patiently waiting for Brett Favre to make a decision on whether or not he would return one more time. But then they lost their top receiver, Sidney Rice, to a hip injury (and are HOPING to get him back by mid-season) and Percy Harvin, has been battling migraines all season long.

Then, when Favre did make the decision to come back for one last chance at glory, it became evident very quickly that he was not going to repeat the magic of his 2009 campaign.

Last season he had a career best passer rating of 107.2. This season he is on course for a career worst with a rating of 72.1 (only his 1995 season in Green Bay was worse, at 70.9).

Last season marked the ninth time in his career that he was able to pass for more than 30 touchdowns. This season he has tossed only six touchdowns in five games, which could have him on pace to match his career low of only 18 touchdowns in a season.

Last season Favre set a career low with only seven interceptions all season. This season he already has seven interceptions and still has 11 games left to be played.

It just doesn’t seem like Favre wants to be on the field any more. Injuries are now clearly taking their toll, and the resurgent allegations of inappropriate texting provide nothing more than another distraction that the ailing Favre doesn’t need.

But as Loyal Homer brings up, the Vikings HAVE to stick with Favre, because after him is no one else. Tarvaris Jackson has instilled confidence in no one, and I didn’t even know who Joe Webb was until this debate came along.

Sure, the Vikings brought in Randy Moss, who still has big-play potential every time the ball is snapped. But let’s be honest, a Favre-to-Moss passing combination does not NEARLY have the punch it would have ten years ago. Even if Moss can capture some magic at the receiving end of Favre’s arm, the Vikings have made it clear that they have no immediate plans to keep Moss around after the season draws to a close.

Dallas still has a lot of young talent at the core of their roster. Dallas has proven that, despite a poor showing in the standings, they are capable of performing very well week in and week out. The Vikings, on the other hand, have cashed in all their chips for this last roll of the dice, and so far, the gamble has not paid off.

So panic, purple people. Today may seem bleak, but if this win over the Cowboys does not help to turn things around quickly, tomorrow can always be worse!

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The Time To Panic Debate

October 17, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

As NFL training camps opened a few months ago, and people were looking ahead at the regular season schedule, many pegged yesterday’s matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings as one of the more important games of the season.

Both teams were returning after having won division championships in 2009, and both came into the 2010 season expecting not only a shot at the playoffs, but each team had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.

Now that week six is in the books, it appears that we could not have been more wrong.

Rather than battling in a race for the Lombardi Trophy these teams are instead battling for the first pick in the 2011 draft. Today, the Dallas Cowboys sit at a pathetic 1-4, while the Minnesota Vikings are at a not much more impressive 2-3, by virtue only of a victory over Cowboys yesterday afternoon.

Here is the most frustrating thing for fans of both franchises – both teams have a great deal of talent on their rosters.

Minnesota’s offense features the NFL’s top running back in Adrian Peterson, and his talents are complemented with two future Hall of Famers in Randy Moss and Brett Favre, as well as younger superstars like Visanthe Shiancoe, and Percy Harvin.

Meanwhile, Dallas’ Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Miles Austin have had no problems in moving the ball this season, despite the team’s record, as they had the second highest yards per game average in the NFL (421.5) entering yesterday’s game, behind only the San Diego Chargers.

On the defensive side, both teams came into the matchup boasting one of the ten stingiest squads in terms of yards allowed each weekend, and Minnesota’s 16.8 points allowed per game average was the seventh best in the league.

Consider the pre-season aspirations and talent levels on each roster, then look at the current state of their franchises. Now let’s debate: Which team has more reason to panic, the Minnesota Vikings or the Dallas Cowboys?

As a side note to Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer, who will be arguing today for the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, respectively, I have used the word “panic” in my debate topic for today. I don’t just want to know which team has been the most disappointing, or has the least chance at still making a playoff run. I am talking about a full-on, “women and children first,” “the sky is falling,” “Armageddon is upon us” type panic.

The little red emergency phone in Roger Goodell’s office is ringing, is it Jerry Jones or Zygi Wilf in hysterical tears on the other end?

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The Most Surprising NFL Division Debate – NFC North Tops the Surprise Charts in 2009

December 23, 2009

Read the arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer about which NFL division has been the most surprising.

As is always the case, there have been many surprises in the NFL in 2009. Teams which were supposed to succeed will fail, and teams which are supposed to fail will succeed. The NFC North, though, went four-for-four in the surprise category this season.

Detroit Lions

On the ‘Surprise-o-Meter’ the Detroit Lions provide the smallest blip of all the teams in the NFC North. But, realistically, would you have picked them to win two games all season? I thought that the only achievement the Lions were going to claim this season was the new record for consecutive losses. Instead, they managed to put together not just one, but TWO wins. Again, this is not an Earth-shattering surprise, but it is a surprise nonetheless.

Green Bay Packers

Coming in next on the scale of surprises from the NFC North is the Green Bay Packers. The Packers, who had been pegged as the likely champions of the division (with some even going so far as to choose the Packers as the NFC representatives in the Super Bowl), have played some of the most inconsistent football in the league. Behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have displayed the potential to put a TON of points on the board, scoring 30 points or more in five games, and being held to less than 20 points only once in the entire season. Those offensive stats should have been enough to lock up a playoff spot by this point in the season.

The reason that the Packers have been unable to seal the deal up to this point in the season is because of an inability to put away the teams that should have been easiest to beat. The Packers, despite offensive prowess, somehow managed to hand the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that team’s only win of the season, and most recently helped Pittsburgh end a five game losing streak which included losses against the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, and Cleveland Browns.

For a team pegged to make a Super Bowl run this season, that kind of inconsistency has been a surprise!

Chicago Bears

I would like to file a missing persons report – The Chicago Bears offense, which was expected to show up at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on September 13th, 2009, never arrived at their anticipated destination, and has not been seen or heard from since.

No offense in the NFL came into the season with higher expectations, and then failed to meet those expectations, as spectacularly as the Bears. After closing an alleged blockbuster deal that brought quarterback Jay Cutler to the Windy City, folks all over Chi-Town were giddy with anticipation to see what a bona-fide quarterback could actually do for their beloved Bears.

After all the anticipation, how exactly DID the Bears’ offense do behind that bona-fide quarterback? They have played to a record of 5-9, scoring 25 or more points only three times all season (against the Browns, Lions, and Seahawks… not exactly the NFL’s most dominant teams). In terms of season statistics, the team ranks 23rd out of 32 teams with only 18.1 points per game. For his part, Jay Cutler has thrown only 19 touchdowns to 25 interceptions, and has a passer rating of only 71.1.

I would rank the Chicago Bears as being one of the biggest disappointments of the entire season.

Minnesota Vikings

As surprising as the letdown of the Chicago Bears offense might have been, it is actually the Minnesota Vikings who top the surprise charts for 2009.

Brett Favre’s resurgence may not be a surprise any more (15 weeks later), but when you consider the manner in which he entered the season, it has clearly been one of the biggest surprises of 2009. Behind Favre, the Vikings have already clinched the NFC North, and stand poised to claim one of the two postseason byes in the NFC. Not bad for a team who’s coach, Brad Childress, was viewed as being on the hot seat when the season began!

Favre has not been the only surprise for the Vikings, though, and much of his success MUST be credited to his weapons on offense. Adrian Peterson has once again provided very strong numbers at the running back position, but it is the emergence of three receiving threats – Sidney Rice, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, and NFL Rookie-of-the-Year frontrunner Percy Harvin – that has made the Vikings one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

Good or bad, the NFC North has been the most surprising division in the entire league. From top to bottom, it seems that none of the teams from the division got their respective memos on how to perform in 2009. They have collectively provided some of the biggest headlines of the NFL season, and have added some excitement and drama to a season that has been woefully lacking of both.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate –Will Favre Get Lambeau Love?

October 30, 2009

Read Sport Geek’s argument and Bleacher Fan’s argument for the games they believe are the BEST of the upcoming weekend.

This Sunday promises to be a great sports day, and one that bachelors like me absolutely love. The two best games of the day are on FOX at separate times. Luckily, FOX has a doubleheader this week. Since my home market team, the Atlanta Falcons, do not play until Monday night against the New Orleans Saints I am in the very fortunate position to be able to get both the Giants-Eagles at 1p and the Vikings-Packers at 4:15p on Sunday. Also taking place Sunday is the Sprint Cup race at my favorite track in (Talladega)and Game four of what is setting up to be one classic World Series between the Phillies and Yankees. So, yeah, I need to make sure I have extra batteries for my remote! However, after looking at all four of those events and the other events throughout the weekend, it is quite apparent that the best and most intriguing game is the “Brett Favre Shootout” Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.

Even if the game did not involve Favre making his first trip to Lambeau as a visitor it would still be a big game. But, it is hard not to look at the Favre factor. One element I am very curious to evaluate is the reaction Packer fans give their former hero. Will they boo him? Will they give him a standing ovation? What do you think? I am thinking it is going to be a strongly negative reaction. Bitter divorces tend to end up that way.

Setting aside the emotional aspect of it, it is still a HUGE game. Minnesota is coming off a tough loss in the Steel City at Heinz Field, a place where Sports Geek and I have peeked through outside the gates. Still, they sit on top of the division with a record of 6-1. Favre has had a tremendous season to this point, throwing for almost 1,700 yards and 12 touchdowns. Even though he was held in check by the Steelers’ defense, Adrian Peterson is still one of, if not THE, best running back in the league. If the Vikings can run the ball effectively in this game it becomes easier for Favre and his group of receivers, led by Loyal Homer fantasy favorite Sidney Rice.

Green Bay, quietly, is having a strong season, coming into the match up with a 4-2 record. As expected, Aaron Rodgers has developed into an elite quarterback. He has thrown for over 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns. The running game has struggled at times, but Ryan Grant is coming off a strong game.

This game is more important to the Packers. The Packers have already lost to the Vikings once this season and with a loss in this upcoming game the team falls two games back in the loss column. Not only does a loss put the Packers behind the eight ball in the division, it sets the team back in the wild card chase as well. I know it is early, but it is not too early to start looking at records. The Dallas Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Giants, the Packers, and the Falcons all come into this weekend with just two losses. Obviously, not all of these teams will make the playoffs. Each game takes on added significance when the goal of making the playoffs is still realistic. Plus, the Green Bay nation wants to show Favre that they are doing just fine without him!

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate – Welcome Back To Relevance 49ers

September 25, 2009
Read Bleacher Fan’s argument that the Miami (FL)/Virginia Tech game will be the best of the weekend, and Loyal Homer’s argument that the best is the Atlanta Falcons/New England Patriots game.

It sure took a long time. Relevance eluded the San Francisco 49ers for years since Steve Young and George Seifert left town. Once the picture of NFL dominance, the 49ers have been mired in the NFL cellar for several seasons. Last season management fired former head coach Mike Nolan and promoted assistant and Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary to the position. Congrats, Niners. With a single swift move the organization has again been catapulted to prominence again and have another opportunity to prove it this week when they visit the retooled Minnesota Vikings in the best game of THIS weekend.

Everyone in the world is aware of why the Vikings are a story. Besides that quarterback fellow, the defense is fourth in the league in yards allowed per game and in the top 10 in most categories (though the season is just two weeks old). The defense plays hard and hits tough. They are a good and continuously improving defense thanks to the team’s defensive coordinator – Mike Singletary’s former teammate with the 1985 Chicago Bears, Leslie Frazier.

While Frazier is slowly gaining recognition for the stamp he puts on an NFL defense, Singletary has infused the 49ers with a toughness they have long lacked. His commitment to team unity has renewed the team’s confidence. Some significant changes Singletary has made, though he has not yet completed a full season as head coach, include forcing tight end Vernon Davis into both a good talent and a good teammate, ending the quarterback Alex Smith experiment, renewing a focus on running the ball well and playing good defense.

Singletary has now proved he is a good head coach in the NFL. Now the expectations from fans and media will increase. He is not longer the new kid on the coaching block and no longer a talented player turn coach many just root for.

Coming into this game it is billed as another opportunity for Brett Favre to shed rust, for Adrian Peterson to continue to assert himself as a league MVP candidate, and for the Vikings to potentially take a commanding lead in their division with a win and potential losses by Green Bay and Chicago.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the media is not covering the story of the 49ers more thoroughly. If the team wins against Minnesota on the road, however, it will be time to pay close attention to these 49ers. For the 49ers to earn the respect it has craved for so many down seasons a few key events need to take place.

First, Frank Gore has to be solid. Just solid. Twenty-five carries, 90 yards and a touchdown should do it. Also, quarterback Shaun Hill has proven he can take care of the ball, and the defense has proven they can play well when the game is on the line. While the aforementioned Vikings defense has some nice statistics to claim in the first two weeks of the season, the 49ers have the more highly ranked run defense, allowing a stingy 53 yards a game. The team also allows just 13 points per game thus far this season, good enough for fourth across the league. The game against the Vikings is winnable provided the 49ers play up to their potential. It seems likely Singletary is the right coach to ensure that happens.

Both of these teams are 2-0. The 49ers, however, have more to lose – and much more to gain. A motivated San Francisco team may shock the Vikings on Sunday and breathe needed life into a stale, but important, NFL franchise.

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The Naming The Starting Quarterback Debate – If a “Mangenius” Does Something that Doesn’t Make Sense to Me, Why Do I Think HE’S Wrong?

September 15, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Loyal Homer’s argument on whether or not Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini’s decision to keep the starting quarterback a secret was a good one.

For weeks building up to (and through) the preseason, there was much speculation in Cleveland as to who the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns would be. Would it be the 2007 Pro Bowler Derek Anderson, or the highly touted 2007 draft pick Brady Quinn? Last season, it appeared that Quinn had officially claimed the spot when he replaced Anderson mid-season. However, subsequent injuries by both Quinn and Anderson during the 2008 season, along with the announcement that Eric Mangini would replace Romeo Crennel as head coach, threw everything back up in the air.

When Mangini came into the Browns organization, he immediately announced that there would be an open competition for the starting quarterback position. All through training camp, there was speculation around which quarterback actually had the edge. Neither seemed to take the steps necessary to claim the starting position outright, leaving the public with only guesses as to what was going on in the head of Mangini.

Then, in a move that had many people around the league scratching their heads, Mangini publicly stated that he would keep the starting quarterback a secret even after deciding who it would be. His reasoning – to keep the Vikings guessing.

The Minnesota Vikings were scheduled as the Browns’ week one opponents, and Mangini felt that he was gaining a competitive edge over Minnesota with the secret because it forced the Vikings to prepare for defending against two different quarterbacks, instead of just one.

Now that the first week of NFL competition is complete, with the Vikings beating the Browns by a score of 34-20, I am asking my esteemed colleagues at The Sports Debates to evaluate Mangini’s decision.

In hindsight, was it a wise decision by Eric Mangini to keep his choice as starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns a secret until the last possible moment?

Keep in mind that losing the game does not automatically mean that Mangini made a poor choice. If not for running back Adrian Peterson’s impressive performance on offense for the Vikings (180 rushing yards and three touchdowns), the Vikings could have lost on Sunday.

Loyal Homer will argue that this decision, although it did not help change the outcome of the game, was still a wise decision on the part of Eric Mangini because the Vikings had to split their defensive focus and could not prepare for simply one gameplan. Sports Geek will argue that the choice was a bad one.

So which is it? Were these the actions of a mad-man or a Man-genius?!

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The Should the NFL Relax the Blackout Rules Debate – Blackouts Hurt the Fans

September 8, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument that the NFL’s blackout policy should remain the same.

Close your eyes and imagine this scenario three weeks from now.

It has been a really hard week at the office, located in Eden Prairie, just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. The boss is a jerk. He told you to stay late every day during the week. He even told you to come in on Saturday, causing you to miss the first wave of college football games (now he is past the point of being a jer – who does that anyway?!). Now, after going to church on Sunday morning and eating a nice lunch with the family, you plan on getting in your recliner and watching the Vikings -49ers game on local FOX affiliate KMSP. You are really excited because Favre and Peterson had a great first two weeks of the season. Someone offered to sell you a ticket to the game earlier in the week, but with times being tough, you did not feel like you could afford to go. But that is okay, because you like watching it at home with your two boys (ages nine and six) who are reaching that age where football has become a big part of their lives. They are big Vikings fans, also. Adrian Peterson is their favorite player. Twelve o’clock local time comes and… what is this? This is not the Vikings-49ers!!! Why are they showing the Packers-Rams game? What???? You scream “I hate the Packers! Everyone in Minnesota hates the Cheeseheads! The Rams are awful!” (Hmmm, didn’t someone else say the Rams are awful?)

Welcome to the life of a NFL fan in 2009!

In case you have not heard, it appears that the NFL is going to have numerous games blacked out this year. What that means is that if the home team does not sell out its home game, the game is blacked out in the home team’s local market. There are no winners in this situation. The owners do not get the extra revenue from a sold out stadium. The TV station carrying the game suffers lower ratings. But, the real loser is the average NFL fan!

This has obviously been a tough year economically. It is going to continue to be tough. Last year, the average NFL ticket costs $72.20. How many families can afford to go to a game at those prices any year, much less this year?

Here is another question I have always had – and maybe this is because I do not live in a big television market: If I am debating going to a game, does whether or not it comes on TV play into it? Do I sit around thinking, “Hey, the Vikings game may be not be on TV Sunday so I better buy a ticket.” I cannot envision a lot of people thinking that way.

I see no harm in lifting the blackout policy. I really do not think it is going to cause a dramatic decrease in ticket sales. If you are set on going to the game, whether or not it is going to be on TV rarely ever enters the equation when deciding on whether or not to go. Also, how are the teams supposed to build their fan bases to the casual fan, or the new fan, if the games are not regularly on television locally? I bet a lot of fans, especially outside of the home market, are unaware if a game is going to be blacked out. Perhaps it is even true that most fans do not even know the blackout rules.

The NFL is arguably the most popular league in today’s sports landscape. Therefore, everyone should be able to watch their home team play on the tube, no matter what. It is an easy call! Yes they should! The long term benefits outweigh any minimal damage.

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