Posted on: September 17, 2009 7:45 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2009 8:05 pm

The Viking Ship - Week 2

The Viking Ship - Week 2: Just Don't Beat Yourself

By: Christopher Torola

Last year the Minnesota Vikings only beat one divisional opponent twice... the Detroit Lions

This appears to be an easy 2-0 to start the season for the Vikings; however, there should be some fear of a let down. The game is in Detroit and last year the Lions could have easily have been 2-0 against the Purple. In week 6 at the Metrodome they Vikings took the lead on a fourth quarter field goal near the end of the game, and were only in position to kick due to a controversial pass interference call.

Then in week 14 the Lions either shared or held the lead again until a 4th quarter TD pass to Visanthe Shiancoe. The two teams then traded field goals to give the Vikings a 4 point victory. 

In the two games last year the Vikings outscored the Lions by only a total of 6 points. That being said, I do not think the Lions will win. If the players take them as a serious opponent, the Vikings should crush the Motor-City-Kitties. If I am not mistaken, the Vikings are 11 1/2 point favorites this week, not that i endorse gambling. My biggest concern is that the Vikes will go into this game thinking that they won't have to work for the win.

Some this to watch... Starting with concerns.

- Brett Favre has yet to throw a pass 25 yards down field. He had one 21 yard completion to Percy Harvin. His only other deep attempt resulted in a pass interference call. The concern here is Favre's health, although it is more likey just a case of more time needed to get familiar with his receivers. If he still throws little in a game against the Lions defense that allowed 6 touchdown passes last week, there may be some cause for concern.

- Heath Farwell is on the injury report due to hamstring soreness. He has been limited in practice. This is not good news for a Vikings special team squad that set a record for Touchdowns allowed last year as well as giving up a punt return for a score last week. The Lions did record an 87 yard kick off return and a 43 yard punt return against the Saints last week, although neither resulted in a touch down. 

-Calvin Johnson vs a young Viking secondary. Johnson is going to be a great receiver. He has yet to have a quality QB throwing to him, but has still put up amazing numbers. Look for the Vikings to try to contain him with a double team. If Johnson finds holes in the zone, he has the ability to put up big yards after the catch.

Now for the fun things to watch.

- Adrian Peterson. Currently on pace to rush for 2,880 yards this year, the NFL's 6th 2,000 yard rushing season is not out of the question. It will be fun to watch A.D. all year as he puts up monster numbers on his way to what may be a hictoric season, especially this week against a terrible Lion's defense. The list of backs to rush for 2,000 includes O.J. Simpson '73, Eric Dickerson '84, Barry Sanders '97, Terrell Davis '98, and Jamal Lewis in '03.

- Brett Favre and Percy Harvin. Up until this point it seems that Harvin is fast becoming one of Favre's favorite targets. This could make for an interesting year for the young wide receiver.

The match up between these two has reminded me a lot of another aging Vikings QB and rookie wide receiver. In 1998 the Vikings called back a retired Randall Cunningham to take control of a talented team, with a great offensive line (Jeff Christy, Todd Steussie, and now Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel all made the pro-bowl that year). They also drafted a talented wide receiver with a late first round draft pick who only fell to them because of a history of legal issues. Randy Moss went on to set the rookie record of 17 touchdowns that year.

While I don't see nearly as many touchdown passes due to the prolific running game of Adrian Peterson, I think we may see teams realizing they made a mistake when assessing Harvin's character issues (such as being stupid enough to smoke pot while knowing he was going to be drug tested at the combine). Maybe not to the degree that team's who passed on Randy Moss or Adrian Peterson because of injury history, but teams like the Radiers, 49ers, and Eagles who drafted wide outs before Harvin may end up wishing they hadn't done so. I am guessing that San Francisco (who has yet to sign Michael Crabtree) already wishes they hadn't.

- The Vikings defense against a rookie QB Matthew Stafford and poor offensive line. Going into the season Bleacher Report rates Detroit as the 32nd worst O-line out of 32 teams. This should be a good oppurtunity for the Vikings elite defensive line to score some sacks as well as forcing rookie QB Stafford into some bad throws. The Saints picked the Lions off 3 times and recorded one sack last weekend, and the Vikings should fair much better.

Here is to a great chance at beating the Lions to get to 2-0 this weekend... as long as the Vikings don't beat themselves.

Posted on: September 9, 2009 8:07 pm
Edited on: September 9, 2009 11:58 pm

2009 Vikings, what to watch...

2009 Vikings, Big Changes From Last Year

By: Christopher Torola

This Sunday the Vikings will play their first meaningful football since their playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and a lot has changed. Since then the Vikings have a new starting Quarterback, two new starting Offensive Linemen, some key players coming back from season ending injuries, a new starting Safety(sort of), and a potential play making rookie to handle kick returns among other things.

These personnel changes include some big steps forward, as well s some possible steps back. First off, the good.

In case you missed it, Brett Favre is now a Minnesota Viking. With #4 under center the Vikings now have a legitimate NFL starting quarterback for the first time since Daunte Culpeppers big year. Farve, although new to the team, is already familiar with the Vikings offense, which is pretty much the same as he ran all his years in Green Bay. If this is the upgrade it appears to be we could see the Vikings offense open up. It has always seemed that the coaching staff never had faith in Tavaris Jackson, as they limited his reads and did not have him call audibles pre-snap. Now we should hopefully see more consistency from #1 receiver Bernard Barrian as well as the continued improvement of Visanthe Shiancoe; however, the biggest improvement may come from an already spectacular Adrian Peterson. Since his rookie season, opposing defenses have constantly stacked the box against the run when facing the Vikings. If teams attempt to keep 8 in the box against the Vikings, Favre should be able to find plenty of one-on-one match-ups with wide receivers and tight ends to exploit.

The Vikings have two big time contributers coming back from injuries this year. Middle Linebacker E.J. Henderson missed most of last season with toe injuries. Prior to that his play was amongst the best at his position in the NFL. In 2007 he lead the team in tackles. Special team captain Heath Farwell is also back from a season long injury. Many in and around the organization believe that the loss of Farwell last year was a major contributing factor to the Vikings special teams allowing an NFL record 7 touchdowns.

The Vikings also used their 1st round draft pick to acquire Percy Harvin. They plan to use Harvin to return kick-offs, despite never doing so in college. He will also see reps as a wide receiver, running back, and even Quarterback in the Wildcat formation. From the brief glimpses of Harvin seen in the pre-season he should easily be an upgrade as a return man. He was able to catch some balls from Favre. It does seem that the Vikings plan to design some plays to get him the ball, possibly like Reggie Bush in his rookie season or Ronnie Brown last year.

With the positive, there are also some potential set backs.

The "Williams Wall" (Pat Williams and Kevin Williams) have yet to serve a suspension for violating the leagues banned substance policy. It is likely that the issue will be resolved during the season, which could lead to missed games for the Vikings Pro-Bowlers.

Second year safety Tyrell Johnson will attempt to fill the shoes of 4 time Pro-Bowler Darren Sharper, who signed a deal with the Saints this off-season. Johnson did start last year when Madieu Williams missed time due to a neck injury. The Vikings seem to believe that Johnson is ready to handle the job, as they made no attempt to resign Sharper.

To me the biggest and least discussed concern may be the changes at the Right Tackle and Center positions. Neither John Sullivan or Phil Loadholt has taken a meaningful snap in the NFL. Last year the Colts started 2 rookies on the O-Line and dropped from the #5 rated offense to #15. The good news for the Vikings though, is that unlike the Colts of last year, neither Loadholt or Sullivan is starting due to injury. Loadholt has outplayed Ryan Cook to earn the job. Sullivan has been groomed to take over at center, and the Vikings must feel that he is ready. They had plenty of time to make a deal to keep Matt Birk in Minnesota, as he was looking for a contract extension since the beginning of last year. Both players will need to be successful for the team's overall success, as the team will remain a run first offense.

There is no doubt that this team will compete for a play-off spot at worst, and if they are able to gel on offense and improve on special teams, this year's Vikings could be the one that finally wins them their first Super Bowl.

Posted on: August 9, 2009 2:36 am
Edited on: August 9, 2009 3:35 pm

The Secret to winning your fantasy league!

So the one secret to winning is....

By: Christopher Torola

That there is no one secret that works. I have heard every publication or pair of knuckleheads on a podcast touting everything from "Draft the Opposite" to "The Magic Formula". They also claim to have mathematic proof and historical data to prove that their method works... the trouble though is that "Draft the Opposite" tells me to always draft wide receivers and quarterbacks ahead of running backs so you have the pick of the litter at those positions, and "The Magic Formula" was basically telling me that I have to take as many running backs as I can start with my first picks, since they score the most points. If they both have proof that their systems work the best, how can they be the complete opposite strategies?

So I have decided to put my strategy right here on this blog, and may even claim that it is the only sure fire way to win... why not? Everyone else is doing it. The trouble is, I like to look at drafts in many different ways.  You have to take into effect the different variables like, scoring system, league size, draft position, trends, possible injuries, the average barometric pressure and how they effect quarterback's passer ratings, and the other owner's temperament. Sadly, I don't actually have a system that will work with when taking all those variables into consideration... Instead, here is a list of some tips that have worked for me in the past.

- Watch for steep drops in talent on a given year and actually use tiers for the different positions. For example this year there seems to be a sharp drop in talent after both the first 4-5 running backs and the first 5-8 wide receivers. So if you are in a 12 team league, and you have the 12th and 13th picks in a snake draft, go ahead and take 2 WR or a WR and a QB.

Using the CBS average draft position or ADP: if you went with the top 2 RB's you would most like get 2 of  - Chris Johnson ADP 11, Marion Barber III ADP 17, or Brian Westbrook ADP 18.  With your next 2 picks, 36th and 37th, your QBs and WRs are the likes of Dwayne Bowe ADP 36, Kurt Warner ADP 37, Terrell Owens ADP 37, Wes Welker ADP 37, and Tony Romo ADP 39.

On the other hand, at 12th and 13th pick you can get WR and QBs like - Tom Brady ADP 12, Andre Johnson ADP 13, Randy Moss ADP 15, or Peyton Manning ADP 16. When it comes back around to picks 36 and 37 your available RBs are - Kevin Smith ADP 34, Larry Johnson ADP 40, Darren McFadden ADP 41 and Marshawn Lynch ADP 47.

Given these 2 options which team would you rather have after 4 picks? Team A - Marion Barber III, Brian Westbrook, Kurt Warner and Wes Welker or Team B - Andre Johnson, Peyton Manning, Larry Johnson and Darren McFadden? Need a hint? CBS projects Team A to score 847 total points and Team B to score 875 total points.

This works the same way for the running backs. If you have a top pick, you are going to want to take guys like Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, and Maurice Jones-Drew. Say your favorite guy is Tom Brady and you have the number 3 pick. You know he won't be there when it gets back to you, but Phillip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers will be. If you take Brady with the 3rd pick, your RBs that make it back to you are in the class of Ryan Grant and Ronnie Brown. The difference between Brady's projected fantasy points - 325 and Phillip Rivers - 318, is 7 on the year. The difference between Matt Forte, 196, and Ronnie Brown, 154, is 42 fantasy points.

- Avoid joining player runs. This goes back to the tiers and drops in talents, but if in the 5th round of a 10 team league some one right after you takes Jason Witten, and before it gets back to you Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, Tony Gonzalez, and Greg Olsen are taken as well. You could take Chris Cooley with your 6th round pick to make sure you get one of the better tight ends, trouble with that, is Cooley should be able to go another round or two before you need to get him. Instead you could take Chad Ochocinco, Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler or Santonio Holmes.

- Don't be afraid to start runs. In the last example it was good to be the guy the grabbed Jason Witten, just don't do it too early or it won't become a run, just a bad pick. If it works you got the best player at the position and forced everyone else to follow suit. This will generally only work with TEs and the mid-level QBs.

- Pay attention to draft averages and spot some underrated talent. Pick a couple guys to watch that look to out perform their average draft positions and target them. An example could be Cedric Benson. His ADP is 73rd and he is set to run the ball in with for the Bengals, a team that just lost T.J. Houshmandzadeh and does not have a RB by committee. 

- Load up on proven commodities in the middle rounds. Its fun to pick guys who are about to break out, but it is hard to get it right. Knowshon Moreno and LenDale White are both being drafted around the 57th pick. It is true that Moreno could break out, but chances are better he won't. White on the other hand has been getting better year by year, and he was more than serviceable last year.

- Go Bill Belichick if you can get away with it. Anyone feel like trading draft picks? If you can find someone to take the 7th overall pick from you for their 2nd and 3rd round picks... go for it. Then see if you can trade one of your two 3rd round picks for a 4th and a 5th round pick. The way I see it, two 2nd rounders, a 3rd rounder, two 4th and 5th rounders are better then just one pick every round. Good luck pulling this off; however, its a good lesson to apply to auction leagues as well. Spread your money out on good wide outs and 2nd tier running backs, avoid the few huge dollar guys. Since I called it Belichicking, i guess you should also tape your competition doing mock drafts.

- Take chances in the later rounds. Ok you got all your starters drafted, even have a good back up QB, RB, and WR. Sure Isaac Bruce is still available, but why not take a rookie wide receiver. Bruce or a player like him would be o.k., but you will never want to start him, not even on a bye week. If you take a late chance you might end up with this years DeSean Jackson.

-Lastly, and most importantly, take your kicker with your last pick. Nothing more needs to be said about that.



Posted on: July 10, 2009 3:01 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2009 7:35 pm

My Top 10 Quarterbacks going into 2009.

Top 10 QBs

By: Christopher Torola

 Drew Brees - Is the NFL's answer to the spread offense. Last year he threw for over 5,000 yards and connected for 34 touchdowns. Since arriving in New Orleans it has seemed that Brees and head coach Sean Payton have been completely on the same page. This year Brees should also have a healthy Marques Colston and a full off-season to work with tight end Jeremy Shockey. Combine that with an O-line that only allowed 13 sacks in almost 650 passing attempts along with the fact that his running back, Reggie Bush, is a better weapon catching the ball than he is rushing it and you end up with the NFL's top QB heading into the 2009 season.

Peyton Manning - is always at or near the top of current QB lists. His ability to dissect defenses at the line mixed with a strong arm and the sure hands of Reggie Wayne, along with blossoming new comer Anthony Gonzalez, make Peyton my number two QB for this year. He is several years removed from his 40 touchdown days, but still has one of the best O-lines, is another year removed from his surgery, and what has to be an improved running game will only help his passing numbers this year.

Philip Rivers - Broke the 4,000 yard mark for the first time last year. As LaDainian Tomlinson declines, Rivers has begun to take the reigns as the team leader. AT 27 he is still a young QB. He has a great competitive drive that may come off as cocky, but he is developing a game to go with it. He led the NFL in passing touchdowns last year totaling 34. The only concerns here are that uber-tight end Antonio Gates is another year older, Vincent Jackson doesn't have the surest hands, and Chris Chambers hasn't really lived up to expectations... but that, like his unorthodox throwing style, hasn't stopped Rivers yet.

Kurt Warner - is another year older, but does that really matter when you are tossing the ball to the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin? Last year he proved that he could still throw for 4,500 plus yards and 30 touchdowns, and all that was done with no running game to speak of. He got his team almost as deep into the play-offs as possible. He is likely to start performing at a lower rate some day, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise.

Ben Roethlisberger - Has never had amazing numbers, but did throw 32 TD's in 2007. He also just won his 2nd Super Bowl and is only 27 years old. He is as clutch as they get, thats right Brady. He may also be the games best playmaking QB. As a big man he is able to keep plays alive much longer then they should be. Team that with a rocket launcher arm the the ermgence of Santonio Holmes and you have Big Ben, number 6 on my QB list.

Tom Brady - Although some may think me crazy for putting him this low on the list, I had a hard time putting him this high. He is coming off of a serious knee surgery, and was already not very mobile. It may also take him some time to recover his throwing strength and rhythm.  That being said, he still has Randy Moss and Wes Welker to catch the ball. He has always made good reads, and he knows how to win. I doubt he will ever throw 50 again, and i can almost guarantee he won't hit 40 this year, but his history is too good to place him any less then 6th on my list.

Donovan McNabb - Has consistently been one of the NFL's best passer. He has also consistently been hurt. He has also consistently had little talent at the wide receiver position since the infamous departure of Terrell Owens. He made it to the 2nd round of the play-offs last year with the help of always steady Brian Westbrook and new comer DeSean Jackson. As long as Westbrook continues to catch the ball out of the backfield, Mr. Chunky Soup will remain a top flight QB.

A Healthy Brett Favre as a Minnesota Viking. This may be the Viking homer in me, but I am basing this off a few things. If he plays for the Vikings, that means his surgery was a success. When healthy last year with the Jets he still looked like a top QB. The year before he took the Packers to the NFC championship game. Playing for the Vikings he would be souronded by talent in a great O-line, Bernard Berrian, emerging tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and rookie play-maker Percy Harvin. Combine those players with the NFL's most explosive running back, Adrian Peterson, and Vikings receivers should see a lot of single coverage. Put all that together and old number 4 comes in at number 8 on my list... and that is only because he may not actually play.

Aaron Rodgers - had a few extra years of study behind Favre and in his first season as the starter, it has seemed to pay off. He threw for over 4,000 yards and connected for 28 TDs. He also ran for 4 more. If he improves his red zone offense he could be a force to be reckoned with. I still feel he is at least a year or two away from becoming one of the top passers. In all fairness, I despise the Packers and had a hard time including Rodgers on my list, so he may be lower then he should be.

The number 10 spot falls to Tony Romo. It may just have been an off year where he missed a few games due to injury, but he also lost his best receiver in Terrell Owens. Some say the Owens loss is a good thing, but look what has happened to other QBs the years following his departure. Romo did get Roy Williams, but he has never been T.O. That leaves Jason Witten as Romo's top target, and eventually opposing defenses will learn to double team him. I would have ranked Romo higher, but he always has a second half crash, and until he can prove he can handle the pressure, he will stay in my top 10, just towards the bottom of it.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com