Hi everyone. We've got another big week here in the NFC North. Based on early media observations, we could be slower next week. Seems like everyone has the Cowboys beating the Vikings. What say you? Let's get to it.
I think winning the Winfield-Austin matchup is pivotal for the Vikings to win the game. Thoughts?
It's up there. But I think the biggest one will be the Cowboys DEs against the Vikings' OTs. If Favre is hurried in the pocket, the whole offense will fall.
Kevin, please explain to me why so many "experts" insinuate that the Vikings are underdogs playing in the dome against Dallas.
I think most people are going by 1) The Cowboys are America's Team. 2) The Vikings are not. 3) The Cowboys played better the past month or so than the Vikings. Otherwise, I'm not sure I get it, either. I think this is a pretty good matchup. The Vikings have won 14 of their past 17 games at the Metrodome.
Thanks for a great season of NFC North coverage, as the season is now over for 75% of the NFC North. I was wondering what you thought of Capers decision not to blitz Warner. According to Bob McGinn, the Packers blitzed just 4.9% of the time. It was pretty clear that the Packers 4 man rush was not getting pressure and that the Cardinals could pass over the middle at will. Do you think Capers was wise not to blitz the savvy Warner? Do you think he was correct in sticking with his blitz free package even when it got off to such a poor start? Thanks for your insight.
Than you, Erik. I'm not privvy to the blitz stats, but that sounds similar to what the Packers did against the Steelers last month. I thought the results were the same, too. When they have their nickel and dime units on the field, the Packers aren't at their best. Sitting back in coverage wasn't their strong suit in either game.
If the Vikings get behind early, what are their chances of coming back? It seemed like Dallas thrived when they had a double digit lead in both games vs. a "formidable" Philadelphia Eagles squad.
Yeah, the Vikings haven't been great when playing from behind lately, especially against Arizona and Carolina. I think they have the firepower to score a lot of points quickly, but maybe not if the Cowboys can just pin their ears back and rush the passer.
Good afternoon Kevin, My question is with the Packers in their off season do you think Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are back?
I would be surprised if they're both back, but it's still early to know for sure. They'll both be free agents. Clifton is 33. Tauscher is 32. T.J. Lang seems to be a player the Packers are trying to work into the starting lineup at one of those positions. It just depends on which one.
Kevin, have you heard anything more on Bobby April? I sure would like to see him as a Lions special teams coach.
So far, no contact that I'm aware of. He interviewed with Pittsburgh and is supposed to do the same with San Francisco. Washington is another possibility.
Couldn't we use our mean physical RB's to help out our O-line a little better? Whenever teams use their RB's to chip on Jared Allen it seems to slow him down quite a bit. Do you see us doing that a little more against Dallas?
The Vikings should do that, yes. They really didn't do McKinnie any favors against Carolina, especially, by leaving him on an island with Peppers. You would hope he could have done better on his own, but a chip or double-team sure would have helped.
Kevin, first the Bears lose out on Bates, now Clements. Who is the front-runner at this point for the Bears OC?
It sounds like the Bears are re-assessing today. There have been some other names mentioned in the media -- Bill Musgrave among them -- but right now it doesn't seem to be attracting a big crowd. I wonder if they'll give a second thought to Mike Martz.
Kevin: Which do you think gives the Vikings a better chance to win?: More run than pass, more pass than run, 50/50 split. The Eagles RBs had 12 carries on Sunday.
I think they need to recognize their passing offense is ahead of their run offense and call plays accordingly. If the pass works and they get a lead, then start focusing on the run. But what do I know.
True or false- My lame duck status has sealed my fate?
Well, most assistant coaches realize that every job is a year-to-year thing. But whoever takes this job will have no margin for error. They will be expected to take basically the same offense much higher next season. (Remember, the Bears have no first- or second-round picks to bolster their personnel.) If not, everyone will be gone in 2011.
Was there any clear defensive way to stop the Cardinals on Sunday? Did it seem that Capers made any in-game adjustments to slow the Cardinals Offense down?
No, Christina, there did not appear to be any in-game adjustments ... and certainly none that worked. I think that's a common theme throughout the four games where good quarterbacks really gashed them. The Packers tried to sit back in coverage against Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner. It didn't work from the get-go, but nothing seemed to change.
Don't you think that the Vikings will try to milk Adrian Peterson like a common dairy cow this weekend to ensure that Favre has enough time to go to the slate and make good reads when they throw the ball?
I think if they do that they'll fail. Nothing about what we've seen in the past 8-10 weeks suggests the Vikings have the capacity to control this game with their running attack. It sounds like a good idea, but their running game has been pretty average for an extended period of time.
which facemask was more blatant: the one on Rodgers against AZ or the one on Peterson against Chicago?
Trick question for me, huh? I will say that I noticed the Peterson one live and didn't see the Rodgers one until they showed replays. I thought Peterson's head turned further as well.
Why should I take any coaching offer seriously ever again?
Because you never know what could happen. Pete Carroll could have woken up this morning and changed his mind. It's happened elsewhere before. Or, Tod Leiweke could be the CEO of another team in a few years, a team that has an opening but doesn't have a favored candidate. Your interview over the weekend could pay dividends then.
Tell me the Bears aren't hiring Martz as OC!?!?! As a Bears fan, I'd rather have Turner back!
Ha! Well, they certainly haven't been beating his door down for an interview. I find it hard to imagine that his philosophy would ever match Lovie Smith's. Their ideas of "balance" are a little different, I think.
If Favre gets hit a couple times early, will Childress try to take him out of the game?
Ha, maybe it will enter his stream of consciousness at some point. Got to keep him healthy for the Super Bowl. Oh, wait...
Assuming the Rams don't totally mess up and pass on Suh, do the Lions go for G.McCoy or Berry? It's definitely Suh then McCoy or Berry for them, right?
At this early date, I would say so. But what if Berry could play cornerback? Has it been established that's not an option?
If Leslie Frazier were to take the Bills job who would be the leading candidates for DC in Minny?
I'd start with Fred Pagac, who has been their linebackers coach for the past four years. But it's early to know for sure.
What do you think minnesota's number one priority in the draft is? i believe they need to look at a Quarterback, defensive tackle, running back, and another safety....
Quarterback without a doubt. Whether or not Favre plays next season, they need to get moving with a succession plan already.
Hey Kevin. I'm pretty bitter with the non-call on the last play of the Pack-Card game where Rodgers was face-masked. And two plays before that, Rodgers was hit by a defender helmet-to-helmet. I wouldn't be saying anything if the refs hadn't called a highly questionable PF penalty on Cullen Jenkins earlier in the game in which his hand/arm grazed Warner's helmet as Jenkins was being blocked into the quarterback. Consistency would have meant a call on the Arizona defense in OT. THoughts?
I thought the blow to the head was a worse miss than the face mask. Remember, there is no more 5-yard face mask call in the NFL. (Even I had forgotten that.) The picture we ran on the blog showed a technical tug with one finger, but watching it live, it didn't look egregious to me. I don't view it as a horrendous call.
Can Cutler and Martz be buddies and run Martz textbook offense?
I think Cutler can run that offense. But would Lovie Smith allow it?
I thought your name was Kevin?!?
Ha. Guess I'm a little loopy... Fixed.
I think "Keivn" is what they would have called me in Ireland.
The Vikings need the "12th Man" to step it up this weekend. Let's get in Flozell's head early and often. Otherwise this game is too close to call. Also the Vikings backs need to chip the Dallas DEs to help McKinnie and Loadholt. Don't you think this shouldl be the week McKinnie earns his big salalry?
All of the above, yes. Flozell Adams had six false start penalties this year. So did Jason Witten. That could be something to watch. I think McKinnie needs help, but he shouldn't need a constant double-team if he's the Pro Bowl left tackle he says he is.
Why aren't I starting? Tyrell Johnson might as well be in the witness protection program. I play 2 series and make more standout plays than he does in a year. What gives?
I don't know the answer to that. I think you've shown up in some games, but your popularity is mostly due to dissatisfaction with Johnson. I think Johnson could definitely be exploited. Would Sanford do any better? I'm not sure about that.
What's the Bears biggest need- a ballhawking FS, RT, DE, or a road-grading Guard?
I'll say defensive end, although they're hardest to find. If they're going to keep playing this Tampa-2 scheme, they need to find a way to get more pressure with their front four.
I'm OK with it being between Berry & McCoy, especially if Berry can play CB as well as S. Lord knows we know secondary help and have for abotu 680,000 years. I was asking if you liked McCoy or Berry better.
Ah. I'm going to say that McCoy would make a bigger long-term impact.
Do you think the Vikings could surprise the Boys with the Wildcat? If so, what do you think of Sooner or Gator as the name for it? With Adrian and Percy, Sooner or Gator, they're gonna score a TD!
That was good enough to stand alone.
In all seriousness, that's not a bad idea. I've always thought that would be a near-impossible formation to defend. You've got two elite open-field runners going in opposite directions. Someone is going to get some lanes there.
KS: As a Cards' fan, I know it's a tough loss for Packer fans; however, as a close friend told me after the SB, Champions don't leave games up to the officials. I thought the game was over when I saw Jennings free behind the secondary. Had GB made that play, we wouldn't be discussing the non-call today. Packers will be good next year too!
I think that's a very fair way to look at it. The Packers had a legitimate opportunity before the officials ever got "involved." And don't forget the gift Neil Rackers gave them by missing that 34-yard attempt at the end of regulation.
I know that the BEars were denied an opportunity to interview Tom Clements. If Clements really wants to be considered for the OC position with the Bears can he force GB's hand of is he stuck?
He is stuck. The Packers wouldn't be obligated to give permission unless it was for a head coaching job.
Kevin, who's your pick for next Bears OC? Doesn't have to be precise, just your best guess
If I were the Bears, given the situation they're in, I'd go with Martz. They need a quick fix here. There is a thought that they should hire a young up-and-comer, but that young-up-and-comer might not get the time he needs to establish himself. Say what you will about Martz, but he has a plan and knows what he wants to do.
Kevin, are you as tired of hearing about that Mark McGwire guy as I am?
Yes, he has certainly taken the spotlight away from the NFL for a day or so. But I think this is an important step for baseball reconciling the past 20 years.
Kev: Do you really want AP taking a direct snap?
OK, then Harvin.
In fact, the times they've used it this year, Harvin has been the "QB."
Lets say Mike Martz is the next OC for the Bears. Everyone says Cutler needs a no BS get in his face type guy to fix the mistakes. Can Martz do that or is he just a jerk? How would Lovie handle the use of salty language on that side of the field during practice?
I think he can do that. If Cutler doesn't listen or reacts poorly, then it's the Bears who are in trouble. They've already mortgated two drafts to get Cutler. They can't let him start running their coaching searches, too. He needs to be put in his place, if anything.
I think the fan noise issue in this game is over rated. Dallas has played in some loud, hostile environments (New Orleans, Philly, Giants, Denver, KC, etc.) already this year.
Interesting. I've got a post coming on that later. The Vikings have been exceptional at the Metrodome ever since it opened compared to other teams' home records. But in the playoffs, it's a 50-50 proposition.
This has been a GREAT YEAR for FAVRE, he has done nothing that these so called "experts" claimed would happen. Why does no one cut him slack? Can Minnesota get any RESPECT?
I'm looking for Aretha now...
Will any team in the NFC North come with and take a look at Jamarcus Russell? I know he currently enjoys his frozen burrito-scarfing diet and his footwork has been compared to a dead corpse, but he no longer has buddies in Oakland and needs a new home. Your thoughts?
I think we're pretty much set with QBs here. The only team without a long-term starter is Minnesota, and I don't see Jamarcus Russell being Brad Childress' kind of quarterback.
Tom Clements matter = Packers are afraid of Bears
Ha. Or, they don't want Aaron Rodgers to lose his mentor...
Which quarter will I be thoroughly out coached by the opposition?
By Wade Phillips? Yeeesh. ... Not sure that's happening.
Kevin if Favre doesn't come back would Childress consider McNabb viable option for a year or two after they, while they draft and groom a young QB?
I think 100 percent yes. Would the Eagles be game? That's the question.
Can Jay Cutler really be successful in Martz's complex offense? Granted Kurt Warner is Kurt Warner, but if Martz came to town, I think you'd be looking at 30+ INTs and more fumbles and more sacks. I don't like it!
I don't know about that. Of all Cutler's issues, football IQ isn't one of them. I think he'd grasp the offense without a problem. The rest of the team? That's less certain but no less important.
Yeah but Chilly could make Russell a blocking TE, Kev.
And then run a TE option pass!
Are we going to finally see Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor in the backfield at the same time? Towards the end of the year Chilly actually had them in the game at the same time once or twice. Is this something he is saving for the playoffs? I think it could be dangerous for opposing defenses.
I've always been an advocate of that, but now I think it would be even more dangerous to have Harvin and Peterson in the backfield together in that spread formation.
How bad is Jeff Backus really? Would the Lions be better off taking Okung and moving Backus to guard or would it be better to go guard in round 2 and ride with Backus for at least one more season?
I've thoguht he was pretty subpar for a number of years, but I clearly don't know anything. I was surprised at how positive Jim Schwartz was about Backus this year, saying he should have gotten Pro Bowl votes. Does he really believe that? Or is he trying to set up a trade? Because it sounded like he was basically ruling out a move to guard next year. That surprised me.
Maybe the Vikes should invite Jessica Simpson and Carrie Underwood to sing the National Anthem on Sunday. Couldn't hurt, right?
Would be fine with me.
Is there any way for Tom Clements to leave Green Bay? If the Bears offered him an unbelievable amount of money(cough), wouldn't the packers have to match or have some sort of contract issue holding Clements back?
Nope, nothing. They would have to offer him the head coaching job to force the Packers to let him out of his contract.
How scary good will the packers be next year? Will they be a great team? Or the greatest team?
They should be good, especially if they continue adding to their defensive personnel. Their secondary was a little thin at the end of the season.
When Peterson fumbles in this game, will Chilly have to bench him in favor of Chester? You can't continue to try and build someone's confidence once you actually reach the playoffs.
I think he'll have a short leash. But if you noticed, Taylor was basically splitting time with Peterson in the Giants game.
Chilly is far too conservative to throw in a wildcat...even as much sense as it makes. I doubt it's even on his radar.
Doesn't even have to be a true Wildcat. How about Favre in the shotgun, with Peterson and Harvin on either side? They've run that formation this year.
Does anyone remember how good McKinnie was pass blocking before the injury in Arizona? Is he healthy now?
I thought he started off the season well. I would imagine the week off did him some good.
Thank God I am not going to Detroit!
Are you positive? What if St. Louis goes QB with the first pick?
Remember Chilly and Bevell cooing about the special ways that they will utilize the then just-drafted OROY, Percy Harvin. Any chance we will see those "special" plays designed just for him?
Yeah, I'll be as interested as anyone to see if that comes to fruition. I wonder if the possibility of it is enough to influence the Cowboys' preparation.
Hey Kevin, if all the other ESPN experts want make a big deal out of how the Cowboys played down the stretch, maybe they should take a look at the stats and see that the Vikings have won their last 5 home games by an average of 25 pts per game!
That's true. It's also true the Vikings are 6-5 all-time in the playoffs at the Metrodome.
Any chance Seattle would trade with Detroit?? they have those 2 first rounders.. and Haden and Morgan would look very nice in the first round for Detroit..
I have no doubt the Lions would do that in a heartbeat. And Pete Carroll might be aggressive enough on the other end. Let's keep that one on the back burner.
Kevin, everyone is harping on how offenses have "solved" the Vikings pass rush with the 3 step drops and quick throws. Question: shouldn't there be an adjustment by Frazier to combat that? I don't remember the NY Giants being neutralized so easily during their 2007 SB run.
You're right. That's been a surprise. Another thing that has happened is teams are paying a lot more attention to Jared Allen. You watch him rush the passer and he's getting chipped and double-teamed much more often than he was in the first half of the season. But you haven't seen Kevin Williams and Ray Edwards compensate. I also think they miss E.J. Henderson as a blitzer. He was getting pretty good at that.
Are you a wizard?.... you just posted an article while chatting
Hah. We have a "future post" option in the blog tool we use that allows us to set something to publish at any given time. It helps cover me when I'm doing a chat ... or want to take a nap ... or both.
rubbish... I know magic when I see it
I always used to be the Wizard in Gauntlet.
Kevin, everyone is talking about Ware and Spencer. You gotta think Jared Allen is getting fired up. And don't forget about the williams wall. Look out Romo
I have a feeling Jared Allen would be pumped for this game regardless.
Ok folks, one or two more.
Every time I see Harvin shift to the backfield, I get excited. Even as a decoy, it forces defenses to take notice. However, they just don't do it that often. I think there definitely could be far more creativity in using Harvin, AP, and Taylor in various combinations. They are all playmakers in their own ways.
Agreed. There's nothing wrong with using it sparingly, but they certainly haven't maximized it this year.
don't you think the Vikes can stuff the Cowboys run game? I think if Romo tries to do his delayed handoffs he is going to have a facefull of Williams
I think that could be a problem for the Vikings. I like the speed and variety the Cowboys running game has.
OK everyone, thanks so much. Chat with you next week!