I like to give people the benefit of the doubt most of the time. Really, I do. Someone cuts me off on the freeway and speeds off erratically into the distance? Maybe their wife was in the car and they're racing to the hospital. My favorite DVD has been "borrowed' for over 2 years by an acquaintance? Perhaps they're just really forgetful. And so on.
But I'm starting to honestly doubt the motivations and biases of some on the Sports Illustrated writing staff about the capabilities and potential of our Minnesota Vikings while simultaneously lifting "butt-kissing" to a new art-form where the Green Bay Packers are concerned. Today's preview and predictions articles on Sports Illustrated are nearly insulting in their lack of recognition for our Norse Warriors.
Don Banks, (who admittedly doesn't have the easiest job in drafting the first pre-season NFL rankings list), has the Vikings ranked at #13, stating that they should be 3-0 after the first three games but that "...if Brett Favre's one rollercoaster season as a Jet taught us anything, it's that we should wait to see how the rest of the story turns out. Can we all just do that, please? No? I didn't think so."
It's Don's remark there at the end that makes my aforementioned beneficent tendencies shrivel up and blow away. It seems fairly obvious that many personalities in the sports media (or at least, in particular, Sports Illustrated) are petulant over having had to cover the Favre saga and at this point, they aren't in any frame of mind to say glowing things about the Vikings. I realize that attributing such a weird, almost childish motivation could be considered by some to be a stretch but what else could it be? Not long after Favre had turned down the Vikings, many of these same writers had predicted a decent run into the post-season. Suddenly things change once Favre joins??
Even more aggravating is Don's (and other SI writers') willingness to overlook the respected axiom that using pre-season games for predicating a team's success or lack of it in the upcoming season is useless - except when it involves the Green Bay Packers. Banks has them (bizarrely) at #3 and states that, "I know, most preseasons are meaningless, but Green Bay might have been the exception to the rule this year. This just looks like a young team with a bunch of players coming of age at the same time, and it's hard to not be impressed by the midseason form the Packers achieved in August."
Let me speak for most football fans (and us Vikings fans specifically) when I say, "Huh?"
So Banks predictions are based on their offense doing well in the pre-season and from what I've read, in particular, against the Arizonal Cardinals first-team defense in the Packers' 3rd pre-season game. While they have admittedly scored a good amount of points and had no small amount of defensive success, most of their success was against pre-season line-ups. Buffalo Bills' coach Dick Jauron had said (after their pre-season match-up against the Packers, who had strong success in blitzing during the game) that, "you don't normally see those kinds of disguised blitz packages in the pre-season." Clearly teams weren't expecting the Packers to play all-out by any means. Yet sports writers at SI (and other places, as well) are totally sold and drinking the Green Bay Kool-Aid?? I'm not saying that the Packers couldn't be a serious contender for the Division title this year - any team with such a potent passing game and some strong elements on defense will have a chance in nearly every game - but they also have some deficiencies that one might expect professional sports writers to acknowledge as well.
Notable issues facing the Packers are a good (not great) running game that starts and ends with Ryan Grant. If he falls prey to an early injury during the season, Green Bay's running attack is in big trouble, leading to a very one-dimensional offense. Match that to an aging but talented secondary and we may very well see a repeat of the Packer's team from 2008 that was a dismal 22nd in Points Allowed Per Game and 20th in Yards Allowed Per Game.
Just for the fun of it, here are the stats/rankings of the first 3 teams that the Packers faced in the pre-season (since no one takes the 4th game seriously, we won't use that - and the Packers lost that game, for what it's worth):
Buffalo Bills - 14th in both Points & Yards Allowed Per Game (an average defense at best)
Cleveland Browns - 17th in Points Allowed Per Game & 28th in Yards Allowed Per Game (a pretty bad defense)
Arizona Cardinals - 28th in Points Allowed Per Game & 19th in Yards Allowed Per Game (an even worse defense)
Yet it's the Arizona game that several analysts are basing the majority of their Packer enthusiasm on?? Again, I find this over-excitement, concerning our rivals in Green & Gold more than a bit suspect.
Am I being unfair here? What does everyone else think?