Week 8 NFL Picks and Preview: Whack-A-Mole

You just can't keep a bad QB down. - Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings' season has officially turned into a carnival game. Whenever the team tries to solve one problem, even more pop up.

Step right up, boys and girls! Come one, come all to the wacky and wonderful Minnesota Vikings Carnival! We have tons of great games to try!

How about you try your hand at the Robinson & Cook Toss? Just throw a football anywhere on this field. Then watch as Josh Robinson and Chris Cook miss their coverage and the ball goes right to your receiver! A guaranteed win every time you play!

If you prefer your games with a little more chance involved, then why not try our incredible Quarterback Wheel of Destiny! Each week, you can give the wheel a spin and hope it lands on your favorite quarterback. Round and round it goes...who will start? Nobody knows! But no matter where the Wheel of Destiny lands, you're guaranteed a prize!

(Disclaimer: The only prize packages currently available from the Quarterback Wheel of Destiny are as follows: 1) Heartbreaking Last-Second Loss; 2) Embarrassing Home Blowout Loss; and 3) Embarrassing National Television Loss. The "Trip to London for a Fluke Win" prize package has expired; the "High 2014 Draft Pick" prize package is not available until May 2014.)

In the mood for a few scares as Halloween approaches? Then head over to Eric Sugarman's Training Table of Terror! You'll see deformed body parts everywhere! Can you stomach the sight Harrison Smith's toes made of turf or Desmond Bishop's detachable knees? Can you hear the twangs of the Haunted Harp created solely from the tight hamstrings of Adrian Peterson and Blair Walsh? Do you have the intestinal fortitude to fight past Christian Ponder's Creepy Cracked Ribs? Can you make it through the fog of Josh Freeman's Concussion Chamber?

(Disclaimer: The last two exhibits mentioned in the Training Table of Terror may or may not be related to the outcomes of the Quarterback Wheel of Destiny. Minnesota Vikings Carnival, LLC is not liable for any injuries that are made to look worse in order to assist the agendas of any Head Coaches and General Managers. No refunds.)

If you have little ones with and you want something more tame, you can head to the Vikings Offensive Line House of Mirrors! This one's kid-friendly through and through. Your toddlers can walk right past the reflections of Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, and Phil Loadholt and easily get to their goal, laughing the whole time. They'll feel just like opposing defenses!

But if you want to try our most popular and challenging game, look no further than Vikings Problem Whack-A-Mole! Uh-oh--a bad starting quarterback just appeared! Whack! Got him--but oh no! Two more popped up! And look over there--a promising first-round rookie receiver! Hit him once to send him back to the bench; if he pops back up, hit him again to bury him with unimaginative quick screen passes! Watch out over there--it's the best running back in the NFL! This one's tough to catch--better hit him repeatedly with poor blocking, gang tackling, and ridiculous tabloid stories! Whew, that was close!

(Disclaimer: The hole on the board labeled "Playoff Chances" is currently out of order due to improper management of the Whack-A-Mole game over the past seven weeks. Repairs are not scheduled until 2014 or later. Minnesota Vikings Carnival, LLC apologizes for the inconvenience but still strongly encourages you to purchase Personal Seat Licenses for their brand new carnival headquarters, opening in 2016.)

Of course the Minnesota Vikings Carnival doesn't technically exist, but it sure feels like it lately. Monday night's "Worst Game Ever Played" has turned our favorite team into a national punchline. And the carnival will have a big audience for the second straight week as the Vikings host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 8.

These two teams are heading in opposite directions faster than a home run ball off of David Ortiz's bat in Game 1 of the World Series. (Was that simile solely intended to twist the knife on Ted and his beloved St. Louis Cardinals? Why yes, yes it was. Because Ted shouldn't be allowed any more joy than the rest of us Minnesota sports fans just because he cheers for a competent baseball team.) The Packers have rattled off three impressive wins since their bye; it's debatable whether or not the Vikings know that their bye week ended over two weeks ago. Green Bay has a top-tier quarterback that's sure to be their starter for years to come. Meanwhile, Minnesota is playing the world's saddest game of musical chairs at QB.

THE PACKERS HAVE RATTLED OFF THREE IMPRESSIVE WINS SINCE THEIR BYE; IT'S DEBATABLE WHETHER OR NOT THE VIKINGS KNOW THAT THEIR BYE WEEK ENDED OVER TWO WEEKS AGO.

I'm not saying the Vikings should throw in the towel before kickoff on Sunday night though. There are a few glimmers of hope to cautiously point to. I already mentioned Eric Sugarman's Training Table of Terror but the Packers are even more beat up. Clay Matthews, Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb, Nick Perry, and Bryan Bulaga will all be in street clothes for the contest thanks to injuries suffered at various points throughout the season.

That Adrian Peterson fella has a pretty good history against the Pack too. He has rushed for 1,541 career yards against the Packers in his career including 508 yards in the 2012 season alone. As long as the Vikings don't get behind early and Bill Musgrave calls a (much) more balanced offense than he has in the past couple weeks, AP could do some more damage.

Having Christian Ponder back under center this week probably gives the team the best chance to win right now. Freeman isn't ready to take the reigns of the Vikings offense in the same manner that my 6-month-old daughter isn't ready to take on The Odyssey as a bedtime story. Ponder told the media this week that he really learned from his time on the sidelines and knows he needs to be more of a vocal leader when he's back in the huddle. Greg Jennings said he noticed it as well. Perhaps Ponder will take advantage of what is surely his very last chance with the Vikings and keep Freeman and Cassel relegated to expensive clipboard holder status for a while.

And last but not least, I'll be there! I was lucky enough to be asked to be one of the two Fans of the Week representing the Vikings for Sunday Night Football on NBC at the Metrodome. I get to do a Kare 11 news hit early Friday morning, do a few fun events over the weekend, and be part of the tailgate on the SNF bus leading up to the game at Mall of America Field. Surely the Vikings wouldn't ruin an otherwise amazing weekend for me by putting up another clunker on national television, right? (Or maybe I'm just hogging all of this season's good Vikings-related fortune?)

If I'm hoping to have a truly amazing weekend, I should probably ignore the following stats tweeted out by AJ Mansour of KFAN:

  1. Aaron Rodgers has a 110.0 career passer rating on Sunday Night Football.
  2. Aaron Rodgers has a 116.4 career passer rating against the Vikings, his highest against any single opponent.
If there's any rogue optimism left out there, throw in this stat that I alluded to in last week's preview that the Vikings added to on Monday: the team is now 1-12 in their last 13 primetime games, having been outscored by a total of 381 to 189.

Sigh. At this point all we can do is sit back and enjoy the novelty of the Vikings Carnival. Even if it feels like all the games are rigged against us.

Prediction: Packers 31, Vikings 20

And now for the rest of my Week 8 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):

Panthers over BUCCANEERS: For all you Vikings fans claiming that the team should be "Playing Dead for Ted" (as in Teddy Bridgewater): just remember that there are a couple teams in Florida that are sucking far better than we could ever imagine.

SAINTS over Bills: I guess it's nice to have Sean Payton back on the sidelines if you're a Saints fan, but I find it way too distracting. Mostly because I think he looks so much like Peter Billingsley (aka Ralphie from A Christmas Story) every time they cut to him on the sidelines.

Peter_billingsley_medium
"You'll shoot your eye out, Sean!"

CHIEFS over Browns: Hey Cleveland--knock it off. Changing your starting quarterback every week is OUR thing.

Cowboys over LIONS: No matter who wins this game, the first thing that Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford should say to each other when they shake hands afterward is "Thank goodness we have freakishly good wide receivers that make us look much better than we actually are."

PATRIOTS over Dolphins: I think the main reason that the Football Gods punished ESPN with the Vikings/Giants game on Monday was retribution for when ESPN tried to pass off the Dolphins as a good team in the Week 4 Monday Night game.

EAGLES over Giants: Philly is nothing special and they have lost their last nine home games. But any team worth a damn would have beaten the Vikings by much more than 16 points last week.

49ers over JAGUARS (in London): My Survivor Pool of the week, now 6-1 and knocked out because I stupidly strayed from the infallible "pick whoever's playing the Jags" theory and picked the Dolphins last week. I won't be so silly this time around.

BENGALS over Jets: I'll take the home team in the "How Do These Teams Have These Records?" Bowl.

RAIDERS over Steelers: Oakland beat Pittsburgh at home last year and that was when the Steelers were actually half-decent. Since I don't really want to talk anymore about this game, how about the Gratuitous Picture of the Week?

Temp100613-raiderettes-30--nfl_mezz_1280_1024_medium

"Just like our stadium, I'm sure you'll feel / It's better with no 'grass' on your 'infield'!" (image via prod.images.raiders.clubs.nflcdn.com)

Falcons over CARDINALS: Every time I see Larry Fitzgerald struggling to catch passes from yet another bad quarterback in Arizona, it makes me wish he'd just return home to Minnesota and struggle to catch passes from bad quarterbacks where he grew up.

BRONCOS over Redskins: Washington looked pretty impressive scoring 45 points on Chicago. If they repeat that output this week, they still might lose by 3 touchdowns.

Seahawks over RAMS: I went to Chicago for the Week 2 Vikings game thanks to a Midwest sports bloggers program I'm participating in this season. (If you follow me on Twitter I'm sure you're aware of the handful of Verizon hashtags I'm obligated to tweet out each week. But hey, a free phone and a trip to Chicago is more than enough incentive for me to "sell out".) While I was there I met a few Rams bloggers that I still keep in touch with. I'm really glad I did, because reading their posts about how Christian Ponder might be a good option for them now that Sam Bradford is out for the year has been hilarious.

Last week: 11-4
Season so far: 69-38

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