Week 12 Picks And Preview: Is It Over Yet?

There are at least six more games of Adrian Peterson's prime to waste before the Vikings have a chance at competing. - Steve Dykes

Next year can't come fast enough for Vikings fans. Unfortunately we still have to see the 2013 team six more times.

Let's set the mood with a song to the tune of Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends":

Playoff chances have come and passed
That 10 and 6 could never last
Wake me up when December ends

We look like the 2011 team
This season's one big awful dream
Wake me up when December ends

Here comes the Pack again
With something called "Tolzien"
But Ponder's gonna start again
So you know what that means...

No matter what Freeman's contract cost
He'll ride the pine for another loss
Wake me up when December ends

We all look forward to the draft
But there's still six games of this crap
Wake me up when December ends

No holes for AP another time
There's one more game gone of his prime
Wake me up when December ends

Season's a big waste again
Testing our beliefs
But maybe we'll be good again
Just look at this year's Chiefs

So if the losing's getting old
Think Mariota in purple and gold
Wake me up when December ends...

"Ugh. Six more weeks."

That was the first thing that popped into my head when I sat down to write this preview. Nothing about how the Vikings will match up with their biggest rival and try to play spoiler as Green Bay limps into Lambeau with their third string quarterback. Nothing about how injuries have decimated both teams. Not even a quick joke about the stupid-looking club cast on Clay Matthews' hand. (How can he brush his girly hair with that?!) Instead I'm just wondering when it will be over, like a husband at the mall on a holiday weekend waiting for his wife to try on her 37th outfit of the day.

The Daily Norseman writers email each other back and forth pretty often to bounce story ideas off each other and discuss the team in general. Usually the tone of the emails is light and fun, even if the team is struggling. Lately? Not so much. It's like we're not even discussing the Vikings anymore. We sound more like siblings talking about putting a parent in a nursing home. It's really sad and we just want our loved one to get better, but we know it's not going to happen.

IT'S LIKE WE'RE NOT EVEN DISCUSSING THE VIKINGS ANYMORE. WE SOUND MORE LIKE SIBLINGS TALKING ABOUT PUTTING A PARENT IN A NURSING HOME. IT'S REALLY SAD AND WE JUST WANT OUR LOVED ONE TO GET BETTER, BUT WE KNOW IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

This season has truly sucked the life out of us. I can't even work up the requisite amount of vitriol for a freaking Packers game this week. The Vikings have a somewhat realistic chance of beating a division rival on the road and putting a big dent in their playoff chances! They're only 5-point underdogs! The Packers are starting something called Scott Tolzien at quarterback!! Yet most of us are too busy debating the merits of the 2014 quarterback class to truly care about the outcome of Sunday's game. The exceptions, of course, are those Vikings fans that are convinced the only way to assure future greatness is to lose all of the remaining games this season. Those guys are cheering hard for the ninth loss of the season.

So we're either ambivalent, outright rooting for a loss, or a little of both, and we haven't even hit Thanksgiving. Super. At least we should be able to poke fun at our favorite team's failures, right? I guess, but we went through this just two years ago. We used most of our good material in 2011. I even wrote an article that asked readers to submit their favorite Vikings jokes in the comments. (Definitely worth another read if you have time. There are some gems in there.) There's a limit to how many good jokes you can make about how bad the team sucks, even if they keep giving us more to laugh about with each passing week.

Laughing is basically all I did while watching the game against the Seahawks on Sunday. I was genuinely upset at the first seven losses of the 2013 season. Whether it was pissing away another late lead or looking downright awful from wire to wire, I was my usual grumpy post-Vikings loss self after each of those games. But the Seattle game felt different. Maybe it's because everyone expected the Seahawks to dominate or maybe all of the losing has finally broken me. Either way all I did after the game was shrug and say, "Well, we kinda saw that one coming." So congratulations, 2013 Vikings! You've managed to make even your most diehard fans feel indifferent and alienated!

Of course the Vikings' most effective method of alienating fans has been the mystifying decision of continuing to trot out Christian Ponder as the starting quarterback. I already touched on this in my post Wednesday, but what the Vikings are doing here makes absolutely no sense. We were all convinced that Ponder had started his last game for the Vikings after the Seattle disaster; Ted even put an end to the Christian Ponder Era in his Stock Market Report. Leslie Frazier believes that Ponder gives the team the best chance to win; I believe Frazier is telling the truth. I also believe that even if Ponder gives the team the best chance to win, he has proven that the chance he provides is very slim. So instead of lighting over $2 million on fire, why not throw Josh Freeman out there now that he has had more than a fortnight to learn the offense? If he sucks--and I suspect he will since he can't move up the sad totem pole of the Vikings QB depth chart--at least we'll know, like we do with Ponder and Matt Cassel. Alas, it appears that Josh Freeman will remain a high-priced mystery that nobody saw. He's the National Treasure: Book of Secrets of quarterbacks.

One quarterback mystery that will be seen on Sunday is Tolzien. If I were a fan of almost any other NFL team, I could use this space to revel in the absence of Aaron Rodgers and kick Packers fans when they're down. Oh boo hoo Green Bay! After over twenty years of unprecedented quarterback play you have to finally put up with a crappy third stringer for a few weeks! Welcome to our world!

But here's the thing--Tolzien hasn't been all that terrible. He has put up some decent numbers outside of a couple pretty bad interceptions during his two games of action. His yardage totals of 339 and 280 beat any game that any of the three Vikings quarterbacks have put up this year. The adjusted yards per attempt formula is really harsh on interceptions, yet Tolzien's AY/A is higher than the Vikings as a team even with his 5 interceptions in such a small sample size. Tolzien is no Rodgers but he's no worse than the quarterback lining up against him.

If it was just Rodgers that was hurt for Green Bay, perhaps the Packers wouldn't be on their current three-game slide. But when you throw in names like Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley, Johnny Jolly, Sam Shields, and Nick Perry it tends to get a little dicey for even the deepest teams.

(Frightening side note: I'm beginning to see some startling similarities between the 2013 Packers and the 2010 Super Bowl champs. Tons of injuries, on the fringe of the playoff picture, everyone is counting them out...sound familiar? If Rodgers comes back and Green Bay goes on a late tear to sneak into the playoffs...I don't even want to think about it.)

(Side note to the side note: Hopefully the previous paragraph will serve as a sufficient reverse jinx and the Packers won't even sniff the postseason this year. I couldn't handle another Green Bay run after a season like this in Minnesota.)

Meanwhile, the Vikings are almost as beat up as their rivals. Harrison Smith, Kyle Rudolph, and Josh Robinson are out. Desmond Bishop definitely won't play in his Green Bay homecoming while Greg Jennings is questionable for his. John Sullivan still hasn't passed his concussion testing and Adrian Peterson is operating at about 65% by his estimation thanks to a groin injury. For those that are wondering about the health of our linebackers: Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway are relatively healthy. It just looks like they're injured when they're in pass coverage.

As damaged as both teams are, someone has to prevail as these flawed foes fight on the frozen tundra. The Packers defense hasn't been overly impressive in any facet of the game this year, but outside of rushing the passer they've been markedly better than the Vikings. Tolzien has been turnover-prone but the Vikings have forced all of two turnovers the past six games. AP always carves up Green Bay but he's obviously hobbled. In fact, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Eddie Lacy out-rushes Peterson. The Packers might be in rough shape right now but they'll look pristine compared to their visitors on Sunday.

The Vikings might hang around for a while but they probably won't be able to put together the necessary 60 minutes for the upset. However, there's still one bright spot left for Vikings fans:

There are only five left after it's over.

Prediction: Packers 33, Vikings 24

And now for the rest of my Week 12 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):

Saints over FALCONS: You'll have to forgive Matt Ryan if it seems like he isn't very focused during the game. He and Matt Schaub have been super busy trying to build a time machine that takes them back to last season.

RAMS over Bears: This pick is more of a thank you note to Zac Stacy for saving one of my fantasy teams this season. Love ya Zac!

Steelers over BROWNS: Ben Roethlisberger is 15-1 against Cleveland. That's good for #2 in the all-time "We Really Hate You But We'd Totally Love You If You Played For Cleveland" rankings, just behind LeBron James and just ahead of Michael Jordan.

LIONS over Buccaneers: My Survivor Pool pick of the week, now 9-2 after Cincinnati beat up on the Browns last week. I figured the Lions are tough at home and the Bucs can't afford to drop out of the top 5 of the 2014 draft with a third straight win.

CHIEFS over Chargers: I could totally see Kansas City blowing this game...followed by San Diego blowing it even worse.

Panthers over DOLPHINS: Both teams are contending in their respective conferences; only one of them is good. What isn't good: we're in Week 12 and I haven't used a Dolphins cheerleader for my Gratuitous Picture of the Week yet. Let's remedy that.

Miami-dolphins-cheerleader-2013-fashion-show--18-560x1161_medium
"Our pass rush is bruisin', we can make you hurt / We'll be painted on Newton, just like my shirt!" (image via www.gotceleb.com)

RAVENS over Jets: I know the Jets have that fun W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L thing going, but I have a strict rule that I live by: whenever your quarterback plays even worse than Christian Ponder, I don't pick your team the following week.

TEXANS over Jaguars: Nope. Not talking about this abomination of a football game. I don't even care if it has draft order ramifications that could directly affect the Vikings. This is just gross.

Titans over RAIDERS: The Raiders have a habit of getting everyone to say "Hey, maybe they're not all that bad!" a few times a year. They usually follow that up with a game that proves that yes, they are in fact that bad.

Colts over CARDINALS: The winning coach of this game gets to keep last year's Coach of the Year award, right? It only seems fair.

Cowboys over GIANTS: I went back and forth on this game almost as much as Tony Romo and Eli Manning will throw it back and forth to each other's defenses.

Broncos over PATRIOTS: Yes, that was pass interference. No, it usually doesn't get called in those situations, both offensively and defensively. And HELL no, I don't feel the least bit bad for New England fans. Even if they lose this game they'll still cruise to another division title.

49ers over REDSKINS: If these two teams keep struggling in their own respective ways, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III will have to try hitching a ride on the Ryan and Schaub 2012 Time Machine.

Last week: 10-5
Season so far: 105-57

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