This is not a sponsored post. However, after the how the Vikings and Cowboys have started the season, the 2010 Panic Bowl should probably be sponsored by Pepto Bismol, Tums, Advil, and 14 different kinds of hard liquor.
Remember that scene in "Rock Star" where Izzy (Mark Wahlberg) and Emily (Jennifer Aniston) wake up after a particularly hard night of partying right after Izzy's stardom has started to skyrocket? You know, when they both wake up naked in separate rooms of the hotel with strange people they vaguely remember? And the hot "chick" from the night before waves hello from the bathroom while peeing standing up? And when they finally find each other, they give the classic "I have no idea what happened last night, but I'm pretty sure it was awful so let's never discuss it" look? (Note: If you haven't seen this movie, it's probably on VH1 at least four times this weekend.)
I believe that's how the Vikings and Cowboys fans feel right now--staring at each other in disbelief, wondering what the hell just happened and how they got here. This game was supposed to be a rematch of two mighty playoff teams, a possible NFC Championship preview. Now? It can only be described as the 2010 Panic Bowl.
To say that Minnesota and Dallas have stumbled out of the gate is kind of like saying David Arquette made questionable decisions regarding his marriage to Courteney Cox. In other words: duh. Nobody wants to be 1-3, especially teams as star-loaded as the Vikes and 'Boys. Let's try to figure out how each team got here and who will end up doubling their win total on Sunday afternoon.
Let's get one thing out of the way--Brett Favre's gonna play. The whole game. I know he's been throwing out the whole "aw shucks maybe I'll take a game or two off" routine, but there's no way he's going to voluntarily end his 289-game consecutive start streak. No matter what he says, he deeply cares about all his records. (Well, maybe not those unbreakable interception and fumble records he has amassed. That pick-six he threw in New York was the thirty-first of his career. Ain't nobody breaking that one.)
I think it's fairly safe to say that the toughest opponents for the Vikings and Cowboys so far have been...well, the Vikings and Cowboys respectively. Neither team can seem to get out of their own way.
Dallas is racking up stats but not W's. They have the second ranked offense in the league, yet they have the uncanny ability to commit penalties and turnovers at the most inopportune times. They have three solid backs in Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice, yet they run the ball almost twice as much as they pass. They have the eighth ranked defense in the league, but they just got gashed for 34 points at home by Tennessee. I can't imagine how maddening it must be for Cowboy fans right now. Oh wait--yes I can; I'm a Vikings fan!
Minnesota is also well-versed and shooting themselves in the proverbial foot. Just like Dallas, we have a talented quarterback that can make an incredible play one minute and be his own worst enemy the next. Everyone on the offense not named Adrian Peterson seems to be wholly uninterested in participating in the first half of most games. And the turnovers--ugh. It's no surprise that the two 1-3 teams facing off in the Metrodome are a combined -10 in the turnover margin.
If the Vikings want to stop their season from spiraling out of control on Sunday, the Minnesota pass rush must wreak havoc on the Cowboys' mediocre offensive line. The Vikings have a measly six sacks in 2010 and only one by Jared Allen. He's the real-life Samson at this point--he cut his hair and no longer has any of his powers. If we can't get to Tony Romo early and often, he's going to pick apart our injury-plagued secondary with the likes of Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Roy Williams, and Jason Witten. The Cowboys have been beating themselves all year, but our defensive front needs to make sure to accelerate that process.
On offense, we simply need to get out of our own way. The easiest way to do that is to administer a heaping dose of Vitamin AP to Dallas. Favre can't throw any interceptions if All Day is toting the rock all day. Of course, that means the offensive line needs to help out their all-world running back and give him a hole or two to run through. Although the addition of Randy Moss had a significant impact against New York last week, he should have an even bigger game against Dallas. The Cowboys don't have anyone like Antonio Cromartie to leap with him. And oh yeah, it would also be nice to actually score first--something the Vikings have failed to do in the first four games. This team is much better suited to play with a lead than scramble from behind.
I think both teams will be able to put up some points which should make for a fun back-and-forth affair. With so much on the line for both squads, I don't see either team blowing the other out. (That's good for Keith Brooking--he probably won't have to call the waaahhhhmbulance like he did after the pummeling Dallas took in the playoffs last year.) If Favre's elbow is healthy enough to make the necessary throws and the offense plays four consistent quarters, the Vikings should roll into Green Bay next week as a very dangerous 2-3 team.
Prediction: Vikings 31, Cowboys 24
Now for my Week 6 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):
BEARS over Seahawks: Wow. Another tough opponent for Chicago. The four teams they've beaten have a combined record of 5-14, and now they welcome a Seattle team that has scored 17 total points in their two road games this year. I'm picking the Bears to win here, but they're still huge frauds.
Ravens over PATRIOTS: I don't expect a blowout like the last time these two squads met in New England, but I don't think enough has changed to cause a different outcome.
GIANTS over Lions: I have a crazy rule when picking NFL games: when a team has lost 23 games in a row on the road, you don't pick them on the road.
Falcons over EAGLES: It doesn't sound like the guy most infamous for dogfighting is going to be a part of this birdfighting, so I'm picking Atlanta.
STEELERS over Browns: My suicide pool pick of the week, still going strong at 6-0. I know there have only been five weeks, but I'm already counting this one as a win. There is no freaking way that Colt McCoy is going to make his NFL debut against the league's best defense while Ben Roethlisberger is making his return and come out alive.
Dolphins over PACKERS: Wishful thinking? Yeah, a little bit. But with all their injuries, I'm not sure the Packers can field 22 players at this point.
Chargers over RAMS: I know San Diego is notorious for slow starts. But if they lose to a St. Louis team that just got trounced by 38 in Detroit last week, they should probably disband as a franchise.
Saints over BUCCANEERS: I was thinking about picking the Bucs here, but there are too many people saying, "You know what? Tampa might be legit! The Saints are struggling! The Bucs could win this game!" for me to feel comfortable with it.
TEXANS over Chiefs: I think K.C. is the surprise team in the NFL this year, but you have to put up points against this Houston team. With Matt Cassel at the helm and Dwayne Bowe killing fantasy teams across the country, I don't think they can score enough.
49ERS over Raiders: How do you know when your franchise sucks? When you just finished beating a Super Bowl contender and you're still 6.5 point underdogs to an 0-5 team. Ladies and gentlemen, the Oakland Raiders!
Jets over BRONCOS: Josh McDaniels is like that guy you play online in Madden that passes the ball every single down. You can win with that strategy on Madden, but not in real life.
Colts over REDSKINS: You do not pick against Peyton Manning in a prime time game. That is all.
Titans over JAGUARS: Can someone please explain the Jags to me? Are they the AFC version of the Bears or are they actually good? I'm still leaning towards the former, so I'm going with Tennessee.
Last week: 7-7
Season so far: 46-30