You know the season has gone to hell when you long for the days of endless Brett Favre retirement stories.
You remember August, don't you? Such a simpler time for our beloved Vikings. All we had to worry about was whether the most over-covered athlete in the history of sports would return and lead our proud franchise one step further than they made it in 2009.
But then Brett struggled mightily.
And then Sidney Rice didn't come back.
And then we got Randy Moss.
And then we got rid of Randy Moss.
And then we got rid of Brad Childress.
And then our stadium fell apart, creating an all-too-perfect symbol of Minnesota's 2010 season. I feel like Ashton Kutcher in "Dude, Where's My Car?" NO AND THEN!!
So here we are, homeless, beat up, and mathematically eliminated. And just in time to bring our embarrassing debacle to a national audience on Monday. We come complete with a third-string quarterback and a frozen field in a stadium that won't serve booze to the fans that will have to trample their way into the seats they had to shovel out themselves.
But then again, if we've learned anything about the Vikings this year, we know it could all change by kickoff.
To say the game between the Bears and Vikings has been overshadowed by the circumstances surrounding it is sort of like watching "Celebrity Rehab" and noticing that Janice Dickinson might be a little crazy. In other words--DUH. Although the game has been relegated to an afterthought in our minds, it could still make a lot of noise in the NFC playoff picture. So I suppose we should probably give you at least a little bit of a preview, right?
At this point, I'm surprised the Vikings aren't holding open tryouts or at least hosting the hot new reality show, "So You Think You Can Quarterback?" Favre is done for and Tarvaris Jackson is on the IR, which leaves raw rookie Joe Webb and signed-off-the-street Patrick Ramsey. Webb sounds like the favorite to get the nod right now. But no matter who starts, it's obvious that the playbook will have to be significantly stripped down. In fact, I was able to get a copy of Darrell Bevell's game plan for Monday:
Although they'll probably only use the top half of the playbook.
Perhaps the defense could score points? We all know that Jay Cutler is susceptible to throw out some stinkers now and again, as evidenced by last week's blowout loss to the Patriots. If the pass rush can hurry Cutler into some bad throws (and the secondary can actually get in position to pick some of those throws off), it would be a huge advantage for our limited offense. And since alcohol won't be allowed at The Bank, Cutler could be thrown a little out of sorts. (Settle down, Bears fans. I'm only joking. Sort of.)
While we're talking about the Minnesota defense, I offer this free piece of advice to interim defensive coordinator Fred Pagac: it might be wise to give Asher Allen some help. Hakeem Nicks lit up Allen like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center last week. Nobody throws on Antoine Winfield anymore--mostly because they don't need to. I'd much rather see him matched up one-on-one all night than watch a repeat of the Allen Turnstile.
Finally, I hate that I have to say this every time we play Chicago, but I feel I must--FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, KEEP THE BALL OUT OF DEVIN HESTER'S HANDS. He has the uncanny ability to kill the Vikings at the most inopportune times. That trend needs to stop if the Vikes want any chance of playing spoiler. Team MVP Chris Kluwe (sadly, I'm only half-kidding) needs to have a great performance in adverse conditions. Field position is always important, but it becomes exponentially more important when the temperature is 7 degrees.
The Vikings need to play an extremely efficient and mistake-free game to beat the Bears on Monday. Unfortunately, we didn't get to 5-8 by being efficient or avoiding mistakes. Luckily, we'll probably be too busy talking about the stadium woes to care much about another loss.
Prediction: Bears 20, Vikings 13
Here are the rest of my Week 15 NFL picks:
CHARGERS over 49ers: Alex Smith sucks. I think the 49ers will get blown out. But I still wouldn't be opposed to him starting for us this week. Yep, that's how bad it is right now.
BENGALS over Browns: Next week, I will almost definitely ask myself, "why the hell did I pick Carson "Pick Six" Palmer to win a game?"
COWBOYS over Redskins: There's a big NFC East battle this weekend. This isn't it. Let's move on.
TITANS over Texans: I know the Curse of Randy Moss is in full effect in Tennessee, but I'm banking on the Monday Night Heartbreak Hangover to override it. Houston earned their Ph.D. in Creative Losing against the Ravens on Monday.
COLTS over Jaguars: The AFC South still belongs to Peyton Manning until someone proves otherwise.
RAMS over Chiefs: Ladies and gentlemen, Brodie Croyle! Ten losses without a single victory as a starter! I will undoubtedly get pummeled in both of my fantasy playoff games this week thanks to Dwayne Bowe getting one catch for six yards. Even if Matt Cassell miraculously returns from his appendectomy.
DOLPHINS over Bills: Take the under.
BUCCANEERS over Lions: My suicide pool pick--still only one blemish on the year at 13-1. The Bucs don't lose to losing teams, and the Lions have lost a million in a row on the road. Done and done.
Cardinals over PANTHERS: The U.S. Military should abandon water boarding and just show captives this game on a loop. "OK, I'LL TALK! JUST TURN IT OFF! PLEASE, PLEASE, TURN IT OFF!"
Saints over RAVENS: Houston just showed the world that you can definitely throw the ball on the Ravens. The Saints can definitely throw the ball.
Falcons over SEAHAWKS: Are you as excited as I am for the possibility of Michael Vick returning to Atlanta for the NFC Championship game? It might break the internet.
STEELERS over Jets: Hard Knocks, indeed.
RAIDERS over Broncos: Whenever a team fires its coach then proceeds to lose by 30 to one of the worst teams in the NFL, I usually don't pick them on the road the following week. Fantasy owners of Darren McFadden will probably have to watch this game with a pillow over their lap to hide their excitement.
PATRIOTS over Packers: I thoroughly enjoyed the Matt Flynn Show last week. Even if Aaron Rodgers skirts the new concussion crackdown rules and plays, there's no way they beat Tom Brady in Foxboro.
Last week: 12-4
Season so far: 136-72