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Week 7 Preview: Starting Anew After The Burial

CHICAGO - Archaeologists said Tuesday they have discovered the remains of a Viking chief buried with his boat, 'do rag, shoulder pads and favorite piece of turf to throw to on a remote Lake Michigan peninsula — one of the most significant Norse finds ever uncovered.

The 300-foot-long (91-meter-long) grave is the first intact site of its kind to have been discovered on mainland Illinois and is believed to be more than 34 years old. Much of the talent and the Viking bones have rotted away, but scraps of dignity and hundreds of metal Chunky Soup cans that held the vessel together remain.

The archeologists also unearthed a shield boss — a circular piece of metal attached to the middle of an NFL shield — and a bronze NFC Championship ring-pin buried with the Viking. They also found a helmet, a whetstone to soften leather, and Viking pottery (since the Vikings have never been big on trophies) on the site on the Aromashodu peninsula on Lake Michigan's west coast.

The boat and its contents were discovered by a team of football players from universities all over the country working with the cultural heritage organization Archaeology Chicago and consultants NFL Archaeology.

Devin Hester, co-director of the project, said the discovery had exceeded expectations.

"A Viking boat burial is an incredible discovery, but in addition to that the artifacts and preservation of the stench of losing make this one of the most important Norse graves ever excavated in Chicago," he said.

The team of archeologists had been digging on the Aromashodu peninsula to learn more about football change in the area.

Vikings from Minnesota made frequent raids on Illinois and what is now northeast Wisconsin in the 8th and 9th decades of the 1900s, and many Vikings set up settlements in the area. However, all claims to these settlements have been destroyed in the past two years.

This actually happened this week. I'm not kidding. Seriously, check it out here. It was in the news and everything. OK, so maybe I took some creative liberties with the story, but I only updated the words in bold. Everything else is 100% factual. (Thanks to my buddy Chad for sending the real story to me.)

How fitting is it that the Vikings of Minnesota buried their own "chief" on the same week archaeologists discovered an actual Viking chief burial ground? You just can't make this stuff up. (Well, I made a little of it up, but you get the point.)

So now the new Vikings have a new "chief" in the form of untested rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. For his first battle as our new leader, he gets to face the undefeated defending Super Bowl champions. Twice in his first three starts, if you want to be precise.

Have fun rook!

Does Minnesota have a prayer this week now that Ponder has taken the helm? The short answer is probably not, but if you read on I promise that this post will be 100% Ponder Pun Free. (To paraphrase Ice-T in the Playa Hater's Ball from Chappelle's Show: next person that makes a lame Ponder play on words joke is gettin' shot. Please belee dat.)

Look, I hate those guys in Wisconsin, and their fans, just as much as you do. I really want to scrape together some far-fetched theory of how the stars will align for the Vikings to hand the Packers their first loss.

More than anything, I want to say how Chad Clifton's hamstring injury will allow Jared Allen and Brian Robison to terrorize Aaron Rodgers all day. But I can't--even if our ends get through, Rodgers has shown that he can scramble out of trouble. And when he does scramble out of trouble, it sounds like he'll get to throw to his plethora of talented receivers covered by the likes of Tyrell Johnson and Cedric Griffin instead of Jamarca Sanford and Antoine Winfield. Ruh roh.

I'd love to convince you that the threat of Ponder throwing downfield will open up lanes for Adrian Peterson. But I can't--even if Ponder connects on a couple deep passes, our offensive line is way too beat up to open up many holes against Green Bay's front seven. (Or front eight, or front nine, depending on the effectiveness of those previously mentioned long balls.)

I desperately want to believe that the change in quarterback will fire up the Metrodome crowd enough to will their team to a season-changing victory over their heavily favored rival. But I can't--I was at the Viking/Packer game last year in Minneapolis, and we all remember how that turned out.

Despite my lack of confidence in the Vikings' chances on Sunday, I still couldn't be more thrilled about the beginning of the Christian Ponder area. I doubt he's completely prepared to be a starting quarterback in the NFL at this point, and making your debut against this Dom Capers defense is far from ideal. But if I had to watch one more game of this team with Donovan at the helm I might have McNabb'ed my television right into the turf of my living room. At the very least, Ponder gives the team and its fans hope. Hope for the playoffs this year or a resounding victory on Sunday? Um, let's not go crazy here. Hope for a more competitive and watchable offense down the stretch? Absolutely. And with all the poor results on the field and stadium uncertainty off it, hope is exactly what the Vikings need right now.

I just hope archaeologists don't discover another Viking burial ground in Wisconsin come mid-November.

Prediction: Packers 31, Vikings 17

And now for the rest of my Week 7 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):

LIONS over Falcons: Just because I don't want to see Jim Schwartz get all butt-hurt over losing again. I have zero problems with what Harbaugh did. I actually think the "Harbaugh Handshake" should be incorporated in more aspects of life. Got a meeting at work with someone you don't like? Harbaugh Handshake. Meeting the in-laws for the first time? Boom, Harbaugh Handshake. It's still technically being polite, but it lets everyone know who's boss.

BUCCANEERS over Bears: "Aw bloody 'ell! Those American football wankers can f*ck off if they think they're gonna flog us with such rubbish teams! That bloke Jay Cutlah is complete pants! An' that Jorsh Freeman looks cracking one minute but then he's all sixes and sevens the next! I'll be needin' about thirty pints to make it through this bullocks." (Note: this game is being played in London. I also have no idea whether or not I used any of that British slang properly.)

BROWNS over Seahawks: Because if Tarvaris Jackson wins back-to-back road games while his former team languishes at 1-6 I might have to be committed. (Edit: It looks like Tarvaris won't play on Sunday with a pectoral injury. Either way, even the mere fact of his team going .500 after six games would send me to the asylum.)

Broncos over DOLPHINS: Any time that a new quarterback starts on the road and still has a ceremony dedicated to him, I'm picking his team. And look who's going to be in attendance!

TITANS over Texans: Andre Johnson is out. Mario Williams is out. Matt Schaub got an MRI on his hip this week, but apparently "everything's just fine". So...why did you get an MRI then? I'll take the healthier home team.

Chargers over JETS: Psst...hey, Jets fans...your quarterback sucks. And now that everyone is running on your defense, he won't be able to hide it behind GQ photo shoots as easily.

PANTHERS over Redskins: This one could go either way, but I'll pick Carolina because I'm so sick of how Mike Shanahan still drives every fantasy football owner in the country absolutely bonkers. Ryan Torain, Roy Helu, or Tim Hightower will probably have a big game this week. Which one? Nobody knows, but one thing's for certain: it won't be the one you start this week.

RAIDERS over Chiefs: It's nice that Carson Palmer will get an exhibition game to shake the rust off before facing real teams later this year. Speaking of Palmer, Mike Brown should be convicted of first degree trade rape for how badly he fleeced Oakland for a guy that hasn't been good since 2007.

Steelers over CARDINALS: These two teams met in the Super Bowl just over 2 1/2 years ago. It must feel like 22 1/2 to Arizona fans.

COWBOYS over Rams: Rams wins in 2010: 7. Rams wins in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011 combined: 6. St. Louis will always remember that glory year.

SAINTS over Colts: My Survivor Pool pick of the week, now 5-1 after correctly choosing the Pats last week. It's like the Colts almost designed their schedule to go 0-16 now. On the road, on national TV in prime time, against a pissed-off Saints team in the Superdome? This game should be written on a recipe card titled "How to Draft Andrew Luck."

Ravens over JAGUARS: Unless the Jags pull off the upset, it's one step closer to Jack Del Rio getting shipped down the...Rio. And since I have nothing else to say, I'll finish the week off with your Gratuitous Picture of the Week!


Last week: 11-2
Season so far: 56-34