I've been married for just over a year now. I'm not an expert at being a husband by any stretch of the imagination--just ask my wife--but I'd like to think I've picked up a few habits that help my marriage run more smoothly.
One of those habits is making sure I answer as many of her questions as I can with confident, definitive answers, regardless of my knowledge on the subject. For instance, when your wife asks you for help picking out what kind of candle you should buy for the living room, you have two options:
Bad answer: Do you really think I care?
Better answer: [Halfheartedly smell them] Ooh, that smells nice. I like that one. (Doesn't matter which one.)
Or when she asks what you want to do tonight:
Bad answer: Um, I dunno...what do you want to do tonight?
Better answer: Hey, what was that movie you were talking about that you wanted to see? Let's do that.
Or if she asks you which shirt she should wear out:
Bad answer: [Quickly glance over] The red one? I dunno. (Even though neither shirt is red.)
Better answer: [Pretend to really study both options for a minute or so] The black one. Definitely. I love how that one fits you. [Throw in a wink or a growl for extra brownie points.]
See how that works? Even if you could care less about the actual decision, giving a definitive answer almost always beats throwing out something that's open-ended.
That got me thinking about Sunday's game against the Chargers. (I'm joking--I'm always thinking about the Vikings. Especially when answering those kinds of questions.) Just like in a marriage, when it comes to early season NFL games, known entities are usually better than open-ended questions. To simplify the theory: periods trump question marks.
Let me explain with an easy example. There's one part of the Vikings/Chargers matchup that nobody will debate: Adrian Peterson is frighteningly good at football. Period. Meanwhile, the Chargers aren't really sure how they'll use their running back triumvirate of Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert, and Jacob Hester this year. Hence, the period obviously trumps the question mark.
See how this works yet? Here are some more question marks vs. periods that don't exactly work out in the Vikings' favor:
Vikings: What does Donovan McNabb have left in the tank? How will he work with the new offense?
Chargers: Philip Rivers is an elite quarterback. Period.
Vikings: Aside from Antoine Winfield, how will the rest of the secondary perform?
Chargers: Their receivers are really friggin' tall and tough to defend. Period.
Vikings: How will Letroy Guion and Remi Ayodele perform in the middle with Kevin Williams out?
Chargers: Antonio Garay is a beast in the middle (when 100% healthy). Period. (And his hair is ridiculous. Period.)
Vikings: Can the Vikings break their trend of struggling on the road, outdoors, on grass, and on the West Coast?
Chargers: Always a tough out at home. Period.
In each case, the period trumps the question mark. (I was going to do a question about how Leslie Frazier will perform in his NFL debut against San Diego's consistency at head coach, but then I realized that head coach was Norv "Turkey Neck" Turner. That's a wash at best for the Chargers.) Unfortunately, I think the Vikings have a lot more questions about their team while the Chargers have many more known entities. Add it all up and it doesn't bode well for the Vikes.
Before you berate me in the comments for being such a Negative Nancy about my hometown team, hear me out. I think this Minnesota Vikings team has the potential to do some major damage this year. I said as much in my Q&A with Bolts from the Blue earlier this week. But the lockout shortened the preparation time for everyone this year. For a team like the Vikings that desperately needed that preparation thanks to all the turnover from last year's debacle, I think it might take a few games to work out the kinks.
Unfortunately, it's tough to work out the kinks against a Super Bowl contender on the road.
Prediction: Chargers 31, Vikings 21 (Also my Survivor Pool pick...if that isn't a reverse jinx, I don't know what is.)
Here are the rest of my Week 1 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):
PACKERS over Saints: I know this already happened last night, but I Tweeted my prediction before the game last night for proof. I was way off on the score, but unfortunately correct with the outcome.
Falcons over BEARS: We'll see how Chicago fares this year when they have to face first-string quarterbacks like Matt Ryan. My guess: not well.
CHIEFS over Bills: Kansas City probably won't be as good this year; Buffalo probably won't be as bad. But the Chiefs are still way better than the Bills, especially at home.
BROWNS over Bengals: Can we just have Ohio State replace one of these two teams already? Or would the Buckeyes' salary put them over the cap?
BUCCANEERS over Lions: Yes, I know the Lions are better this year; but Tampa will have revenge on their mind after Detroit effectively knocked them out of the playoffs at Raymond James last season. (Plus I want the Bucs to come in overconfident next week.)
Titans over JAGUARS: Any time you cut your starting quarterback four days before the game, I'm not picking your team to win. It's just a rule I like to live by.
TEXANS over Colts: Any time you signed your starting quarterback out of retirement right before the season starts, I'm not picking your team to win. (OK that's a lie--look what the Vikings did the past two seasons, and I picked them. But still: Foster or no Foster, the Texans are gonna win.)
RAMS over Eagles: Sure it's an upset pick, but it reflects my "periods vs. question marks" theory. Philly has a ton of new faces while St. Louis returns most of their weapons. It also reflects my hatred of the Eagles.
Steelers over RAVENS: When these two teams play, just flip a coin, don't put any money on it, and move on. Wouldn't be surprised by any outcome here.
Giants over REDSKINS: Yes, the Giants are beat up, but not "starting Rex Grossman on purpose" beat up.
CARDINALS over Panthers: If it wasn't for Larry Fitzgerald being on millions of fantasy football teams, I think the NFL could secretly cancel this game without 99% of the country noticing or caring.
49ERS over Seahawks: Enjoy the Tarvaris Jackson Era Seattle!
JETS over Cowboys: I think Dallas will be tough this year, but no way am I picking against New York on 9/11.
Patriots over DOLPHINS: I think the Pats win big, followed by Reggie Bush blowing out his knee chasing after tail in a Miami club.
BRONCOS over Raiders: Another coin flip. These teams are way too bipolar to accurately predict what will happen. I wouldn't be surprised by either of them winning by five touchdowns.
Last year: 166-90 (good enough to win the Daily Norseman Pickem League)
This week so far: 1-0
Season so far: 1-0