There are few (non-curse) words in the English language that can bring someone back down to earth from a boast, accomplishment, or moment of pride as quickly as these two:
So you claim you're great with the ladies? Prove it and get that girl's number. You're a Madden expert and can't possibly be beaten? Prove it and give us your gamertag. You're going to drink "like 30 beers" tonight, huh? Belly up to the bar and prove it. (And after you're done, don't try to prove you're a tough guy by picking a fight at the bar.) Nobody's a bigger Star Wars junkie than you? Prove it and tell me the backstory of R5-D4. (I had to Google "Obscure Star Wars characters" for that line. I am not a Star Wars junkie.) You just made the winning shot from behind the backboard in H-O-R-S-E? Prove it and make it again.
No matter how full of yourself you might be, those two words almost immediately cut you down to size. Which is why I have just two words for the Minnesota Vikings this week:
Yes, it was great to get the first win of the season last week against Detroit and purge the Santa Clara Suckfest from our memories. But since 1992, the Lions are a combined 4-44 in Green Bay and Minnesota. (Zero of those four wins came in Wisconsin. And half of those wins came in the last four years.) Detroit losing divisional games on the road is more of a sure bet than American Pharaoh. So can the Vikings beat the San Diego Chargers this week and prove that they're a force to be reckoned with in 2015?
First, the Vikings need to prove that they can run the ball on the Chargers' shaky run defense. We're not expecting a repeat of the last time Adrian Peterson played San Diego at home (where he set the NFL single-game rushing record), but triple digits certainly isn't too lofty of a goal. More importantly, when Peterson gets the ball he needs to prove that it won't end up on the ground. If we wanted to be terrified every time a Vikings player touched the ball, we'd watch Blair Walsh kick extra points for 60 minutes.
Of course that means the Vikings' offensive line has to prove that last week's solid showing was more indicative of how they will play than the Week 1 mess. The run blocking against Detroit was pretty good but definitely not great. Peterson had to bounce outside on a lot of plays that weren't designed for it. The more Minnesota can shorten the game with AP and sustain drives to keep San Diego's offense off the field, the better.
Proving that they can keep Teddy Bridgewater upright is just as important. As Mike Wobschall broke down in his Film Room segment on Vikings.com, the Chargers don't blitz a ton but when they do it's usually well disguised. They create a lot of confusion before the snap and usually zone blitz. San Francisco used similar tactics to confound the Minnesota line and stymie the Vikings offense all night.
San Diego didn't get a ton of pressure on Andy Dalton last week, but the Bengals may have one of the better offensive lines in the league. (Cincinnati is the only team in the league to have a positive run block and pass block rating from Pro Football Focus through two weeks.) When the Chargers did get pressure, it was by disguising pressure at the line and rushing heavy to one side of the formation:
The diagnosis of pressure from backup center Joe Berger and Bridgewater will be paramount to the success of the Vikings offense on Sunday.
As I write this on Wednesday night, the status of Brandon Fusco is up in the air after he missed practice due to a concussion. Here's the play that may have caused it, the final play of the third quarter. Fusco fell down behind the play after taking the hit but he remained in the game.
If he's out, I just hope whoever replaces Fusco--probably former Charger Jeremiah Sirles--can prove he won't get Teddy killed.
On defense, the Vikings' front four needs to prove that it can have a big day against a shaky Chargers' offensive line, especially up the middle. Orlando Franklin, Chris Watt (what a fitting name for a guy that wears a lightning bolt on his head), and Chris Hairston haven't done Philip Rivers any favors the first two weeks of the season.
Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd should be salivating at the game tape this week. Many pieces of the Cincinnati defense were built by the guy currently running the show here in Minnesota so they should feel confident that they can cause a similar amount of ruckus.
If the Vikings can't get to Rivers consistently or have to bring five or six rushers to do so, San Diego will prove that they're a very dangerous offense with time to operate. Xavier Rhodes will probably have another busy day covering Keenan Allen, who was targeted 17 times in Week 1 (but strangely only 4 times last week). Tight end Ladarius Green is having a nice season in Antonio Gates' absence. Malcom Floyd is always a threat to burn defenses deep. Stevie Johnson is enjoying a nice career renaissance in San Diego as well.
(UPDATE 9/24/15 12:18 PM: After I wrote this, news broke that Green may miss the game on Sunday due to suffering his second concussion in eleven days. One less weapon to worry about but San Diego still has plenty to keep the Vikings defense occupied.)
And if they're open, Rivers is going to hit them. Despite enduring six sacks and six dropped or batted passes through the first two weeks, Rivers is still completing 81.2% of his throws and has a 106.8 quarterback rating. The Vikings need to repeat what they did to Matthew Stafford or it'll be a long day for the defense against San Diego's no-huddle attack.
San Diego's backfield weapons will prove to be a tough matchup as well. Rookie Melvin Gordon hasn't lit the fantasy world on fire yet, but he's already proving that he was worth the first round pick with runs like this:
Of course you can't forget about PFTCommenter's favorite running back, Danny Woodhead. His entire career has been about proving size doesn't matter. He led San Diego in receiving last week and can drive defenses crazy with his shifty scrapability. (It's a word, trust me.) Not to go all Captain Obvious on you, but it would behoove the Vikings to get an early lead on Sunday. The earlier they can make the Chargers one-dimensional and get after Rivers, the easier it will be to stop what can be a very dangerous offense. (Just ask the Lions.)
Those are the big-picture "prove its", but there are several individuals with plenty to prove as well:
- Charles Johnson needs to prove that the end of last season wasn't a fluke. He has been nearly invisible in 2015, hauling in 5 catches for a paltry 37 yards so far.
- Trae Waynes needs to prove that drafting him over players like Marcus Peters and Kevin Johnson wasn't a huge mistake. Of course that's hard to do when you have exactly zero defensive snaps in your career so far. Whenever Waynes does get his chance, he better make it count.
- Mike Zimmer and George Edwards need to prove they learned the defense is better when Chad Greenway plays fewer snaps. Greenway was out there for only 16 plays last week, but that was mostly scheme related since the Lions had so many 3-4 wide receiver sets. If San Diego's personnel dictates more base defense from the Vikings it will be interesting to see how the linebacker reps are split. If I was Mike McCoy I would use a lot of big sets to keep Greenway on the field as much as possible if the Vikings were willing to trot him out there.
- Blair Walsh needs to prove...sigh. You know what? I'm sick of writing about him every week. At this point he's just a really good kicker that suddenly became inexplicably bad. If he wants to prove us wrong, great. But I'm not going to waste any more energy on him.
- Norv Turner is going to have to prove that his offense is capable of stretching the field every once in a while. Yeah, yeah, ball security and controlling the clock are nice, but to paraphrase great American philosopher Tron from Chappelle's Show, America wanna see Mike Wallace live!
- Everson Griffen needs to prove he can go a whole game without biting on a hard snap count and picking up a stupid penalty. Just watch the ball, Griff. You can still make a play without the head start.
- Brian Robison and Captain Munnerlyn need to prove that they can replicate their excellent Week 2 performances. Because if those two can consistently contribute this season, watch out for this Vikings defense.
- Jarius Wright needs to prove that he can make all the plays that used to be designed for Cordarrelle Patterson, like the 29 yard reverse he had last week. At the same time, he and Norv need to prove that his contract extension was worth it by getting Wright the ball more than twice in a game.
Vikings 24, Chargers 20
And now for the rest of my Week 3 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):
GIANTS over Redskins
New York needs to prove that they realize the last 15 minutes of games aren't a good time to stop playing football.
COWBOYS over Falcons
The folks in Dallas are going to have to prove they aren't on drugs. How else do you decide to bring in so many former Vikings quarterback castoffs for workouts after Tony Romo went down? Did they bring in Christian Ponder and sign Matt Cassel just to make Brandon Weeden feel better about his own abilities?
RAVENS over Bengals
Baltimore needs to prove that Joe Flacco is elite, just like Donald Trump says he is.
Raiders over BROWNS
Oakland needs to win so the internet can prove it has about 10,000 more "Johnny Manziel should be the starter" articles.
Colts over TITANS
Andrew Luck needs to prove that I wasn't completely insane to pay $36 for him in my auction draft.
Steelers over RAMS
Pittsburgh needs to prove that they can avoid being the latest team to be favored in St. Louis and lose.
PATRIOTS over Jaguars
Jacksonville needs to prove that the Gratuitous Picture of the Week won't be the most interesting thing about this game. (They won't.)
"The winning margin for the Pats won't be teeny / So here's Maria Menounos in a bikini!" (image via examiner.com)
PANTHERS over Saints
Carolina needs to prove that my 'Aints schadenfreude can last all year long.
Eagles over JETS
Chip Kelly needs to prove that playing real life fantasy football can get you at least a couple wins, or else he's in big trouble.
TEXANS over Buccaneers
Houston needs to prove that they can at least beat Tampa at home before Arian Foster comes back to a lost season.
CARDINALS over 49ers
Arizona needs a blowout to prove that the Vikings' Week 1 loss gets more embarrassing every week.
DOLPHINS over Bills
Ndamukong Suh needs to prove that he's the friendly, coachable guy that Miami broke the bank for. (Just kidding. It should surprise absolutely nobody that Suh is still a freelancing malcontent. But I still like Miami to win at home.)
SEAHAWKS over Bears
My Survivor Pool pick of the week, even though I'm already out (along with just about everyone else) thanks to New Orleans last week. Seattle needs to prove that there is literally no line that would make me choose Chicago in this game. The pissed off NFC champions, desperately needing a win, at home, with Kam Chancellor coming back, against Jimmy Clausen and the hapless Bears? The Seahawks are going to win this game by a million.
Broncos over LIONS
Detroit is eventually going to have to prove that they aren't staring down the barrel of 0-5. If they don't win this game, their next two opponents are Arizona and Seattle. Have fun with that!
PACKERS over Chiefs
After every single win, Aaron Rodgers proves what a smug prick he is with his thinly veiled shots in press conferences hidden behind that don't-you-wanna-just-punch-me-in-the-face smirk. Sadly, I think he's going to prove it again on Monday night.
Last week: 5-11 (Yeesh. I obviously need to prove that I can pick games better)
Season so far: 13-19 (Double yeesh)