Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.
Follow Randball on Twitter
As we pondered the news that Gary Kubiak has been fired by the Texans -- the first NFL coach this season to get the ax -- we checked back in on the Bovada odds regarding the most likely coach to be fired (beyond Kubiak).
And, well, according to the odds it's a dead heat between Greg Schiano of the Bucs and Leslie Frazier of the Vikings. If you want to bet that Frazier won't be coaching the Vikings in Game 1 of the 2014 season, you need to wager $300 of your money just to win $100.
Kubiak led the Texans to back-to-back playoff berths in 2011 and 2012. The expectations were high this year. As so often happens when expectations go unmet, the coach takes the fall.
In particular, that has happened every time in recent Vikings history.
In 2000, Dennis Green took the Vikings to the NFC title game. In 2001, he was fired. In 2004, Mike Tice took the Vikings to the playoffs. In 2005, he was fired. In 2009, Brad Childress took the Vikings to the NFC title game. In 2010, he was fired.
In 2012, Frazier took the Vikings to the playoffs.
His fate in 2013 remains to be seen, and it's clear his team has not quit on him. But with four games left, the seat is plenty warm.
WAITING FOR AARON
(SCENE: Two Packers fans, Vincent and Earl, sit at a tavern, drinking Miller Lite, munching on popcorn. ESPN is on the TV. Aaron Rodgers’ status for Sunday is called “uncertain.”)
EARL: Man, what are we gonna do?
VINCENT: Nothing to be done. Gotta ride it out, then run the table.
EARL: I suppose so. Flynn and Tolzien might have to beat the Falcons, though. Think they can do that much, they’ve looked okay sometimes and Atlanta is pretty bad.
VINCENT: Listen to yourself. You’re not making sense. Flynn and Tolzien are thieves! They are stealing money from us. The Pack can’t win without Aaron. We gotta wait for him, then win out.
EARL: Whatever, I’m gonna head home.
EARL: Ah, you know what, one more won’t hurt. (EARL orders another beer, begins to doze off.)
VINCENT: Hey, wake up, dummy. SportsCenter just said they’ll have an update from Green Bay.
EARL: Huh? I was just resting my eyes. Did they say anything about Aaron? Is he coming back?
VINCENT: Dunno, they didn’t say. Hey, I ever tell you the one about Dan Devine’s dog and the preacher?
EARL: Can’t recall.
VINCENT: Oh man, it’s a good one. Gotta hit the can first, though. (VINCENT goes to the rest room, returns.) What were we talking about?
EARL: Rodgers coming back this week?
VINCENT: Yeah, if he doesn’t I’m gonna be almost suicidal, I tell you.
EARL: How do you think Aaron will do when he comes back?
VINCENT: Can’t say definitely, since he’ll probably have some extra padding on his collarbone, but probably 4-5 touchdowns, 400 yards. Then he can ramp it up as he gets healthier.
EARL: Sounds right. You hungry?
VINCENT: Yeah. My old lady’s got me eating rabbit food because we’re supposably (sic) at a high risk for diabetes because of our diet.
EARL: Yeah, I’m gonna order a pizza. Get some veggies on it, make it healthy.
(A loud yell is heard from near the pull-tab booth. LUCKY has pulled a $300 winner.)
EARL: Figures. Lucky gets Favre’s autograph when he sees him at the airport, and now this.
VINCENT: Yeah, but he owes Paulie something like $500 for working on his car, so that money’s good as gone.
EARL: Yeah, like Paulie needs it. (PAULIE is sitting at a table by the bar’s only window, wearing a Realtree Clay Matthews jersey, eating chicken wings and drinking muscatel.)
VINCENT: Why’s he drinking wine?
EARL: Doctor said he’s gotta get off the beer. That’s his compromise.
VINCENT: Smart man. Hey, they’re talking about the Packers now, shut up.
(Ed Werder reports that Rodgers will practice in a limited capacity, and that no decision has been made for Sunday’s game.)
EARL: Well, there you go.
VINCENT: There it is. Maybe they’ll know more later on tonight. Might as well order another round.
Matt Cassel will start at QB for the Vikings on Sunday, and the official reason being given is that Christian Ponder has not passed his concussion test after being knocked from the game against the Bears at halftime.
The honest truth is that Cassel is a better quarterback than Ponder and certainly gives the Vikings a better chance to win.
With that in mind, we thought it might be fun to look back at the season and imagine how it might have played out differently if Cassel had been the starter all season. Keep in mind, of course, this is all purely speculative and hypothetical:
Week 1: 34-24 loss at Detroit. Ponder started and threw three interceptions, including a game-turner with the Vikings leading 14-6 late in the first half and driving for more points. Detroit got the ball and scored to make it 14-13 at the break and went on for the victory. Win probability if Cassel starts: Tossup.
Week 2: 31-30 loss at Chicago: The Vikings were tied 14-14 in the second quarter because of a kickoff return and fumble return for TDs. Then Ponder threw a pick-six and it was 21-14 Bears. Ponder responded and played decently the rest of the way, but he and the offense couldn't cash in a late drive for a TD. They settled for a field goal, the Bears scored in the final minute and there you have it. Win probability if Cassel starts: 60 percent.
Week 3: 31-27 loss to Cleveland: Ponder had just 228 yards passing and an interception on 42 attempts, but he did have a pair of rushing touchdowns that had the Vikings in position to win, leading 27-24 late. The defense couldn't hold, and another late close loss was at hand. Win probability if Cassel starts: 60 percent.
Week 4: Cassel started in London against the Steelers. The Vikings won.
Week 6, after bye: Cassel started vs. Carolina. The Vikings lost. Carolina has won 8 consecutive games starting with that one.
Week 7: 23-7 loss at New York. Josh Freeman started and was awful. The Vikings actually led 7-3 in the first quarter thanks to a Marcus Sherels punt return for a TD. That was their only score of the game against the Giants, who were almost as inept. Win probability if Cassel starts: Tossup.
Week 8: 44-31 loss to Packers. Ponder plays OK, but the Packers shred the Vikings' defense. Win probability if Cassel starts: Low.
Week 9: 27-23 loss to Dallas. Playing one of the worst pass defenses in the league, Ponder is decent. His fumble in the end zone is recovered by the Cowboys for a 20-10 lead, but he helps lead two TD drives to reclaim the lead at 23-20. But a critical three-and-out with a chance to ice the game haunts Ponder and the Vikings, as Dallas rallies late to win. Win probability if Cassel starts: 60 percent.
Week 10: 34-27 Vikings win. Ponder plays quite well but is knocked out of the game setting up the go-ahead TD at 28-27. Cassel relieves and leads two field goal drives, and the defense holds on for the win. Win probability if Cassel starts: Tossup.
Week 11: 41-20 Seattle. Vikings are clobbered. Ponder has an awful second half, but this game was not determined by the QB. Win probability if Cassel starts: Low.
Week 12: 26-26 tie vs. Green Bay. Ponder plays decently in helping the Vikings build a 23-7 lead, but the offense stalls in the fourth quarter as the Packers rally to tie. In overtime, the Packers kick a field goal but the Vikings come back and get one, too -- largely thanks to their ground game -- and the game winds up tied. Win probability if Cassel starts: 60 percent.
Week 13: 23-20 win over the Bears: Ponder is knocked out at halftime with a concussion after going just 3 of 8 for 40 yards. Cassel relieves, leads a late rally to force overtime, then the Vikings kick the game-winning field goal in OT. Cassel finishes with 243 yards, one TD and an INT -- on a ball that should have been caught for a touchdown. Win probability if Cassel starts: 80 percent.
So what we have is this: Five games the Vikings lost and one tie in which the difference between Ponder or Freeman and Cassel, in our mind, might have made the difference in a victory. One game in which Ponder started (and won) that we're not sure Cassel would have won.
Our best guess is the Vikings very well could be .500 if Cassel had started all season. In this year's NFC North, that would mean they were in the thick of the race.
Your thoughts, please, in the comments
Chris Burke from SI.com takes us through a convoluted yet still possible set of hypotheticals in which the Houston Texans -- who have tumbled to the NFL's worst record at 2-10 this season -- could still make the playoffs in 2013.
How is it possible? Well, it involves Houston winning its final four games, Baltimore and Miami losing their final four games and a host of other teams losing two or three games. Houston would then claim a strange and complicated tiebreaker for a wild card spot.
Far-fetched, but technically not impossible.
It made us wonder: Is it still mathematically possible for the Vikings to win the NFC North?
Well, yes it is ... technically.
What has to happen? The Vikings need to win their final four games.
The Lions need to lose their final four games.
(Conveniently, they play each other in the finale).
The Packers and Bears each need to go 1-3 (they play each other in the finale as well, so whichever team wins that game has to lose the rest of them).
If all that happened, the Vikings would finish 7-8-1, the Lions and Bears would be 7-9 and the Packers would be 6-9-1.
Not going to happen, we know, but still ... the math makes it technically possible.
The Vikings game has been over for about 18 hours now, and that's about the amount of time it took to completely process everything that happened. Here are five leftover thoughts from a 23-20 overtime victory over the Bears:
1) This is a "baby steps" kind of thing, but it was the first time all season the Vikings have allowed fewer than 23 points. When you think about what it takes to win in the NFL, it is pretty hard to imagine a lot of victories when you give up that many points. Last year's squad was 7-0 when allowing fewer than 23 points during the regular season and just 3-6 when allowing 23 points or more. And if Robbie Gould would have made the OT field goal, Chicago would have scored 23 and won on Sunday.
2) Speaking of that Gould field goal, we know he is supremely accurate, making about 86 percent of his career field goal attempts to rank among the best in NFL history. That said, it was not at all smart for the Bears and coach Marc Trestman to send him out on SECOND down to try a 47-yarder. What's the harm in trying another play, getting closer, maybe even picking up a first down? What's the difference in one more first down? Well, in his career Gould is 77 for 85 (90.6 percent) from 30-39 yards. He has NEVER missed from inside 29 yards in 73 career attempts. But from 40-49 yards? He's 65 for 90 (72.2 percent). While that still means he would have likely made it from 47 yards, he is SO MUCH BETTER if you move closer, just as many kickers are.
3) In case you were worried that Adrian Peterson might falter this season after his 2,000-yard campaign, he is leading the NFL in rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing TDs. He was a thoroughbred on Sunday with 35 carries and more than 200 yards.
4) The numbers say Christian Ponder has performed adequately at times this season, but the eyeball test said this again Sunday: When Matt Cassel is running the Vikings' offense, it looks decidedly more professional and capable. And when it came to the fourth quarter, there is no doubt we would rather see Cassel trying to rally the team than Ponder.
5) After Chris Cook gave up several big gains to Alshon Jeffery and was ejected on the final one, would it be tempting to just cut him this week? Despite the Vikings' woeful depth at corner, it might be a message Leslie Frazier and the higher-ups want to send.