Four Downs while wondering what it is that makes NFL fans so @#$%$# angry when someone has a different opinion ...
Yeah, I picked the Vikings to reach the Super Bowl. Yeah, I picked them to beat the Saints 27-24 tonight. No, I'm not insane. At least not that I know of. I'm not a homer either. I picked the Saints to win the NFC last year at this time. I also picked the Saints to beat the Vikings in last year's NFC title game. And at least one of you out there sent emails to the paper saying that picking against the Vikings in that game was a fireable offense.
Of course, a different part of the mob now thinks I'm too dumb to tie my shoes now that I've picked the Vikings to win the NFC and also to beat the Saints tonight.
I'm sorry that the Packers' preseason hasn't caused me to become the 320,090,890th person to join the Cheesehead Express to Super Bowl XLV. I do like the Packers. Hell, my late mother-in-law was the neice of Arnie Herber, a Packers Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, for goshsakes.
But I'm not handing Green Bay the Lombardi Trophy based on how Aaron Rodgers looked in parts of three preseason games. I do think the Packers are a very good team and I wouldn't be surprised if they win the NFC North. But as of the morning of Sept. 9, I can't get past the fact that the Packers and Vikings have essentially the same teams as last year. And last year, the Vikings sacked Rodgers 14 times, while the Packers sacked Favre zero times.
Right or wrong, I'm sticking with the Vikings' defense over the Packers' offense. Especially the front seven. I just believe the Vikings will be able to control a lot of games and allow the offense to get the job done. Not every offensive play has to be a leaping 65-yard catch by Sidney Rice that leads off SportsCenter.
Also, beware of the preseason vibe. In the NFL, things never stay as great as they look now or as bad as they look now. Rodgers isn't going to complete 80 percent of his passes and not be sacked while the Packers go 19-0. Just like the Vikings' offense isn't going to sputter all year while going 0-16.
Another thing. I'm sick and tired of the notion that we should form an opinion based on the possibility that Brett Favre will get hurt. That doesn't excuse Brad Childress for unloading his second-best quarterback, Sage Rosenfels. But from a prognosticator's point of view, I'm not going to base my opinion on the possibility that a guy who will start his 310th consecutive game tonight will get hurt. Like any other star player, if he gets hurt, obviously, the prediction goes out the window. Same goes for Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, etc.
Favre had the best season of his career last year. I think he can squeeze out something acceptable this year.
As far as tonight's game, I like the Vikings because I think they'll want the game more. That's not saying I will be surprised if the Saints win 45-10 and Brees throws five touchdowns over Lito Sheppard. Picking them is just a feeling I have based on how the Vikings muscled the Saints around last year, coupled with the fact the Vikings have spent the past eight months PO'd about how they blew their Super Bowl chance.
A lot of people are down on the Vikings right now. Do they have problems? Sure. But dontcha think the same whining is going on by fans in Dallas? Heck, the Cowboys have more talent than anyone, and they laid an egg in the preseason.
So, as our guy Mike Tice once said to the angry draft-day mob, "Enjoy the season." And if you don't like an opinion or a Super Bowl pick, fine. You're always welcome to get your own.
Speaking of Tice, he defends his Bears' offensive line in today's Sun-Times. He disagrees with the notion the Bears' offensive line stunk it up during the team's 0-4 preseason.
''According to who?'' said Tice, the team's line coach. ''According to me, we're on task, we're getting better. Are we as good as some of the offensive lines in the league right now? No. Definitely not.
''But are we a work in progress and getting better? Absolutely.''
Tice said the preseason games were "a test" to see what the Bears had to work with. I'm sure Jay Cutler, who was sacked 10 times in three games, would have appreciated some safety to go along with those tests.
Tice is a good line coach. But as I look at the Bears overall, the thought that comes to mind is, "What a mess."
I'll be making my Sunday picks later, but I'm really leaning toward the Lions winning at Chicago. I like the Lions' defensive line, which includes three new starters. Tackles Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams give them strength and quickness in the middle, and end Kyle Vanden Bosch will want to prove he's got something left.
There could be a lot of upsets this week as we figure out the NFL landscape for 2010. I can see the Bengals overwhelming the Patriots defense in Foxboro, the Texans beating the Colts in Houston, and Baltimore beating the Jets in New York on Monday night.
I'm also going to be looking closely at the 49ers in Seattle. Talk about crazy, but I think the 49ers are in position to not only return to the playoffs, but get a first-round bye in the NFC. They're good enough defensively and they have an easy schedule.