The Vikings lost a tough game on the road to the surging Redskins 26-20. What were your takeaways?
Erik Ritland (Sports Ramble director and podcast host): As I predicted, the Vikings defensive secondary was over-matched without Munnerlyn, allowing the Redskins to score more points than they would have otherwise, costing them the victory. Although they're showing signs of life, injuries on the offensive line are going to continue haunting the Vikings. Bradford looks lost sometimes and any decent coach is going to be able to plan for the only thing they can do: short passes and run plays. Things look grim.
Ricardo Lopez (Sports Ramble contributor): The lack of offense the last four weeks is finally taking its toll on the defense. They've spent a lot of time on the field and it's uncharacteristic to let a team score a touch down on its first two possessions. Overall, the last two weeks have been a little better football but they're definitely looking and playing like a non-playoff team right now.
What did you think of the Vikings releasing Blair Walsh?
Erik: At this point it's six of one, a half dozen of the other. It doesn't take a genius to see that something got into Walsh's head that was messing with him psychologically. Maybe had Vikings fans not unilaterally blamed him for a game in which he scored every single point it wouldn't have gotten to him so much. Regardless, he was shaken, and it didn't look like recovery was in sight. He had to go, if only to soothe the bloodthirsty, irrational mob of Vikings fans all too eager for a scapegoat.
The problem is that his mental issues and poor performance were apparent early in the season, at a time when the Vikings could have picked up other kickers a lot better than Kai Forbath. That's where the six of one, a half dozen of the other comes in: if your playoff hopes are riding on an extra point, Forbath is your guy. But if you need a 55 yard field goal in the closing seconds - long kicks were Walsh's one consistent shining point - you got the wrong guy.
Ricardo: Letting go of Blair Walsh was the wrong move. Yes, he missed some crucial points, but when at home and you get an interception on the 19 yard line and can't produce points that's inexcusable and the fault of the team as a whole. Blair was used as a scapegoat and although I'm not defending him and saying he's some fantastic kicker (he's not), once they didn't jump on Gould in the bye week I thought they just had to ride Blair until the end of the season.
Doing some light reading on Kai I think there might have been more of a money issue leading to his free agency then a talent issue but hopefully he can perform.
What percent chance do you think the Vikings will make the playoffs?
Erik: With a scrappy, talented NFC in their rear view mirror, pretty slim.
Ricardo: The Vikings playoff hopes come down to these next three weeks. If they don't win two of the next three games, barring some freak incident, I can't imagine a scenario where they make the playoffs. I feel confident in beating Arizona but then we have the Lions on the road followed by the best team in the NFL. Within the division the Lions have the tie breaker but that can be easily changed on Thanksgiving. It'd be tough for them to sneak in as a Wild Card based on all the teams in the conversation now (Eagles, Redskins) having the advantage on us.
The Green Bay Packers lost embarrassingly to the Tennessee Titans 47-25. Your thoughts? What of their playoff hopes?
Erik: If things look grim for the Vikings, they look deathly for the Packers. Their entire team is a weak spot, and their quarterback is scarily almost seeming like part of the problem. They'd have to get their shit together quickly, and the teams around them have to falter greatly, for them to have a chance at the playoffs.
Ricardo: The Packers are facing adversity they haven't faced in years. For the 30 years before Brett Favre the team was godawful (that's pretty disrespectful to Magik Man... -ed) but since then it's been basically football paradise in Green Bay. Other than letting Favre go it's been smooth sailing. That was all fine and dandy until something rocked the boat recently, and their issues are a lot bigger than just the game itself. Rodgers isn't in sync with any receivers and the defense is just godawful. I have a lot of respect for what the Titans are doing but they are not a team to lay a 46 point beat down on anyone.
The Lions are now atop the NFC North. Will they stay there?
Erik: If not them, then who?
Ricardo: I am as excited as anyone to see that the roar has been restored in Detroit. But it's also the Lions, so you have to have extreme cautious with your optimism. As of now the division is theirs to lose. Based on how the other three teams are currently playing they could easily run away with it.
Any other games catch your eye this week?
Erik: The Seahawks putting a scrappy win together in New England put a smile on my face (and not just because I predicted it, but mostly...).