The Vikings beat the Titans in Tennessee 25-16. How did they look?
Erik: Not distressingly bad. The defense won the game for them, but as the Broncos proved last year all you need is a dominant defense to go deep into the playoffs. And the Vikings could well be the best in the league. Of course the Broncos had a better receiving core, so there’s that.
Adrian Peterson had a poor game, and that isn’t going to happen every week, so when he breaks out a little bit it’ll be easier for the Vikings offense to score. So that isn’t too much of a concern, either. Something that is a concern? Blair Walsh. I was against all the knee-jerk reactions of Vikings fans to cut him after “wide left” last year, but he proved with his two misses this week that he’s a liability. Since the Vikings are built to keep games close with their defense it doesn’t make any sense to rely on an untrustworthy kicker. I’m going to echo the thoughts of many fans and commentators in Minnesota and say that the Vikings should definitely be giving displaced Bears kicker Robbie Gould a call. If there’s an expendable piece and enough cap space, maybe they can keep Walsh for 45+ yard attempts and rely on him for the rest.
Should the Vikings start Shaun Hill or Sam Bradford next week?
Erik: Hill didn’t look too bad against the Titans. In fact, he looked a lot like Bridgewater did last year. However, Bradford has a stronger arm and a better pedigree, so unless he’s having a tough time with the playbook (which he shouldn’t) he should start.
Mike: Plus how dramatic would it be to introduce the new (hopefully) franchise quarterback at the first game at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Packers? It’d be foolish not to.
Speaking of the Packers, they barely edged out the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-23. Does this show the weakness of the Packers, the newfound strength of the Jaguars, both, or neither?
Erik: It shows the strength of the Jaguars for sure: they’re strong on both sides of the ball and should be fun to watch all season. It doesn’t necessarily show any weakness in the Packers – surprised I’d have that opinion? – because they played pretty well against an improved team on the road. They had the fortitude to shut down the Jaguars on a game-ending drive and that sort of thing is what wins championships.
Mike: Honestly, the Packers didn’t look great, they looked mediocre at best. Maybe they just need to shake the beginning of the season cobwebs, but if they don’t shut inferior teams down better then I can’t imagine them getting very far in the playoffs – if that.
It was trendy before the season started to predict that the Denver Broncos wouldn’t make the playoffs this year following their Super Bowl victory. Does their win against the Panthers convince you otherwise?
Erik: I definitely thought that the demise of the Denver Broncos was greatly exaggerated. Like the Vikings they simply aren’t built around their quarterback, and indeed Trevor Siemian might be an improvement on Manning in the same way Bradford is over Bridgewater anyway. I picked them to get to the AFC Championship game and I don’t regret it.
I do regret, however, that Gary Kubiak tried to ice the kicker. The biggest bitch move in sports, other than trying to get a bunt single to break up a no-hitter.
Mike: I was most surprised by Carolina not coming out stronger. I thought they’d have a chip on their shoulder coming off the Super Bowl loss but it didn’t seem like that gave them any more fight or urgency.
What other games this week caught your attention?
Erik: The Raiders/Saints game was certainly fun, and is a harbinger of the future. It’s nice to see a good guy like Jack Del Rio take a team to the next level, and his decision to go for 2 for the win instead of an extra point to tie was brilliant. It was the best decision regardless of whether they would have converted, as Drew Brees is still a quarterback to be feared.
Packers/Vikings week two: who ya got?
Erik: I can’t give that away yet. It’s top secret.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling Onfeatures commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik's music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.
Writer and professor Mike Coenen is a contributor to the Sports Ramble and the co-host of the Sports Ramble podcast.