The Minnesota Vikings decisively beat the New York Giants on Monday night 24-10. Was the game what you expected? What general takeaways do you have from it?
Erik Ritland (founder of the Sports Ramble and podcast host): Well I picked the Giants so it wasn’t exactly the game I expected. I did pick the Bills and Rams, though, so there’s that. For the first time since mid-2009 I actually sort of expect the Vikings to do well, so it wasn’t too surprising to me to see them win fairly effortlessly. This isn’t the Vikings as usual.
There’s not really much to say that hasn’t already been said: their defense is one of the best in recent memory (at least as good as last year’s Broncos defense) and their offense is somehow underrated. Bradford has been captain cool, their receivers have somehow been damn good, and Asiata and McKinnon give enough of a running threat to keep opposing defenses honest. I’m still not sure how much of a big deal beating the Packers, Panthers, and Giants will be in the scheme of things, though, as none of them look that dominating this year.
Mike Emms (Sports Ramble contributor): It was interesting that Eli Manning chose to avoid being sacked by repeatedly throwing the ball into the ground and by settling for quick check downs all game. Clearly the word is out on the Vikings pass rush and Eli Manning wanted no part of it. Other than that, the score stayed close and Blair Walsh missed another kick but I thought that the vikings dominated the flow of the game from start to finish.
Can anything stop the Vikings?
Erik: I dunno, a bus accident that injures the whole team? There’s really not much I’d say that can stop them from going as far as they want to considering the talent they have. They are by far the best looking team in football. If I was a betting man I’d put some good money down for them to win the Super Bowl. I thought a lot of the adulation around Zimmer was hype, but he has really turned this entire organization around.
Oh, well there's Blair Walsh, I suppose.
Mike: The Vikings have proven capable of stopping good offenses. The next measure for me is whether or not they can score enough against a great defense. Previously I thought Carolina had a good defense, but after watching Matt Ryan and Julio Jones pass through them with no resistance I am not sure they are as good as we thought. Houston has good defensive statistics but their schedule has been pretty underwhelming. That eagles match up in Philadelphia seems like the largest hurtle in the coming weeks.
The New England Patriots lost embarrassingly to the Buffalo Bills, being shut out at home for the first time in over 20 years 16-0. Your thoughts?
Erik: As I predicted, the Patriots had to lose sometime, right? There’s nothing I love more than Bill Bilicheat getting so angry that he throws his tablet. I’d love it if Brady came back super rusty and they lost a few more games.
Mike: I'm siding with conventional wisdom here: Brisset is not a very good quarterback (at least yet). Even the game the Patriots won with him he only threw for 103 yards . Unless Tom Brady hits the old man wall you can expect the Patriots to keep winning more often than not.
The Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers seem like shells of the teams they were last year. Both are 1-3 and lost embarrassingly this week, the Cardinals losing a nail-biter at home to the Los Angeles Rams and the Panthers getting killed by the Atlanta Falcons 48-33. Which team is more likely to rebound and still make the playoffs?
Erik: This is really surprising. I guess Carson Palmer has finally plateaued. The Panthers defense has never been great but their offensive struggles are truly surprising. I doubt either will make the playoffs, but Cam Newton is the sort of leader that can propel a team that the Cardinals simply don’t have.
Mike: Arizona. The Rams always play the NFC west tough and I think Carolina has more problems. Both teams have quarterbacks recovering from concussions but Cam Newton is at his best as a dual-threat quarterback who runs into contact with power. Also, Carolina's secondary features three rookie cornerbacks. Clearly they miss Josh Norman.
Who is more likely to make the playoffs and why, the Seattle Seahawks or the Atlanta Falcons?
Erik: The Rams.
Mike: Atlanta. The Seahawks have a much tougher division. Atlanta has already dominated the next best team in the NFC South, whereas the Seahawks have already lost to the division leading LA Rams.
When the Vikings and Eagles still be undefeated when they meet in three weeks? Which is more likely to lose a game?
Erik: They could both easily be undefeated, but the Vikings have a better chance of not losing a game before then.
Mike: The Eagles will lose prior to the match up with the Vikings. Both the Lions and Redskins are feast or famine teams and I would not be shocked if the Eagles lose to either of them.