Sunday, September 26, 2010

Not Another Jobbing - Just Plain Bad Football

My Lions lost again today, 24-10 in the Metrodome. The game ended in a way all too familiar to most Lions fans. They were down by double digits, and the game ended on an interception.

Unlike the last two games, this was less close than it appeared. I did predict the Lions would win, and unfortunately the only thing I got right was the score of the winning team, 24. But what I predict doesn't matter; I was willing to take a chance of getting it wrong since being wrong would be inconsequential.

I expected the Lions to be 0-3 at this point. I further expected them to get their first win against St. Louis in Week 5. After all, they play in Green Bay next week, and Aaron Rodgers is looking more and more like a Top 5 QB.

But after listening to FM radio when I left my sister's, I can hear people beginning to jump off ship and saying the season's lost. Well of course, they never really had the season. No one thought the Lions had a serious shot at getting to the playoffs.

Then again, predicting a team will go 0-4 in the first month and living through that first month are two different things, aren't they?

On Tap: Lions at Vikings

Detroit heads into Minnesota today to play the Vikings at 1 pm. Both teams are 0-2 with both teams losing close games in each of their first two contests.

The Vikings' offense has been slowed by the loss of their top two receivers, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. Rice is out indefinitely as a result of a hip injury requiring surgery, and Harvin is questionable due to recurring migraines he has suffered from.

But the real story has been the mediocre play of Brett Favre. Without his best two targets, Favre's performance this year has been underwhelming. It hasn't helped him that his left ankle hasn't fully heeled yet (at least that's what it seems).

On the other side, the Lions are still without Matthew Stafford (shoulder). That leaves it up to Shaun Hill to once again take the reins. Hill will be facing the team that gave him his start in the NFL. Hill did nothing there, and eventually went on to have greater success in San Francisco.

Last week, Hill threw for 335 yards, was 25-for-45 passing, and had three interceptions. Most of his passing yards came late in the 4th quarter with Detroit down by 18.

The key to this game comes down to two things - 1) will Minnesota's D-line (the best in the NFL with Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Jared Allen) be able to overwhelm an improved Lions' O-line, 2) will the Lions' pass rush culminate in sacks and hurries for Favre?

If the Lions' front seven can get pressure on an immobile QB, it'll lessen the risk of Favre carving up the Lions' secondary as they have been all year. Minnesota's average receiving corps against Detroit's subpar secondary gives Minnesota a chance to blow this thing wide open.

But I think the Lions match up better than a lot of people give them credit for.


Aww, hell with it. The 13-game losing skid in Minnesota ends today.

Lions 24
Vikings 21

Sunday, September 19, 2010

On Tap: Eagles at Lions

It's been a week since the "catch heard round the world," when Lions' receiver Calvin Johnson made a spectacular mid air catch and came down with it in the endzone with 24 seconds left to go against the Bears in Chicago. Only the play was ruled an incomplete pass on account of Johnson not "completing the process." Basically, the rule in the NFL is that if you complete the catch and then begin to turn around as though you are going to pick up more yardage, you have to hang on to the ball in the second phase of the catch.

The NFL has been embarrassed as they've been exposed the enormity of how poorly this rule was put together. When you have all the Bears' players and fans thinking that was a catch, you know it's a bad rule.

Apparently in the Canadian Football League, that play would've been ruled a catch. In the Arena Football League, it would've been a catch. In the NCAA, it's a catch. According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, it would've been a catch. Even the Lingerie Football League would've ruled it a catch. I know that, cos I'm in the union.


Okay, getting back to this week, Detroit plays its first home game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams are going into the game without their starting quarterbacks as Detroit's Matthew Stafford is out indefinitely as well as Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb.

Because the Lions are without DE Cliff Avril, that makes their run defense more vulnerable to Michael Vick taking off and picking up 15 yards at any time. Although they get MLB DeAndre Levy and FS Louis Delmas, this defense might not hold up against Philadelphia.

The Lions will be without Stafford for probably another 3 weeks, unless his shoulder injury isn't as serious as we think. That leaves journeyman Shaun Hill, whose lifetime starting record is 10-6, to start. Hill's starting experience entails a full season, and 10-6 is a playoff caliber record. But Hill is a game manager. He won't torch the defense with his arm like Stafford can.

For the Lions to win, they need to get more production out of the running backs. Then they have to get Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson more involved in the passing game. Johnson saw the ball come his way only once in the first half of last week's game against the Bears. Not good enough.

Philadelphia is without their starting center and their O-Line is hurting. They're also without their starting MLB and their defense isn't the defense from their heyday in the mid aughts. This is also Michael Vick's first start since 2006, but he's been in Andy Reid's system for over a year, so he knows the playbook as good as anyone.

Final Score, Philadelphia takes it, 27-17.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Heavy Thoughts and Reflections On American-Islamic Antagonisms/Relations

The 9th anniversary of 9/11 passed us a week ago. From waging two wars in Afghanistan in Iran to today, world events have played out before our eyes to where we are today.

I've also passed a milestone. It was 15 years ago this Saturday was the last time I saw dad alive. I was a 15-year-old who just started his sophomore year of high school in Northern BFE, Michigan. Dad was a contract specialist who worked for the US Dept. of Defense in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His job was the planning and execution of economic development projects, such as construction and infrastructure upgrades, etc.

Prior to seeing him last, I had spent the summer of 1995 with him in the Kingdom. He got me a summer hire job working at the Motor Pool. Dad was something of a socialite as he intermingled among several social circles. Of course, working for OPM-SANG (Office of the Program Manager, Saudi Arabia National Guard), meant you work in a community of 400-500 people. You're bound to rub elbows with everyone at some point.

In the two months that I lived with him, we did everything together. My summer ended with me having a nice wad of cash to take home, since I couldn't spend my 40-hour minimum wage paychecks there. I came back to the states the same way I left, flying it alone across the Atlantic with a stop at London's Heathrow Airport. Living in the Kingdom gave me a greater academic lesson in two months than I could've had in an entire school year.

Like Dad, I was always fascinated with history and world events. His grasp of such a broad range of subjects was astounding; he could've taught history. He seemed to have an appreciation for Islam and Muslim culture. If he were here today, he'd be quite the voice of reason among many a conflicts that brew in the Middle East.

Dad came back a week after I did, and as usual, when Dad was home (a total of about 3-4 weeks in a whole year), the house was wound tightly. Mom had been battling diabetes for about six years, so even though having Dad home was great, it placed additional stress on her as both her and Dad had to take care of family business that accrues in six months in two weeks. My two oldest sisters were home because school hadn't started back up at Lake State or Northwood yet. Dad also has to make his rounds across the state as his mother and sister's family lived in the Metro Detroit area, so he had to leave the house for a few days to make the 3 1/2 hour trip to Clinton Township or Dearborn.

I remember the September day if not the date vividly in my mind of when we left to take Dad to the airport in Alpena (for whatever reason compels me, I should point out this is the same airport Die Hard 2 was filmed). Dad and I talked about among other things, me playing football and my upcoming biology project. That was that, and Dad boarded the plane headed to Detroit.

I played football that fall and we won the North Star League title that year. I stayed in touch with Dad by letter writing. My last letter to him was probably late October/early November. I asked for money to buy my high school class ring.

One Monday in November we saw on the news a bombing had taken place in Riyadh. I never suspected anything, since you can't really recognize a building once it's been half-demolished by a car bomb. We kind of all expected Dad to call us in a few days and give us the inside story. The next Tuesday I was in my third hour English class. I got a call to go to the principal's office, and the secretary told me I had to leave; my grandmother was waiting outside.

I got into the car, and my youngest sister told me that the bombing in Saudi Arabia, well Dad was killed in it. I barely remember what happened next, except trying to keep a straight face. We had to leave school because Mom was in a hospital an hour away in Cheboygan, fighting off more infections from her bouts with diabetes (a recurring theme before and after Dad's death).
We had to be there because there were two representatives from the Army waiting to deliver the bad news, and we couldn't let them do it without us being there.

We got to Cheboygan Hospital two hours later and we were greeted by the hospital staff who all knew before Mom was told. I don't remember anything that was said when we entered her room. I just remember her falling apart before my eyes.

There isn't much I remember about that November 14th day afterward. I think I sat in the cafeteria at one point, my face staring straight at a wall that either had nothing or some kitsch art. There was a staffer who asked me if I was okay; apparently I looked like I was in some kind of catatonic state. I must've nodded or something because they left.

My Dad had been murdered by Islamic fundamentalists opposed to the House of Saud that has ruled the Kingdom since 1931. Three groups, "Tigers of the Gulf," "Islamist Movement for Change," and "Fighting Advocates of God," claimed responsibility, and the Saudi government allegedly caught the perpetrators and executed them in "Chop Chop" Square. The attacks were later attributed to Al Qaeda, a yet-unknown terror network that would become a household name by September 12, 2001.

I remember asking Dad that summer about terrorism and if it could happen here. He didn't sugarcoat anything; he said the possibility of it happening here is quite real. But Americans and Westerners who had fallen victims to Islamic fundamentalists had usually been victimized by Shi'ite Muslims; the Kingdom is a predominantly Sunni state.

He was also well-versed on the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Israelis. Oddly enough, given his conservative worldview, he tended to side more with Arabs. I imagine he supported the establishment of the Israeli state, but when he spoke of Arabs and Islam, he spoke of a proud race of people and proud traditions. They were friends to him.

I today cannot share his admiration. When he first died, I tried to be PC. I put on the politically correct face. You can't blame all Arabs for his killing and the killing of four other Americans, not to mention the dozens of people hurt in the blast, I would think.

It didn't take long for that to unravel. I did evolve. My ever expanding knowledge of the Middle East took my crosshairs off "Arabs" and placed it on the real culprit: religion.

Shortly after Dad's death, I became a born again Christian. I was full-on Evangelical. At one point, I had accepted the view of some revisionists who denied Evolution (Dad raised us as Lutherans; he believed in it and didn't think you would go to hell for doing so). I'd go to a non-denominational church that preached Creationist/Young Earth theory ("Intelligent Design" had yet to enter our lexicon).

When I came to Eastern Michigan years later, I drifted further and further away from religion. A gay roommate opened my eyes to an "enlightened Christianity." I still saw homosexuality as a sin, but a sin on the level of getting a tattoo, being overweight, or smoking. It was not to be a crime. It did not keep you from entering into Heaven. In the Christian gospels, one is to be absolved of their sins by asking God for forgiveness, no matter how many times the sin is recommitted. I told my roommate that being gay doesn't send you to hell and that I concurred with him about the insanity of such backlashes against gay rights - since I was also a libertarian-leaning conservative in my early 20s.

Eventually, I dropped the religiousness altogether, months before September 11. My Creationist apostasy followed, strangely, months later as I just gradually accepted things such as the Earth existing for millions and billions of years. I just didn't think of evolution that much, to be honest.

But September 11 happened on a Tuesday morning. I slept through the attacks as I didn't usually wake up until around 10-11 am. My sister called me and told me to turn on the TV because the World Trade Centers had been "knocked down" (wha?) and both the Pentagon and State Department had been attacked.

3,000 Americans died that day. No one I knew had been hurt or killed. But the pain was there. It was real, as though November 13, 1995 was happening all over again. I was then almost six years removed from that day.

We knew who committed the attacks. I didn't know the name "al Qaeda," but I knew one name, Osama bin Laden. I had known the name for over five years. He had launched several attacks after the November 13 bombings, like in Jeddah in June 1996. They bombed embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. They attacked the USS Cole in the Persian Gulf in 2000.

I've always felt it inappropriate to be so open about this. For instance, when September 11 occurred, I told only one professor of the shared grief. I didn't want to seem like someone who was craving sympathy in the wake of someone else's tragedy.

I also don't feel it's appropriate to say that I know how the victims' families feel. I don't. Although we shared a similar tragedy, no two events are ever exactly the same.

I gave up on religion just in time to see it in its most destructive form. I realize I'm ending this post with kind of a thud. But I have a truckload of thoughts that I need to get off my chest. I've got more to come.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On Tap: Lions at Bears

Week 1 of the 2010 NFL Season is upon us, even if it started last Thursday with a dry, opening performance between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings, with the Saints winning 14-9.

My Lions are playing in Chicago today, and while I predicted the Lions would go 5-11 this year, I see this game as an upset. Last year, I predicted the Bears would beat the Lions 41-17. The Bears won 48-17. Not bad.

This year things are different. The Lions are moving up, and the Bears have decided they will implode because they hired Mike Martz to be the offensive coordinator and have chosen to keep Jay Cutler their starting QB. Martz was legendary prior to 2005 for running "the Greatest Show on Turf." Since then, he has been fired from 3 coaching jobs, one as an Offensive Coordinator with the Lions.

Meanwhile, Cutler has floundered since getting dumped from the Denver Broncos prior to 2009. While throwing 27 TDs, Cutler led the league in interceptions with 26. Cutler looked god awful in the preseason, and I'm hoping he continues that play into this game at least.

The only way the Lions will win is on offense. The offense looked good in the preseason, and now it's time for QB Matthew Stafford to take it to the next level. The Bears' defense on paper is still scary, but they're getting old. Led by Brian Urlacher who is 32, the Bears' D is coached by former Lions' coach Rod Marinelli, who led the Lions to the first 0-16 season ever.

The Bears offense is porous, but not as in bad a shape as the Lions' defense. Aside from the defensive line, the Lions will be without MLB DeAndre Levy, which means only Julian Peterson at LOLB and Louis Delmas will be the only reliable players. The jury's out on Zack Follett replacing LB Ernie Sims. But the secondary can be expected to give up the most yards all season long.

Bottom line, it'll be close, but I think the Bears take this, 28-24.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Snyder and Bernero

Now that the Labor Day weekend is over, the real campaign begins in Michigan. The race is now between Rick Snyder (R), an Ann Arbor businessman, and Lansing Mayor Virgil Bernero (D).

I'm tempted to not vote in this election, if not for the fact that I am more concerned with an issue on the ballot. This year a question will be put to the voters whether or not to call a constitutional convention. Per the Michigan Constitution, the state is to ask voters every fourteen years if they'd like to keep the current, or rewrite a new one. Since we badly need a new constitution (the current one went into effect in 1963), I wholeheartedly will vote "yes."

But most people's attention will be on the Governor's race. President Obama is not at the top of the ticket and our current Governor, Jennifer Granholm, is very unpopular after 7.5 years. The latest EPIC-MRA poll has put Snyder 22 points ahead of Bernero, 51%-29%.

Bernero has a myriad of problems. Him being down so many points, the only place you would think he could go is up, and that is technically true. The problem on one end is that, Snyder can also go up. Bernero has only two months to make up this deficit, and I don't think he can.

The second reason is Bernero's negatives. Bernero was behind Andy Dillon most of the way in the Democratic Primary. Bernero spent almost $2 million from his campaign trashing Dillon instead of showcasing himself. That has left him with a lot of negatives going into the general.

The economy is and always will be a politician's single greatest asset/liability. Bernero is the heir to Gov. Granholm's legacy, whether he likes it or not. Voters are very simplistic. They see their fortunes, they look to the people in charge, and whatever letter is next to their name, they either are rewarded or punished. It's political science 101.

Snyder's problems are somewhat less critical. His moderate stances have rubbed a lot of conservative Tea Partiers the wrong way. His liability may be overshadowed by the unpopularity of the Granholm administration, the same way John McCain's fortunes were tied to President Bush in 2008. I expect one recurring theme of Snyder's campaign will be to link Bernero to Granholm the same way Obama linked McCain to Bush.

Even if Obama comes to Michigan to campaign for Bernero, his visit won't do much good. In fact, he may even hurt Bernero's chances even further. Even if Obama can bring in some badly needed cash to replenish Bernero's war chest, the acrimony among voters in this state toward Obama will only be reinforced.

Bernero has picked Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence to be his Lieutenant Governor for obvious reasons. The rule among Michigan Democrats about nominating a candidate for one of the top four spots on the ticket include having at least one female candidate (which will be Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State), and one African-American candidate (Lawrence). Lawrence is a Detroit native and former candidate for Oakland County Executive in 2008. She is expected to draw interest among likely Democratic voters in southeastern Michigan.

Unfortunately, Lawrence won't draw enough because people don't vote for Lt. Governor. To add to that, Bernero is apparently getting trounced by Snyder everywhere but Wayne County. To be fair, one poll shows Snyder up 14 points in Detroit. Expect that one to come down a bit by November. According to Tim Skubick (since I can't yet cite EPIC-MRA on this one), Bernero is even getting beat in the Flint-Saginaw corridor. That is a trend more likely to hold for Snyder than Detroit.

Snyder being up 51%-29% tells me there are a lot of undecideds left in the state. I suspect Bernero can win most of that undecided 20%, but I also suspect those who've made their choice by now are staying with that choice through Election Day. That means Snyder's 51% margin will only go up, even if he picks up only 6-8% more of that undecided 20.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Lions in 2010

Well, the preseason's over, and Detroit managed to go 3-1. They say the games are meaningless, and that's 90% true. After all, they went 4-0 in 2008, and the regular season didn't end quite as well.

But it's still important that players get on the field, follow their assignments, and if everything goes according to plan, you come away with a victory. Winning in the preseason means something's been done right.

The offense clicked. The defense, shows promise in some areas, and deficits in the secondary. Does it mean playoffs? No. About 27 teams have a realistic chance to make the playoffs. This year, the Lions are one of them. But I would rank them as No. 27.

Matthew Stafford showed us he's continued to mature as a 2nd-year QB. He's connected in the endzone with Calvin Johnson. He's also shown us he's still a 2nd-year player.

This offense will be good. How good is the question. I'm predicting they'll finish somewhere between 15th and 10th in terms of offensive production. My biggest area of concern is the Right Tackle. Is Gosder Cherilus finally going to get some consistency, or will he wind up another bust from the Millen years? Suprisingly, the Lions cut Jon Jansen in an effort to show that this is a youth movement. They drafted Jason Fox in the 4th Round in 2010, and picked up Corey Hilliard, a guy who can play left and right tackle. Jansen's age + the fact he's suited to RT made him expendable.

The defense will be bad, but comparatively speaking, better than 2007 through 2009. I predict they'll end up ranked somewhere between 20th and 27th. The secondary and weak-side LB are the biggest concerns of mine. It wouldn't shock me at all if Detroit took a CB in both the 1st and 2nd Rounds of next year's draft. They're that bad there. Rookie Amari Spievey was recently converted to Safety, but there's no guarantee it's permanent. Only Louis Delmas is a reliable player, and a standout to boot.

The D-line, however, I expect will be among the best in the league. Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Cliff Avril will be getting to the QB. Suh may leave with the QB's head detached from his body, but all the NFL will do is fine him another $7,500. DeAndre Levy and Julian Peterson are solid at MLB and LOLB respectively. I'm concerned with if Zack Follett is a good fit. If not, the Lions may have to decide between either CB or ROLB in next year's draft.

The defense should be good at stopping the run. It's the 3rd and long situations I'm worried about. The best thing for the defense will be if the offense can hang on to the ball, since it'll be all on them to win games.

As for the season, I'm predicting a 5-11 year. I suspect they will start off on very bad footing, at some point winding up at 1-5 before things look up. That's mainly due to the fact that four of the first six games are on the road, and the only game that I see is as close to a sure bet is against the St. Louis Rams.

A game-by-game breakdown:

Week 1 - @ Chicago. Possible upset in place. They haven't won at Chicago since 2007, but there's some history. The last time the Lions were on a very long road losing streak (24 consecutive games, they snapped it here in Chicago, opening day 2004). The Lions face former coaches Mike Martz (offense) and Rod Marinelli (defense). Martz is not the brilliant OC he once was and Jay Cutler looked lost in the preseason. But I'm going with Chicago. 0-1.

Week 2 - vs. Eagles. Home opener, the Lions face former 1st Round pick, Ernie Sims. The Lions just didn't think Sims was good enough, especially when you consider Sims was drafted for the Tampa Two Defense. The Eagles are without Donovan McNabb at QB and are going with unknown commodity, Kevin Kolb. Maybe an upset, but I have to give the nod to Philadelphia. 0-2.

Week 3 - @ Vikings. At Mall of America field, the Vikings will again contend for the NFC title. The Lions have little to no chance. Win goes to Minnesota. 0-3.

Week 4 - @ Packers. The Lions haven't won here since 1991. The weather will be warm, but Aaron Rodgers will be hot. Packers win. 0-4.

Week 5 - vs. Rams. The Rams were the only team with a record worse than Detroit's in 2009. (1-15 to 2-14). Who was the only team the Rams were able to beat? Detroit. But Detroit's gotten better and even though the Rams have Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick, I'm going with Detroit. 1-4.

Week 6 - @ Giants. Against Eli Manning, the Giants are not the team they were in 2007. The latter half. But they're better than Detroit. 1-5.

Week 7 - Bye.

Week 8 - vs. Redskins. They now have Mike Shanahan, Donovan McNabb, and a cluster of RBs. But no viable weapons in the receiving corps outside Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. Could be an upset, but I'll take the Redskins. Remember, the Lions snapped their 19-game losing streak in Week 3 against the Skins in Detroit. 1-6.

Week 9 - vs. Jets. The talk going into this game? Matthew Stafford vs. Mark Sanchez. The Jets were one half away from the Super Bowl last year. But I see growing pains for Sanchez this year. Just not in Detroit. 1-7.

Week 10 - @ Bills. Probably will wind up as the worst team in the league by season's end. The Bills have too many questions on both sides of the ball. Trent Edwards, the once and future QB, is on his last leg with the team. If the road losing streak ends, it will end probably no later than here. 2-7.

Week 11 - @ Cowboys. You might think that given all the prognostications about the Boys heading to the Super Bowl, think about this. Their O-line is suspect. They no longer have Flozell Adams (a better cheap shot artist than a LT). Plus, the Lions have had a history of upsetting the Cowboys. But I suspect that won't be the case this year. 2-8.

Week 12 - Patriots on Thanksgiving Day. The Patriots were the team of last decade. Tom Brady is the best in the game, despite the insane insistence of some sports writers that Peyton Manning is. The problem for the Patriots as I see it, the days of Super Bowl glory are probably gone. Brady, despite not holding out for a new contract, is going to be asking for a lot of dough. Left Guard Logan Mankins promised to hold out the entire season until he gets a fatter contract. This is a complete reversal from even five years ago, when everyone who played for the Patriots was willing to accept a smaller contract for an opportunity to win championships. The NFL's a business, sure, and Logan Mankins is only trying to do what a lot of players who have won Super Bowls early in their career have done, start cashing in. But it looks to me as though the culture that once defined the Patriots is gone. But, hey, all that money and a victory in the Thanksgiving Classic should console their crocodile tears. 2-9.

Week 13 - Bears. I suspect that by this time of year, the Bears will begin wearing down as the players get more frustrated with the coaches (mainly the offense with Martz), Jay Cutler's performance will diminish even further. This lack of unity and cohesion benefits the Lions on their own turf. Put this one in the win column. 3-9.

Week 14 - Packers. Aaron Rodgers is expected to have another 4,000 yard passing season. Barring injury to Rodgers, the Lions probably will keep this one closer, but come up just short. If the D-Line can get to Rodgers through a less than spectacular Packer O-Line, then Lions have a shot. 3-10.

Week 15 - @ Buccaneers. The Buccaneers drafted one spot right after the Lions. Tampa Bay took DT Gerald McCoy. The Suh-McCoy debate was about as hotly debated an argument between two players of the same position since Manning/Leaf in 1998, or even Bledsoe/Mirer in 1993. I have nothing against McCoy. It wouldn't shock me if he had a better year than Suh, but I think Suh will have a more productive career. I doubt we'll be talking in ten years about how good one was and how bad the other was like we were the previous two. Lions win. 4-10.

Week 16 - @ Dolphins. I really don't know where this team will be at by season's end. Chad Henne is perhaps the team's answer after a decade's long search for its Dan Marino replacement. Henne has all the tools and intangibles needed to be an All-Pro. I'm looking forward to watching a rivalry develop between Henne and the Jets' (ooh, just saw that pun) Mark Sanchez this decade. This might be the Lions' upset game of the year. 5-10.

Week 17 - Vikings. Ugh, the Vikings are still too good. Or, are they? Unless Favre starts handing the ball off 60 times in a game, I think he will have been worn down by the grind of a 16-game season. Plus, he's at the Lions. This game will be closer, but it's another win for the Vikings. 5-11.

This Detroit team is a team that can finish 8-8 (if you count @ Bears, Redskins, and Eagles). What I do predict is another losing season and a Top 10 draft pick come April (some 5-11 teams wind up in the Top 5 of the draft order, which can only help).

Fans want to see improvement in the number of wins. Real fans of football shall enjoy some of that, and more of watching these players develop into a competitive organization by 2011 and 2012.

Barring a strike.