Motown Singing the Blues While the Vikings are Shipwrecked

The weather around here is starting to get worse – and it will not get better for a while.Since campus depression goes up as the thermometer goes down, I thought I’d start by taking on two of the more depressing teams in the NFL this year, both from the NFC North: the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings.

The NFC North is an absolute joke this year, and Detroit leads the way. Since 2002, General Manager Matt Millen has spent five first-round draft picks on offensive players. Beginning in 2002, he selected Joey Harrington with the third overall pick. That was followed by Charles Rogers, who was taken with the second overall pick.

In 2004, the Lions nabbed Roy Williams (seventh overall) and Kevin Jones later in the first round. Last year, Detroit selected controversial, but talented, wideout Mike Williams, 10th overall.What kind of a return has Millen gotten on his investments?A meager 149.2 passing yards and 88.6 rushing yards per game -simply unacceptable given the talent the Lions have.

Now in his fourth year as a starter, Harrington has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and has the lowest quarterback rating in the NFL this year among qualifying starters.

After being drafted second overall, Rogers’ first five games were great; catching 22 passes and scoring three touchdowns.But since then, he has had two season-ending injuries and was recently suspended for four games for a substance abuse violation.In total, the Lions have gotten nine games and27 catches in three years from a player who was supposed to be an elite receiver.Meanwhile, his counterpart Roy Williams has been the best of the group – he currently leads the Lions in receptions this season.

After a promising rookie year, running back Kevin Jones is averaging only 2.7 yards a carry this season.His running game was designed to provide balance to the passing attack.So far this season, he has been ineffective and, thus, so has the passing game.

Not to be forgotten in this mess is the play of the Lions third wide receiver, Mike Williams.He has already been late to or absent from multiple meetings this year and only has seven catches. This is still a young group with potential. However, Harrington doesn’t appear to be the quarterback of the future and, sooner rather than later, backup quarterback Jeff Garcia will get his chance.

Another team in complete disarray is the Vikings. After trading Pro Bowl wide receiver Randy Moss, scouts expected quarterback Daunte Culpepper to step up and lead his team to a Division crown.Instead, he has thrown 12 interceptions and only four touchdowns in five games.He has also failed in his most important measuring stick: winning.

To make matters worse, the Vikings are currently engulfed ina huge controversy following the “visible sexual activity” that was observed last week aboard two charter boats supposedly rented out by cornerback Fred Smoot. Viking players were seen on the boats engaging in the “world’s oldest profession” with women. Smoot denies the incident, but it sounds like one heck of a party to me.

Regardless, Culpepper’s team is not good this year and he hasn’t helped the cause.Like the Lions, although the Vikings are still a team that has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, they have a coach whose skills are questionable at best.

I attended the Bills-Jets game over the weekend at Orchard Park and I came away impressed by the aging veterans leading the New York offense.Running back Curtis Martin rushed for 148 yards on only 18 carries, most yards coming on two long runs.

The bigger story, however, was the play of 43-year old Vinny Testaverde. I thought I’d missed my chance to see him play after no team signed him during the offseason, but, sure enough. there he was on Sunday.Although he threw for only 161 yards, Testaverde kept the Jets in the game until the very end when he coughed up the snap.I’m not sure the Jets will make the playoffs this year, but they will be in every game with Testaverde at the helm.

Speaking about new quarterbacks, Buffalo was also sporting a new signal-caller: Kelly Holcomb.He is currently undefeated as a starter for the Bills (2-0) and has been solid, if not spectacular. His play action has allowed running back Willis McGahee to run wild and his play calling has kept the defense fresh when the team needs it most.The man whom he replaced, J.P. Losman, seemed to lose support from fans and coaches.Of the Buffalo fans I spoke to,numerous people wanted to trade him after only four career starts, and most felt he was a bust.

I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet, because I trust General Manager Tom Donahoe asa talent evaluator, but the Bills can contend for a playoff spot this season, so starting Holcomb is the right move.Losman will get another chance, and when he does, I think that Bills fans will be happy to raise their glasses to him.