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Scott Pianowski

Monday Brunch: Randy Moss (and the Vikings) back in limbo

Scott Pianowski
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I have bottomless affection for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Nice people, smart people. An overflow of culture, great food, intriguing music scene. A gem of a baseball park. I could go on and on. (When I asked our Monday Night Blog readers to help me pick my next hometown a few weeks back, Minneapolis-St. Paul made the prospect list. It didn't win, but that's beside the point. You better be right about Raleigh.)

But more than anything right now I feel sorry for my Minnesota friends who happen to be Viking fans. Those people deserve much, much better.

On a different day we could be discussing Brett Favre's(notes) ongoing drama saga, or Percy Harvin's(notes) bad wheel, or the mess that is Brad Childress. Alas, Randy Moss(notes) is back at the front of the runway today, cleared for takeoff.

The Vikings shockingly released Moss on Monday, less than 24 hours after his final Minnesota scene: a no-show in Foxboro, followed by a bizarro one-man press conference. Moss was invisible for most of the game – the Patriots eliminated Moss with press coverage and a looming safety – and on the one play where Moss could have made a direct impact, he quit early. According to several reports, Moss was going through the motions on a number of snaps.

There are two ways to look at Moss the player in 2010. His stats have fallen through the floor (22 catches, 313 yards over eight games), but that's only one side of the coin. He's still commanding two defenders on most snaps – rightly or wrongly – and he's scored on five of his catches. It's not a coincidence that Harvin's production immediately spiked as soon as the Vikings got Moss on the field.

Moss, of course, doesn't want to be a decoy – he didn't like it in New England earlier this year and he didn't care for it in Minnesota. That established, I'm not sure anyone can pinpoint what Moss really wants at this stage in his life. What's his primary motivation as a football player in 2010? A fat new contract? A run at a title? Stats? Glory? Recognition? Camaraderie? Straight cash, homey?

At the end of the day, the Vikings absolutely botched Moss 2.0. They had to know what they were getting into when they traded for Moss a month ago, and to dump the guy after the first meltdown is short-sighted. You don't hit bumps in the road with Randy Moss, you hit potholes. You need to be ready with a massive psych-job when they occur.

Bill Belichick played the psychology game with Moss for three years, then concluded that diminishing returns had set in. The Vikings gave it four weeks, then bagged it for the year.

Feel free to speculate on Moss' future in the comments. Will anyone claim him? Will Moss report? Would anyone be surprised if Moss just bagged it for the rest of the year? Where could you see him landing, or thriving?

And what should the Vikings do forward? At what point does it make sense to bag the season, slide Cowboy Favre out of the way, and see what Tarvaris Jackson(notes) has to offer?

The 2010 Buffalo Bills are the most exciting winless team (into November) that I've ever seen. Their last two games weren't artistic successes, but they were wildly exciting and engaging from start to finish.

My colleague MJD compared Mike Tolbert(notes) to the Kool-Aid Man (oh yeah!) on Sunday afternoon, a perfect link-up. Ryan Mathews(notes) owners probably won't enjoy it so much, but you can't blame the Chargers for sticking with Tolbert at the goal, where he's been very successful.

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Gus Johnson is an acquired taste – his enthusiasm catches on eventually, I suppose – but he needs to get better at the technical part of his craft. He confused Thomas Jones(notes) and Jamaal Charles(notes) on more than one occasion Sunday, a bad miss given that they have different running styles, different hair styles, and heck, they wear different uniform numbers.

It's a shame Charles can't play on a team where he'd be the featured guy on every possession. I'll accept what Todd Haley and Charlie Weis are doing to an extent – Jones might be the most underrated back in the league and he's still very effective between the tackles – but Charles is more dynamic and deserves to get the heavier share of the touches on a weekly basis. That's unlikely to change so long as the Chiefs keep winning.

LeGarrette Blount(notes) has to be Tampa's main ball carrier because of the framework of the Tampa Bay offense. The Bucs have one of the worst run-blocking units around, so your featured guy better be capable of moving the pile and breaking tackles. Blount has shown that ability; Carnell Williams(notes) clearly doesn't have it anymore (though Caddy's reinvented himself nicely as a third-down back).

If you threw every NFL linemen (offensive and defensive) into a pool right now and drafted from scratch, I'd take Ndamukong Suh(notes) before anyone else. And that comes with the caveat that defensive tackles generally don't have a very long shelf life, at least at a dominant level. (Detroit's underrated defensive line is going to have a field day against Jay Cutler(notes) in Week 13. It might be the push you need to clinch a playoff spot.)

If you can't stream "against Chicago" for your fantasy defense, go with "against Arizona." Max Hall(notes) isn't ready for prime time, Derek Anderson's(notes) flaws are well-documented, and the offensive line has been handing out sacks and jailbreaks all season. Here's the upcoming schedule: @MIN, SEA, @KC, SF, STL.

It's a shame Marcedes Lewis(notes) can't play on a pass-first team where he could see 10-plus targets a week. He's playing at a Pro Bowl level this year, as a blocker and as a receiver. He looked like he was playing in a father-son game at Dallas on Sunday (I suppose the Cowboys defense has that effect fairly often).

I'll give candy to anyone who shows up at my door, but once you hit high school, you're really too old for the Trick or Treating bit.


Images courtesy US Presswire (Moss) and Getty Images (Charles)

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