Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about NFC

All-Star ideas, plus a baseball tweak

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 26, 2015 - 8:50 AM

The NFL held its Pro Bowl and the NHL held its All-Star game on Sunday.

Part of my job is to consume as much of newsworthy, noteworthy sports on television as I can. I didn't watch a minute of either.

Judging from today's reports, I didn't miss anything.

Here's how I would ``fix'' the All-Star events, or at least make them more watchable:

NHL: Hockey without defense is a bad idea. Goals in and of themselves are rarely pretty. They're exciting because they occured against a bunch of defensive players trying to stop the puck, or crush the shooter. Hockey requires intensity to be entertaining. So instead of paying each player a nice fee for making the All-Star game, throw all of that money into a pot, add a few million to make it enticing, and give all of the money to the participating players on the winning team.

Wouldn't you love to see the best players in the game playing hard for that last goal?

Basketball: Again, make it a winner-takes-all game, and tweak the rules. Install a four-point line to reward extra-long shots. And make dunks worth four points. Nobody wants to see mid-range jump shots in an All-Sar game, Reward the spectacular.

Baseball: This remains the best of the All-Star games, because it is the only one in which the defense is performing to the best of its abilities. One tweak: Allow players to reenter the game. The flaw of the baseball All-Star game is that the subs are in the game for the deciding innings, and it's possible for both teams to run out of players. If the bases are loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with the home team trailing by one, would you rather see the manager forced to use the player scheduled to bat...or would you like to see him call Miguel Cabrera off the bench, even though Cabrera left the game in the third inning?

NFL: Football without fully-engaged defenses might be even less entertaining than hockey without defense. My longstanding suggestion: Scrap the Pro Bowl and make the NFC and AFC battle in an old Superstars-style competition.

For the younger generation, Superstars would take star athletes and have them compete in events like sprinting, tug of war and the obstacle course. With the winners taking home loot

This format created one of the great moments in non-tradiational sports history. Here's a recap of it by ESPN and former St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Jim Caple:

``The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings met in Super Bowl IX in New Orleans in January 1975, a game that included 16 future Hall of Famers (counting coaches Bud Grant and Chuck Noll), Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense, Minnesota's Purple People Eaters and legendary quarterbacks Fran Tarkenton and Terry Bradshaw. That game, which the Steelers won 16-6, was not the most dramatic or memorable showdown between the two teams, however. That distinction goes to an epic, 16-minute tug-of-war on the sands of Waikiki held two weeks later as part of ABC's "Superteams" competition. After it was all over and the two teams lay moaning and exhausted in the sand, Dick Button -- yes, that Dick Button, the figure skating guy -- told a Sports Illustrated writer, "Nothing -- nothing, not even my own Olympic victories -- has ever moved me like that."

JEFF SIEMON, former Vikings linebacker: "It was the worst physical strain I've ever been under. It was the most intense, brutal abuse I've ever gone through -- and maybe by far."

DAVE OSBORN, former Vikings running back: "The tug-of-war was the toughest, most physical thing I've ever done, bar none. As far as being tired, I have never been more fatigued. I was always in great shape as a player. Practice was always a breeze. But when you have got to do something for a length of time and don't dare let up, it drains you. It was 16 minutes, but it seemed like 16 hours."

BEV OSBORN, Dave's wife: "You just wanted them to win the Super Bowl, but this was wondering if everyone was going to still be alive when it was over."

=============

I love that incoming baseball commissioner Rob Manfred had the guts to suggest that baseball's defensive shift might be outlawed.

I liked the shift when it was a novelty that rewarded progressive thinking. Now it's a common stratagem that takes away hits. I no longer like it. Make fielders stay in a rough semblance of order. Let's see good hitting rewarded.

=============

Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: 105.1 The Ticket's Bob Sansevere and I telling stories about the best characters in Vikings history; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo on the Wild; Twins GM Terry Ryan on his health, past and future; USA Today football writer Tom Pelissero on the Patriots, Seahawks, and the reaction he's received from scientists about the Deflatriots.

Next podcast: Today, 5 p.m. at The Local with Twins president Dave St. Peter.

My podcast network, The Alive&Social Network, now has a house containing a studio, and we're going to start doing live music shows as well as talking about music and sports. Follow @Aliveandsocial on Twitter to keep up to date.

Also, I'll be appearing on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere every afternoon at 3:30.

Thanks.

@Souhanstrib

NFL picks

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 16, 2015 - 1:02 PM

Between the NFL playoffs and the college football final four, I've picked winners in all but two games.

I missed on the Colts beating the Broncos, and I picked Alabama over Ohio State.

I'm not picking against the line, because that's fundamentally crazy. You're going to pick a team to cover a point spread that means nothing to that team? In other words, the team might blow it by taking a meaningless safety or pulling its starters late in the game? Not for me.

My picks for the title game weekend are admittedly boring. I'm taking New England and Seattle.

I would consider taking Green Bay if Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy were 100 percent healthy, but they're not. I don't like an immobile quarterback, even the great Rodgers, at Seattle.

I think the Patriots could win by even more than the Seahawks. The Colts won last week because Peyton Manning couldn't get the ball down the field. That won't be a problem with Tom Brady. I think Brady will have a big game and then lose another Super Bowl. I think the Seahawks will be the rare team to repeat.

Think about that: Seattle will win it one year in part because they had Percy Harvin on the field, and may win another in part because they got rid of him.

--------------------

Tonight's live podcast: Myself and Strib hockey writer Michael Russo from O'Gara's Bar and Grill on Snelling, just off 94;

Wednesday, 5 p.m. at Kieran's Irish Pub downtown (right across from Target Center, ignore the construction), I'll have great local rocker G.B. Leighton on stage. He'll play a few songs and we'll talk about sports and music. Next Friday, 5 p.m. at O'Gara's, locally-based USA Today football writer Tom Pelissero will join me to set up Super Bowl week and talk Vikings.

You can listen to any podcasts live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.

Thanks.

@Souhanstrib

Teddy's turnaround

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 13, 2015 - 5:09 PM

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was named to the NFL's all-rookie team by the Pro Football Writers Association.

He may not have earned that honor if not for the final five games of the season, when his lowest completion percentage was 68.0.

There are two complementary reasons Bridgewater surged:

1. He got better. He adapted to the speed of NFL pass rushes, he corrected his mechanics, he built strength during the season, and he better learned how to read NFL defenses.

2. Charles Johnson started playing more. When Bridgewater's most athletic receiver was Cordarelle Patterson, he was doomed to mediocrity. Patterson wasn't a reliable route runner, and young quarterbacks have enough worries without having to coach a receiver during the game.

When Johnson became a big part of the weekly game plan, Bridgewater suddenly had an athletic No. 1 receiver who could threaten defenses deep and run after the catch, allowing Greg Jennings to play his normal role, that of a veteran possesion receiver.

When Patterson was Bridgewater's most athletic receiver, his game-by-game passer ratings ranged from 41.3 to 98.9. When Johnson was his primary target, Bridgewater's game-by-game passer ratings ranged from 76.2 to 120.7.

While the defensive side of the ball could use a few upgrades, I think the Vikings' primary targets in the draft should be offensive line and receiver. Give Bridgewater time and an open receiver, and he'll do well.

----------------------

Next podcast: 5 p.m. Wednesday at The Local with former Vikings receiver and current North High AD Leo Lewis. Also, 5 p.m. Friday at O'Garas, it'll be me and Strib hockey writer Michael Russo.

Thanks.

@Souhanstrib.

OSU win one of great coaching jobs

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 13, 2015 - 9:13 AM

Urban Meyer won the national title with a third-string quarterback.

This ranks as one of the great coaching performances in football history.

Here are three others that compare:

-The Giants were dramatic underdogs against the Bills in Super Bowl XXV. Giants star quarterback Phil Simms was injured, leaving backup Jeff Hostetler to lead the team. The Giants had upset  joe Montana and San Francisco at Candlestick Park, 15-13, in the NFC title game. The Bills had beaten Oakland 51-3. That's right, 51-3 in the AFC title game.

The Bills were loaded witih Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed in their prime. They had not yet developed a stigma about losing Super Bowls.

The Giants relied on old, limited running back Ottis Anderson, Hostetler, and a bruising defense.

The Giants won that Super Bowl, 20-19, in what might be the biggest upset in Super Bowl history other than the Jets beating the Colts in Super Bowl III, which was a surprise because of the lack of esteem with which the old AFC was regarded.

Giants coach Bill Parcells used Anderson to play a ball-control game, frustrated the Bills' offense with his defensive game plan (devised by Bill Belichick), and thoroughly outcoached Marv Levy.

-The Washington team that lost only once during the 1991 season played like a powerhouse. Now we know it won more because of coaching than because of raw talent.

Joe Gibbs won Super Bowl XXVI with a quarterback, Mark Rypien, who would never play well again anywhere. LIke Parcells, he relied on a veteran castoff running back - Ernest Byner. Gibbs would win three Super Bowls with three different non-Hall of Fame quarterbacks and lead running backs. That's why I argue he's the greatest NFL coach in the modern era.

-In Super Bowl XXXVI, Belichick again faced a renowned offense, this time as head coach of the New England Patriots.

Belichick beat the Rams with a physical defense that confused the Rams, and with an unproven quarterback named Tom Brady leading the game-winning drive.

Urban Meyer's work this year places him in the same realm as these NFL coaches.

When a coach wins a championship without the benefit of a great or experienced quarterback, he deserves far more credit than those who put their fates in the hands of a great quarterback.

In the last few months, the Big Ten has gotten much tougher for the Gophers. Meyer may be the best coach in college football. Jim Harbaugh will make Michigan a powerhouse. Penn State is improving. Mike Reilly figures to do well at Nebraska. And Paul Chryst is a great fit for Wisconsin.

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This week's podcast schedule: Former Viking and current North High AD Leo Lewis, 5 p.m. on Wednesday at The Local; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo at 5 p.m. on Friday at O'Gara's.

@Souhanstrib

NFL picks

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 9, 2015 - 3:44 PM

Can't say I'm better than any other mammal at picking NFL games,but I was lucky enough to go 4-for-4 last weekend, so I'll take another shot.

I'll keep it short and simple: I like all four home teams.

My only qualms about these picks: Aaron Rodgers' calf and Peyton Manning's arm.

If Rodgers is at full strength, I like the Packers, rested and with a dramatic home-field advantage, to beat the Cowboys. If Manning's arm regained straight over the bye,I like the Broncos' defense and running game, with Manning playing game-manager, to make the difference against a flawed Colts team. But I'd hate to bet actual money on Rodgers making it through the whole game, or Manning needing to produce a big game.

I like the way the Ravens match up with the Patriots. I also think ths is one of those trendy ideas that may not play out on the field - that the Ravens, because of their history of playing well against the Patriots, are prepared to win this game.

This is one of Bill Belichick's better recent defenses,and since Rob Gronkowski returned to health, Tom Brady has been excellent. I'll take the Pats.

The other game is the easiest to pick. Seattle should dominate Carolina.

So I'm taking all four home teams.Home teams win 72.8 percent of the games in the divisional round. That would indicate that there could be one upset, but I'll go with the chalk this weekend.

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Having covered Cris Carter's arrival in Minnesota, I think the Vikings should do everything they can to sign his son, Duron.

He has size, he's able to get off the line of scrimmage, he has performed well against professional athletes, and he's the son of a workaholic and expert trainer of wide receivers. I think the Vikings' two biggest needs in the draft are for a large wide receiver and an offensive line upgrade. Signing Carter would expand the Vikings' options at receiver.

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My podcasts are available at SouhanUnfiltered.com. I'll be covering the Wild game on Saturday, looking to write a Sunday piece about what, if anything, Chuck Fletcher should do at this point.

Enjoy the football weekend.

@Souhanstrib

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