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.
Find him on Twitter
I'll be running Garage Logic and co-hosting Sports Talk today on 1500ESPN, 1-4. Hoping to have two friends from the great band The Jayhawks, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman, in studio at some point.
On to football...
My NFL predictions: This year, I’m going to be right on at least 3 percent of them, I promise…
MVP: Drew Brees.
Aaron Rodgers might be set up for a great season, but he’ll have to share credit with Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson, two exceptional players. Peyton Manning will face a tougher schedule and probably not be in position to chase any records, so he could play brilliantly without matching his 2013 statistics.
Brees is set up to be just as productive as either, and he won’t have to share as much credit. He relies on only one exceptional skill-position player, and that player is a tight end – Jimmy Graham, who won’t produce as much as a great wide receiver. Brees should have an exceptional season and receive most of the credit for it.
Offensive player of the year (other than Brees): LeSean McCoy. It might be trendier to suggest Adrian Peterson in a new offense, or Eddie Lacy as an emerging star, but look at it this way: Last year McCoy led the NFL in rushing even though the Eagles changed quarterbacks while learning a new offense. Now Chip Kelly’s system is fully in place, there is no question who the quarterback will be, and Kelly will be able to spread out defenses even more with Darren Sproles as his wild card. Only an injury will keep McCoy from being the NFL’s most productive back this season.
Defensive player of the year: J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the game, and the arrival of Jadaveon Clowney will make him more difficult to game-plan for.
Coach of the year: Chip Kelly. A great, rising coach entering his second year in a weak division. It’s all set up for him.
AFC division winners: New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver.
AFC wild cards: Cincinnati, San Diego.
NFC division winners: Philadelphia, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle.
NFC wild cards: San Francisco, Detroit.
AFC champ: New England
NFC champ: Seattle
Super Bowl champ: Seattle
I wish I could pick someone else. But I can’t. Seattle won the Super Bowl in a route while facing a record-setting offense last year, and I think Seattle will be better this year. Better at quarterback, better at receiver, and perhaps even deeper on the defensive line, with Kevin Williams joining a fierce unit. San Francisco looks vulnerable, and the 49ers are the only team that seems capable of standing up to Seattle physically. Russell Wilson is primed to have a great season.
Vikings record: 8-8. I think this will be a well-coached team that will have people excited by the end of the season, but this team will also face a brutal early-season schedule that could end its playoff hopes early.
Today's local power rankings look far different than my last attempt to rank local revenue-generating sports teams:
1. Minnesota Vikings
Great week for the local NFL franchise, and its legacy. Adrian Peterson wins the MVP Award, then admits he played at the end of the season despite a sports hernia.
When I was talking to him Saturday night, I asked when he'd work out again. He said ``In four weeks.'' When I asked whether that was doctor's orders, he said, ``You got that right.'' Of course, I thought we were talking about his knee. Wish I had asked whether it was his ``abdomen,'' as the Vikings listed the injury.
Cris Carter made the Hall. Matt Birk won a ring.
2. Gopher hockey
Fun team to watch. Why No. 2? Because the Gophers need to win the WCHA to fulfill their potential, and until they move into first in the conference, they don't move into first here.
3. The Wild
Disappointing start, but the team's at .500 while sorting out a lot of new combinations in a season without a true training camp.
4. MInnesota Twins
Fans are going to get sick of me saying `Wait until next year,'' but...wait until next year.
5. Gopher basketball
They're at .500 in the Big Ten, which would be fine for a team lacking such high expectations. But it's to the point now where this team isn't even fun to watch. They can't get a clean look in the half-court offense, and they refuse to run, so they're stuck with their lousy half-court offense.
Next time they play a quality opponent that slows down the pace, count how many baskets they score that aren't a result of a covered three-point shot or an offensive rebound. You won't need both hands.
It's sad, seeing what has become of such a promising roster. Wait til next year. Again.
7. Gopher football
I think the idea that the Gophers can't win because there isn't enough talent in the state is bogus. If the Gophers consistently landed a good percentage of the best players in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Western Wisconsin, and occasionally landed an out-of-area gem like Maroney, they'd have more than enough talent to compete.
-Sunday Sports Talk will run from 10 to 12:30 this week on 1500ESPN.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
The Twins didn't trade away players at the deadline because they think they can still win the division. They didn't trade for players because they don't want to pay the high prices required for them to acquire a bullpen arm when they're in the fourth place in the division on Aug. 1.
They're stuck in the middle. I've heard outrage from both sides, that the Twins should have traded their players headed to free agency, and that they should have sold out trying to win this year.
I'm just not surprised that they did neither. To trade an everyday player or a prospect for a reliever could damage their long-term plans without dramatically increasing this team's chances of winning. to trade away Michael Cuddyer, their most valuable player on the trade market, when they're still in contention would be one way of telling fans not to show up at Target Field for the rest of the season.
From a purely logical standpoint, I believe the Twins should have traded Cuddyer. But the Twins care about their clubhouse culture and rewarding the right players, and Cuddyer is the best organizational player they've had, in terms of being a personification of everything they teach and value, in a long time.
We all begin our evaluation of teams by gauging their ability to win a championship, but there is more to sports than that. If keeping Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Matt Capps around gives this team a chance to win the division and encourages people to buy tickets, then maybe this is the right approach.
I'm on record saying I would have sold pieces off to try to rebuild the franchise's talent base. But while I disagree with the Twins' decision, I also, on a gut level, like it when franchises stubbornly insist on winning, and keep trying to keep a good thing going.
As for the Vikings, this is a strange set a circumstances. They have a first-year coach, a free-agent quarterback trying to learn the offense in a short period of time, a new offensive coordinator, and a slew of very good players who might not have many effective years left in their legs.
Like the Twins, the Vikings are stuck in the middle. To win nine or 10 games, they'll need surprising performances from Donovan McNabb, Bryant McKinnie, John Sullivan, Steve Hutchinson, Cedric Griffin, Jared Allen, Brian Robison...just about every veteran on the team.
How many of their best players are sure things, presuming good health? Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Antoine Winfield...and that's about it. All of their other name players are either aging or coming off disappointing seasons or injuries.
So why should the Vikings avoid a true rebuilding process? Because sport is unpredictable. I still don't think the Bears were all that good last year, but they wound up on the right side of the Calvin Johnson ruling, got to face the Seahawks in the playoffs and suddenly found themselves with a chance to win the NFC title game against the team that would eventually win the Super Bowl.
So my attitude toward the Vikings is the same as it is toward the Twins: It might be smart, in a clinical sense, to rebuild, but neither franchise is willing to give up. And there's something to be said for trying to win every year, regardless of the circumstances. Remember: Rebuilding sounds good until you try it and it doesn't work.
-News just broke, via ESPN, that Randy Moss is retiring.
I think the Vikings should hold a ceremony to honor him. He can stand on a podium at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., and then, as he begins his speech, everyone can walk off, and into the locker room.
And then Matt Birk can finally beat him up.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today with Pat and Phil, then on with Phunn in the 6 o'clock hour. I'm also hosting the Phunn House on Tuesday night from 6-8:30 on 1500.
I'm in Mankato until Tuesday afternoon, and I'll tweet as warranted at @Souhanstrib.
Today's deep question: Should one game in July dramatically affect a big-league baseball front office's approach, or philosophy?
One baseball game in July shouldn't be so dramatic, but this one might have been.
Had the Twins beaten the Tigers on Sunday, they would have reduced the division lead to five games entering a tough stretch of schedule. With their roster getting healthier, their front office could have justified trading assets to help this group try to make a run.
A loss leaves the Twins seven games behind the Tigers, and in fourth place. The website Coolstandings.com gives the Twins a 2.1 percent chance of making the playoffs.
I completely disagree with the vocal fans who have argued that the Twins should sell rather than buy because this team might not be capable of making a run in the playoffs if it is able to qualify. That's defeatism. Baseball postseasons are too unpredictable for any franchise to sacrifice the opportunity to win it all.
But if the Twins continue to flail this week, as the July 31 trading deadline approaches, selling might be a nod to realism, not an act of defeatism.
I've been arguing for a month that the Twins owe it to the fans who fill their ballpark and the taxpayers of Hennepin County to try to win when they are positioned to do so. If they were five or fewer games out, that would continue to be my argument.
Buf if they're seven or more games out as the weekend approaches, should they really trade prospects when facing such long odds?
So I would recommend that the Twins make a deal something like the one they made for Matt Capps last year. No, I'm not advocating giving away another top prospect. I'm saying that the Twins' lack of bullpen depth will be a problem again next season, so if they can make an intelligent deal for a reliever who would remain under their control for next season, then I say make a deal.
But the team will have to close the gap on the division leaders to justify a win-it-this-year kind of trade. Sunday's loss makes that kind of a deal less likely, especially when we know that Detroit, the best team in the division, is likely to add help for the stretch run.
-So the Big Ten writers voted, and they rank the Gophers as the worst team in whatever their division is called these days. Does this mean that Sid didn't have a vote?
Honestly, the best thing that could happen to Jerry Kill would be the continuing downplaying of expectations.
At least Tim Brewster finally fulfilled his promise to Gophers fans. He filled TCF Bank Stadium. All it took for him to do that was the arrival of U2.
-Spoke with Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer after his partner, Bert Blyleven's, induction speech on Sunday in Cooperstown.
``I'm honored that he mentioned me,'' Bremer said. ``But I think he got the order wrong. He mentioned God and his family before me.''
Yes, Bremer was joking. He also said: ``I thought he did a wonderful job with that speech. I know how worked-up he was about it, and I know how nervous he was, and I thought he really pulled it off. I'm very happy for him.''
It will be interesting to see if Blyleven, with all of the earning opportunities available to Hall of Famers, will keep his gig as a full-time broadcaster after this season. With John Gordon retiring, I could see the Twins reconfiguring both their radio and TV booths, and there are all kinds of candidates positioning themselves for those gigs.
-The more I look at the Vikings roster, the more I see a team that will need Christian Ponder to be an instant star if it's going to be good. And there is so much we don't know about Ponder at this point.
We had him as a guest on Sunday Morning Sports Talk yesterday, and he sounded poised and bright, just as advertised. But he is facing a tough job here, trying to take over a veteran team without offseason workouts. I still think the Vikings are caught between being a veteran team that feels the need to win now, and a team that needs to work to fill holes and replace older veterans. If Leslie Frazier can win in his first year, he'll deserve some consideration for coach of the year. (At least, that's the way it looks to me before anyone puts on a pad.)
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today to speak with Mackey and Reusse.
-Update: Mauer is supposed to talk shortly in the Twins' clubhouse. It's about time.
My old friend Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News has five quarterbacks going in the first 12 picks, with the Vikings taking Andy Dalton.
The latest ESPN reports speculated that Blaine Gabbert, perhaps the best quarterback prospect in this draft, could fall to the Vikings at 12.
Other speculation includes the Vikings trading down to take Dalton later in the first round.
It’s easy to mock the mock drafts, because inevitably so many of the projected picks will be wrong.
Let me defend the wild prognostications: Whether we’re talking about Gosselin, Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper or Todd McShay, these people are well-connected, study tape and do their homework. Their mock drafts will wind up looking partially inaccurate not because of any failings on their part, but because they are predicting future events influenced by people who are good at keeping secrets.
Here’s my favorite scenario, the one that would most benefit the Vikings: They trade down from No. 12, take a quarterback later in the first round, and pick up an extra pick that will help rebuild an aging roster.
Of course, I’d also like to see Gabbert slide to them at No. 12. But if that doesn’t happen, I’d rather see them take a quarterback later, acknowledge that he’s going to need time to develop, and concede that this will be a rebuilding season.
-The Twins are pathetic right now. There are so many reasons to criticize them now.
Their unwillingness to take the field, or take questions, are two embarrassments for the franchise.
Delmon Young hamstrung his team by waiting so long to go on the disabled list, and he went on the disabled list after hitting prodigious batting practice home runs, then bailing out of Wednesday’s game. Pathetic.
At times during the last two years, I’ve advocated trading Francisco Liriano and Young. My thinking was that they were at maximum value but couldn’t be trusted to continue to excel. If they had traded Liriano for a good young pitcher and a power reliever, and Young for an ace, how would this team look now?
Also, it’s time for Joe Mauer to stand up and explain his situation. He’s a $23-million-a-year franchise player who is of interest to every sports fan in Minnesota, and he hides in the back room in the Twins’ clubhouse. Let me name a few players who understand that being a star, a franchise player, carries responsibilities like facing the media: Kirby Puckett. Torii Hunter. Johan Santana. Derek Jeter. Alex Rodriguez. Adrian Peterson. Kevin Love. Rich Gannon. Actually, the list is too long for even the internet to hold it.
-I think Roger Goodell will get booed in New York tonight, and I think he deserves it. The NFL has botched every step of its attempted lockout, and Goodell, a former lawyer, miscalculated this plan or failed to prevent others from implementing it. The NFL is getting embarrassed every day.
-As bad as the Twins are, they’ve been in far worse straits and still won the division. In 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2009 they were buried later in the season and rallied to win the division or force a playoff.
Being in a team slump is not the big problem for this team. The big problems are long-term health (this team won’t win without Mauer catching a significant number of games) and the bullpen (who do you trust right now in the ‘pen - Matt Capps and....?)
This bullpen was built with the idea that Joe Nathan, Jose Mijares and Capps would be the three key endgame relievers. Right now, the Twins don’t know what they’re going to get from Nathan and Mijares.
This team will eventually hit. It will eventually get healthier. It will, if history is an indication, patch together the middle infield. But the bullpen is an enduring concern.
-I’ll check in later. Right now I’m in the Vikings’ media room with Strib colleagues Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins, who have been providing blanket coverage of the draft.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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