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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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.
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.
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.
When I first saw that Tony Dungy and Jimmy Johnson were Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists, my gut told me neither would make it, that neither had built enough of a resume to warrant induction.
Then I looked at the 22 head coaches in the Hall, and looked at the resumes of Dungy and Johnson. Now I think both should make it.
Dungy took over Tampa Bay when the Bucs were perhaps the worst organization in pro sports. After going 6-10 while installing his systems, he went 48-32 and made the playoffs in four of five seasons. He also built the team with which Jon Gruden won the Super Bowl the year after Dungy was fired.
Dungy went to the Colts when they were, like the Bucs, noncompetitive. This time operating with a good young quarterback in Peyton Manning, Dungy went 85-27 in Indy, winning one Super Bowl and making the playoffs in all of his seven seasons there.
Should his failure to win more than one Super Bowl with Manning harm his candidacy?
Well, George Allen, Bud Grant, Marv Levy and Hank Stram coached during the Super Bowl era and combined for one Super Bowl victory, and they’re all in the Hall. Dungy did exceptional work with two previously inept franchises. I think he deserves to be inducted.
Jimmy Johnson is an interesting case. He took over a Cowboys franchise depleted in talent and went 1-15 his first year and 7-9 his second.
The next three years, almost exclusively with players he drafted and developed, he went 36-12, made the playoffs three times and won two Super Bowls. The team he built won a third Super Bowl with caretaking coach Barry Switzer.
Had Jerry Jones allowed Jimmy to hang around, he might have become one of the most accomplished coaches (and de facto general managers) in football history. As it was, he produced a dominant franchise from nothing, with help from the Vikings.
Three years after being forced out in Dallas, Jimmy coached the Dolphins for four years. He made the playoffs three times but failed to win a playoff game. Instead of building from scratch, as he did in Dallas, he tried to build around Dan Marino, which proved more difficult.
Jimmy’s final record was an unspectacular 80-64. To elect him to the Hall, you’d have to look at the work he did in Dallas.
I’m OK with that. John Madden and Bill Walsh were NFL head coaches for just 10 years; Allen for 12; Joe Gibbs for 11. The Hall has rewarded coaches as often for brilliance as longevity.
I was lucky enough to cover Dungy as an assistant and Jimmy as a head coach. They were opposites in terms of personality. Jimmy would scream when it suited his purposes; Dungy never raised his voice. Each, in his own way, was a brilliant and dominant coach.
Spent much of my podcast with Strib hockey writer MIchael Russo yesterday talking about J.P. Parise. Wednesday night at Kieran's Irish Pub, I had Twins' GM Terry Ryan on, and he was remarkably open while talking about his life as a player and his battle with cancer. All podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
As I mention in today's column, the NFL isn't as unpredictable as it pretends to be.
The Final Eight teams all feature franchise quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Tony Romo and Andrew Luck remain alive in the tournament. Five have won Super Bowls. Two of the remaining three were overall first picks. Romo, as an undrafted free agent who has not made it to a Super Bowl, is the outlier, and he is one of the most productive NFL quarterbacks of the last 10 years.
Romo also led the NFL in passer rating this season.
The complaining about the picked-up flag in Dallas is over the top.
The teams ran 125 plays in the game. There were 14 accepted penalties. The Lions allowed a fourth-and-6 conversion, had a 10-yard punt in the fourth quarter, and scored just 20 points against a weak defense with a high-priced offensive attack.
They also fumbled twice on the last drive.
The Lions had every opportunity to win the game with a big play or two, instead of complaining about one adverse call.
As for a conspiracy headed by the NFL to advance the Cowboys in the playoffs, there are two counter-arguments:
1. If the NFL wanted Dallas to advance, the Cowboys might have won more than two playoff games in the last 15 years.
2. The NFL overturned the suspension of Ndomukong Suh, allowing him to play against the Dallas. Suh's presence could have made the difference for Detroit, if his team had played well enough.
My next live podcast at SouhanUnfiltered.com will be Wednesday night at 5 p.m. at Kieran's, across from Target Center. Twins GM Terry Ryan will be my guest. The podcast will stream live or be available later at the website.
Thanks for reading, and listening.
Usually, when an NFL head coach speaks at a postgame press conference, the only visible emotion is anger.
Sunday afternoon, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer looked like he almost cried.
Asked about cornerback Xavier Rhodes' improvement this season, Zimmer said, ``Xavier came up to me and said, `Thanks for everything,' helping him get good.''
Then Zimmer paused, trying to collect himself as his eyes welled. He regained his composure and went on, saying, ``He's got a chance to be a really good football player....''
It's hardly been a flawless season for Zimmer. He's made a few mistakes, and acknowledged them. Overall, though, he's made the best of a difficult situation.
His star player was arrested after beating a child and only played in one game.
His starting quarterback went down in Week 3, forcing him to play a rookie.
His best pass-receiving threat, Kyle Rudolph, had his season ruined by an injury.
Zimmer won seven games. More important, he presented himself as a passionate teacher who can connect with players, as a gruff old-school defensive coordinator willing to take advantage of modern philosophies.
At midseason, I sat down for a talk with Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, who said he had the wrong perception of Zimmer. Greenway said he thought he'd see the coarse-talking guy whose profanities were highlighted on Hard Knocks. Instead, Zimmer proved to be human, and flexible ,and open to new ideas.
This franchise and roster have a long way to go to becoming, as Zimmer puts it ,``a championship team.'' But as the season ends, it's hard not to like the coach and his rookie quarterback.
My podcasts are up at SouhanUnfiltered.com. The last three were with Twins great Roy Smalley, Strib NFL writer Mark Craig and Strib hockey writer Michael Russo. Thanks for listening.
If the United States does indeed open the gateway to Cuba, the sports world could change dramatically and for the better.
Cuba produces tremendous baseball players, and would become a new, open, hotbed for talent.
Cuba possesses more than 11 million people, almost all of them baseball fans. If baseball can expand to Canada, surely it can expand to Cuba ,which would probably offer more support to a big-league baseball team than Miami does.
The NFL is eyeing London as a franchise destination, hoping to carve a niche in a market dominated by soccer and even cricket. Cuba offers 11 million people who don't have a lot of other entertainment options.
Cuba could work for basketball. Hockey wouldn't seem to be a likely export, but if you can put a team in South Florida, you might be silly enough to put one in Latin America.
I've traveled extensively in Latin America and the Caribbean. I've always been told that if Cuba were open and economically vibrant noone would ever bother going to Hawaii. Cuba is supposed to be that beautiful.
I hope that in my lifetime, we see American professional sports, even if only baseball, taking residence in Cuba.
Today I asked Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater what quarterback he wanted to emulate when he was young. ``Brett Favre,'' he said.
He loved Favre's toughness and production.
Now we just need to get Bridgewater to give Favrian press conferences.
I'll be at The Local in Minneapolis tonight at 5 for a podcast with Twins great Roy Smalley, who is a great storyteller. Come by, or listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
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