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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Adrian Peterson looked tired. At least he looked better than London's version of the Vikings' mascot.
That version was a small cutout figure outside the soccer fields surrounding Wembley Stadium, where the Vikings made their first London appearance on Tuesday.
The mascot was small and purplish, with what looked like goat horns. It looked like what the creators of Pokemon would have envisioned a Viking to be.
Peterson just looked worn out. He played catch with London schoolchildren and ran them through the drills. Here's what he had to say as the Vikings prepare for their game on Sunday at Wembley against the Steelers:
``I haven't had the opportunity to talk to anybody who's played over here, but we have a pretty good game plan to adjust to the time change and be ready to play on Sunday,'' Peterson said. ``It's just another game on the schedule, but it's definitely time for us to get a W. This is not a vacation for us. It's time for us to focus and win a game.
``It can be challening, but it's challenging for the other team, too. Equal playing field.''
I was impressed by the attitude of the Vikings' players and coaches. They put on a good show with the kids.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he didn't know if defensive backs Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson and Jamarca Sanford would practice on Wednesday. That's bad news this week. The Steelers don't run the ball well. Their only hope offensively is for Ben Roethlisgberger to make big plays with his wide receivers, particularly Antonio Brown.
Please check in at startribune.com regularly for updates, stories, columns, blog posts and videos from London, where Chip Scoggins, Mark Craig, photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez and myself will be covering the team all week.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd and Dubay each weekday, per usual.
My Monday column deals with the confusion and raw emotion surrounding the Vikings' loss at Soldier Field, so in this post I'll address a positive:
The Browns come to town next week.
And another positive:
The Vikings get to play the in-decline Steelers in London after that.
And another positive:
The Vikings then get a bye week in which to prepare for an 0-2 Carolina team.
The sky isn't falling. It's just raining a little.
I know the favorite statistic of the national media is that since 1990 only 12 percent of teams starting 0-2 have made the playoffs.
But most of the teams that start 0-2 had little hope before the season began.We're talking about Jaguars and Browns and the like.
The Vikings did win 10 games last year. They stil have the MVP. Their defense started showing signs of life on Sunday, creating four turnovers. And their quarterback played his best half of the season in the second half on Sunday.
More important is who the Vikings play. They didn't figure to be better than 1-1 at this juncture, because they hardly ever win at Chicago. So they're one game behind schedule with the Browns, Steelers and Panthers coming up. If they could put together a three-game winning streak, they'd be in contention.
And while their schedule after that seems daunting, Washington isn't nearly as difficult a matchup as it was considered to be before the season began.
Starting 0-2 leaves the Vikings with little margin for error, but it's not over until it's over, or unless you lose to the Browns.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. to talk about the Vikings game and other stuff. I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd&Dubay.
Also, I haven't received any feedback on my Jerry Kill column. If you'd like to let me know what you think, please send all emails to SHartman@startribune.com.
While there are many ways to analyze a draft, here's the way I look at Rick Spielman's moves the last two years: He positioned himself to land five players in the first round. The first two, Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, are very good players at positions of great need. The three Spielman took on Thursday could be just a valuable.
I'll be honest, Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes is the biggest mystery for me. The Vikings have not fared well when drafting cornerbacks. The Asher Allen experiment was particularly troubling. Chris Cook hasn't fulfilled his potential yet. Josh Robinson is talented but needs to make progress this year. The Vikings need Rhodes to be a starter, replacing Antoine Winfield.
The other two picks, I think, are perfect for this team. Sharrif Floyd should start in Game 1, and should be the kind of active defensive tackle the Vikings need, at the second-most important position (defensive line) in football. I believe the Vikings when they say they had no idea he could fall to them at No. 23.
And Cordarrelle Patterson is a fascinating pick. He's big and fast, can return kicks and punts, and I think will be able to both play Percy Harvin's old role in the offense and be a deep threat on the outside. He's not polished, but the Vikings rely heavily on receivers coach George Stewart, and he has a lot to work with in Patterson.
Covering the draft is such a strange journalistic experience. Nobody can say for certain which players will be good and which won't. We can't ever forget that Joe Montana went in the third round and Tom Brady in the sixth, and that some draft analysts favored Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning.
But, as I wrote in my Friday column, Spielman has done very well with first-round picks, which tells me the more time he spends studying a player, the better Vikings fans should feel.
I wasn't thrilled with the Harvin trade or the team's willingness to lose Winfield, but Thursday's decisions could lessen the impact of those losses.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow to discuss the draft and other stuff. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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.
Wrapping up the game and the season from Lambeau early Sunday morning:
-Wrote my column about my primary observation, which is that if the Vikings had stuck with running the ball and the zone option, they may have been able to keep the game close. The Packers were on their heels during the first drive.
The Vikings' first eight plays were running plays. They marched easily down the field. Webb's first pass, on third-and-7, was an embarrassing ground ball. The Vikings settled for a field goal.
After the defense forced a quick three-and-out, the offense had a chance to dominate play and time of possession for all or most of the first quarter. Instead, the Vikings pretended they had a pocket passer. Webb threw two incompletions as the Vikings went three-and-out.
As they continued to steer away from the running game and rely on Webb in the pocket, the game got out of hand. I don't know if Webb could have won the game with his legs. But he lost it with his arm.
-When a baseball team loses in the playoffs, there's an air of sadness because the guys spend so much time together. When a football team loses in the playoffs, there is a sense of sadness because NFL players, especially those on good teams, give so much of themselves.
Everywhere you looked Saturday night, there was pain. John Sullivan had his right arm and shoulder heavily wrapped. Jared Allen was talking about offseason surgery to repair his shoulder. Antoine Winfield still had his broken hand wrapped. And everywhere were bruised, tired bodies. GM Rick Spielman walked around the lockerroom, thanking players, looking grim.
And careers are so short in the NFL that everyone knows the same group won't be back next year. Those NFL players who can play for a decade and earn big paychecks have good lives, as long as their bodies and brains and bank accounts hold up. But the sadness is real, because they don't know if they'll be back to the playoffs, or how many of them will be together even if they win a championship down the line.
-I think like most fans in this regard: I would be highly disappointed in Christian Ponder if he had any chance to play through the pain and passed. But he couldn't throw with any velocity in pregame warmups, and he had trouble even moving his right arm after the game.
We can critique his play and question his future, but I see no reason to question his toughness or character. I have no doubt that he desperately wanted to play.
-We have gotten to the point where Adrian Peterson can rush 22 times for 99 yards, a 4.5 average, and we can be disappointed. He's set quite the high bar.
-It was a lousy day of football. The Bengals and Texans were close to unwatchable. Webb's passing made the Packers game far less entertaining than it should have been. Sunday should be different. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson might be, as a group, the three best rookie quarterbacks we've ever seen.
-I like the way the Packers play. I like their receiving depth. I like the fact that they found DuJuan Harris, a speed back, to exploit defenses spread out to cover their receivers. I like the way Aaron Rodgers plays with such intelligence and poise.
But I'm just not seeing the Packers as a Super Bowl champ this year. I don't like their defensive line, or their linebackers outside Clay Matthews. I think they're too dependent on Rodgers to beat a high-quality team. I'd pick the 49ers to beat them next week.
And if that happens, don't be surprised if Colin Kaepernick running the read option, just the way Webb did on that first drive tonight, isn't a big key.
-My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I'm running SundaySportsTalk on 1500ESPN with Tom Pelissero Sunday morning from 10-noon, and I'm on the station at 2:05 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I'm also on WJON at 7:15 a.m. every weekday morning.
I'll have a season wrap-up column in the Monday paper, in which I'll attempt to put this season into some kind of historical context. Thanks for reading.
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