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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By Jim Souhan
In sports, you always have to grade on a curve.
An NFL team improving to 6-7 with a victory at home over a two-win team? Not impressive.
An NFL team without its star running back, playing a rookie quarterback, with its most talented defensive rookie out winning at a juncture of the season when some losing teams lose interest? Not bad.
When you factor in that two recent and talented first-round draft picks – left tackle Matt Kalil and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson – have become, respectively, abominable and invisible, what rookie head coach Mike Zimmer is doing is fairly impressive.
I picked the Vikings to go 8-8 when I expected Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph and Patterson to have big years. Without much production from those three, the Vikings are one game below .500.
They beat the Jets, in overtime, on Sunday, without much of a running game, with the offensive line looking leaky, and without a lot of high-end talent available.
Bridgewater made winning plays, and that’s the best thing that can happen to this franchsie – the quarterback inspiring belief.
If you’re willing to grade on a curve, that’s pretty good.
Latest podcast at SouhanUnfiltered.com is up, featuring Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway on his career goals, and his new thoughts on Mike Zimmer.
In suspending Adrian Peterson without pay for the rest of the season, Roger Goodell made the right decision, and probably for the wrong reasons.
When the photographs of the damage Peterson did to his four-year-old son were made public, with the caveat that the wounds had begun healing before the photos were taken, it was clear that Peterson had behaved inhumanly, using his incredible physical power to damage someone innocent and defenseless.
The courts in Texas, where child brutality is often mistaken for strong parenting, barely blinked before cutting Peterson a favorable plea deal. Vikings’ management tried to reinstate him after one missed game, with general manager Rick Spielman saying `` We believe this is a case of a parent disciplining his child.’’
The only person with the power and willingness to discipline Peterson would be Goodell, the NFL commissioner. And he did.
To think he punished Peterson severely strictly because Goodell was concerned with the child’s safety would be naïve. Goodell punished Peterson severely to offer a warning to other wayward players, to challenge the players’ union, and to reestablish himself as an authoritative figure months after he was made to look either foolish or corrupt with his handling of Ray Rice’s act of domestic violence.
Goodell is severely punishing Peterson because he so lightly punished Rice, initially handing Rice a two-game suspension even while knowing that Rice knocked out his then-fiancee in an elevator.
There will be howls of protest from Vikings fans, and fantasy football owners, but Goodell got this right. He had two choices moving forward: To remove himself as acting judge and jury of player misconduct cases, or to make an example of a star athlete who harmed a child.
Peterson earned this level of punishment. Whether Goodell has the right to impose it is a matter for the courts, and Goodell probably won’t mind watching Peterson’s legal team fighting him in the courts, where Goodell for once will get to wear a white hat.
There are new podcasts up at Souhanunfiltered.com, and this afternoon I'll be at Devil's Advocate bar in downtown Minneapolis with Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo, from 4-5 p.m. Jeff Dubay will host his podcast right after us.
Michael has covered the NFL before, so we'll talk about Peterson a bit before getting into how Michael went from a guy hanging around the offices at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel to becoming one of the best hockey writers and reporters in North America. You can listen live at Souhanunfiltered.com - or listen anytime. That's the cool thing about podcasts.
My full column on Peterson, with different thoughts on his predicament, will be up tonight on startribune.com and in tomorrow's paper. Thanks.
I'll also be live at Shamrock's in St. Paul on Wednesday at 8, talking about the NFL and other topics. That will preceed a music showcase for the @Aliveandsocial network, as local acts Nathan Anderson and The Last Ride will take the stage. They are remarkably talented and I'd love to see our towns support them and other rising talents.
It was an ugly game in the midst of an already-ugly season.
In his six weeks as an in-season NFL head coach, Mike Zimmer has dealt with everything from a suspended star to an injured starting quarterback to a gunshot free agent to kidney stones.
Sunday, he may have preferred kidney stones to what he witnessed.
His defense, which had played so well, gave up a literally last-second touchdown and the Vikings lost, 17-16, at Buffalo, sending the Vikings to 2-5.
A victory would have left the Vikings 3-4 with a trip to Tampa this weekend and a chance at .500. Instead, Zimmer must feel like he’s staring into the abyss.
Zimmer’s defense led the way, pressuring Kyle Orton and injuring the Bills’ two best backs in a physical performance against a team that has beaten the Bears and Lions this season. Everson Griffen and Anthony Barr, two players expected to benefit from Zimmer’s system, made plays all over the field.
Teddy Bridgewater looked overwhelmed early, but then regained his poise and began finding his long-lost wide receivers, even hitting Cordarrelle Patterson with a touchdown pass.
But the offense’s inability to produce more than one touchdown cost the Vikings a victory.
The Vikings had 10 days to prepare for a home game against an injury-depleted divisional opponent.
They looked like they needed 100.
All that time, and their game plan included one interesting wrinkle – rookie running back Jerick McKinnon making his first NFL start.
They didn’t find a way to make Cordarrelle Patterson a bigger part of the offense. They didn’t fix their offensive line, which was dominated by Detroit’s strong front seven. And offered little support for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who found himself under pressure all day.
The result was a 17-3 loss that was easily explainable, given Detroit's strong defense, but unsightly nontheless. The result was another horrid offensive performance and another division loss.
The Vikings are 2-4 after the toughest six-game stretch of their schedule. Had they emerged from this stretch with Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph and a confidence-boosting offensive line, the record would not be worrisome.
The way they’re playing is.
The only bright spot on the offense was McKinnon, who looked explosive with the ball and even handled most of his pass-blocking duties well.
But on a windy day that made passes flutter, the Vikings couldn’t run the ball or throw it downfield, and Bridgewater often looked like a man painfully aware of his circumstances.
Greetings from the press box at TCF Bank Stadium, where Team Strib is preparing for the Vikings-Lions game.
At the beginning of the season, I thought that if everything went right - Matt Cassel played well and stayed healthy, Adrian Peterson performed well in the Vikings' offense, Kyle Rudolph had a breakout season and Mike Zimmer's defense worked well - the Vikings might win two of their first six games.
Despite all of their problems - injuries, suspensions, turmoil - the Vikings have already won two. In a division in which there are no sure things, and with Calvin Johnson's injury short-circuiting what looked like a possibly dominant Lions team, the Vikings have a chance to jump into contention today.
They face the Lions without Johnson and Reggie Bush, at home, in the rare game at TCF Bank that will be considered an advantage for Minnesota. The Lions rarely play well outdoors, and the loss of Johnson and Bush will make them much easier to game-plan against.
Here are the two most prominent aspects of the game I'll be watching today:
-Can Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner help Teddy Bridgewater get comfortable against a surprisingly strong defense? Can he involve Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerick McKinnon, his two most talented players?
-Can Harrison Smith run well on his sore ankle? Can the Vikings stuff running back Joquie Bell, and limit Golden Tate's ability to run after the catch?
If the Vikings can do those two things, I believe they win. And if they win, they'll be in contention for a playoff spot despite all of the terrible things that have happened to them so far.
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