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
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.
I've been rather bullish on the Vikings, considering they're 6-7 and out of the playoff race. Or maybe because they're 6-7 despite all that has befallen them as a franchise in the last few months.
That doesn't mean I think they'll win on Sunday at Detroit. Quite the contrary. I think this is the worst possible matchup for this team.
The Vikings' flimsy offensive line? Up against the Lions' fearsome front, playing at home, with crowd noise. Advantage: Lions.
The Vikings' rookie quarterback? See above.
The Vikings' running game? Using its third and fourth and fifth options of the season against the best run-stopping unit in the NFL, by far.
The Vikings' rush defense? It's been less than stellar lately, and now has to face a surging Joique Bell and a finally-healthy Reggie Bush.
The Vikings' secondary? Xavier Rhodes has been exceptional of late, but he'll either have to cover Calvin Johnson on every down (unlikely) or he'll be leaving Josh Robinson to cover Johnson. Robinson has gotten torched by bigger receivers (the Bears') and by those with excellent body control and ball awareness (Percy Harvin.) Johnson is a combination of both.
The Vikings' special teams? This might be an area of strength for Minnesota. You've got to like Blair Walsh kicking in a Dome.
Coaching? The Vikings have usually had the advantage in this category throughout the history of this rivalry. And they may this year. I'd take Mike Zimmer over Jim Caldwell as a strategist. But Caldwell has done what a Lions head coach needs to do - provide solid leadership to a remarkably talented squad. Caldwell not being one of his predecessors is good enough to get the Lions into the playoffs.
I like a lot of what's happening at Winter Park these days. I think Zimmer is positioning this team to succeed in the future.
The Lions, though, may provide a reminder of just how far the Vikings still have to travel to be a playoff team.
My don't-bet-on-it-even-with-your-brother's-money pick: Lions 31, Vikings 17.
New podcasts up at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Jarius Wright on his childhood, his biggest play and vomiting; Jayhawks frontman and great all-around artist Gary Louris on music, sports and life on the road; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo; Chad Greenway; Glen Perkins; Craig Leipold; Strib football writer Mark Craig; ESPN.com writer Kevin Seifert; Mike Grant; Paul Molitor; Ross Bernstein.
I'm in Detroit this weekend to write Vikings-Lions.
Thanks for reading.
Before I head to Soldier Field,here's my view of today's game between the Vikings and Bears.
Jay Cutler is just enough to a contrarian to play well today. Remember, earlier this season he led a stunning comeback victory at San Francisco.
But I can't pick that way. It's not so much that Cutler throws silly interceptions .It's that Cutler looked like he didn't want to be playing football in his last game, at Green Bay. He refused to set his feet and throw accurately even on swing passes and screens. Your franchise player not only has to play well, your franchise player has to set a standard of intensity and commitment. Cutler doesn't cmoe close in either way.
I like Mike Zimmer's defense to keep Cutler confused enough that he'll fold. Zimmer has done his best work with the front seven, creating pressure, and that should be the deciding factor today.
When the Vikings have teh ball, I look at the fact that most offenses have moved the ball very easily against the Bears this year. I think Jerick McKinnon has his best game of the season, and Teddy Bridgewater is made comfortable enough to move the offense. The return of Kyle Rudolphi - the guy I thought would be the key to the passing game this season - should be very important. Rudolph can be both the safe option for Bridgewater when he's facing pressure, and perhaps the Vikings' best deep threat.
So, my pick is Vikings 26, Bears 20.
Please don't bet the kids' college fund on that.
I've joined the @aliveandsocial podcast network, the same one that employs my old friend Jeff Dubay. Sean Barnard is my new boss.
My first podcast featured Paul Molitor and local author Ross Bernstein, who is close with Marc Trestman and has done a book with him. Ross was great on Marc's mindset.
My second was with Strib NFL writer Mark Craig, who told some great stories and offered perspective on the changing nature of the league and how we cover it.
Moving forward, I'll continue to feature my favorite writers, and peopole like Matt Birk, Craig Leipold and Roy Smalley have agreed to come on.
I'm a newbie at this, and hope to get better at is as I adapt to the format. My hope is to have conversations that will be different than what you can hear anywhere else, or at least to have some fun with some great people.
The cool thing about the @aliveandsocial network is that we also want to promote great local music. Wednesday I was at Shamrocks, and got to listen to The Last Ride and Nathan Anderson, and they are remarkably talented people.
At some point, we hope to be able to put together full nights of music.
Anyway, thanks for any support you can lend the network and my new venture.
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.
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