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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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.
DETROIT -- Every losing sports team claims some sort of progress. Sometimes, it's a marketing ruse. Sometimes, it's self-preservation. Sometimes, it's even true.
It seems to be true for the 2014 Vikings. They aren't good. They haven't beaten a good team yet. But they have become more competitive in their division as the season has progressed, even as their roster has been shredded by injuries.
Here are the scores of their games, all losses, in the division:
They were outclassed at Green Bay when Christian Ponder was forced to start. They were manhandled in their first game against Detroit. They played their worst game of the season in the 21-13 loss at Chicago.
Since then, they matched up well with the Packers at TCF Bank Stadium, and came close to beating the division-leading Lions on Sunday.
In the last game of the regular season, a Vikings team that has played hard and improved will face a Bears team that has embarrassed itself in many ways this season. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Vikings win that game going away.
My podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Last one was with Jarius Wright on growing up in Arkansas and life in the NFL. Tonight you can listen live at the site, or anytime later, as I speak with old friend Tom Linnemann, the most interesting man in the world, at 6:15.
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.
In 1988, the Bears and Eagles played in what became known as ``The Fog Bowl'' at Soldier Field. It was an atmospheric, beautiful mess of a game.
It's a bit foggy at TCF Bank Stadium this morning, but the players won't have any trouble seeing the ball unless things get much worse.
On to my worthless prediction:
The Packers are on an almost historic roll. The Vikings are at the juncture of their season where they know they're not going to make the playoffs, figure they probably won't have Adrian Peterson for the rest of the season, and have been visited by the Ghost of Controversies Past, in ESPN's Ed Werder. Whenever Ed shows up, something bad or crazy is happening.
So...I'll guess Packers 43, Vikings 17.
I think Teddy Bridgewater has a chance to be a good player...next year. Right now, I see a lost young man with little help around him.
The Packers have been incredible opportunistic on defense, and I think Bridgewater will give them some opportunities.
I also didn't like the way the offensive line or Jerick McKinnon played last week, and with Matt Asiata out, I can't see Ben Tate making much of a difference after a few days of preparation.
This, to me, is what you call a bad matchup.
Had a great conversation with Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant this week. It's up on Souhanunfiltered.com, along with conversations with Paul Molitor, Michael Russo, Mark Craig and Ross Bernstein.
Mike told a great bunch of stories about his father, Bud, as well as Rick Spielman, Jerry Kill, Glen Mason, Red McCombs. He also talked about the most rewarding aspect of his job, and his future.
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