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
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.
Good morning, all. I was going to write a Thank You Note to our local football coaches this morning, then realized that Jimmy Fallon has made a great bit out of doing that.
So, apoogies to Jimmy:
1. Thank you to Mike Zimmer, for losing perhaps his two best offensive players, revamping an entire defensive scheme, and positioning the Vikings to play a meaningful game in mid-November.
IF the Vikings beat the Bears, they'll be at .500 and in some sort of contention. If they could win eight or nine games under these circumstances, I'd nominate Zimmer for some kind of award.
2. Thank you to Jerry Kill, who for the second season in a row has the Gophers playing big games in November. He's remade the Gopher football team into a physical beast well-suited for playing cold-weather games. Will he beat Ohio State? Probably not. But if he wins one of his last three games this will be a highly successful season in my view.
My first podcast is up at souhanunfiltered.com. Paul Molitor came on and told some great stories. Local author Ross Bernstein, who is friends with and has done a book with Marc Trestman, got inside Trestman's head as he deals with anarchy in Chicago. And we did Set Pieces - song of the day, broadcast review of the day, and Stuff People Yell at Me on the Internet.
Tonight we're live at the Devil's Advocate Bar in Minneapolis with Star Trib NFL writer Mark Craig, who will tell many stories about going to Pittsburgh as a Browns fan and getting punched in the face, and the Vikings are going to provide a player guest, I believe.
Plus: More Stuff People Yell at Me on the Internet, and I Was Wrong About...(long list).
Bonuses (or not): I"ll be on Rusty Gatenby's podcat on the @aliveandsocial network at 5:30 from Devil's Advocate, and after my podcast, Strib photog Carlos Gonzlez and I will play a few acoustic songs. We prefer playing with our full band and playing rock and roll, but we'll assault your ears with just acoustics tonight.
Thanks for reading, listening and screaming.
Ok, let's call this more of an infant working theory than any kind of proclamation.
Our local teams are not exactly pinning championship banners on top of championship banners, but this year of seemingly perpetual losing feels different. Doesn't it?
There is no David Kahn, hopelessly overmatched and somehow oddly entertaining.
There is no Tim Brewster talking about hot chili or scoring last.
For a bunch of struggling teams, suddenly our towns have a lot of leaders you can believe in.
The Vikings are 4-5. But...
Mike Zimmer has already made players like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Sharrif Floyd better. Harrison Smith is playing better than he was a year ago. Xavier Rhodes has improved. Josh Robinson ,when healthy, has been better.
Norv Turner is missing the two most important pieces of his offense, Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph (who I thought would be the biggest beneficiary of Turner's arrival), yet has squeked out four victories while breaking in a rookie quarterback behind a surprisingly horrid offensive line.
If you can set aside his personal views, you'd have to admit that Mike Priefer is very good at his job. (Although Chris Kluwe is better than Jeff Locke. No contest.)
Rick Spielman has made a dozen shrewd moves the last couple of years, including trading Percy Harvin at the right time for the right value, and, along with Zimmer, identifying Barr as a worthy use of the ninth pick in the draft.
The Wolves are 2-5. But...
I love the enthusiasm Flip Saunders has brought to the job, and the way he has used his young players.
I picked this team to win 25 games this year. Maybe they're better than that. What really matters is that Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett develop into quality NBA players. LaVine has acquitted himself far better in Ricky Rubio's absence than I would have expected, and Saunders seems to have a good working relationship with Rubio. This is a team worth watchng, if only because Wiggins is going to make more and more astounding moves as the season wears on.
The Wild is 7-7. But...
I don't fault Mike Yeo or Chuck Fletcher. I like this roster. Maybe they overestimated Thomas Vanek, but if Zach Parise had stayed healthy, Vanek's struggles might not have been as costly.
When Parise was healthy, I thought this team was continuing the play like it did down the stretch and in the playoffs last season.
The Twins are...never mind.
It's been four terrible years, and I know people are tired of my saying that Terry Ryan is one of the best GMs in the business, but that's what I believe. I also will continue to say that if Byron Buxton, MIguel Sano and Alex Meyer can stay healthy and get to the big leagues, they'll lead a resurgence that will have the Twins contending in short order.
I loved the hiring of Paul Molitor, the smartest player I ever covered. So far, I like the staff - Tom Brunansky did good work last year, Gene Glynn has always been one of my favorites, and Rudy Hernandez, born in Venezuela, could provide an important language link to Sano and other young players from Latin America.
I'd love to see Eddie Guardado hired as the bullpen coach.
The Gopher football team lost to Illinois, and Richard Pitino didn't make it to the NCAA tourney his first season, but...
Both were well down the original list of candidates. The Gophers chose wisely/lucked out with both. Kill has put the football team in position to play big games in November two years in a row. Pitino has brought energy and an entertaining style to the Gopher hoops program.
I don't know how successful any of the current cadre of coaches and managers is going to be. But there is a wealth of intelligence and expertise around town these days. That's a start.
I'll be doing my first podcast for @aliveandsocial network today at 3:30 from O'Gara's in St. Paul. Molitor will be my first guest, and I"ll also speak with local author Ross Bernstein about the ways we researched stories about Randy Moss in the past. We have different stories to tell than ESPN.
Planning on doing the second podcast at The Devil's Advocate on Friday night at 7. May even break out the guitars after that one.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
How are they doing this?
How is this possible?
The Vikings have rookies at almost every key position, yet they’re now one play away from a three-game winning streak and a 5-4 record.
Had they stopped Buffalo on that last-minute drive, had they not allowed a fourth-and-20 to be converted, they would be in playoff contention.
The alternative isn’t too bad. With rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater overcoming early mistakes and leading a fourth-quarter touchdown drive, the Vikings beat Washington, 29-26, on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Teddy Bridgewater’s bad throws were unsightly, but he handled a blitzing Washington defense, more bad offensive line play and a lackluster running game to guide the offense to 29 points.
In fact, offensive coordinator Norv Turner put the game in Bridgewater’s hands, and Bridgewater, despite overthrowing two receivers for potential touchdowns early in the game, avoided committing a turnover.
Most impressive was his ability to move in a collapsing pocket. He continually stepped up to avoid pressure.
It was a day of growth in an uneven season. Bridgewater wasn’t supposed to be playing yet, and he’s played well enough to give the Vikings a two-game winning streak and a measure of immediate, as well as future, hope.
By Jim Souhan
The Vikings blew another lead, allowing another go-ahead touchdown late in the game in the left side of the end zone.
This time, thanks to a unit that has performed well for about 117 of its last 120 minutes, the defense had a chance to redeem itself.
Despite another unsightly offensive performance, the Vikings beat Tampa Bay when Anthony Barr caused a fumble, then returned it for a touchdown in overtime.
The Vikings won, 19-13, but even a victory prompted questions:
-Why do the Vikings still use Matt Asiata at running back so much despite the clear superiority of Jerick McKinnon?
-Why have the Vikings looked so confused on defense when trying to stop late-game drives the last two weeks?
-Why has Teddy Bridgewater’s play fluctuated so much the last two weeks, as he has alternated horrible throws with accurate ones?
Actually, the third of those three is the most explainable. Bridgewater is playing like a typical rookie quarterback. He displays his strengths one play, his weaknesses the next.
What’s more galling is that offensive coordinator Norv Turner keeps playing the limited Asiata instead of McKInnon, limiting an already-limited offense.
Thanks to Barr, that didn’t cost the Vikings this game.
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