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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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.
OK, since I used my column to hammer Christian Ponder for an awful performance and not taking full responsibility for that performance, I"ll offer a positive thought in this space:
The Vikings' receivers are greatly improved.
Greg Jennings made two fine catches on poorly-thrown balls. Cordarrelle Patterson, in just a couple of cameos, showed off an impressive burst and cutting ability. Jerome Simpson looks like a new man. Jarius Wright, highly-praised in training camp, should be a worthwhile fourth option.
Given that Ponder looked so inaccurate and indecisive, the Vikings would be wise to emphasize a couple of the simplest routes a quarterback is asked to throw: The behind-the-line screen to the wideout that would showcase Patterson's skills, and the deep routes that allow a receiver to adjust to even poorly-thrown balls.
Patterson could emulate Harvin in the short passing game, and Simpson made two fine catches on less-than-perfect downfield throws on Sunday.
When asked to make multiple reads and find an open receiver, Ponder looked terrible.
It's silly to call for the starting quarterback's job after one game. So I'll wait a week.
I heard about Randy Moss saying, jokingly or not, that the Vikings were being disrespectful by allowing Cordarrelle Patterson to wear No. 84.
This from the king of disrepectfulness.
I might actually take Moss seriously if he didn't treat just about everybody badly.
This is the guy who, given free food in the lockerroom by a local caterer, said he wouldn't feed that food to his dog. (I've eaten at that restaurant. Great stuff.) This is a guy who, after being paid by the Vikings in a game in which he gave up on a catchable deep pass from Brett Favre, went to the Vikings' podium in New England's stadium and praised the Patriots.
I could give you far worse examples of his behaviour, but I wouldn't be able to quote him accurately, so I'll leave it to your imagination.
He's a classless jerk. A tremendous player, but a classless jerk.
This is a pet peeve of mine, TV stations giving jobs to athletes and coaches who were terrible with the media during their careers. Shannon Sharpe and Moss might be the two worst examples.
Congratulations to Lindsay Whalen on her contract extension.
She's all class and a great player. What a couple of years: Comes back to her hometown team, wins a WNBA title, plays an unexpectedly large role on an Olympic champion, and signs an extension.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:05 a.m. then on with Judd&Dubay on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow.
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.
Win or lose next week, make the playoffs or not, the Vikings are overachivers this year, and the way they manhandled two of the league's best teams lends credence to Leslie Frazier's approach.
The Vikings manhandled the 49ers at home. They manhandled the Texans on the road.
When Christian Ponder doesn't lose the game for them, the Vikings tend to win.
They're 9-6 now, and one victory away from the playoffs, and winning with a style that seems sustainable and a young roster that seems capable of growth.
Ponder and the defense should get much of the credit for the victory. I think the coaching staff should get a game ball for this one. Chad Greenway said the game plan was to choke off the Texans' running game, which woulid hamper their ability to use play action and bootlegs. It worked.
While Andre Johnson caught passes in the middle of the field, he didn't hurt the Vikings' deep.
Offensively, Bill Musgrave designed another game plan that set Ponder up to succeed. He scripted easy throws early, and obviously encouraged Ponder to use his legs when appropriate. Ponder has looked like a much more confident quarterback the last two weeks, especially when on the move.
I know the Pagano-Arians pairing in Indianapolis will receive most of the coach of the year votes, and they have a great and emotional case. I think Leslie Frazier deserves consideration, it not a slew of first-place votes. This team looked hopeless last year, and he has this gorup of players playing with fire and cohesiveness.
As I've noted before this season, Frazier has also helped make this a class organization. I can't remember the last time I covered a winning Vikings team that was this much fun to be around.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 2:05 on Monday with Patrick Reusse, and on WJON in St. Cloud with Jay Caldwell at 7:15 a.m.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Watching the Vikings lose on Sunday, I started to wonder:
Would they be better off just handing the ball to Adrian Peterson or Percy Harvin (when he's healthy) in all situations?
First down? Of course. Third and short? Of course. Third and 20? Why not? When a back averages almost 11 yards a carry against a good defense, and the quarterback throws for 44 net yards, wouldn't you be better off treating third-and-long as a running down?
Of course, that's not realistic. The Vikings are obliged to try to throw the ball. But it's not working right now.
Remember, through four games, Ponder was completing about 70 percent of his passes. Now he looks like he's afraid to throw a bubble screen to Harvin.
I still think Ponder has the arm strength and athletic ability to be a good NFL quarterback. His slump has made me question his fire and toughness. I think I'd feel better about his play if he was making mistakes of aggression, instead of looking tentative.
That's the subject of my Monday column.
I don't know if I've ever seen a game in person where two backs ran harder than Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch did on Sunday.
``To watch those two guys run the football, you don't see it too often in a lifetime,'' Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said.
Both dish out punishment. What's even more impressive to me is that they will subject themselves to so much extra punishment to twist for an extra yard, or push the pile forward.
Peterson might win the rushing title in his first season after major knee surgery. I'm having trouble comprehending that.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday, and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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