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 column deals with the details of the whipping the Vikings took on Thursday night.
Here, I"ll address a few other topics.
-The Vikings had been remarkably healthy this season. Even Adrian Peterson had played in every game after underdoing major knee surgery in the offseason. Their luck changed Thursday, when cornerback Chris Cook suffered a broken wrist.
Secondary depth and talent had been one of the reasons for the Vikings' 5-2 record. That depth is gone now.
-If the Vikings wanted to think of themselves as a playoff team, they needed to capitalize on all of their winnable games. Playing at home on a short week against a losing team should have given them an opportunity to go 6-2, giving them some margin for error during the difficult second half of the schedule.
Now they're 5-3. Their victories are against an awful Jacksonville team, a very good 49ers team, the woeful Lions, the not-very-good Titans and the fast-falling Cardinals.
They'll need to go at least 4-4 in the second half to have a chance to make the playoffs, and they'll have to beat some good teams to achieve that. Their remaining games: at Seattle, Detroit, at Chicago, at Green Bay, Chicago, at St. Louis, at Houston and Green Bay.
That's not easy sledding even for a good team.
-Listening to Brian Robison and Leslie Frazier after the game, there are no illusions about their problems. When you pride yourself on physical play and defense and get run over by a small back two straight weeks, your pride is hurting. They are not happy.
-Peterson is having an amazing season. He's rushed 151 times for 775 yards, a 5.1-yard average and four touchdowns. He's caught 23 passes for 139 yards. He currently leads the NFL in rushing.
-Saw several fights in the stands tonight. This was a rowdy and often angry crowd. I understand booing when the team is getting blown out late, but the booing started in the first quarter. I find that strange.
Catching up on the local sports scene:
-Vikings. I'm at the Dome, where I'm picking a typical grind-it-out victory for the Vikings. Tampa Bay has scary weapons in Doug Martin and Victor Jackson, but the Vikings have a number of advantages in this game.
Their defense has excelled at taking away the best skill-position player or players on the other team, with Larry Fitzgerald being the most recent example. The Vikings have been able to run the ball on pretty much everyone, and are smart enough not to veer away from their strengths, even though Tampa Bay is much better against the run than the pass.
Most of all, though, the Vikings appear to be the superior team at this juncture, and they're getting to play at home, presumably in front of a loud crowd, against a team that doesn't play often on turf. And the Bucs had to play on Sunday and spend Wednesday traveling. NFL players just don't bounce back that easily and quickly, not most of them.
My sure-to-be-wrong prediction: Vikings 23, Bucs 16.
-Twins: In September, I heard that the Twins would make major changes to their coaching staff. The only surprise, among the recently-announced changes, is that Terry Steinbach will be the bench coach. I hadn't heard Terry's name previously, and he wound up taking the position I had heard was reserved for Triple-A manager Gene Glynn.
This lineup makes sense. Glynn is very valuable where he right now, and Steinbach should be a good foil for Ron Gardenhire. Gardenhire is hyperactive on the bench. He needs someone to slow him down and offer all of his options. Gardenhire's first instinct is to act. Steinbach's job will be to make sure Gardenhire has thought every move through thoroughly as possible.
Whatever the changes to the coaching staff, the success of the franchise will depend on finding pitching. With word that Scott Boras client Kyle Lohse may be looking for a $75-million contract, it's more apparent than ever to me that Terry Ryan is going to have to try to get lucky with trades or low-level free-agent signings that will not impress anyone initially.
-Wild: Remember when we had an NHL team in our town? Me, neither.
-Gopher football: I want to like Jerry Kill. I really do. He's making it difficult, though. I've already ripped the removal of North Carolina from future schedules. I'm also disturbed by the removal of redshirts from several key young players.
The last time I went to one of Kill's press conferences, he emphasized the importance of patience. Removing the redshirt from your freshman quarterback at midseason and telling him on Friday that he would be starting on Saturday is not patient. It's an act of desperation.
Jerry: Recruits can smell desperation.
-Gopher basketball: As tough as I've been on Tubby Smith on many fronts, I won't bash him because his son got a DUI. While I believe driving while intoxicated is absolutely wrong and reckless, I also know a million people who have done it at some point in their lives. Saul Smith made a terrible mistake, but let's not play the ``leader-of-young-men card.'' He's an assistant coach. Let's not pretend that an assistant coach getting a DUI is going to alter the lives of a dozen college basketball players.
-Here are a few notes on tonight's game, courtesy of Vikings media relations:
-Matt Blair will enter the Vikings' ring of honor tonight.
-Percy Harvin ranks second in the NFL in receptions, with 53. His 271 receptions rank second in franchise history for a player in his first four seasons. He's caught a pass in every NFL game in which he's played.
-Kicker Blair Walsh leads the league with 27 touchbacks. He's tied for third in the NFL with 16 field goals.
-The Vikings' 72 sacks and 25 forced fumbles since the start of the 2011 season are the most in the NFL.
-Jared Allen has a sack in five straight games.
-Kyle Rudolph is tied for the lead league among tight ends with 5 touchdown catches.
-Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib. I'll be on WJON at 7:15 a.m and 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. tomorrow to talk about the game.
I wrote about Robert Griffin III, and the Vikings' view of him, for the Monday paper.
I could have written about Christian Ponder's struggles and Bill Musgraves' red-zone calls.
I've given Musgrave lots of credit this year for finding clever ways to run an offense dependent on Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. I've given him credit for helping Ponder look far improved from last year. But Musgrave has a flaw, and it's red-zone common sense.
Too often, as was the case on Sunday, he takes his best players off the field and goes away from his team's strengths near the goalline. Harvin and Peterson should be on the field, even if only as decoys. And Musgrave shouldn't abandon power running and quick hits to Harvin.
As for Ponder, he threw a lot of pitches that even Jim Joyce wouldn't have called strikes. He didn't blame the swirling wind in the stadium - Ponder isn't the kind of guy who makes excuses - but if it wasn't the wind, he merely had a lousy game.
Losing on the road to Washington is no shame, but it does increase the importance of the upcoming homestand. The Vikings will face Arizona and Tampa Bay in a five-day stretch. Sweep, and the Vikings are 6-2 at the break. Lose both, and they're 4-4 with the more difficult half of the schedule remaining.
One thing I marvel at when watching the Vikings live is how hard Harvin and Peterson run, and how often they're hurting when they go to the sideline. Both left, limping, at times on Sunday, and once Peterson went to the sideline shaking his head, then removing his helmet. I don't know if they can last the entire season taking the pounding they are required to take in this offense.
This team has to pray that Jerome Simpson can shake off his back problems. They need a downfield threat, especially when they fall behind. Simpson is the only player they have other than Harvin who can scare safeties.
-Mike Shanahan earned his 168th NFL victory, including playoffs. That ties him with Bud Grant for 14th on the all-time list.
-Griffin's 13 rushes was a career-high, and it came a week after he suffered a concussion.
-His 138 yards rushing marked a franchise record by a quarterback, breaking his record set in Week 2 of 84.
-The total was the fifth-most in a game by an NFL quarterback.
A smattering of notes from various sources before the Vikings-Redskins game:
-Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson won't play, according to Pete Bercich of the Vikings radio network. The Redskins are vulnerable to the pass. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings can make plays down the field without Simpson. They've thrived with power running and the short pass so far this season.
-There's no doubt that Robert Griffin III will start. Skins coach Mike Shanahan said as much last night on his TV show. Griffin, according to Jay Glazer, gathered the team together on Wednesday and apologized for being reckless with his body. So the Vikings will probably have to get their shots in while he's in the pocket today. Sounds like Griffin will be sliding when he runs today.
-Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is 4-14 at home since he arrived in Washington, and the Skins haven't won a game at home in 13 months.
-Skins running back Alfred Morris has gained more yards rushing in his first five games with the Redskins than any back since 1960.
-Beautiful day here. Enjoy the game.
-Had Terry Ryan on the radio show this morning. He said the team will be cautious with Kyle Gibson, following his Tommy John surgery, and probably will limit him to 140 innings or fewer. Ryan sounded like he wanted Gibson to spread out his innings so he could pitch into September.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday to recap the game. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
I always say this is my favorite time of year, but, really, it's problematic. I can't stand having to watch five NFL games and a baseball playoff game at the same time.
as I said on the radio show this morning, I wish MLB would admit defeat and stop scheduling games on Sunday. If other sports fans are anything like me, they'd rather watch only the NFL on Sunday, and have the playoff games dominating other days and nights.
Anyway, a few notes, via the Vikings' PR department, for your perusal before today's kickoff:
-Percy Harvin's 30 catches through four games are the most ever for a Viking, passing the 28 caught b y Cris Carter and Jake Reed in 1997.
-Harvin leads the NFL in kickoff return average at 38.3 per, and is tied for the longest kickoff return (105 Yards) this seasomn with former Viking Darius Reynaud, now with the Titans.
-Harvin's 698 combined net yards lead the NFL. The Saints' Darren Sproles is second with 692. Combined net yards includes returns, receptions and rushing yards.
-Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is the only starter in the NFL who hasn't thrown an interception. He ranks 8th in the NFL with a passer rating of 97.7.
-Cornerback Marcus Sherels is the only player in Vikings' history with a punt return for a touchdown, and a sack.
-Harvin has caught a pass in each of his 51 NFL games.
-Blair Walsh has produced 12 kickoff touchbacks this season. The Vikings had 19 all of last season.
-This one shocks me: Since the start of the 2011 season, the Vikings rank first in sacks, with 62.
-With 100 yards rushing today, Adrian Peterson would tie Robert Smith for the all-time lead with 29 100-yard rushing games as a Viking.
-The Vikings haven't allowed a rush of longer than 15 yards this season. They are one of five teams to not allow a rush of 20-plus yards this season.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday to talk Vikings. I'll also be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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