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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While working on my Monday column (which will appear on 1A of the paper, or what some sports fans call ``The Wrapper''), I crunched a few numbers.
Brett Favre finished with the best passer rating (107.2) of his career, and the lowest interception rate (1.3) of his career. For all the concern every rational observer had about his health and his recklessness, he performed with admirable restraint and finished the season healthier that could have been expected.
He passed for 4,202 yards, and was particularly successful at home.
On the road, he completed 68 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. At the Dome, he completed 69 percent for 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Let's face it - the guy was phenomenal, and his interactions with teammates in the lockeroom, on the field and on the sideline make it pretty clear that he was very popular even if he didn't spend a lot of time off the field with his teammates.
I asked Jared Allen to sum up Favre's season and he said, ``Ah, phenomenal year, great guy, great teammate, great season. What more can you say?''
``The guy has played great,’’ said Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. ``I’m happy for him on a different level.
For whatever reason, everybody wants to root against him, say, `Well, here’s why he’s washed up.’ It’s good to know he’s still playing at this high level. There are a lot of people here who had confidence he could do this.’’
Someone asked Favre how he was able to escape the pocket to make big plays. ``Speed,'' he said.
-Suddenly the Vikings' playoff chances look much better, for these reasons:
1) The bye will allow Favre and the Vikings' injured players the best opportunity to be at full speed. The bye should particularly help cornerback Antoine Winfield and defensive tackle Pat williams.
2) The Vikings will get to play a home playoff game after the bye. The Vikings are 8-0 at home; 4-4 on the road. No elaboration necessary.
3) The Saints looked terrible the last month of the season. If they lose their first playoff game and the Vikings win theirs, Minnesota would host the NFC title game.
-Again, I'll be on am-1500 with Reusse at 6:40 a.m., and on WJON at 7:14 a.m. You can follow me on Twitter at Souhanstrib.
Ok, anyone who owns a TV can offer a thumbnail analysis of the Vikings.
The safeties don't make plays. The linebackers aren't nearly as dynamic without E.J. Henderson in the middle. Antoine Winfield is not himself. The pass rush has been thwarted by quick passes. The offense is lacking the big plays that send defenses reeling.
Or...we could simplify our analysis.
The 2009 Vikings are 7-0 at home and 4-4 on the road.
They are 9-1 on turf, and 2-3 on grass.
They have lost their last three games on grass, and their last two in cold weather.
On the first two pass plays of the Carolina game, Brett Favre slipped. Many times on Monday night, Adrian Peterson or Percy Harvin either slipped, or eased into a cut for fear of losing their balance.
The Vikings are a speed team, a turf team. Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Peterson, Chester Taylor _ they all look like different players when they can sprint and cut on turf. Favre looks more sure of himself in the Metrodome, and his cold-weather record on the road is undeniable even after his dramatic second-half comeback on Monday night.
The problem is, the Vikings now are in a position where they could find themselves playing a road game in the second round of the playoffs, or in the championship game if they make it that far. And they are not a good road team.
They also aren't strong against the pass of late, and every team likely to make the NFC playoffs can throw the ball at will.
All of which means that the Vikings are in big trouble. I wouldn't be surprised to see them beat the Giants at the Metrodome _ I don't think this team lacks gumption _ but I think that game will be meaningless in preparing the Vikings to win a road playoff game.
And after falling behind the Eagles in the playoff seeding on Monday night, they probably will have to win a road playoff game or two to advance to the Super Bowl.
-As I wrote in my column for the Tuesday paper, the negatives that led to and resulted from the loss to the Bears were trumped by watching Favre lead a dramatic second-half comeback. Isn't that why you watch sports, to see moments like that _ fourth-and-goal, 22 seconds left, Favre lofting the ball to Sidney Rice?
-Nice piece by our Myron Medcalf on Ralph Sampson III and basketball-playing sons in the Tuesday paper. Also a bunch of interesting quotes in Jerry Zgoda's Wolves feature on Al Jefferson's new view of the Triangle Offense.
Jefferson can be moody, but when he's in the mood to talk, he's a great quote, and a lot of Timberwolves people have told me he treats team employees better than 99 percent of the players who have come through town - which is a much better way to judge an athlete than by the way he treats the media or his superiors.
-I'll be on am-1500 at 6:40 with Reusse, then on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:14. I'm on with Matt Thomas on am-1500 at 7 p.m. Tuesday _ it'll be my last appearance with Matt before he leaves for Houston.
You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib.
I was lucky enough to land a lengthy one-on-one interview with Brett Favre that will run in the Friday paper, as part of a bigger subject for our sports section. I spoke with him before his sideline spat with Brad Childress, so the story touches on broader topics, and what it's like for Favre to live in Minnesota as a 40-year-old icon.
I'll be taking the next few days off. Sunday I have the radio show from 10-noon on am-1500, and I'm working to line up a few guests. Sunday afternoon I fly to Chicago for what I think might be the most interesting game of the season since the Packer games. Not because the Bears are good. Because the Bears are horrible.
In other words, if the Vikings can't beat this collection of mutts, then they really are in trouble. And a victory could quiet a lot of the negative buzz around them.
Frankly, I'm not sure right now whether the Vikings are in decline, or whether in the modern NFL it's just difficult to maintain a high level of play for 16 games. I mean, they haven't felt stress entering a game since they beat the Packers for the second time, and they looked flat in two Sunday night road games.
I will also remind newer Vikings fans that, ever since moving into the Metrodome, the Vikings have not been a good team on grass, and all three of their losses this year are on grass. Which would make the Bears problematic if they weren't so pathetic.
After the Bears game, the Vikings (assuming they hold onto the No. 2 seed) wouldn't have to play on grass again unless they made it to the Super Bowl, and that would be a good problem to have.
We were also reminded Sunday night that this team needs Antoine Winfield playing well to be an elite team.
I still wish Steve Smith would have reprised the rowboat move he made in 2005 when he whipped Fred Smoot after the Love Boat scandal.
And one more time on the sideline spat: I don't think it's unique, or a problem, unless Childress is determined to bench Favre the next time he disobeys orders. Because we all know Favre will free-lance again at some point this season. I think if you're Childress you've got to bite your lip and accept it. Favre isn't going to undergo a personality transplant at the age of 40.
-Here, to me, is what the BCS has wrought: I have never cared less about college football.
I may not watch a single bowl game. Maybe I"ll watch the Alabama-Texas game just so I can discuss it, but to me it's not a national championship game, and the current system has turned every bowl game into a silly exhibition. This system isn't even as good as the last system.
If run properly, college football, with an 8-team playoff, would be the most popular sport in the country. But it isn't.
-So I won't be back on the radio until Sunday morning at 10, and I may not blog for a few days. I'll be on with Reusse at 6:40 on Monday to preview the Bears game.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib.
I was feeling generous this week, so I bought Sid a gift. It was a book: English as a Second Language.
Wrapping up the column for the Monday paper. I wrote about Brad Childress' motivational speech to and relationship with his players.
My quick-hit observations on the Vikings' 30-10 victory over Cincinnati:
-Cincinnati has definite strengths, including a strong defensive front and excellent cornerbacks, but they didn't match up well with the Vikings. With only one big-play receiver, they couldn't take advantage of the Vikings' safeties, and they had trouble handling playing in a loud dome, committing far too many silly penalties.
-Adrian Peterson wasn't spectacular, but one play caught my attention. When he caught a pass over the middle and shifted into fifth gear, beating two defenders to the sideline with a vintage burst of speed, he indicated to me that he's as healthy as he's been in a while. He was productive and didn't fumble. I could see him breaking loose for one of his big games in the next two weeks.
-Brett Favre threw a first-half interception and it looked like he might be on his way to a vintage December swoon. But he regained his composure, played conservatively, and did a nice job running the offense. ``If this had been 13 games ago,'' Brad Childress said, ``you would have said he managed the game.''
True. Remember, what most of us hoped from Favre was that he would ``manage'' the game. He has raised expectations, hasn't he?
-Jared Allen and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier got into it on the sideline late in the game. It's a testament to how much the player/coach dynamic has changed in this organization that nobody got bent out of shape over that exchange after the game. The Vikings didn't downplay it _ they just didn't think it was a big deal. They let Allen get hot, they didn't take him too seriously, and they moved on.
-I took a commanding lead in the KSTP football picks. I'm four games ahead of Patrick Reusse and Brad Lane as we speak, and I have the Eagles in tonight's game. I've won the picks competition at the radio station a record 82 years in a row.
-Antoine Winfield is a great, great player. He dominates against the run and his presence in the secondary might help the safeties when the Vikings play good passing teams.
-The Vikings have to hope they don't face Arizona in the first round of the playoffs. The Cardinals, with physical fronts and an explosive passing attack, are perfectly-suited to exposing the Vikings' flaws. Beating Arizona and New Orleans in successive weeks would be asking a lot of this or any team.
Upcoming: I'm on with Reusse at 6:40 a.m. on am-1500, then on WJON at 7:14 a.m. Planning on writing about the Wild, the Gophers athletic department and the Vikings this week, and I'll be heading to Carolina with Chudd on Saturday.
Wednesday, I'll be on FSN before the Wolves' game, debating with my buddy Jim Petersen.
You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib.
Let's see, the Vikings couldn't run the ball, Adrian Peterson looks startlingly mortal, the offensive ilne is beat up, the defensive line got whipped, the secondary got exposed, the middle linebacker who was playing very well is lost for the season, and Brett Favre threw two awful interceptions and a couple more passes that should have been picked off.
Ah, but it didn't snow.
There are two reasonable ways to look at this game:
1) At 10-1, with the division pretty much clinched, coming off three easy games, the Vikings just weren't ready emotionally to do what it took to beat a good team fired up for a big game at home.
2) The Vikings' flaws can be exposed when they play good teams, especially good teams with dynamic passing games and physical fronts.
The Cardinals are physical and athletic, and Kurt Warner was very sharp Sunday night. I picked the Vikings to win because I expected either Matt Leinart to start or Warner to look woozy. Instead, he went after the Vikings' weaknesses with great success.
The Vikings need to get Antoine Winfield healthy. They also need to reestablish their running game, which, when it's working, strengthens the rest of their team.
Without a good running game, Favre becomes reckless and the defense can be exposed. This defense specializes in playing with a lead, or stuffing run-first teams. The Cardinals threw the ball with ease.
I've been saying for weeks now that Adrian Peterson appears to be playing with some kind of injury or limitation. He just doesn't look dynamic or fast right now. I also said during his first two seasons that we should enjoy him while he's healthy, because his running style does not portend a long career. Defenses are just too big, fast and violent to play running back for long without the ability to make defenders miss. Peterson takes a lot of big hits for a great back.
I've praised Brad Childress a lot the last two years, but I disagree with his insistence on keeping star players in the game after the game is decided. Shortly after he saw E.J. Henderson break his leg, he left Favre and Peterson in the game for the Vikings' last drive. Nothing good can come from that, and plenty of bad can result.
Several players looked quite shaken by Henderson's injury. E.J. has turned himself into a team leader after being a big question mark early in his career, and he was having an exceptional game Sunday.
Suddenly, the stretch drive looks more interesting. The Packers can close the gap to two games by winning on Monday night, and the Vikings have Cincinnati (one of the best teams in the league), Carolina (unpredictable), Chicago (ok, the Bears stink, but it's a grass field in late December, and Favre no longer likes playing in the cold) and the Giants (who were left for dead before beating the Cowboys on Sunday, and may have a lot to play for.)
Maybe the Vikings react well to this loss, whip the Bengals, and erase all of these questions. But this felt like watching one of Denny's lesser teams, when they'd build a good record against mediocre quarterbacks then get shredded by a good one.
As Favre said after the game, good teams start peaking now. He was praising Arizona, and perhaps questioning whether his team will rise to that challenge.
Upcoming: I'm on with Reusse on am-1500 at 6:40, then WJON at 7:14. I'm taking vacation from the paper this week but working on a project that will run in the Sunday paper. (Buy the paper instead of tipping the Barista for pouring you a coffee. Seriously. That's worth a tip?)
I won't be on FSN for my weekly debate with Jim Petersen this week, but will resume next week.
You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib. If you become my 1,000 Twitter follower, I promise to reward you with a free copy of the autobiography that Sid wrote himself.
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