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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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.
The Vikings' 24-13 upset of San Francisco might have been their most impressive performance since they beat Dallas in the playoffs in 2009. Their upset of Philadelphia in Philadelphia in 2010 was surprising, but those Eagles turned out to be a very flawed team, and with the game being postponed by weather, it never felt like a normal game.
This was different. This was the Vikings beating the 49ers at their own game. Here's what stood out to me:
1. A young Vikings roster that I don't think is talented enough yet to play with the league's big boys took it to the 49ers. They ran the ball. Percy Harvin, as usual, took it to defensive backs. Christian Ponder played with poise. The defense stifled the 49ers' power running game and pressured Alex Smith.
This is the way Leslie Frazier wants to win, and Sunday marked the first time you could see his vision played out on an NFL field against a superior team.
2. Ponder has yet to throw an interception this season. I know, I know, he's had a few dropped, and the 49ers could have changed the game by holding onto Ponder's one terrible throw in the fourth quarter,
Good quarterbacks thrown interceptions, too, though, and good quarterbacks have apparent interceptions dropped. The numbers, in this case, are accurate. Ponder has been careful with the ball and has completed 70 percent of his passes. After 13 NFL starts, he looks about as good as the Vikings could have hoped at this stage of his career.
3. Randy Moss looked like he didn't want to get hit. He short-armed a high throw and didn't appear interested in another pass that whistled by his head. He played sparingly in the fourth quarter of a game where the 49ers were desperate for a deep threat.
After all this time, Moss is pretty much everything everybody has ever said he is. He's a great receiver. He's one of the most unique talents in NFL history. He's a pain in the butt. And he is untrustworthy.
4. Ponder held a weird postgame press conference. He sounded like he wanted to pretend to be mad at everyone who didn't pick the Vikings to win the Super Bowl. But he's such a nice, reasonable guy, that he couldn't maintain the fake anger and kept making jokes.
He did keep bringing up the Super Bowl. Make of that what you will. I do think that Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, John Sullivan, Matt Kalil and the other young offensive players believe they're building something here. The question, for me, is whether they will be ready to win big while Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin are still healthy and in their prime.
Even in a game we all know if violent, Peterson and Harvin are exceptions. They run with exceptional effort.
5. Chad Greenway is having an outstanding season. He's shown up in the pass rush and in pass coverage. He's been a strong performer against the running game for years, but the man does work at his craft and you can see improvement across the board this year.
6. Sportswriters and radio hosts pick games because picking games can make for interesting copy and fodder. But we really shouldn't. We don't know who's going to win. If we did, we'd all live in Vegas. In penthouses in Vegas.
We don't. I proved that again today. I thought the 49ers would win by about 10.
Please don't ever take the advice of a sportswriter when betting. Nothing good will come of it.
-Restaurant recommendation of the day: Lola's Pizzeria in Southwest Minneapolis, on Xerxes. Great food and atmosphere.
-Tailgated outside TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. Nice atmosphere. Not as rowdy as some college campuses, but I think that's a good thing. People were friendly and calm, and the band sounded great.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 tomorrow, and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m.
-Luckily for me, I'll be covering the Ryder Cup in Chicago this week. It's one of the few things I haven't done as a writer that I had always wanted to do. Next wish: The British Open at St. Andrews one of these years.
I have two Vikings predictions that may seem contradictory:
-They win on Sunday, easily, over a bad Jaguars team.
-The finish the season 5-11.
The former may be too optimistic. The latter may be too pessimistic.
I made the former pick because Christian Ponder should be better than Blaine Gabbert, the Vikings are less reliant on Adrian Peterson than the Jags are on Maurice Jones-Drew, and the Vikings are playing at home. Call it 23-16, Vikings.
I made the latter pick because I'm not impressed with the Vikings' receivers, offensive line or linebackers, and Ponder still has much to prove. Yes, the schedule is easy early on, but don't you think the Colts look at their game with the Vikings the same way the Vikings do - as an easy matchup?
I see this as a year of marginal improvement at quarterback and in the secondary. I hear good things about Josh Robinson, and the Vikings' cornerbacks should be markedly improved, which should make a big difference.
It's hard for me to imagine this team surviving the second half of the schedule, though, even if everything goes right.
The Gophers are asking people to pay money to see a game against New Hampshire?
I'm actually not offended, as some of my colleagues are, about the price of beer at TCF Bank Stadium. Yes, $7.25 is a lot to pay for a beer, but it's really exorbitant only if you want to get drunk. If you just want to drink one beer while watching the game, $7.25 won't hurt you. And I've seen way too many drunk football fans to want to see that price lowered. If you want to get sloppy drunk at a football game, you should pay in more ways than one.
My favorite games of the weekend:
Peyton Manning with his new team facing an old nemesis, Dick LeBeau's Steelers defense. I think Peyton wins this one.
Packers vs. 49ers at Lambeau in the Game That Should Have Been. Packers don't drop 18 passes this time and win a close one.
Raiders-Chargers. Just because I never know what to expect from either team or franchise, and the Black Hole should be very loud on a Monday night.
Cam Newton and the Panthers vs. Tampa Bay and Greg Schiano. Newton gets to show off after his first full NFL offseason.
Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from the 1500ESPN studio before the Vikings' game. Longtime NFL writer Gary Myers, of the New York Daily News, will join us, as will Tom Linnemann for NFL picks.
Here's what went wrong during the Twins' 6-2 loss to Toronto on Thursday night:
-The Twins fell to 8-23, worst record in the bigs by 2 1/2 games.
-Starter Jason Marquis threw 39 balls in 87 pitches and lasted just four innings. He was brought to Minnesota to throw strikes and eat innings and did neither.
-Trevor Plouffe, in the first game of a tryout at third base that could determine the course of his career, ran into a tag play at second base and failed to call for a popup that he should have caught, a popup that fell between him and Marquis.
-Centerfielder Denard Span forgot how many outs there were.
-Erik Komatsu failed to pick up the third-base coach and, with the ball in rightfield, stopped at second before getting thrown out at third.
-Alexi Casilla got a forceout at second base and forgot to look home to prevent a runner from scoring.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he saw things that you don't see ``in high school ball.''
This was disgusting. This is a flat, unintelligent team filled with guys who shouldn't be in the big-leagues.
Plouffe is not a winning big-league player. Casilla is not an everyday big-league player. The starting rotation is awful, and the best competitor among them, Carl Pavano, hasn't cracked 90 mph this season, indicating he's probably pitching with an injury or in pain.
The bullpen has actually been pretty good. Brian Dozier looks like a player. Josh Willingham has produced. Joe Mauer has stayed healthy.
Other than that, this season has been a washout.
To think the Twins played this poorly the day two key players were demoted - Francisco Liriano to the bullpen and Danny Valencia to AAA.
It may be time to trade Denard Span. The Nationals are still interested and have a surplus of pitching. Make the deal.
And if the Nationals want Plouffe or Casilla or a part-time outfielder, so much the better.
-I'm hearing the Twins like Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton in the June draft. While the Twins are desperate for pitching, Buxton projects to be a big-league star.
-Wrote about the Vikings' stadium for the Friday paper. My take: Minnesota will have an amazing array of sports venues once ZygiDome gets built.
-Joe Mauer is hitting .270 with one homer. Being healthy doesn't help a whole lot if he can't swing the bat with authority.
-Bring up Ben Revere. If you can write a lineup with Komatsu and Darin Mastroianni, you can find enough playing time for Revere.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 tomorrow for my daily update with Reusse and Mackey. Tom Pelissero will run the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Sports Talk from 9:30-noon on Sunday.
-If the Twins keep looking for competent outfielders, they could give Matt Carson a look. He's a veteran minor-leaguer who's hitting .295 for Rochester.
-Thank you, Tiger Woods, for making me feel better about my golf swing.
-I really wish the Twins had been lucky enough to land Bryce Harper. This team needs someone who competes like that.
-The Timberwolves, when semi-healthy, were so much more entertaining than most of the teams in the NBA playoffs.
-Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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