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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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.
Denard Span on Friday got picked off in the first inning, got caught off base on a line drive in the third inning, and dropped a fly ball that preceeded the grand slam that ruined Francisco Liriano's otherwise dominant outing.
For all the time we spend analyzing statistics, new-wave statistics and pitching matchups, it's amazing how often games are won and lost on baserunning plays, and mistakes that don't count as errors, and what I would call ``awareness'' plays - throwing to the right base, backing up throws, taking the extra base.
Span improved his batting average on Friday night but may have cost the Twins the game.
Span's a quality guy. I think he's also sensitive to chatter. I wonder if he was a bit off because he's worried about getting traded.
The Twins are desperate to upgrade their starting rotation and their organizational pitching depth. The Twins wouldn't trade Span because they don't like him; they would trade him because he's a valuable and affordable player, and teams like the Washington Nationals are New York Yankees are looking to aquire outfielders with speed and respectable on-base percentages.
Yes, Liriano was dominant, striking out 15 in eight innings. Yes, he's pitched very well of late.
But do I trust him? No.
That's the subject of my column in the Saturday paper. To sign someone to a long-term deal, you have to trust them. Liriano has been erratic for years now. And if the Twins don't sign him to a long-term deal, they need to trade him now, while his value is at its highest point in more than a year.
No, I don't think Adrian Peterson did anything wrong.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Tom Pelissero and I will host Sunday Morning Sports Talk outside the ballpark from 10-noon this Sunday, after running the Ron Gardenhire Show from 9:30-10.
And if you're interested in the London Olympics, Rachel Blount and I will have a series of profiles running between now and the start of the games. On Sunday, we'll run my feature on Hugh McCutcheon, the women's volleyball coach of the US Olympic team who will take over the Gopher program in the fall.
Cool, very interesting guy. And, no, the feature is not all about the attack on his in-laws in Beijing.
Let me tell you a secret: Most sportswriters hate the NFL draft.
It requires months of work, much of which proves meaningless to the local team. It's often over-hyped and over-discussed and becomes fertile ground for bad rumors, like the funny one going around this afternoon about the Vikings really wanting Morris Claiborne or, funnier, Justin Blackmon.
Thursday was different. My Friday column explores Rick Spielman's first draft as Vikings' GM, but I'll get in a few quick hitters here:
-This was actually an interesting draft both nationally and locally.
Nationally, the NFL had two tremendously talented yet dissimilar quarterbacks go with the first two picks. Locally, we had the Vikings fooling a lot of national media people about their intentions, then trading down to get the fourth pick, and later trading back into the bottom of the first round, ending up with Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, two players they had targeted all along.
-While many people have rightly obsessed about cornerback, I love the fact the Vikings took the best safety available. In the Tampa-2 scheme, you need a safety who can drop into the box and make tackles, and prevent big pass plays. And while you can game-plan around a good cornerback, you can't game-plan around a safety.
Think of the impact safeties on good teams in recent years: Troy Polamalu, Bob Sanders, LaRon Landry. They intercept passes and blow up running plays and generally make more impact plays per game than even great cornerbacks.
-I love both picks. Kalil, to me, was the safest pick in the draft, given the number of sure-thing quarterbacks who flame out. Before the draft started, I thought Smith would be ideal for the Vikings but didn't think he'd fall to them, or that they'd be able to trade up high enough to take him.
-Kalil sounded genuinely excited about playing for the Vikings. With Kalil, Christian Ponder, Percy Harvin, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, the Vikings have an intriguing core of young offensive players. Their success will be dependent on Ponder's development, but he'll have a better chance to develop with a bunch of talented young players around him.
-I think Spielman had a very good day, and he left little doubt that he'll target receiver and cornerback during the rest of the draft. He admitted that the draft room worked much better with one person in charge. ``It went a lot smoother,'' he said.
Hard to disagree.
I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Friday to discuss the draft. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Cam Newton was spectacular today, and Joe Webb reminds me of Cam Newton.
I'm not saying they're comparable. Newton was the best player in college football while winning a national championship, then was taken with the first pick in the draft. Joe Webb played at UAB and was drafted as an athlete, not a quarterback.
But when Webb throws with touch, as he did on Saturday, and especially when he runs, he looks like a less-polished version of Newton.
He's building a body of work that shouldn't be ignored, and when I asked Leslie Frazier whether he deserves consideration as a starter, Frazier said, essentially, yes.
More on that in tomorrow's paper and on the website later tonight.
-I think Adrian Peterson has a torn ACL and will be out until next August. This is a bad break, and you have to wonder whether he'll be exactly the same guy when he returns. I'm sure he'll still be a very good back, but his explosiveness was unique.
-Christian Ponder's numbers don't look terrible, but for the third straight week I hated the way he played. Against Detroit he threw the ball up for grabs. Against New Orleans, he looked scared to death. Saturday, he again looked scared to death, tucking and running at the first sign of trouble, throwing quickly and nervously instead of making his reads. Then Webb came in and excelled.
I know a lot of rookie quarterbacks struggle and still have good careers. But I'd feel a lot better if Ponder were struggling because he was trying to jam the ball into tight windows, or hanging in the pocket too long while making his reads. Being skittish in the pocket is something that is hard to overcome, and that prevents making progress. How can you get better at reading defenses if you take off right away, or settle for the easy, quick, pass? There were plays when he stared down the back out of the backfield.
-Rex Grossman is awful. He's the worst kind of awful - the kind of awful quarterback who makes just enough plays to tease you into thinking he might get better. But he doesn't.
If anything demonstrates the importance of quarterbacking in the NFL, check out Mike Shanahan's career. When he had John Elway, people called him ``The Genius.'' Before and since he's been a dud.
-Joe Webb still carries his UAB backpack. I asked him if he's considering upgrading. ``Not a lot of people know about UAB,'' he said. ``I'm trying to get the word out.''
Remember 23 months ago when the Timberwolves were the funniest joke in town and the Vikings had maybe the best team in football?
This weekend, the franchises passed each other, the Wolves heading up, the Vikings landing with a splat.
Throw out whatever qualifiers you want about the Wolves' exhibition opener - facing a bad team, exhibitions are meaningless, etc. - but that was entertaining basketball we were treated to on Saturday night. Rick Adelman, Derrick Wililams, Ricky Rubio, J.J.Barea and a slimmed-down Kevin Love give us five good reasons to care about the Wolves.
And that's not all. You could see Michael Beasley having an excellent year offensively in this system, and at least paying attention on defense. I think this team's biggest challenges will be figuring out what to do at center and shooting guard. Darko and Wes Johnson haven't proved themselves yet.
At center, Love playing inside might often be the answer. The problem for Johnson is that if he can't shine in this system, he's probably not an NBA player. He's got to prove himself quickly.
While the Wolves looked more promising than they have for years, the Vikings embarrassed themselves. This is becoming a trend. They got Brad Childress fired last year with a pathetic performance against Green Bay at the Dome. Now they've turned in three stinkers this season, at Chicago, at Green Bay and now at home on Sunday against the Saints.
I came to Minnesota in 1990 to cover the Vikings. This is easily the worst Vikings team I've ever seen in person. W'hich is amazing, considering this team has three stars in their prime in Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Percy Harvin.
I'm about to start working on my column for the Monday paper, and I believe this is the question that needs to be answered: Should anybody's job be safe right now? Leslie Frazier's? Christian Ponder's? Any coach's?
This was a pathetic display. Frazier said after the game that he took responsibility for his team not being prepare. He also said he wants to see how Ponder performs the last two weeks so he can judge him on a larger body of work.
I think Frazier and Ponder both will be trying to save their jobs the last two weeks, even if noone wants to admit that.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday and every weekday with Reusse and Mackey. Thanks to Terry Ryan for his bluntness when we had him on Sunday Sports Talk this morning.
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