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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Matt Cassel wasn’t always accurate. He fumbled on a play that could have turned the game in the Steelers’ favor if the Viking hadn’t recovered. But he was decisive and he threw with certainty and timing, allowing the Vikings’ receivers to make plays down the field and run after the catch.
That should be good enough to win the starting quarterback job for the forseeable future. The Vikings have built a strong offensive team and Christian Ponder’s indecisiveness had sabotaged the team’s plans to complement Adrian Peterson with legitimate outside receivers like Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson.
Sunday, with Cassel behind center, Simpson and Jennings looked like big-time playmakers. Not coincidentally, Peterson found room to run. The result was a 34-27 Vikings victory over Pittsburgh that saves, or at least extends the competitive portion of, the Vikings’ season.
By the time they come off a bye to face Carolina at home, the Vikings should have a healthy secondary, and a quality group of receivers who will have had more time to work with Cassel.
After one start, it's clear: Cassel is better than Ponder, and the right choice moving forward.
About to board a bus for Wembley Stadium. As usual, I have no idea who's going to win the game but if it comes down to rest and karma, the Vikings have a shot.
Jared Allen revealed the way most NFL players feel about playing overseas when he said he would never sign with a team in London, but the Vikings have put on a good show, repeatedly thanking their hosts.
They also have been enabled to full adapt to the time change, while the Steelers arrived on Friday and may still be off-schedule. Or as they say here, sshhhedule.
Changing to a journeyman quarterback and adding a blocking back don't seem to be like dramatic moves, but I do think Matt Cassel's willingness to throw downfield and Jerome Felton's lead blocking could spread out an overrated Steelers' defense. I see a big game for Adrian Peterson and the wide receivers getting at least a little more involved than they have been.
If Cordarrelle Patterson doesn't play half the offensive snaps, Bill Musgrave should be locked into Churchill's bunker.
The real concern for the Vikings is on defense. It's incumbent on the pass rush to hide some of the flaws of a wafer-thin secondary, but getting to Ben Roethlisberger and sacking him are often two different things. What's remarkable about Big Big is he appears to the naked eye to be about the same size as Jared Allen. He also has the dangerous Antonio Brown to throw to, and the return of Heath Miller, an excellent all-around tight end who is a Big Ben favorite, should allow Pittsburgh to move the ball efficiently even if they can't run well.
Just the facts: Tim Brewster's Big Ten winning percentage: .222. Jerry Kill's: .235.
I'll be on the last Ron Gardenhire Show of the season at 9:30 from London, then will be on the line with Scott Korzenowski from London for Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon on 1500ESPN.
Please follow me during the game tonight on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
I arrived in London on Monday. That feels like a month ago. Between the Vikings' appearances and practices, the intrigue surrounding the quarterback position, some sightseeing and pub-visiting and cobblestone-treading, this has felt like a very long week.
A pleasant, interesting, long week. It's strange to be in a place where I don't feel the need to read every last bit of the sports section or turn on the ``telly.'' It's strange to be six hours ahead of Minneapolis time. It's strange, mostly, to be in an English-speaking country where I'm jealous of another form of English.
Our bus hostess' accent sounds a bit like a British woman imitating Jon Stewart imitating the Queen of England. At dinner last night, we sat next to a table of Brits who seemed to be celebrating some sort of reunion. I understood even the portions of their conversation I couldn't understand.
My favorite experience of the week might be listening to our Chip Scoggins, who has retained his Tennessee accent, trying to communicate with Brits, who immediately call for a translator.
During the Olympics, we stayed in slightly more working-class neighborhood. There were fewer good restaurants, and I made fun of the quality of food.
It's all about location. We're staying in a more upper-crust neighborhood on this trip, and the food has been excellent,
Today, the Vikings will make an appearance at a block party in PIccadilly Circus, and then there will be no more access or appearances until the game.
I'm ready to see a game.
This could be a pivotal game for a lot of people. If Leslie Frazier starts 0-4, he may not have a chance to keep his job. If Matt Cassel performs well, Christian Ponder may never be an NFL starter again. If Cassel fails, he may never be considered a viable NFL option again. If Bill Musgrave doesn't find a way to use Cordarrelle Patterson, his job may be in jeopardy.
I have a hunch Cassel will play well, Jerome Felton will help spring Adrian Peterson and the game will become a shootout.
We'll host the last Ron Gardenhire Show of the season at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on 1500ESPN, then I'll co-host Sunday Sports Talk from London with Scott Korzenowski running the show from Treasure Island Casino from 10-noon.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib, and check in at startribune.com for more features and videos from London.
The Minnesota writers from the Twin Cities in London for the Vikings game have developed a morning routine. We eat breakfast, scan the papers, look at each other and say, ``Nope. Nothing.’’
There has been no mention of the Vikings-Steelers game at Wembley in the major morning papers. I haven’t seen a mention on the television, although at least one member of our traveling party has seen a 20-second clip of a Vikings’ practice.
In a country that reveres soccer, cricket, the America’s Cup, Olympic sports, snooker and rugby, this is not particularly surprising.
What’s surprising is that the Vikings are being covered by a large contingent of reporters who seem to be both legitimate and British.
Unless the NFL hired a squad of actors to imitate reporters and legitimize the game.
The British journalists ask intelligent questions and seem keenly interested in American football. Maybe they’re saving all of the coverage for Sunday.
If my personal experience ia any indication, the Vikings should have a big advantage over the Steelers on Sunday.
I landed at midday Monday. I think I had completely recovered from the flight, jet lag and time change by Thursday morning, about 72 hours later.
The Steelers arrived Friday morning. They’ll be playing an NFL game about 54 hours after having landed.
I agree with Jared Allen. The NFL can talk all it wants about putting a team in London, but no NFL player will want to play for a team based here.
We’re covering Vikings practice in Watford right now. Mark Craig, Chip Scoggins, photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez and myself will post columns, news stories, videos, photos and blog posts all day at Startribune.com.
We had a tough assignment last night: Shooting a video of Mark Craig taste-testing beer in local pubs. The funny thing is, Mark’s a Bud Light guy. He recoils at the sight of fruit in beer, or any beer that may hold more color than a glass of ice water. So the beer-testing didn’t last long. He found a European version of Bud Light and settled in for the night.
My column in Thursday's paper recreates the way I think the conversation between Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder might have gone.
Here I'll put things more plainly.
Ponder coming down with a mysterious rib injury is perfect for the Vikings. They can take a look at Matt Cassel in a must-win game heading into the bye week, then make a more full-informed decision on the quarterback position. If Cassel plays brilliantly, he keeps the job. If he plays poorly, the Vikings can go back to Ponder and hope he has cleared his head, and they never would have actually benched him.
Of course, this is only speculation. The Vikings aren't about to tip their hand on this one.
For those wondering why, given all of the Vikings' problems, Ponder is the only one facing a potential benching, I go back to what Jerry Burns always said: Changing left guards doesn't send a jolt of electricity through your team. Changing your quarterback does.
Also, remember how much the Vikings invested in their passing game during the offseason. They signed Greg Jennings. They traded into the first round to draft Cordarrelle Patterson. Having a quarterback willing to hang in the pocket long enough for those players to get open (assuming Bill Musgrave actually puts Patterson on the field) might be a good idea.
I keep waiting for some sign of the NFL's popularity in London.
Haven't seen any indication in London proper that there is an NFL game this Sunday. Haven't seen a word in the major newspapers or on the morning TV shows. Or on the evening TV shows. I'm sure there has been media coverage, because there are plenty of reporters covering the Vikings' appearances and practices. Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places.
The NFL chose well when it chose the Vikings to play here and spend the week promoting the game. They're a willing group of interviewees and ambassadors. When I spoke with Jared Allen yesterday, he used the phrase ``bangers and mash'' about 12 times, saying he loves the food in London.
During the Olympics, I often made fun of London's food, but Allen's right. You can find great restaurants in London, just not where I was staying during the Olympics. The Strib's traveling entourage has particularly enjoyed the Grazing Goat Pub. Mark Craig even tried a dark beer before switching back to something resembling his traditional Bud Lights.
I thought the highlight of the press conferences was Rick Spielman saying he called home to tell his wife to bring her bathing suit, the weather was so nice here.
Not so fast, Rick. It's overcast and threatening today.
I'm spending today with photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez in London, looking for some local color. I mean, colour. Thanks for reading. Remember, we have Mark Craig, Chip Scoggins, Carlos and myself covering all angles of the Vikings' trip to London, including the game. Please check back on Startribune.com for columns, stories, notes, blog posts, photos and videos.
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