1. Can the Vikings defense play at this level all season?
Kras: The Vikings defense is playing incredible ball right now and one would find it hard to believe that they can keep this pace up over the all 16 games. That said, if they remain healthy there is no reason they won’t be great. They have only given up 7 TDs to this point (4 passing, 3 rushing) while compiling 19 sacks (tied for 1st in NFL) and 7 INTs (tied for 2nd in NFL). Most importantly they are only giving up 12.6 points a game. Head coach Mike Zimmer has the fellas believing that they can be elite, and they are. They have the bye week coming up next week and they follow that up with a game against the Eagles. That game at Philadelphia might be the toughest game on the schedule for the Viking the rest of the way. Football is a funny game and who knows what will happen from week to week but as of now, the Vikings are in a great position.
Nate Leer: Realistically, it is hard to imagine the D continue to dominate at this level. However, the coaching, top-end talent and depth of the D makes me think they may have what it takes to be the best unit in the league. Head coach Mike Zimmer seems to be a defensive and motivational mastermind who has the tools to make his schemes work at a high level. Studs such as S Harrison Smith, DE Everson Griffen, LB Anthony Barr, CB Xavier Rhodes and DT Linval Joseph are elite players and there are plenty of talented, young defenders plus a few solid vets to support the stars of the D. As a life-long Vikes fan, I tend to be a pessimist but this team is starting to show that it may be a different type of team and it starts with the D!
2. Where do you think the Wild will finish the season in the Western Conference?
Kras: With the changes the Wild have made in the offseason, it is hard to say they are a much better team on paper than they were last year. The addition of Eric Staal will help and hopefully the young guys will step up this year (Erik Haula, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Matt Dumba). If those guys struggle to produce this year at a consistent level, they will likely be fighting for the 7th or 8th playoff spot this year. If they do get an uptick in production and a similar result in goaltending they could comfortably be a playoff team. I don’t think they will be a contender for the Cup or even the West this year but I do think Bruce Boudreau will get them headed in that direction. I personally don’t believe they will finish better than 6th in the West.
3. What do you think of the Twins hiring new chief baseball officer Derek Falvey?
Kras: Admittedly, I don’t know much about Derek Falvey and what he all accomplished in the Cleveland Indians organization, but I do know he will have more than a full time job turning things around in Minnesota. It appears he is of the “new era” of analytics in baseball and I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but it is something new here, and something we should be happy about. If nothing else, it is nice to see Twins make a move that does not result in a recycled face that has been around the organization before.
Nate Leer: This looks on the surface as exact type of hire the Twins needed to make. While I don’t know much about his background, Falvey comes from an organization that places a premium on hard-throwing arm talent. That is the best way to build and organization and the Twins, in particular, need that type of focus on pitching. The Twins were not going to be able to get a big-name GM so that left retreads and young upstarts. Falvey falls into the second category and that makes sense for a team that needs to be torn down and completely rebuilt. Anybody who may have considered coming in and attempting a quick turn-around was only going to set the franchise back even further. Hopefully this guy takes the long view and starts trading away the best veteran assets the Twins have for upside prospects.
1. With the NHL season starting up, which two teams do you think will make a run at the Cup this year? (one team from each conference)
Kras: Honestly, picking teams other than the Penguins or the Blackhawks seems crazy to me since one of those two teams seem to make a deep run every year. As much as I should pick Chicago, I will have to go against that and I will be picking the Nashville Predators as my team to make a push for the Cup. My team for the East is the Washington Capitals. This has to be the year that Alexander the Great gets his cup, right?
2. What NFL team or teams surprised you the most in week 5?
Kras: For me it is hands down the Atlanta Falcons. For them to go into Denver and get the win was something that I did not see coming. They had a nice win against a tough Panthers defense and the Falcons continued that trend against the Broncos. The offense for the Falcons has been clicking on all cylinders this season but more impressive, the defense has not been nearly as bad as last year. Outside of the Minnesota Vikings defense, the Falcons as a whole, so far, might be the most impressive story.
Nate Leer: Atlanta. I really thought the Denver D would shut them down and that even a rookie QB would be able to exploit the Atlanta D. Maybe Atlanta is a real contender this year. Dallas also surprised me some. I like Dak Prescott and we all know how talented Zeke Elliott is but putting up 28 on a proud Cincy D was impressive.
3. Do you think the Blue Jays sweeping the Rangers in 3 games was a big upset?
Kras: I think it was a surprise, especially given the season that the Rangers had until that point. I believe the tone of that series was set when the Bluejays went into Arlington and beat the Rangers 10-1 in game 1. Having that happen being the #1 seed must feel like getting punched in the face.
Nate Leer: This qualifies as an upset in my mind. I really thought the Rangers might be the most complete team in the AL if not all of baseball. The Jays have a great line-up but seemed to be lacking in other areas, most importantly pitching. Now they have something of the look of a team of destiny.