1. Will the Minnesota Timberwolves still be a .500 or better team this season with the slow start they have gotten off to?
Kras: I believe they can still get there this season. The season is still young and, while it won’t be for long, they still have some time to right the ship. Towns and Wiggins are both averaging over 20 points per game to help the Wolves on offense but that is not enough to make up for the lack of defense. Kris Dunn looks like he will be a gem for the Wolves and his most immediate impact will be on defense where they need the help. So far this season, the Wolves have been able to get out to early leads in games only to watch it slip away by the 4th quarter. If they can bring the same intensity they have in the first half into the second half of games, they will be able to maintain the lead late and inevitably they will win those games. As we have seen so far, it is and will be an uphill climb for the young Wolves, but the process is still young as well. Patience.
2. Is it time for the Vikings to panic about how this season is going?
Kras: Yep. If they haven’t been already, they should think about hitting the panic button soon. They played a fairly close game with the Lions, and even took the lead away from them late in the 4th quarter, but the defense let them down this time. Stafford had 23 seconds to work with and made it count as he was able to get the offense in a position to set up a game-tying field goal with 2 seconds left, which Prater made look easy from 58 yards. In overtime, the Vikings D didn’t resist much as, again, Stafford led them 75 yards which resulted in a 30 yard Golden Tate TD. As great as the play was by Tate, it was equally as poor an effort by the Vikings D who refused to tackle him on his way to the end zone. The Vikings are in some serious trouble. The defense is still good and is doing a fairly decent job given how much they have been on the field the last few games with the ineptitude of the offense. With the O-line as shaky as it is, and no help in sight, it will be a long road ahead.
JJ Bens: It was time to panic when this team lost their starting tackles, RB and QB. The offense is playing like a bunch of backups and that is really what they are. When the O goes 3-and-out 4 straight times it puts way too much pressure on the D, which is on the field for most of the game.
Nate Leer: I don’t think it is ever “time to panic” because panicking isn’t going to help anything. Clearly the team has major issues offensively that just getting a new play caller will not fix. Plus, the D seems to have regressed under the burden of carrying the O. Maybe new OC Pat Shurmur can implement some changes that help the O. However, fans’ best move is just to hope the O-line gets healthier and gels like it did late last year. Figuring out a way to sustain drives will obviously help scoring and would keep the D much fresher. It’s tough when you turn a team over in the red zone, your O takes 4 plays to retreat into punting position, then give the ball right back.
3. What are the Minnesota Wild missing that would help them the rest of the season?
Kras: So far this season, the Wild have played surprisingly well for not being able to do much in terms of moving players or in bringing new players. Their hands are pretty tied right now and it appears they will be for a couple years yet. Fortunately, Bruce Boudreau has been able to get enough out of them to make them more than competitive to this point and if the goaltending keeps up they should not have much to worry about. It will be tough for them to go get a player without trading an already key piece, so I don’t see anything happening that way. I think the one thing that will continue to help this team this year will be the head coach. Boudreau will have to try and develop this group into the team that he wants moving forward.
JJ Bens: Like most teams, they could use another goal scorer. Someone with a great shot who would be perfect for the power play. Otherwise, the team could use another veteran blue-liner. The young guys make too many mistakes. Unfortunately they need ice time to develop and it may take time.
1. With the Cubs winning the World Series, do you think Theo Epstein is the best baseball GM of all time?
Kras: I am far from an elite baseball/GM of baseball student, but it appears to me that Theo has something figured out. Beyond any “curse” that there may or may not have been on the Red Sox and the Cubs, Theo has a great eye for the game and a solid game plan when building a baseball organization back up from years of being unable to go all the way. Theo has the Cubs built up as a potential powerhouse team for the next decade.
Nate Leer: I would have to say, yes, he is the best ever. I am trying to make sure this isn’t just recency bias but I think real case can be made for Theo as the greatest baseball man ever. Forgetting for a moment who the teams were that he won with and the (apparent) long-term health of the franchises he has run, Theo has to rank high on the list of great baseball minds just for winning 3 championships in the last 14 years. Now factor in that he did it with 2 different teams that be built from the ground up and the fact that both organizations are set up for continued prosperity and it’s clear that The is not just a quick-fix specialist. Last, but certainly not least, it has to be factored in what teams he won with. Ending the 2 most famous curses in sports is the trump card in a debate of the best ever.
2. What player or teams have stood out so far this NBA season?
Kras: The team that I would have to say I am most surprised by thus far would have to be the ever-consistent San Antonio Spurs. It doesn’t come as that much of a shock given Greg Popovich and his track record. They lost Tim Duncan due to retirement but he has not been as much of a factor the past few seasons because of his age and the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge taking some of the pressure and minutes off Duncan. They have also added Pau Gasol who is a solid fit in that offense. He will never replace Duncan but Gasol is one of the better players in the league to fill that void. Led by Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs have a nice mix of veteran talent and some young role players with some promise, such as Jonathon Simmons.
3. What NFL team/s caught your eye in week 9, good or bad?
Kras: For me, the bad is the tailspin that the Minnesota Vikings continue to find themselves in. 3 short weeks ago they were undefeated and in charge of the NFC. Now it is hard to imagine them being anything more than a fringe wild card contender. Barring a miracle cure for the O-line and a revived run game, the offense will continue to struggle. The good would be the success that Jack Del Rio and his Oakland Raiders are having. They have been good on the road so far this year and finally got a quality win at home against a division opponent in defending SB champ Denver Broncos. Latavius Murray had a monster game rushing 20 times for 114 yards and 3 TDs, showing the world that the Broncos D is not what it was last season and showing people that Raider Nation is for real this year.
JJ Bens: The team that caught my eye is the struggling Packers, or more importantly what the starting QB said after the game. Aaron Rodgers talked about the team not having the juice or the enthusiasm which is pretty worrisome. Considering they only play 16 games and if they can’t get out for a home game means it’s going to be a long rest of the season.