1. Do you think the Wild will finish the season as the #1 team in the West? League?
Kras: It is hard to look ahead towards the end of the season and say for sure where they will finish, seeing how an injury or two to this team and we might be having a different conversation. That said, this team is making it hard to bet against them, especially if they continue to play good hockey like they have been. Devan Dubnyk has been sensational for this club posting a 1.89 GAA to go along with a .940 Save %. The way this team is playing they will likely be competing for the #1 seed in the West, and if they can finish as the top seed in the West they will have a pretty good chance to be the top team in hockey.
JJ Benz: At this point in the season, I believe it’s too early to crown them champs of the West. However the Wild and the Blackhawks both have 10 more points than the third place Blues in the West Central. If this team continues to pick up 2 points a game, they could separate themselves and make it a 2-team race. The Capitals are a pretty good team and may give any team in the West a run for their money.
2. Do you think the Viking will and/or should find a way to keep Matt Kahlil around for the foreseeable future?
Kras: I think the Vikings need to try and keep Kalil around, if not for any other reason than they will need a LT on the field when the season kicks off next fall. They ended the season with glaring needs across the O-line and if they can’t keep him around for at least another year, the Vikings will really be in a tough spot. Seeing how the free agent pool of LTs is not deep at all and they don’t have a 1st round pick in this year’s draft, they will need something and I think Kalil must be the guy for them. They may have to bite the bullet and use the franchise tag on him for a year as a “prove it” kind of deal. Using the franchise tag on Kalil is not ideal as his play is not worth top end money right now, but realistically it would be more affordable. If he has a good year, then a longer 4-5 year deal makes sense. The Vikings will need to keep him around.
Nate Leer: I think the best move is to franchise Kalil if a team-friendly deal – 2-3 years with low bonus money up front – can’t be reached early in the offseason. The franchise tag was under $14M for OL last year so even if it is $15M this year, it is only a one year commitment as essentially a “prove-it” deal. The Vikes should be reducing costs at several spots on the roster – RB, RG, S – and their biggest need is OL. There is very little ever available at LT in free agency so the Vikes will be best served to keep Kalil in-house.
3. Are you concerned about the Golden Gophers basketball teams NCAA tourney chances after their recent losses to Michigan St. and Penn State?
Kras: I think it is a bit disheartening for a young team that had some nice road wins earlier in the season to lose a couple in a row now. The Michigan State game had the Gophers down early and often and they were never able to get into a rhythm and get rolling. That said, we shouldn’t be surprised that HC Tom Izzo’s team figured out a way to slow down Minnesota a after a tightly contested 1st game between the 2 teams. The Penn State game saw the Gophers give up a double-digit lead in the 2nd half where, again, the O was having trouble finding any rhythm or getting shots to fall. All the Gopher players have taken turns having their individual struggles on the court this year and I think that has compounded in these past few games. What the Gophers need to do is put these losses behind them and continue to work with each other to grow as a team. There is a lot of talent on this Gophers team and it will take time to clean up some of the little things that are hindering them now. I think they will get it corrected and they will still make the NCAA Tournament.
Nate Leer: In a word, no. They have 12 games left and are currently 15-4, 3-3 in the Big 14, er, 10. If they go .500 the rest of the way, they will have 21 wins and be .500 in their conference. Those seem to be shoe-in numbers for the NCAA tournament. This young team just needs to keep maturing and developing. If they can’t get to at least 5 more wins to be at 20 total, then they don’t need to go be a 1-and-done team in the NCAA but can go get more reps in the NIT.
1. What NFL game were you most entertained by this weekend?
Kras: For me it was the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers once again did what he could to let the world know that he still elite. GB had no trouble jumping out to a nice lead early with multiple TD drives but it was also fun to watch the resiliency of the Cowboys as they battled back and made it a great finish to the game, with Mason Crosby kicking the game winning field goal to send the Pack onto Atlanta. The Packers are playing as well as any team right now and they will have a tough test against the high scoring Atlanta O.
Nate Leer: The Packers vs. Cowboys game was intriguing to me because I really wanted to see Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers on the same field. I think Dak may most closely resemble ARodge in his style and skillset – good size, great athleticism, elite arm, ability to throw from the pocket and on the move, etc. Dak’s progression next year will have a huge impact on Dallas, the league and fantasy football. Does he regress as Ds scheme to his weaknesses? I think Green Bay gave him a pretty good shot and he handled it. Hard work and elite skills got Dak to this level and I don’t expect those qualities to change by next year. Dallas could set itself up for a big draft weekend by flipping QB Tony Romo for a package of picks and/or young D players. An infusion of talent on D and another solid to great year from Dak,as well as RB Ezekiel Elliott, sets the ‘Boys up as possibly the team to beat in the NFC. The flip side is that the Pack is likely to be in that conversation again as Rodgers proves to be the most valuable asset to have in American sport – the BEST QB in the NFL.
2. Are you surprised that Russell Westbrook is still averaging a triple double this far into the season and does that make him the MVP?
Kras: I am surprised a bit to be honest. I thought opposing teams would find a way to slow him down, or limit what he is able to do on the O side of the ball. Russ averaging over 30 points and over 10 assists would tell me that he is still having his way on the court. I thought if anyone could average a triple double over the entire season that Westbrook would be the guy to do it and so far, he has not disappointed one bit. There is still a lot of time for his numbers to dip a bit below the required marks but he has a real chance to make it interesting going forward as well as providing good, fun basketball to watch.
JJ Benz: I previously stated that Westbrook would average a triple double for the season. But I don’t think that he is the MVP. James Harden is having a MVP type season taking a team that was barely in the playoff hunt to 3rd in the Western Conference this year. I think the value of Harden to his team is more significant even though he’s 2 rebounds short of averaging a triple double himself.
3. Who do you think will be the NFL MVP?
Kras: My personal pick for the MVP would have to be Aaron Rodgers. From starting 4-6 to running the table for a division title and still rolling. He has been the difference for the Packers as they were able to get rolling and ultimately get into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league. His numbers may not be where you would like them to be but I don’t think the Packers have a chance at the playoffs without him. Aside from Rodgers winning, it would be fun to watch Roger Goodell have to hand the award to Tom Brady. That would make for a good photo.
JJ Benz: I think that you could make a good argument for 3 QB’s: Tom Brady, Rodgers and Matt Ryan. I would have to give the nod to Ryan and not necessarily because of what he did this season. Ryan’s numbers have been solid all year but I think the facts that Brady was suspended the first 4 games and Rodgers struggled to start the year will be enough to put Ryan over the top.