1. Does the injury to Zach LaVine all but end the chances of the Timberwolves making a playoff push?
Kras: I’m not sure they were going to make a playoff push before the injury and certainly LaVine’s absence will not help things. The T-wolves will miss his almost 19 points per game. To go along with that, LaVine was hitting 2.6 triples per game which will be a tough void to fill. The Wolves will need to find somebody to shoot and Brandon Rush might be that guy. Regardless, I am not convinced this will be the dagger to their season.
Nate Leer: I don’t think so. As Kras says, it was questionable whether the team had a real run in them anyway. That said, they have been playing their best ball of late and they haven’t been getting much from LaVine during that stretch. Unless and until LaVine and/or Andrew Wiggins become better defenders, it will be debatable whether the team is better with both of them on the floor or having a better defender at one of the spots. The rest of the season gives the team a chance to evaluate what it could look like with Wiggins playing more 2 and several other players getting more run. It should be interesting..
2. Will Byung Ho Park make the Twins Opening Day roster, or have we seen the last of him?
Kras: I believe he would have to have an insane spring to make the opening day roster. With Joe Mauer (1B), Kennys Vargas (1B), and Miguel Sano (3B), all likely to see their share at bats at DH as well, there will be little time for Park to get into the lineup. He will have to get hot early in spring training and stay hot to prove he can have some success before he sees any action with the Big Club.
Nate Leer: It still remains to be seen whether another team will claim Park and his contract. He is owed something like $3M per year for the next 3 years. That is not a lot of money for even just a platoon player in the modern major league economic landscape. I could see a team such as Oakland taking a chance on a cheap player with some power upside. If he is still with the Twins at the end of this week, it will be a challenge for him to make team out of camp for the reasons Kras mentions. The x-factor, as always is injuries. If Joe from St. Paul or Vargas go down early, Park could be right back in the mix. Hopefully he hits better this spring and can pressure the Twins to make room for him.
3. With Captain Munnerlyn and Terence Newman being free agents, do you think the Viking have enough depth to move on without them, resign 1 or both, or do they pursue someone else to fill a void?
Kras: The Vikings will have to do something, they can’t go without bringing one of those 2 back or finding someone to replace one of them. Xavier Rhodes is a nice piece but after that it is Trae Waynes and McKenzie Alexander and I don’t feel either one of them has shown enough that I would be comfortable with them as my starter opposite Rhodes. Beyond that, they will need a depth player to help the secondary out. Munnerlyn to me makes some sense. He’s younger than Newman, familiar with the system, and likely an inexpensive option to help the team.
JJ Benz: I happen to think very highly of Trae Waynes. He had a solid year and is still learning Zimmer’s D. The nickel is the most used D in today’s NFL and so relevant that a nickel back is pretty much a full time player. I think the coaching staff thinks Alexander will be the long term solution but may not be ready to start the season. Since Captain knows the defense he’s probably the favored to return but still isn’t technically a Zimmer guy. It would best if they can bring either one of those guys back for the right price. The more talented corners a team has, the better, especially in this pass happy league.
1. Is Tom Brady the greatest QB of all time?
Kras: I think a person would be hard pressed to argue against him being the greatest. Now with 5 Super Bowls to his name and 4 SB MVPs to go along with that, he’s the most accomplished QB of all time. Brady is far from the best athlete on the field at any given time but his ability to make plays when he needs to is second to none. Because of that, Brady would have to be my pick if I needed a guy to win a game for me. Tom overcame a 25 point deficit in the second half to become the first QB to win a SB overtime game. He does it all.
JJ Benz: I think that you have to look at him as the best of all time if you base the it on winning. I don’t believe he is the most talented passer or athlete of all time but most people base a QB’s success as a professional on how successful the team was that he played for. In some ways I agree with that take about being the most important player on the team, but it’s still a team. To me Dan Marino was best passer of all-time but Tom Brady is a 5 time SB champ and that might be a record no one touches. By no means do I feel Brady is a game manager but that quality and leadership are probably the most significant to winning multiple SB’s.
2. With Super Bowl LI being the first SB to go to overtime, is it the greatest SB ever? Greatest game ever?
Kras: I will have to let it sink in a bit before I make my final call on this being the greatest SB ever but it definitely will rate high on that list. It had everything a person would want in a game except a lot of back and forth lead changes. With the comeback from 25 points down, to overtime, to Tom Brady setting the record for passing yards in a SB, this game pretty much was what all NFL fans should want. From a person with no interest who won or lost either way, I thought it was a great football game to watch and if more games were that good the NFL wouldn’t have to worry about ratings taking a dip.
Nate Leer: I think this is the greatest Super Bowl ever and being on that stage makes it the greatest NFL game ever. It would be interesting to compare it the other great games in sports history. To me, the only TEAM games that can compare are game 7s in baseball, particularly in the 20th century, because those games can match the finality of a single game championship. I say baseball because for the vast majority of the 20th century it was clearly the most popular sport in America which gives weight to the championship game. The NFL holds that spot now so the greatest game in NFL history, at this point in its history, is hard to argue against as the greatest team game ever. A wrinkle in that would be the great boxing matchups of the 1960s and 70s.
3. Was Super Bowl LI more a case of the Patriots winning the game with great play or more the Falcons choked it away?
Kras: I think it is a little of both cases. For the Patriots to even have a chance at winning the game, they had to play near perfect football in the second half, and they did. Tom Brady led the O up and down the field with plenty of James White mixed in as well. The D of the Pats also tightened up and made Atlanta work for their yardage. Now from the other point of view, the Falcons D couldn’t stop anything the Patriots were doing in the second half of the game. Also, one could and probably should question the play calling late in the 4th from the Falcons sideline. Looking at the amount of total plays run, the Falcons lost the game when they gave Tom Brady 93 chances to touch the ball.
Nate Leer: I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to separate the 2 concepts. In order for it to be the greatest comeback ever, both have to be fully in play. If it was something like a 10 point comeback in the 4th, I could see picking a clear concept for why it happened. All that being said, if I have to pin it on one or the other, I say ATL choke. To me we need to look no further than the sequence that occurred with around 4 minutes left in regulation to see how the ATL coaches choked the game away. After Julio Jones made one of the best catches ever to move ATL to the NE 22, ATL ran once then attempted to pass on back to back plays. If ATL would have just ran the ball 3 times, and even lost a yard each time, they would have had a sub-50 yard field goal attempt to go up 2 scores. They also would have run the clock down and/or forced NE to burn timeouts. To me Dan Quinn, who is ultimately responsible as head coach, along with O coordinator Kyle Shanahan made the worst decision in NFL history by not handing the ball to a RB 3 straight times. Yes, this is worse to me than the Seahawks not running the ball at the goal line in the Super Bowl 2 years ago partly because they made not 1 but 2 bad decisions. Even after a Matt Ryan sack pushed them back for 3rd down, they were still well within field goal range and a simple run would have not forced their LT to hold a NE pass rusher. Plus, again, running the ball would have run the clock, which was their friend at that point. I have heard people say that passing was justified because they were going for the win, being aggressive, etc. That is a BS argument as a field goal and running the clock down would have made it MORE likely for ATL to win than a quick TD. Plus, coaches are paid to balance risk vs. reward and ATL miscalculated severely. By the way, this is not hindsight. I had bets on NE but right after the Jones catch, I said, “Run the ball 3 times to win, ATL.”