1. With the Twins still battling to stay in the playoff race, do you think Paul Molitor will remain the Twins manager after this season?
Kras: For me personally, I think Molly should be the manager next season. He has been able to get the best out of the players that he has had since becoming manager. I think the biggest thing Molly has going against him is that the people who hired him are no longer in charge. The Pohlads did what they could to make sure Molly was the guy for this season but now that the playoffs are a pipe dream, Molly may be on the chopping block. As much as I want to see him managing this team next season, I truly believe it will be someone else.
Nate Leer: Simply, no. Kras is right on with his take that Molly has essentially no chance of being brought back. And that Molly has earned the right to stay around. Honestly, how many managers could coax a .500 record out of this squad? Very few. Plus, Molly buys into the new analytic approach that management is taking. I will be interested to see if he is managing somewhere else within the next couple years. He is still a very well respected HOFer who has created overachieving teams in 2 of 3 years as the man in charge. The Twins will be hard pressed to find a better manager going forward but I expect that is exactly what they will be doing after the season ends.
2. Which Vikings WR do you believe will be the team leader in TDs, yards and catches?
Nate Leer: I think it is entirely possible that a different player leads each of these 3 categories, especially if you consider TE Kyle Rudolph as one of the receivers. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen could have very similar production and therefore each lead in one of the categories. That said, neither is a big TD producer so there is an opportunity for a player with significantly less targets to snag the lead in TDs. Big bodied Michael Floyd or *gasp* Laquon Treadwell could cap off a half dozen drives with conversions and therefore potentially lead the team in doing so. My prediction: Diggs for most yards, Thielen for most catches and Diggs with most TDs, after Rudolph.
Kras: I agree with Nate Leer in that it is very possible that 3 different players could factor into each category. With Diggs, Thielen, Rudolph, and Treadwell all likely to see the field early and often this season, Bradford should be able to spread the ball around the field. That is, if the O-line can give him some time to set up and throw. If the O-line can’t hold up then I would imagine we will see a lot of short 4 yard pass plays and I think Diggs and Thielen fit that role best. If the O-line can allow for a little more time to throw the ball down field, I believe that will benefit Treadwell and Rudolph more. I also have to believe that Dalvin Cook will factor in and take a some catches away from the above mentioned players. All that said I personally think Theilen will lead the team in catches while Diggs will have the most yards. As far as who will lead this team in TDs, I am going to give the nod to Treadwell. Treadwell is a stretch pick to lead the team in TDs after what he did, or didn’t do, last season but I think he will see an increased role and is a big red zone target.
3. After the Vikings first preseason game, is it too early to panic about the O-line and what is the best reason for hope?
Nate Leer: It’s probably too early to panic but this fan is concerned. There is lots of time to improve and neither team had all of its starters playing Thursday. However, the pass pro was mostly brutal and spendy, “new” RT Mike Remmers was about as effective as a picket gate without a fence. I have maintained all offseason that QB Sam Bradford will not make it through 2018 without significant injury. His size (lack of mass in particular), history and this O line make it inevitable to me that he will get beat down too much and tee’d up by too many DEs with a little skill off of the edge. The Vikes do have a deep group of QBs but it is hard to see anyone besides Sam or maybe Teddy Bridgewater getting this team into, much less deep into, the playoffs. The biggest reason for hope, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, is rookie RB Dalvin Cook. The talented RB showed off his full skillset including impressive instincts. It was nice to get some juice out of the screen game but Cook will need to work on blitz pickup to be his most effective.
Kras: No one wants to panic after one preseason game but the O-line has been a reason for panic since the 1st preseason game last season. Management went and made what they deemed upgrades on the line but they did nothing to add any real depth and that will likely be the downfall of this team. It is early and there is still time for the O-line to work with each other and improve but I don’t think they are going to be great. I think Nate Leer is right in his Dalvin Cook take and he will be a much needed jolt for this O but I think the Vikings D will be the best reason for hope. They are a solid unit and have the ability to be top 10 and keep this team relevant this season.
1. Will there be any team that is willing to give up what Cleveland feels they should get for Kyrie or do you think it is likely that Kyrie will be stuck in Cleveland to start the season?
Nate Leer: I suspect Kyrie will be in Cleveland to at least start the year. As the offseason then season progress, both the Cavs and Irving will get more desperate and have lower expectations if they can’t repair the relationship. This could easily carry through to next offseason as well. Minnesota might still be a destination if they can use PG Jeff Teague as an asset in the deal come December. Teague doesn’t seem like enough for Irving but he could be a start if Cleveland decides they have to move on. Alternatively, Irving might become more agreeable to a trade to a team with excellent assets like Phoenix and a subsequent long-term contract as the process deepens. I would probably give the highest percentage of probability to a situation where the Cavs force Kyrie to stay and try to make one more run before completely retooling in 2018 as Lebron exits stage left.
Kras: I would be a bit surprised if Kyrie was moved at this point. There doesn’t seem to be a willing trade partner as of now for the Cavs. With Kyrie under team control for 2 more years they have no incentive to move just because he wants to be traded. That said, I do believe the Cavs will part ways with Kyrie so the question will be when and with who. I think the T-Wolves will be in play come December when they can move Teague as an option. I also can’t count out the Boston Celtics. I feel they could be a sleeper in the Kyrie sweepstakes.
2. What does the addition of Yu Darvish by the Los Angeles Dodgers do for that team? Are they a lock to make the World Series or even win it all?
Nate Leer: I think it makes them the favorite in the NL but not a lock even just to win the NL, much less the Series. Baseball is too funny of a sport to make any team a “lock” even if they look unbeatable. The Dodgers best player, SP Clayton Kershaw is out with a back injury that could linger and has been average at best in past postseasons. If the Nats or Cubs get dominant starting pitching, they will have at least a good shot to beat the Dodgers. Same for the Indians or Astros. I think I would give the Dodgers the best percentage chance to win it all but still only around 25%.
Kras: The addition of Yu Darvish is going to help the Dodgers but not enough to guarantee a World Series win. As Nate Leer points out, baseball is a funny game and there are too many things that can happen outside of what Darvish can control in his starts once every 4 or 5 days. The Dodgers have a nice lineup and quality bullpen to help out but are without Clayton Kershaw as of right now with a recurring back problem that seems to pop up yearly. No team is ever a lock to win it all and the Dodgers are no exception. They will be a contender and I suspect they may make a deep run in the postseason but that is far from a lock.
3. As the NFL preseason starts to kick off who are 2 teams (1 – AFC, 1 – NFC) that missed the playoffs last year that you believe have improved enough to compete for the playoffs?
Nate Leer: For me it’s the Bucs and Titans. The Bucs looked good with many of their starters in for Week 1 of the preseason while the Steelers didn’t play enough regulars to warrant an evaluation. For the Bucs, I think they are just some decent play from their O line away from being a good team and legit challenge to Atlanta in the NFC South. Of course that is easier said than done but Tampa seems to have everything else in place: a gifted QB, diverse and talented receiving options, a stable of RBs and quality defensive players in key roles. They look like a team on the rise but they have to get solid performances out of the front 5. Tennessee is a similar team to Tampa in more ways than just their uber prospect QBs, including talent on D and in the receiving game. However, they have invested more over the last few years in OL help and that plus better RBs makes them look like a fast rising AFC power.
Kras: I am going to reach for a couple teams that are going to need some exceptional play from their QBs. I am going to pick the Colts and the Saints. I think the Colts will have to win the AFC South to make the playoffs given how tough the AFC West is. On the other hand, I feel the Saints best chance to get in will be to grab a wild card spot given they have to contend with the Atlanta Falcons who are worth noting. Andrew Luck needs to get healthy and stay that way in order for the Colts to have success and make a playoff push while Drew Brees and the Saints might be looking at one last push with this unit before they break up the band down in NOLA.