1. Given what you have seen so far, do you believe the Vikings will be an above .500 team?
Kras: Given what the Vikes have shown so far this preseason, there is reason to doubt that they will be 8-8 but there are enough pieces in purple to make me take the over. Most of my doubts have to do with the O, more specifically the O-line. Those issues have been well documented. I do believe in this team’s ability to play D and I believe that is what will make them a better than .500 team. Looking ahead to the regular season the Vikes schedule seems to be fairly favorable. They could certainly take 2 games from the Lions and Bears each which puts them at 4 wins. I think they should have a chance to wins their games against the Saints, Browns, Rams, and Bengals. If they take a game from the Packers and pick another win up against the Ravens, Panthers, Falcons, or Washington they will be in the neighborhood of 10 wins. Assuming that the O can uptick from last season with new addition Dalvin Cook, they will be fine, although they may get off to a sluggish start.
Nate Leer: I do think the VIkes will finish over .500 this year. I am confident the D will be good to great and the O should be okay. Rookie RB Cook could help balance the offensive production by giving Bradford a legit running threat as well as a playmaker catching passes out of the backfield. The O line and maybe DBs could get scary with an injury or 2 but otherwise I think the Vikes are the 2nd best team in the NFC North. As Kras lays out, they have plenty of winnable games on the schedule, at least on paper.
2. Is Matt Cullen the missing piece that helps get the Wild deep into the playoffs this coming season?
Kras: Matt Cullen couldn’t help this team to a Stanley Cup when he was 5 years younger, I’m not convinced that he will this time around either. Cullen has been a very quality, and by all accounts successful, player but he has been surrounded by some exceptional talent, especially in his later years. During his time in Pittsburgh, he was with talents Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel. Cullen will not have the privilege of playing with players of that caliber in Minnesota. Zach Parise hasn’t been the same the past two season and guys such as Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, and Charlie Coyle have proven to be nothing more than role players. Cullen is a nice addition for this team and will certainly bring a lot of postseason experience but that isn’t enough to overcome what this team is, and that is just average.
3. Did the Twins make a mistake giving up on the season as soon as they did when they traded away Jaime Garcia or do you believe this is what they should be doing?
Kras: I don’t think they made a mistake. Sure Garcia would fill a spot in the rotation that badly needs a quality starter but it never appeared he would be part of the Twins rebuilding. Garcia gave the Twins what they needed, which was a solid outing so they could turn around and flip him for assets that can help this team in the future. The Twins are competing, to some degree, without Garcia. I continue to believe we have to have some faith in what Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have planned for the future of this team. At the time the Twins moved Garcia they looked like the wheels were about to fall off and the free fall to the bottom of the standings was about to take place. They have since rebounded nicely so it makes it easier to say “the Twins sold too soon” or that “they should have kept Garcia”. However, when you get down to brass tacks, nothing about this team says they are ready to take on the Houston Astros or Cleveland Indians. The simple answer, the Twins did the right thing in moving Garcia to New York.
Nate Leer: Kras is right on with his take. Hindsight makes it easy to judge the move harshly but at the time it sure looked like the team was ready to fade away. Getting assets to help going forward was the right move at the time. Garcia would have helped down the stretch but would have been significantly overmatched come playoff time. Even with him, the team was a legit starter and 2-3 good bullpen arms away from being any real threat in the playoffs. It’s great that Molly has this team competing hard in late August but management made the correct choice to focus on the future at the trade deadline.
1. With Jay Cutler now at QB, will the Dolphins be better or worse than last season when they went 10-6 and made the playoffs as a Wild Card?
Nate Leer: I have been a fan of injured QB Ryan Tannehill but I still think Cutler is a bit of an upgrade. We all know about his history with the Bears but I think he will be motivated and this is a short term relationship. If the Dolphins O line plays well, Cutler has plenty of good targets to throw to. That should keep him happy and a happy J Cut is usually a productive J Cut.
Kras: I think Nate Leer makes an excellent point when he talks about the short term relationship. I think from a team standpoint that will help both Cutler and the Dolphins. That short term relationship aside, Cutler has a fairly lengthy relationship with HC Adam Gase. Cutler had some of his best success in Chicago when Gase was the OC. Cutler isn’t afraid to throw the ball and can do it better than most in the league. I think he will be able to step right in and run the type of system that Gase wants to run with some success. I think they will have a winning record but I don’t think it will be better than last season’s 10-6. I also feel that if they can’t reach 10-6, they won’t be a playoff team. I don’t think this will be the year they overthrow the Patriots for the division so they will need a wildcard spot and 10-6 will be needed to get it done.
2. Do you believe the NFL should change the amount of preseason games that are played and how should it be changed?
Nate Leer: I actually don’t think they should change it unless it is done along with expanding the regular season. Let’s face it, we all are itching to see some football by the beginning of August so starting later doesn’t help fans. Also, in places like Minnesota, preseason games offer an more affordable option for fans to get to a game. And, while I know fans aren’t too interested in guys playing late in preseason games who are quite unlikely to make a roster, coaches and management use that time to evaluate the players. It is also an opportunity for those players to be seen by other teams as well as their families and friends. All together, these factors outweigh the boredom fans have with watching meaningless football.
Kras: I don’t know what should be done with the preseason. I believe most of the problem with preseason is when injuries occur. When a star player goes down in a meaningless game it is disappointing for that team, city, and any fantasy football player. I don’t think there is a good answer as to what should be done. The injuries that happen in a preseason game are just as likely to happen in a regular season game. As Nate Leer points out preseason is really more about coaches figuring out the 53 man rosters and making sure they have the right players on their team.
3. Besides the current division leaders (Red Sox, Indians, Astros, Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers), which MLB playoff contender has the best chance to win it all?
Kras: I am going to pick the Colorado Rockies. I think they have enough pop at the plate with Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ian Desmond, if he can ever get healthy. I also believe the are fairly deep at pitcher. They don’t have an Ace type like Clayton Kershaw but they do have quite a few guys who are average to slightly above average. Guys such as Josh Hoffman. Jon Grey, Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson, and Chad Bettis are all guys who can, if needed come into a game and eat multiple innings. I think having that could be sneaky for them heading into any potential playoff run.
Nate Leer: My pick is the Arizona Diamondbacks. To be clear, I don’t think they will make it to the World Series much less win it but I do think they have the best chance among the options for one reason, they have an ace at the top of the rotation. Zach Greinke is back to stud form and he gives the team a shot to win the play in game as even a series or more. The D’backs also have a good lineup so they have an outside shot to make some noise in the playoffs.