1. What did you think of the Vikings season opener versus AP and the Saints?
Kras: Overall they performed better than I expected. The O seemed to have some flow that was lacking in the preseason. RB Dalvin Cook was good to great, at times. He racked up 127 rushing yards in his pro debut and was without a doubt the lead back for the Vikes. I also thought that QB Sam Bradford was a bit more comfortable running the O with an O-line that was able to keep him upright for the most part. RT Mike Remmers had some moments that left a little to be desired and he seemed to be the weak link on the OL last night. It is a promising start for the Purple and I will be interested to see if they can keep it going or if they were the beneficiary of a mediocre Saints team to start the season. Time will tell.
Nate Leer: The Purple looked good from the QB through the back end of the D. There were hiccups at times but they weren’t going to be perfect. Bradford was impressively accurate with plenty of arm to make all the throws he wanted. The skill position players also looked good at all the key spots with 1st round bust Laquon Treadwell even getting in on the action. Injunction with the skill players, the O-line even looked decent, which is tremendous improvement over recent history. To be fair, the Saints D looks pretty feeble but the Vikes still had to take care of business. Meanwhile, the D did a good job of limiting the Saints scoring which is an accomplishment anytime HOF QB Drew Brees is on the field. All-in-all the team looked much better than their opponents and that is all we can ask for.
2. Were you surprised by the Vikings cutting G Alex Boone and does the move make them even more vulnerable at an already weak position?
Kras: I was surprised by the team cutting Boone and I do think it puts them in an even more compromised position when it comes to the O-line. It is my belief that the Vikings are already thin at O-line, regardless of it being a tackle or guard. With that being said, Boone has not been overly productive in his short stint with Minnesota. He said all the things you wanted to hear from an in-the-trenches guard that will help anchor an O-line, but he never produced or lived up to any expectations. If this was a situation in which the Vikings felt Boone had no place or just couldn’t help, then fine, they made the right move. However, if this was about money and he could have helped them on the field, then the Vikings missed and shame on them.
Nate Leer: I was also surprised by the move mainly because the O line has been so bad. I didn’t think it made sense to get rid of any depth there unless they planned to go sign a veteran who was released by another team, such as T Eric Winston. However, as details have trickled out, it begins to make more sense. It sounds like Boone wasn’t in great shape, didn’t fit the system, was essentially beat out for the job by a younger player and was a problem in the locker room. I think the Vikes offered him a reduced contract just to be professional about it but they never expected him to sign it. I was leery of the Boone signing from the beginning so we are better off moving on. Let’s just hope we are not doing this same one and done contract dumping with one or both of our OTs next year.
3. What did you think of the Golden Gophers performances against Buffalo and Oregon State and do you think this will be a winning season for the Maroon and Gold?
Kras: I don’t think it was a particularly great showing by the Gophers in their first game against which they eventually won 17-7. I feel their biggest issue will be that they don’t have a stand above the rest QB. Neither Conor Rhoda nor Demry Croft stood out over the other and that doesn’t help the Gophers. There is still time for the Gophers to figure out who they want to be “the guy” at QB but it wasn’t a good start. The Gophers showed more promise in their game against Oregon St., especially on the O side of the ball. I will be much more interested to see what the team does when the BIG 10 schedule starts. It is nice to be off to a 2-0 start on the season and hopefully they can keep the momentum going moving forward. I will also be interested to see if the relationship between Conor Rhoda and Tyler Johnson will continue to grow. So far this season they have hooked up for a couple of nice TDs. Hopefully this continues as the team needs a quality WR to compliment the RBs.
Nate Leer: To me, the Gophs are pretty much treading water which means yes, it will probably be a winning season overall but not in the Big 10. They barely beat one bad team and shelled another which is what a .500 type Big 10 team should do against that level of competition. Another couple blowouts or a win against a good team would go a long way towards convincing me that they are actually a good team. On a positive note, it looks like Rhoda took a step forward in the 2nd game. He seems to be the clearcut #1 QB at this point although they should keep giving Croft reps so he can develop as a backup and potential starter next year. Croft looked good against a bad D but at this point that is progress.
1. With the Celtics and Cavaliers finalizing the Kyrie Irving trade, are the Cavs still the team to beat in the Eastern Conference?
Nate Leer: Yes, the Cavs are still the team to beat as long as they have one LeBron James leading their squad. LeBron is the #1 difference maker in the NBA. Put him on any team in the East and they are probably the favorite. That said, I do think Boston has the best chance to dethrone Cleveland of any team in recent memory. As a matter of fact, they may be the best competition for Lebron since he came in the league. If Lebron heads west after this season, we could be looking at another run of Boston dominance in the East.
Kras: Agreed. As long as LeBron James is in Cleveland, they will be the team to beat. The Celtics are in a great position to give the Cavs a run in the East but without it happening first I can’t bet against Cleveland. The Celtics have a nice core now with PG Irving, G/F Gordon Hayward, and C Al Horford. However, none of those guys is LeBron James. Let’s also not forget that the Cavs did get some nice pieces back in the deal. PG Isaiah Thomas and SF Jae Crowder are 2 players that will factor in immediately. With C Ante Zizic and the coveted Brooklyn Nets 1st round pick it remains to be seen how they develop but it is encouraging to have those young assets for the team who lost the best player in the deal. I will be interested to see how it shakes out over the season but I would still put the Cavs at the top.
2. What result from week 1 of the NFL season surprised you the most?
Nate Leer: I wasn’t surprised by RB Kareem Hunt’s break out performance but the way it powered the Chiefs past the Patriots was surprising. While I didn’t expect the Chiefs to be able to move the ball as well as they did, it was more impressive that they shut down QB Tom Brady and his mates. They put their best defender on the Pats best weapon, S Eric Berry on TE Rob Gronkowski, and the O never found its rhythm through the air. Many people had the Pats as the overwhelming favorite to win it all this year or even pushing for a perfect season. Now it looks like they may have big holes in their squad. However, head coach Bill Belichick is the master at making adjustments. I fully expect them to rebound sooner than later. As for the Chiefs, they lost their aforementioned D stud when Berry blew his Achilles. However, if the O continues to look as good as it did in the opener, a rematch with these 2 teams could decide the AFC winner.
Kras: The biggest surprise to me was the overall production by rookie players across the NFL. As Nate Leer points out, it started with Kareem Hunt’s dominating performance on Thursday against the defending NFL Champions. Hunt was by far the top rookie performer but there were plenty of others who answered the call. Jacksonville RB Leonard Fournette rushed 26 times for 100 yards and a TD. Detroit WR Kenny Golladay of the Lions pulled down 4 catches, 2 of which were for TDs. Chicago RB Tarik Cohen also erupted for over 100 total yards which was a welcome sign for the Bears. Guys such as Rams WR Cooper Kupp, Colts RB Marlon Mack, and Dalvin Cook all gave promise to their respective teams this week and it will be worth watching to see if they can keep it up.
3. Will Louisville QB Lamar Jackson make it back to back Heisman trophy wins this year?
Nate Leer: I tend to think so. Like any great accomplishment in sports, it is hard to have the luck along with dominance that is usually required to repeat. Jackson probably needs his team to play well enough to be in the running for a slot in the College Football Playoff. He also will need to stay healthy, never a given. On top of that, virtually no matter how great of a season Jackson could have, there may be a player who does better. There is enough top talent out there this year that one of the other kids could outshine Jackson. But I am still betting on him winning it. Almost as interesting will be seeing where he gets drafted as many of the competitors for the Heisman will also be coveted assets atop the draft board.