1. Will Dalvin Cook end up being a top 5 RB this season in rushing yards, TDs or both?
Kras: I believe he is more likely to achieve top 5 in rushing yards versus the TDs or both. There is still a lot of season left for Cook to be top 5 in both but the Vikings O seems to have found a niche passing the ball and scoring though the air early on this season. Whether it has been Sam Bradford or Case Keenum, the Vikings have featured Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph. So far the Vikings have 6 passing TDs to 2 rushing TDs. As of now it would seem Cook is more likely to pile up yardage and be near the top of that category. On the season Cook has 288 rushing yards through 3 weeks.
Nate Leer: I agree with Kras that Cook is more likely to be top 5 in rushing yards. Cook runs strong but is not a big back. Scoring TDs may be a skill he develops but it won’t come as naturally for the young player as it would for a bigger guy like Leonard Fournette. Plus, the Vikes O line is far from great which makes it even harder to run in the red zone. Like Kras points out, they are more likely to throw when in close especially with the emergence of multiple quality receiving options.
2. Were you impressed by what you saw from Case Keenum and do you think that level of play is sustainable?
Kras: I was impressed with what Keenum was able to do. Completing 25 passes, for 369 yards, and 3 TDs is a very respectable line regardless of the QB’s name. As far as if these types of performances are sustainable from Keenum, that I’m not 100% sure of. Minnesota’s offensive eruption came against a beat up Tampa Bay D. I will have to see a couple of these efforts in a row before I am completely sold that this will be the norm. The Vikings and Keenum will get tested this coming week when they take on a Detroit Lions team that has shown improvements on D this year. Also unnoted in all of this is how long Keenum will be around before Sam Bradford is back. If Bradford comes back sooner than later, nothing Keenum will do will be sustained.
Nate Leer: Yes and no, respectively. I was certainly impressed with his accuracy and play making although it is not the first time Keenum has had a big game. Plus, the Bucs D was completely undermined by injuries. That all adds up to my answer to the 2nd part of the question: I do not think this level of productivity is sustainable. The Vikings seem to know this as well or they wouldn’t be pushing Sam Bradford to get back this week.
3. After the weekend sweep of the Detroit Tigers putting them closer to a playoff birth, do you think they can win a 1 game playoff in New York against the Yankees?
Nate Leer: Yes, they can win a 1 game playoff. They have opened up a large enough lead in the race for the last wild card spot that they can afford to manage their rotation. This should let them line up Ervin “Magic” Santana to start the playoff in NY. I like Erv better than Sonny Gray or Luis Severino, the Yanks’ best options to start, though not by much. The Yankees have a better ‘pen and lineup so I give them the edge especially at home. That said, it would be sweet to knock the Pinstripes out of the playoffs for a change and it could happen, just don’t bet on it.
Kras: I will have to see it to believe it. The Twins have not had much success when having to travel to New York to face the Yankees. As Nate Leer points out, the only edge I could give the Twins would be in the starting pitching department. Erv would certainly be the best option either team would have. With that said, Erv has been far from perfect the second half of this season. In a 1 game playoff anything can happen and that short series would be ideal for the Twins who would be hoping to steal one from a long time playoff foe.
1. Which AFC West team do you feel will win that division? How many teams from that division will make the playoffs?
Kras: As of today I think it would have to be the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs. They have established their O this season behind rookie RB Kareem Hunt while they are solid on D, even without S Eric Berry. Beyond picking them to win the division, the other 3 teams have all shown signs of being playoff teams while also showing some pretty poor play from time to time. The Raiders and QB Derek Carr look far more mortal this season than they did last year while the Broncos look to be back a bit on D and the Chargers are underachieving again this season, only this time in LA. I could see 3 teams from this division making the playoffs and I believe there is a good chance that will happen with the Chiefs, Broncos, and the Raiders. The 0-3 Chargers are already so far behind it will be hard to make up the necessary ground.
Nate Leer: The Chiefs sure seem to have clarified themselves as the team to beat. I think the interesting question is how many teams might get into the playoffs from the West: 1, 2 or 3. It looks like the Raiders and Broncos may very well be better teams than most other teams in the AFC. The AFC South is full of very flawed teams, the East is the Pats and not much else, and the North has Pittsburgh and the inconsistent Ravens. The teams in the West are going to beat each other up but I think it is still very possible they end up supplying both wild card teams as well as the division winner.
2. Are the Cleveland Indians a more feared team right now than the Houston Astros? Have they become the favorite in the A.L to go to the World Series?
Nate Leer: This is a tough one but I do give the advantage to the team that made a recent deep playoff run. On paper, the matchup between the 2 teams looks like a dead heat. Houston is getting healthy and scored a coup getting SP Justin Verlander at the waiver trade deadline. That gives them a potent lineup and elite top of the rotation. Cleveland’s rotation is nearly as good and their bullpen is better. Plus, their lineup has no holes and many diverse skill sets. In the end, I give the edge to the experienced Cleveland squad to make it to the World Series.
Kras: This Cleveland team has played hungry to say the least, to the tune of a 20+ game win streak not that long ago. SP Corey Kluber has pitched as well as one could since he returned from the DL earlier this season and has become the likely candidate to win the A.L. Cy Young Award. The Indians also tasted a Game 7 in the World Series last season in which they had to go away as the defeated team. All those things are the reasons to believe that Cleveland will be back. I was a firm believer earlier in the year that the Astros were going to run away with the A.L. but I must admit, Cleveland has looked like the team to beat going forward.
3. How do you view the Carmelo Anthony trade to the OKC Thunder? Does it help that team or does it take away from what they can do?
Kras: I believe it will depend on how Melo perceives his role with the Thunder. If he plans on going to OKC and being “The Guy”, it will not go over well. Now if he goes there, and accepts being the guy who is going to be behind Paul George and, more importantly, Russell Westbrook in touches and time of possession, then I think it could work. At this point, Melo is nothing more than an aging scorer who has little interest in playing D or rebounding. He can still be productive and help a team win games but it will be his willingness or unwillingness to be a team player that will ultimately dictate how this relationship will work out.
Nate Leer: It will help IF their big 3 can share the ball. Giving up C Enes Kanter doesn’t hurt much and F Doug McDermott is a bit player. The Thunder have some nice defensive players but not a lot of scoring outside of the big 3 of Melo, Russell Westbrook and Paul George. If Melo can become a catch and shoot guy while one or both of the others are on the floor, he could provide great spacing for their isolation games. Melo will certainly have stretches when the O runs through him but George will as well and nobody needs the ball more than Westbrook. If this team can play good D and figure out how to play O together, they could be a top 4 team in the West.