1. What was the cause for regression in the Vikings offense this week compared to last week?
Kras: As a Lions fan, I want to say that Detroit’s D was the cause for the regression to the norm for the Purple, but that’s not entirely true. Dalvin Cook going down with the ACL injury was a major blow to the focal point of the O. Minnesota was also hurt this week by the turnovers. Sure, Cook lost a ball but that was the least of what was lost on that play. Unfortunately for Vikes fans, that turned out to be the Lions only TD drive. The Jerick McKinnon fumble was mind-boggling as well as when Adam Thielen put the ball on the turf. I found myself complimenting Thielen earlier in the game for having strong hands, and then that. I think it is also safe to say that QB Case Keenum if NOT the solution moving forward. The Vikes need Sam Bradford back worse than ever now that Cook is lost for the season. There is hope for the Vikings O yet, they just need Sam to get healthy and quick.
Nate Leer: There were 3 main factors in the Vikes O coming back to earth and I’m not sure any of them is fixable. To start with, RB Dalvin Cook went out of the game, and subsequently the season, with a torn ACL. The Vikes have competent backups but they are not game changers like Cook has been and could well have been on Sunday. Losing Cook’s playmaking is not a fixable situation. The 2nd issue was QB Case Keenum’s lack of accuracy. Keenum missed open windows at key times and that really hurt the team’s chances of winning. I don’t think this issue is correctable unless and until Sam Bradford comes back. Keenum has always been inconsistent and that will continue. Last but not least, the play calling was brutal at times. I am not sure if this is correctable either. The team was able to move the ball through the air but tried to run it when they most needed a score. Whether it’s Zim or the OC making the final decision, they have to stick with the pass when that is working.
2. Should we be disappointed in the Twins loss to the Yankees or should we just be happy that they had a great turnaround this season and were able to make the playoffs?
Kras: Yes. I am happy that the Twins turned the season around and showed some true potential moving forward with the young core of players that they have on their roster. The resurgence of Joe Mauer this season was also much need for fans as they have all but run Mauer out of town the past few seasons over his move to 1B, his underwhelming batting numbers, and the money he is making. It was good for everyone and my guess is, that most fans would take him back if was going to be a .300 hitter, just maybe not at his current price. All in all it was a great season for a club that lost 103 games the season before. As far as the playoff game goes, I think it was a disappointing effort. The only strength the Twins had over the Yankees was starting pitching and that did not shine through in that game. Ervin Santana was not sharp in this game and was removed way too early. The Twins really needed Erv to go at least 6 innings for them to have a chance. Jose Barrios was not any better and the bullpen followed suit by being every bit as ineffective. The Twins did what they had to do and that was to jump out to any early lead in the 1st inning. Unfortunately it was short lived as they gave all 3 runs back in the bottom of the inning. Joe Mauer going 1-5 doesn’t help, Byron Buxton leaving the game early doesn’t help, and just not having Miguel Sano in the lineup likely didn’t help. It was typical Twins luck in the Bronx but it was nice to be able to watch the Twins in October.
Nate Leer: I think we should be happy that this team played better than .500 ball and not get too concerned about how the postseason went. This team was not expected to win close to half of their games so Molly and the boys should be commended for getting to the playoffs. The actual result of the game was not surprising. Neither SP had their good stuff and that development favored the Yankees with their outstanding, deep bullpen. The future is bright for this club and the development of their young players – SP Jose Berrios, OF Eddie Rosario, OF Byron Buxton, SS Jorge Polanco and several more – is extremely positive going forward. Let’s enjoy a good season and hope for bigger and better things in the near future. Go Twins!
3. Are the Wild set up any better this season to make a run at the Cup or do you predict business as usual with another early round exit in the playoffs?
Nate Leer: I think “business as usual” is the perfect way to describe the Wild’s efforts this year. They have done just enough in the offseason to keep pace in the West. However, they have not substantially improved the team and so are no better than a 2nd round playoff team. Until this team gets a true frontline scorer, preferably an elite one, they will not get over the good but not great hump. Getting elite scoring talent is easier said than done but I honestly think this team would be better off bottoming out for high draft picks than treading water as just another playoff contender. To be fair, that would be hard to do in the state of hockey but fans need to understand that it might be the only way to become a true Cup contender.
Kras: I have to agree with Nate Leer on this one. It’s early, but it’s already not looking good. The Wild signed C Matt Cullen this offseason which is a nice piece for a team that always seems to be thin at C. However, Cullen will be 41 in November and it remains to be seen how effective he will be. Remember, when he was in Pittsburgh he was surrounded by playmakers. The Wild wish they had a couple players that were the caliber of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Beyond Cullen, “star player” Zach Parise is continuing to deal with back problems. For him to have an impact on the game, he will need to be in the dirty areas around the crease, which will increase his contact. If and when he comes back healthy, it’s doubtful he will be back for the remainder of the season. If the Wild get 60 games out of LW Zach Parise this season, they will be fortunate. Truth be told, as grim as it looks early, the Wild will be lucky to make the playoffs.
1. What was the most significant injury for week 4 of the NFL season?
Kras: I think the obvious answer here is the loss of RB Dalvin Cook. Cook was on his way to a 1000 yard rushing season and had become a staple in the Vikes backfield. The Vikes still have Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon but neither of those guys have Cook’s big play ability. Cook was a game changer and made that O very dangerous. He will be dearly missed.
Nate Leer: Kras is right on. Washington lost CB Josh Norman and Seattle lost rookie RB Chris Carson but neither appears to be as long of a recovery as Cook nor does either team “need” their player as bad as the Vikes need Cook. Unless QB Sam Bradford comes back soon, the Vikes O goes from above average to pretty bad. If the Vikes could have gotten Bradford and Cook on the field together for an extended stretch, it could have produced the best O Minnesota fans have seen in awhile. Instead they will have to move forward with a decent but not explosive platoon at RB. Ouch!
2. Who are your A.L. and N.L. picks to go to the World Series? Who will win it all?
Nate Leer: I think the Indians will beat the Dodgers in the Series. Cleveland has the SPs to match LA, a better overall bullpen and a really deep, balanced lineup. Plus, many of their good offensive players are good to great defenders as well. Often the hottest teams from the regular season cool off too much in the playoffs and lose out to a hotter, if not actually better, team. However, I think the Indians experience last year in the playoffs will serve them well this year and they will break their World Series drought.
Kras: In the AL, I am going to pick the Houston Astros and on the N.L. side I am going to go out on a limb and picking the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Astros have been as goods as any team in baseball over the entire season and, personally, I think the D-backs have a good lineup that starts with Paul Goldschmidt and trade acquired J.D. Martinez. Beyond that, the D-backs have some depth at pitching, both in the starting rotation and the bullpen. Both of which are much needed in the playoffs.
3. Are the Pittsburgh Penguins likely to win the Cup again this season or is there a surprise team you think will step up?
Kras: I think they have as good a chance as any team. They have won it all back to back years and that is both reason to believe they could do it and yet seem unlikely to do it again. I believe it would be really tough for them to win it a 3rd year in a row. I also believe that the Tampa Bay Lightning could be a tough contender along with the Penguins in the East. The Lightning will get a potential 50 goal scorer back this season in Steven Stamkos to complement the play of Nikita Kucherov. I ultimately think it will boil down to these 2 teams in the East and I think the Lightning rise to the challenge and beat the Pens.
Nate Leer: I will pick the Penguins for all the reasons Kras points out above. Yes it is tough to 3 peat in any sport but they have shown that they’re able to stay motivated even after winning it all. The goal of getting the 3 peat should actually provide more motivation plus they could be even healthier this year. My big concern is that their young goalie regresses but, barring that, look for them to keep the Cup in Pittsburgh.