1. Are the Vikings, in your opinion, the best team in the NFC? Who will be able to beat them?
Nate Leer: I have to say they are even though it is hard to believe. The Eagles got beat down by an injury ravaged Seahawks team and the Vikes have beat the other contenders head to head. The top 7 teams in the NFC have separated themselves a bit from the rest of the pack with the Pack as an outlier since they are still in the hunt and get A Rod back soon. The Vikes record against the rest of the NFC is excellent and their win in the ATL was pretty impressive since the Falcons were hot and represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last year. If the Vikes can continue this level of total team excellence, it is hard to foresee another NFC team knocking them out. No other team seems to be as balanced with elite performers all over the roster. The D has been as good as advertised and the O has overachieved given how they looked last year and the early injuries to key playmakers. I would still have to bet against the Vikes being the first home team ever in the Super Bowl but that is based on my skepticism as a lifelong Purple fan but the objective view has to be that this is the team to beat to have the pleasure of losing to the Pats.
Kras: I will agree with Nate Leer on this one. The Vikings are the best team in the NFC. The Eagles ugly loss to the Seahawks knocks them down a peg or two in my book. With a solid win over the Falcons, the Vikes have beat all NFC contenders that they have faced to this point. With Carolina being the biggest challenge the rest of the regular season, the Vikes are in great shape to not only get a 1st round bye but also have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. They are looking like a real threat to be playing the Super Bowl in their home building. Once in the playoffs though, every opponent will be a tough challenge. Even though the Vikes have beat the Saints, Rams, and Falcons, I think they still need to watch out for those teams come the playoffs. They have all been playing quality and consistent football most of the season and will give the Vikes a run for their money.
2. Is Case Keenum the league MVP at this point? Why or why not?
Kras: This is a hard one. I think a person could make the argument that Case should and could be the MVP, but I don’t think he will be the MVP. Case has led this team to a 10-2 record while posting a league best (excluding the injured Deshaun Watson) QBR of 75.4. Unfortunately for Case, his 16 TD passes are not eye popping and I think that will be a big factor in him not receiving the award. What Case has really done for this team is not going to show up on the stat sheet. He has played as good as the team could have asked him and should get more consideration than he likely will in the voting.
Nate Leer: Kras is right that Case won’t get much consideration and I think that is appropriate. While he has been a savior for the Vikes and made many big plays right when we needed them, he is not the main reason the team is winning. The Vikes D is the strength of the team and the OL is the 2nd most important factor. In fact, I would put the running game ahead of Case on list of reasons the Vikes keep winning. None of that is a knock on Case and it demonstrates how good this team really is that they have excellent efforts up and down the roster. The Vikes certainly wouldn’t be where they are without Case but you can argue that losing one of their D studs or top O linemen would actually be more harmful. Keep it up Case just be happy with lots of wins and a fat new contract for next year.
3. Do you believe it will help or hurt the Golden Gophers basketball team that they only have 1, top 25 ranked team (as of 12-3-17) on their schedule?
Kras: It isn’t going to help but, more importantly, it isn’t going to hurt. The Gophers need to worry about winning games, not whether the opponent is ranked in the top 25 or not. That might come into play later in the season when talking about NCAA seedings and the Gophers are a long way away from that. It is a bit surprising that the Gophers and the Michigan State Spartans are the only ranked teams in the BIG 10. I would expect that Purdue may make their way into the top 25 at some point but nothing is certain and it is still very early. Plain and simple the Gophers just need to worry about who their current opponent is and handle business.
Nate Leer: I think it will hurt them come March Madness seeding time, assuming they make the tournament. If they lose to Michigan State in February, they won’t have any “quality” wins and will have at least one BAD loss. That does not bode well for trying to get a high seed relatively close to home. Of course if they are really as good as we think/hope they are, they should be able to get to at least the sweet 16 no matter what seed they get. In the end, Kras’s point that they need to just focus on winning is spot on. They can’t change their schedule so they need to focus on racking up wins and improving as a team. The rest will take care of itself.
1. Which NFL team outside the playoff race do you see making it into the playoffs in the final weeks of the season?
Kras: I am going to pick the San Diego Chargers to come out of the AFC West and make at least a wild card appearance and possibly even win that division. The Chargers are on the bubble as of right now and have some big games looming. They will face a reeling Washington team that is in a must win situation themselves. They also have games against division rivals Raiders and Chiefs. If they can split those two games, it will go a long way towards their playoff hopes. Most likely they will be able to beat the Chiefs, who are an absolute mess after a great start to their season, and the Raiders seem to be in search of an identity to this point. The Raiders have a lot of talent but don’t seem to have any clear direction in what they want to do week in and week out to win games. The Chargers themselves are riding a 3-game win streak and will look to stay hot heading down the stretch.
Nate Leer: Kras picked a good one as there is a lot of talent in San Diego and that division does not have a clear front runner. That said, I am going to the NFC South for a team that is currently not in the playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons. Even though they lost to the Vikings in the ATL last weekend, I still think they will get one of the Wild Card spots. They are one game behind a proud but decimated Seahawks team as well as the inconsistent Panthers. With a game yet to play against the Panthers in week 17, I see Atlanta leapfrogging them into the playoffs in what might be the most meaningful game of the last week of the regular season. Fly, fly Dirty Birds!
2. Did the Bowl Committee pick the right teams for the playoff?
Nate Leer: I think that they picked the 4 best teams but not necessarily the most deserving. To me, any playoff that does not include all the major conference champs is seriously flawed. To that end, they need to bite the bullet and make a 6 or 8 team playoff that does include the Big 10, SEC, Pac 10 and probably ACC champs. I think a 6 team playoff makes the most sense so the top 2 teams in the country get a bye for their efforts and any team with a legit claim to being a championship contender has a shot to prove it on the field.
Kras: Regardless of what teams make it into the playoff there will always be debate as to whether the committee picked the right teams. Personally, I feel they got the right teams. I was a believer that Bama should have gotten in over Ohio State and they did. With that said, Nate Leer is right when stating that the 4 team format is flawed. Even though I am not an Ohio State fan, it seems a bit unfair that they had to beat an undefeated Wisconsin team to win the BIG 10 while Alabama got a bye week to rest up for the playoff, thanks to OSU.
3. Did you see enough out of Tiger Woods this weekend to believe that he is ready to be a serious contender again?
Nate Leer: No because I think there is still a strong possibility that his back issues resurface. I hope he is past his physical issues and it is very promising that he made it through the entire tournament without any flare ups. However, the back is a tricky spot and I could see him starting to over swing as he feels stronger which could lead to a recurrence. All that being said, he played well enough that he absolutely can be a serious contender again IF he stays healthy. Considering how little golf or even practice he has been able to do in recent months and years, he played extremely well. It would be great to see him back on leader boards regularly so let’s just hope his back holds up.
Kras: Tiger’s tourney performance was nice and it’s good to see him out on the course again, but this was and is a far cry from being in contention on Sunday at the Masters in April. Again, it was encouraging to see him complete 4 rounds over the course of this tournament but it is only 4 rounds. Nate Leer is correct in believing that the back issues could resurface at any time and put him out of commission again, maybe for good if it happens. I need to see Tiger play more quality golf before I think he reaches contender status heading into the new year.