1. What was more concerning from the Vikings loss to the Panthers, the play of the D or the injuries the O-line seems to have suffered?
Nate Leer: The O-line injuries are much more concerning to me. The D gave up some big plays but they were rather fluky. Plus, Cam’s big run was certainly aided by a missed holding call right in the hole. I think the D will rebound in a big way going forward. The D will also be helped if the Vikes can reestablish their ground game but that depends on the O-line getting healthy. That brings us back to the injuries that decimated the line last week. Not having C Pat Elflein was an issue right from the beginning of the game as there were limited running lanes in the middle and pressure on QB Case Keenum up the gut. Losing LT Riley Reiff during the game was also a huge blow. He is a road grader that definitely helps the run game and is not replaceable in that role. RT Rashod Hill did a good job in pass pro after shifting to the left side but replacing him was a big downgrade to the rest of the line. It doesn’t sound like any of the injuries are major but getting those guys back is the real key to this team making a deep run in the playoffs.
Kras: I think it is the potential loss of LT Riley Reiff for a week plus. The D did get exposed on a few long runs but I believe they will be able to correct those issues moving forward. If Reiff is to miss significant time, it would mean moving pieces around on the O-line. The O-line that has been fairly healthy and has played better than originally expected at the beginning of the season. Early reports indicate Reiff’s ankle is not as bad as the team initially thought, which is good news for the Vikings but doesn’t make him a shoe in to play this coming week. Hopefully this injury does not become a nagging injury that keeps Reiff out for more than a week or two. The Vikes also were without C Pat Elflein which did not help. Elflein is hoping to be back this week and that should help stabilize the pocket some for QB Case Keenum.
2. Do you agree with Jack Morris making the MLB HOF? Do you feel it should have happened sooner?
Nate Leer: Yes and probably yes. Black Jack did not have great regular season stats but was a workhorse and fronted many playoff caliber rotations in Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto. His postseason dominance is legendary, particularly what he did for the Twins in 1991. He pitched arguably the greatest World Series game ever in Game 7 that year. To me, his postseason performances push his borderline HOF regular season stats over the edge. Morris is a standoffish personality at best and that likely was the reason he hadn’t been elected yet, which is BS. Too often, voters for HOFs, as well as other honors, let their opinion of the person off the field cloud their judgement regarding a player’s on field performance. That certainly seems to be the case for Morris but he has finally made it in. It’s well deserved!
Kras: I do agree with him making the HOF wholeheartedly! Seeing how the Twins 1991 run to World Champions was one of my early baseball memories, I think he should be in the HOF on the Game 7 performance alone. 10 innings, 7 hits, 2 walks, and 8 strikeouts was the line for Morris in that game and it will likely never be duplicated. To Nate Leer’s point, Morris is a tough personality and has been standoffish. That, coupled with his average regular season career performance, has made him a borderline nominee for the baseball voters. For me, however, Jack is a legend and is finally getting to where he belongs, even if it took longer than I thought it would.
3. Were we overrating the Golden Gophers this year or will they be able to rebound from the early season woes?
Kras: There is lots of time for this team to get back on track and still have a very good season. It does appear that they may have been overrated in the rankings JUST a bit to this point. The Gophers have not had the success that I thought they would in the early going. Before the game against Miami, I all but predicted the Gophers to be undefeated until the new year and it has been nearly the opposite to this point. I think this has been a humbling stretch for the Gophers and hopefully a stretch that they can learn from and grow as a team. If they can get right for the run of BIG 10 games after the new year they will be fine. WIth that said, they need to show improvement before that point otherwise it will be hard to buy into this team for any NCAA tournament potential.
Nate Leer: I think we were all overrating this team. Clearly they have talent especially in their starting unit but their depth is severely lacking. They do have some young, talented players who could step up as the season goes along but that is a lot to ask of 19 year olds. Luckily they do not have many tough games early in the Big 10 season so they will have some time to figure out how to compete at this level. Hopefully the young guys develop and provide enough depth for the team to make a deep run in the tournament.
1. With the Carson Wentz injury, are the Eagles still a front running team in the NFC?
Kras: I think they have the potential to remain a competitor in the NFC and they could still hold onto their home field throughout the playoffs status. It will be a much tougher task with Nick Foles at QB versus having Carson Wentz under center. Wentz had complete command and control of this O and what HC Doug Pederson wanted to do. It remains to be seen if Foles has that same ability. The Eagles have a solid D. That will help them keep games close which will help assuming the Eagles points per game may take a bit of a hit in coming weeks. I think Foles will be competitive enough to to help the Eagles remain a threat. Case Keenum has stepped up as a backup this season and led a team to a promising record. Why not Foles? Don’t count the Eagles out yet.
Nate Leer: To answer Kras’s question regarding Foles, because he just isn’t talented. He doesn’t have Keenum’s running ability so he will have to be incredibly precise given his lack of arm strength as well. I think Philly is still a team that would make the playoffs with solid QB play but they are not a legit Super Bowl contender without Wentz. I don’t see them beating teams like the Vikings (unless Keenum comes back to earth hard) or Rams in the playoffs even if they maintain home field advantage throughout.
2. Do you feel Baker Mayfield was just the best candidate in a down year or were his numbers worthy of the Heisman Trophy?
Kras: He was the best candidate this year and his numbers are worthy of the award. On the season, Mayfield has thrown for over 4,000 yards and has topped 40+ TDs for the second straight year. Mayfield is good. To that point, I don’t think it was a down year. I think Mayfield had that great of a season. Looking at Lamar Jackson’s numbers, he had a very comparable season this year to the season he had when he won the award in 2016. Jackson threw for 3,489 yards and 25 TDs. Some nice numbers but not in the neighborhood of Baker’s numbers.
Nate Leer: Yeah, Kras is right on that Mayfield’s season was certainly Heisman worthy. Some of his sideline antics may have clouded what was otherwise a fantastic performance. While it wasn’t the strongest field of candidates ever, there were other worthy contenders. Plus, the fact that Mayfield has put up back to back great seasons makes him that much more deserving.
3. Did the Marlins give away OF Giancarlos Stanton and does his addition to the Yankees make them the team to beat in the A.L?
Nate Leer: This was clearly a salary dump by the Marlins and, even considering the huge contract they unloaded, it was still a bad trade. I am usually all for teams being able to make any trade they feel benefits their business but this could have been overturned by the commish. I think the Marlins were in a tough negotiating position as Stanton offered very few destinations for which he would have waived his no trade clause. That said, the Marlins should have held firm for a better offer, either from the Yanks or from a team that Stanton adds to his list of acceptables. If the Marlins would have let the season get closer while trading off more assets, I think Stanton would have agreed to a move to a team like the Cardinals. The fact the Yanks did not give up even 1 of their top prospects is almost humorous. The Yanks have corner OF prospects, notably Clint Frazier, who don’t have a clear path to the majors now and seem expendable. Did Jeter not want players that were even close to getting millions of dollars? The Marlins should be able to flip 2B Starlin Castro for a prospect or 2 but that means they are sitting on his money until and unless they can find a trade partner. They would have been better off waiting out Stanton.
Kras: We all know the Yankees are not scared to spend money and with that they are getting the reigning N.L. MVP. It is hard to believe that signing Stanton won’t help the Yankees and they should be one of the favorites to come out of the A.L. this coming season. Even though the Yankees have a stacked lineup with Stanton and Aaron Judge, their pitching leaves much to be desired. From the Marlins point of view, I get the salary dump but I don’t understand not getting more in return from the Yankees. Or, how about just keeping arguably the best player that was in the N.L? Derek Jeter apparently can’t help himself, he needs to see the Yankees be a great team again.