1. With the Vikings having the division wrapped up, do you think they should rest players moving forward or is it more important for them to continue to play for home field advantage throughout the playoffs?
Nate Leer: They definitely need to keep playing until they at least secure a 1st round bye. Having a week to rest up then hosting a game is an ideal scenario. Plus, it is entirely possible that Philly loses twice and the Vikes emerge as the #1 seed and have homefield all the way through the playoffs and Super Bowl. I do believe the Vikes can win on the road but they also have a huge advantage making opponents come to our house. Sure, there are several players that would be very hard to replace if they got hurt but overall this team has good depth. They need to keep playing their studs to keep winning and to stay sharp. Who knows, maybe this is the year for us Vikes fans!
Kras: I think they need to keep doing whatever it takes to win games. They still have a chance at obtaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I personally think that would be a huge boost for this team moving forward. The crowd noise that Vikings fans have been able to produce over the years is well documented. Although most of those games were in the Metrodome, U.S. Bank Stadium can get very loud as well and, in the playoffs, every advantage matters. While they need to keep playing top players, they also need to be smart, which to me means resting anybody who may have a nagging injury or anyone who is questionable going into a game.
2. How do you feel about the Twins signing Michael Pineda and Fernando Rodney? Do they need more mid to low level signings like these or will they still need a big name/big money signing for you to be convinced they are moving in the right direction?
Kras: I think both of those signings are good signings for this club. The Pineda deal is very nice. $10 million over 2-years is nothing by MLB standards. In year 1 he gets $2 million and in year 2 $8 million. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, there is no guarantee he ever pans out but the Twins aren’t losing anything on this deal in my opinion. The Rodney deal is also a no brainer in my mind. Although he is 40 years old, the Twins need all the arms and help they can get. At $4.5 million for a year, it’s a nice deal. It would be sweet for this team to be able to land a Yu Darvish type of player but at what cost should they try and get that type of player?
Nate Leer: I agree with Kras across the board. It would be awesome to add Yu to the top of the rotation but they need to proceed with caution because of his age and inconsistency. I will trust management’s expertise as to whether Yu is worth what they are going to have to pay to get him. In lue of a big time SP, I like moves for value arm with some upside. Players coming off of injury or thought to be at the end of their careers often have bounceback seasons. Getting several bullpen arms and a coupled SPs on short term, team friendly deals and letting those players compete for roles makes sense for a team that may or may not be ready to compete. If they do find a gem or 2 but still aren’t competitive, they will have chips to trade for future assets.
3. What is more concerning about this T-wolves team, the lack of defense or the lack of play from the bench?
Kras: I think the lack of D is definitely the more concerning issue here. If the Wolves somehow go on to win the NBA Championship this year no one would care how many minutes each player played. However, they will never play for an NBA Championship if they don’t play better, more consistent D. Tom Thibodeau has had a problem getting through to the young players and, as a D first guy, that has to be particularly frustrating. All things considered, they have shown they are a more improved team this year, even it does not appear so at times. Jimmy Butler is by far the biggest reason for any major step this team has taken this year. He is a lockdown defender who is averaging 20 pts, 5 reb, and 4 ast. If the rest of the team can match his intensity on D, the sky is the limit for this team.
Nate Leer: Yeah, definitely the D is a bigger concern. Unless and until this team learns to defend, they will be nothing more than 1st round playoff fodder for one of the elite teams. I think this team actually has a good bench but most of those players do not get consistent minutes so they are not sharp. If Tibs wants to get his young talents to play harder, he needs to start benching guys that are not hustling on D. He should insert Gorgui Dieng every time Karl-Anthony Towns gets beat back down the court. It would be nice to think that KAT and Andrew Wiggins would be self motivated to be the best on both ends of the court but that just does not seem to be the case. Tibs needs to impose severe consequences for lack of effort and if those guys balk at that approach, trade them. As Kras says, this team will not win a championship playing like this so guys either need to change their mindsets or we might as well move on.
1. Who is the better team in your opinion the Steelers or the Patriots? Is there another AFC team that could upset either of those teams?
Nate Leer: If WR Antonio Brown can come back healthy for the Steelers, I think they are slightly better team. Their D, while inconsistent just like the Pats D, has more playmakers. New England has a nice stable of RBs but none of them does anything better than the Steelers Le’veon Bell. Plus, I think the Steelers will be riding an emotional wave from injured LB Ryan Shazier. Having a clear cut reason to succeed beyond just personal goals can help a team focus and achieve great things. Not that these are exactly the same but it helped the Houston Astros in the World Series this year after Hurricane Irma and helped the Saints win the Super Bowl after Hurricane Katrina. Last year’s Patriots team were helped by QB Tom Brady’s revenge motive and the list goes on. I fully expect these 2 teams to meet on the field to decide the answer to this question come the AFC Championship game. It should be a doozy!
Kras: I have to agree with Nate Leer on this. The Steelers, I feel, are a more well rounded and balanced team than the Pats this season. The Pats have been far too inconsistent on the D side of the ball this year for me to buy in yet. The Antonio Brown injury certainly plays a part moving forward but assuming he is back for the playoffs, I like the Steelers. As far as another team beating either the Pats or Steelers, I don’t see it. I like the way the Jaguars have been playing, especially on D, but they need to prove a bit more before I see them playing spoiler to these 2 powerhouse teams.
2. Who are 2 NFL coaches, aside from Marvin Lewis that you see being fired at the end of the season?
Kras: Assuming the Detroit Lions lose 1 of their 2 remaining games, I think Jim Caldwell could be on his way out of town. As well as the Lions have played at times under his lead, they have played equally as poor at times. The play against Baltimore in which the Lions lined up on D with only 9 players on the field comes to mind immediately. Missing the playoffs could spell the end for Jim. I also think an NFC foe of the Lions, the Bears, may be in the market for a new coach. I don’t see John Fox being the future in Chicago. I think the Bears brass is going to try and find a smart young offensive mind to pair with their potential franchise QB Mitchell Trubisky.
Nate Leer: If Cleveland goes 0-16, I don’t see any way Hugh Jackson is still there next year. If they were smart, they would stick with him but that is not how the Browns roll. Jackson is a smart coach who demands respect from his players. Keeping him around creates stability that this team sorely lacks and allows the talent in house to mature naturally without changing course, again. Kras’s 2 coaches may be correct but I think Chicago should stick with Fox as the team is making progress. If Bears management can get him to bring in a new OC with progressive ideas, the rest of the team could round into form. If they bring in a new HC who changes the D, this team will take a major step back. For the Lions, I do think it is time to move on from Caldwell. This franchise is wasting a borderline stud QB just like it did with a top 5 WR and a top 5 RB ever. Detroit should promote DC Teryl Austin and have him bring in an elite O mind. Austin is accomplished and respected so the Lions should make sure they don’t lose him. I could see the NFC North being the toughest division in football if these teams make the right moves, or non moves as the case may be.
3. Have the Houston Rockets quietly become the best team in the NBA?
Nate Leer: The Rockets could easily end up with the best regular season record but that doesn’t mean they’re the best team, at least not to me. The real test is how they do in the playoffs and I do not think they will get out of the West. They just don’t have enough true superstars. The Warriors have 3 players that are better than Houston’s 2nd best player and another that is close. Let’s compare rosters: Durant vs. Harden – edge Durant, Curry vs Paul – clearly Curry, Green vs Ariza – not close for Green, Thompson vs Capela. The Rockets do have nice depth pieces beyond that but rotations tighten up come playoff time and we all know about the need for top end players on championship teams. Plus, we haven’t even discussed the best player in a league where the best player usually wins the championship if given any help. It is cool to watch Harden and Co. but that doesn’t translate to being the best team.
Kras: They do have one of the best records in the NBA as of now but there are a handful of teams that are close to the top. Boston, Cleveland, and Golden State are all playing pretty good basketball and teams that Houston may have to think about down the road. I won’t go as far as to say they are the best but I will say that Chris Paul has worked out better than I anticipated he would on this team. I also think the addition of P.J. Tucker to this Rockets team has been an underrated piece. Tucker’s ability to play all over the court frees up guys like Paul and James Harden. I think they may have a real chance to compete in the West this season. Time will tell.