1. Which playoff scenario do you believe sets up most favorably for the Vikings moving forward?
Kras: I really don’t think it matters with this Vikings team. Home or away, I feel they are the best team in the NFC. With that being said, I think if they can stay at U.S. Bank Stadium for all playoff games, the better for them. Not being able to predict the weather and how awful it could be, I think it is best if they don’t have to travel to Philly for the NFC Championship game. Regardless of how things shake out moving forward, I think the Vikings are the best equipped team for wherever they have to play.
Nate Leer: I think Kras is correct that the Vikes should not be afraid to face any of these opponents. They look like the best team in the NFC given the Eagles QB sitch. That said, I would like to see the Panthers and Rams have to come here. For that to happen, the Vikes would get the Rams after the bye then Carolina in the NFC Championship. While the Rams are good, I am not at all scared of their D or QB. For the Panthers to get to the championship game, they would need to beat the Saints then the Eagles on the road, a tough task but not impossible. I think the Vikes, especially their D, would get all jacked up to play the one team that beat them down the stretch. Plus, the best chance this team has to win is to have favorable conditions for Case Keenum to throw the ball. Whoever they may face, the ideal scenario is to do it here.
2. Which remaining MLB free agent could provide the most value to the Twins in 2018?
Kras: I am going to make the argument for Yu Darvish. For this team to get a true “ace” type guy would be huge. That sentence again, for this team to add a 200+ strikeout a year guy would help everyone. Ervin Santana could fill more of a #2 role in the rotation. A move that I think would help Santana and remove some of the pressure from him. If Jose Berrios can further his development or best case scenario, he becomes 1-B to Darvish and the Twins would have 3 guys they could be very confident in moving into this season. Aside from Darvish, any pitching added is a plus.
Nate Leer: Kras makes the argument well for Yu but that may be a long shot. And, yes, they need another arm but I am afraid they will have to overpay for a mediocre talent. Going to the position players, I think the Twins would benefit from adding a veteran right handed hitter who can play some OF and DH a lot. There are plenty of options to choose from so being patient for the best deal makes sense. I would love to see Jose Bautista come in. He provides the most power upside and defensive versatility although he might be done. Other possible fits include Mike Napoli, who is a great clubhouse guy but hasn’t played OF in a couple years, Matt Holliday and Jayson Werth. Other righties who aren’t OFs but could help are Mark Reynolds and former Twin Trevor Plouffe. A good righty for the middle of the order would really provide balance and offer insurance in case Miguel Sano gets suspended (or traded?). One other intriguing name is Trevor Rosenthal. He is a former top prospect for the Cards who could have a future as a late inning guy or maybe a starter.
3. How will the injury to Jeff Teague (out Indefinitely) affect the T-Wolves moving forward?
Nate Leer: Since it sounds like Teague will only miss 2-4 weeks, I don’t expect there to be a big impact on the T-wolves. Tyus Jones could step up in a big way but HC Tom Thibodeau will probably go back to the same rotation once Teague is back no matter how well Jones plays. Maybe Jones finds his shooting stroke, creates a bunch of turnovers and sets up his teammates better than Teague so the Wolves can consider eventually making him the starter. I would love to see that but I will not be holding my breath in anticipation.
Kras: I think Nate Leer is right. Teague isn’t going to miss as much time as originally thought so that will limit any big changes moving forward. As he also points out, this is Tom Thibodeau we are talking about. There will be no change. Once he is back, Teague will slot right back into the starting lineup and Tyus Jones will be back to being a role player, again. Hopefully this is not an injury that will flare back up on Teague once he returns. To me that is always a concern for a PG slashing through the lane or landing on it wrong grabbing for a rebound. Hopefully he will come back and be at 100%.
1. What playoff team without a bye is most likely to make a run to the Super Bowl?
Nate Leer: To me, any team playing this weekend with a real shot at the Super Bowl is much more likely to come from the NFC. In they AFC, a team would probably have to go through Pittsburgh and New England. It is tough to see even a balanced team like Jacksonville beating 2 HOF QBs. My best bet would be New Orleans, with their own HOF QB, being able to knock off the Vikes and Philly.
Kras: I am going to pick the long-shot Jacksonville Jaguars. Although the Jags have Blake Bortles as their QB, I still think they can make a run. Defense wins championships and the Jags have plenty of that. Giving up only 169 passing yards a game, they rank #1 in the league in passing D. If they can continue their bend but don’t break D, they will be tough in any game, On the other side of the ball, they need to be able to get RB Leonard Fournette going early and often in games to help control the clock and limit the number of Double-B pass attempts. Getting Fournette going will also limit the amount of time the D will have to be in the field. It seems crazy to think the Jags could win it all. That said, them being in the playoffs alone sounds odd.
2. So far this offseason, which MLB team has done the best job of positioning themselves for a 2018 playoff run?
Kras: It would have to say the Yankees. They were knocking on the door of the World Series last year and came up just short. Since then, thanks to Derek Jeter, they have added the reigning N.L. MVP in Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton makes an already dangerous lineup even more potent. As of late, the Yankees have been rumored to be keeping an eye on the Yu Darvish sweepstakes as well. His addition would be welcome as the Yankees, much like most teams, could use a solid #1 guy every 4-5 days. Even if it is not Darvish, the Yankees should pursue an arm for the starting rotation. It’s looking promising for the Yankees in 2018 and beyond at this point.
Nate Leer: It’s hard to argue with Kras’s pick of the Yanks as they have certainly made the biggest splash along with several lesser but helpful moves. However, their team is pretty much the same as last year outside of adding Stanton and he is entirely likely to be hurt for stretches and a 2nd season regression for Aaron Judge would mean their lineup is just not that much better. If they get Yu, it’s a different story. However, I will argue for the only team that has made a significant SP addition this year and that is the Angels. Granted, Shohei Ohtani is a relatively unknown quantity as he comes over from Japan but he should help their rotation. The Angels have also invested in their position players but have not sacrificed D for O as is often the case with veterans traded for or signed. Ian Kinsler is a solid 2 way player at 2B and Zach Cozart should provide a good glove and some pop as he transitions to playing 3B after being a SS for the Reds last year. The resigning of LF Justin Upton keeps the middle of the order intact while also possibly getting contributions from Ohtani’s bat. Last but certainly not least in a big market, Ohtani creates massive interest from casual baseball fans and the larger Asian American population in SoCal. The accompanying boost to the box office should help pay for another spending spree from the Anaheimers.
3. Do you expect any big name coaches to fill a vacancy in the NFL and, if so, who?
Kras: With Jon Gruden being heavily rumored to be the Raiders next HC, I would expect he will be the biggest name to be hired this off season. Aside from him, it seems more teams are trying to find the next up-and-coming young coordinator to fill a HC vacancy. Guys like Vikings OC Pat Shurmur and Patriots DC Matt Patricia will be getting several interviews when they become available. To me, a big name coach is one that has a Super Bowl ring and I don’t see those individuals clamoring to get back into coaching. Jimmy Johnson, Bill Cowher, and Brian Billick all have super comfy jobs talking about football where they don’t have to worry about the weekly grind and the constant pressure to win.
Nate Leer: Gruden definitely seems like the one big name, using Kras’s sound reasoning about what constitutes being a big name coach, who will jump back into the fray. Broadening it just a bit to include HCs who appeared in a Super Bowl but didn’t win one, I would be interested to see Jim Harbaugh come back to Indy. He is a trip but he may be able to get the best out of QB Andrew Luck and I would like to see that. The truth is, I am looking forward to any new coaches who can develop some of the talented young arms around the league. Detroit (Stafford), Indy (Luck), Oakland (Derek Carr) even Chicago (Mitch Trubisky) and the Giants (potential high 1st round QB) as well as Arizona (likely high round pick for QB) need smart QB guys to get the most out of the talent they have, or will have, in place. Kras is correct, everyone is looking for the next Sean McVay but it remains to be seen if anyone will be able to generate the kind of turnaround he oversaw with the Rams.