Monday, January 3, 2005
CHRIS COSTE UPDATE
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS
VIKINGS TO PLAYOFFS
Good Monday morning to everyone! Happy New Year to all of you! I really hope you had an enjoyable holiday whether you went out or stayed in, partied or watched the ball drop from the comfort of your living room, or even if you were smart and just decided to get some sleep.
Today, I will discuss the Minnesota Vikings. When I started typing, I had every intention of ranting about how bad they are. And yes, I ended up being pretty blunt (for me), but tried to mix in some positives! There is more great stuff over at Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat regarding Bert Blyleven and the Hall of Fame vote. Rich was actually fortunate enough to be able to talk to Mr. Blyleven over the phone and discusses that. I mentioned last month that Chris Coste signed a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. He has been playing in the Mexican Winter League and doing very well. I've updated his statistics today. Finally, the NFL's regular season is complete, and so too is our NFL "Expert" Picks. Be sure to check out who the new champion of our league is!
As always, I am curious as to what you are thinking about. If you have any thoughts on my site. If you have any ideas for future articles. If you have any questions or comments, please be sure to send me an e-mail. I'd love to hear what you like and what you don't like.
A year ago, I asked readers here to send me a quick e-mail. I want to find out a little bit about who is reading this site. I would like to update that information as I know the readership has nearly tripled in the last year. So, please send me a quick e-mail and answer just a couple of questions for me. Please just tell me where you are from and your age. Feel free to tell me any more about yourself that you think I would be interested in. I will keep this question on the site this week and post results next week. So, please help me out. Obviously I won't share any of your information with others, so please e-mail me.
VIKINGS LOSE, STILL MAKE PLAYOFFS
Is it really a good thing that the Minnesota Vikings made the playoffs? Iím not so sure. Many people make a big deal about how the Twins are lucky to be in the American League Central. Well, it is also fair to say that the Vikings are fortunate to be in the NFC. If they had been in the AFC, they would have been eliminated from playoff contention long ago.
There are a lot of positives to be taken from this yearís Vikings team. Early in the year, the offense was as good as any in the league. Daunte Culpepper had an absolutely incredible season! He should not be blamed in any way for what has happened in the second half of the season.
Another big positive is the development and effective usage of WR Nate Burleson. Sure, yesterday, he dropped what could have been an easy touchdown that may have given the Vikings a chance. But to blame the loss on Burleson is much like blaming the Twinsí playoff loss to the Yankees on Juan Rincon. In both cases, the player had made huge strides in their second seasons and were a huge part of the teams successes.
It may be difficult, but even in yesterdayís loss, it is clear that the Vikings have at least one huge positive on the defensive side of the ball. Kevin Williams became an All-Pro in just his second season, an honor he certainly earned; yesterday just proved it. He had an interception and two sacks, and in general just wreaked havoc on the Redskins offensive line. I think Kenechi Udeze played well at times and so did much of the defensive line. I think that Antoine Winfield, when healthy, is and absolutely incredible cornerback. But Kevin Williams was a star much of the year!
There were also a lot of bad things that happened with the Vikings, even on the offensive side of the ball. First, I thought that the offensive line was rather inconsistent. Now, much of that is because of the early injury to RT Ken Rosenthal, but other injuries across the line meant that guys like Adam Goldberg and Nat Dorsey were rushed into games when they probably are not really ready.
Injuries in general really hurt the team this year. I already mentioned Rosenthal. But the key loss may have been Jim Kleinsasser. Yes, I realize that he gets hurt and misses time every year, but to lose him for the entire year really hurts. I think we have all noticed that when The Sauce plays, the Vikings offense just seems to run more smoothly. However, the biggest loss was the hamstring injury of Randy Moss, and maybe subsequently how the team handled it. They tried to keep him playing, which actually hurt him more. He missed six or seven games, and even once he came back, he was not the same. When the team played outdoors, on grass or in the cold, he was clearly not at 100%. When Moss is healthy, he is the best receiver in the NFL. We saw the affect that Terrell Owens had on the Eagles. Well, the loss of Moss hurt the Vikings even more, and I donít think that can be overlooked. And finally, the Antoine Winfield injury late in the year really hurt the defense. When he was in the game, he was a sure tackler. He also was able to take away part of the field because of his name and talent. Matt Birk. Michael Bennett. Chris Claiborne. Corey Chavous now has a broken elbow.
I also think that Scott Linehan deserves some blame as well. Sure, Michael Bennett missed much of the early season. Then Onterrio Smith served his drug suspension. You would have thought that Linehan would have learned from how successful the team was when Mewelde Moore was the teamís lone option at RB. When he was given 25-30 touches in those three games, he produced. And he is the teamís 4th RB. Imagine what either Bennett (over 1,500 yards last year) or Smith could have done given that many touches. Yet, whenever the team struggled, we saw that the RBs would only get 5-12 rushes the whole game. I think at times they got too pass happy. Many teams use the run to set up the pass. The Vikings need to pass to set up the run, but they also should really keep with it.
Some things about the Vikings were just ugly, just horrible!
Overall, the defense was terrible, all year. As I said earlier, I thought that the defensive line was very good much of the time (even if Chris Hovan was really non-good), and Antoine Winfield was great. However, the rest of the defensive backs and all of the linebackers were really bad. So, I think the team should hire a new defensive coordinator for next year to replace Ted Cottrell? Not at all. I think Cottrell has proven schemes that work. He just needs the players. Also, the players need to have a system that they can improve in. They have had three defensive coordinators in three seasons? How can a group get into a rhythm, get into a system, when it keeps changing?
A year ago, safeties Brian Russell and Corey Chavous combined for 17 interceptions. This yearÖ TWO. Now, I realize that the actual number of interceptions does not necessarily reflect how well a player is playing. However, how many times did we see a receiver make a catch and then see one of these two chasing them because they were not in the right spot? How many could-be interceptions did Russell have? How many missed tackles did both have? Now, I donít want to mock Chavous much. I donít think there is a more intelligent player on the team. I think he is an excellent leader. But I really thought that both were disappointing.
Early in the season, I thought Brian Williams was becoming a great cover corner, but as the season progressed, he really didnít. And, when Winfield got hurt, it really highlighted the teamís lack of depth in the defensive backfield. I think in each of the final six games, I heard how "with a 4th quarter play like that, Terence Shaw may not be back next week." Well, he kept coming back, and each game, he seemed to allow a big play or two.
The linebacker corps was awful though. Much of that had to do with the fact that Chris Claiborne was hurt much of the year. There were just a lot of missed tackles or missed big plays by this group. Dontarrius Thomas showed a lot of talent, but he has a lot of improving to do. The same can be said for EJ Henderson. Terence Newman put himself in positions to make big plays (sacks, INTs) and just didnít do it. And Michael Nattiel just didnít do much of anything.
Now, you may think that I would put the coaching of Mike Tice into this category. And, although I believe he is certainly not above criticism, I do not think that the head coach should take all the blame when a team isnít ready. These are professionals. If they canít motivate themselves to get ready for a big game like yesterday, then that would seem to be the problem.
No, I feel the need to point most of the blame at one person, owner Red McCombs. Do you know why Mike Tice will likely not be fired after this season? Because he is such a great coach who the players look up to and admire? No. The reason is because he agreed to coach the team for $1 million for next year. If he was fired, the team would owe him $800,000 in a buyout. Also, any legitimate, name replacement would cost two to three times more than that anyway. McCombs has one goal with the Vikings right now; he wants to sell the team. That is part of why he hired a cheap coaching staff. That is why he has not had the team near the salary cap for a couple of seasons. All in an attempt to make the team look more buyable. It is unfortunate because Minnesota fans already have to deal with one cheap owner (Carl Pohlad), and clearly they not have another one in McCombs. Hopefully a group involving Minnesotaís one good owner, Glen Taylor, buy the team.
Well, thanks to the New Orleans Saints win over the Carolina Panthers, the Vikings are in the playoffs. Because the Rams beat the Jets, the Vikings will be the #6 seed. That means that next Sunday afternoon, the Vikings will travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers. Now, the Vikings lost twice to the Packers earlier in the year, both times on last-second field goals by Ryan Longwell. In other words, I donít think that the Vikings should feel like they canít compete, and canít win, this game.
Also, if the Vikings could sneak by the Packers, they would be set up to face the Philadelphia Eagles. Early in the season (Week 2 on Monday night), the Eagles beat the Vikings in a controversial game that they could have won. The Eagles are now without Terrell Owens. They are not the same team. Iím not saying the Vikings will win, but by being in the NFC, I donít think that the Vikings should feel like they canít beat any of the teams. (OK, I don't know how they would stop Michael Vick, but...) Yes, that is optimistic, maybe over-optimistic. But think of it this way. The Vikings have lost to teams that they shouldnít lose to. When they have played good teams, they have either won, or put themselves in a position to win.
So why not dream? I am sure over the next week, we will be hearing about how making the playoffs is a bad thing, that they will likely be one-and-done, and embarrassed in the first round again. That very well could happen, because the Vikings are not a very good team. That said, this team does have a lot of talent and, if they were able to put it together, they could legitimately compete for the NFC Title.
So, what is my prediction? I think theyíll be one and done and embarrassed by the Packers. But I will continue to dream!
What are your thoughts on yesterdayís loss to the Patrick Ramsey led Redskins? Can they play and compete against the other NFC teams? What do you think? E-mail me.
Last week, I linked you to Rich Ledererís Q&A with Hall of Fame voter Jeff Peek, who after reading Richís article the year before, agreed that Bert Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame and voted for him this year. Rich has made it a goal of his to help Blyleven get to where he rightly belongs, the Baseball Hall of Fame. Recently, he was fortunate to actually talk on the phone with Bert a couple of times and he wrote an article on his career and their conversations. Read it here! And for plenty more discussion on the topic, check out the Baseball Primer chat. And now, if you want to read a voter's reasoning for not voting for Blyleven, Rich interviews Baseball America's Tracy Riggolsby.
TWINS FEST TICKETS - are now available. I may have to try to get down to the Metrodome for this event. I know many of the current, former and future Twins players will be in attendance. There will be a silent auction and much more.
TWINS CARAVAN - The Twins have also announced their schedule for this year's Twins Winter Caravan. Many Twins players, coaches and announcers will trek around the region this month to talk baseball and meet fans. Now, living on the Canadian border, I had to take a look at the Northern Leg of the tour. The nearest community they will be going to is Thief River Falls, MN, which is an hour and a half SOUTH of where I live. I would still like to go, but we'll see.
CHRIS COSTE UPDATE
I know many of you have followed the statistics of Chris Coste by seeing his numbers up on the left-side of this page. He is playing in the Mexican Winter League this year for the Obregon Yaquis. The team is 37-29. Coste has played in 63 games (30 as a catcher, 19 at 3B, 7 at 1B). He is hitting .303/.363/.548 with 12 doubles, 15 home runs and 49 RBI.
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS - Final Standings
Well, we have a new champion! Ryan Maus of Twins Chatter was able to make up two games on leader Mike Brasel, who had led the league most of the season, to become the sole champion of our league. Brasel and Melissa Olson were just a game behind Ryan. Last year's champion, Aaron Gleeman, was two games back. Week 17 is always difficult to pick, but it seemed like more teams had their playoff plans already made and varied their plans of who to play, or for how long they would play. Teams like the Eagles and Colts were beaten badly because they chose to worry about keeping their players healthy rather than risk injury for games that meant absolutely nothing. We had four teams all within a couple of games of each other, and there was some movement at the top.
I want to thank everyone who participated in this this season. I hope that some of you were able to use this to your benefit. If you did, it means that you were smart enough not to look at my picks! I would also like to thank Eli Manning and particularly Tiki Barber for the Giants last minute win against Dallas. Why? Because that game kept me out of last place! (Sorry John!)
If you would like to look back at all of our picks (and bios of the participants), please click here.
Final Standings Total Week 17 Over All Name Site
L Win% W L Win % Ryan Maus Twins Chatter 10 6 62.5% 173 83 67.6% Mike Brasel Fantasy FB Guru 8 8 50.0% 172 84 67.2% Melissa Olson SethSpeaks.net 9 7 56.3% 172 84 67.2% Aaron Gleeman Aaron's BB Blog 9 7 56.3% 171 85 66.8% David Bergner Baseball Savant 8 8 50.0% 169 87 66.0% Michael Labuda ChiSox Daily 7 9 43.8% 164 92 64.1% Vic Quick KDUH-TV Sports 9 7 56.3% 162 94 63.3% Ben Jacobs Hardball Times 8 8 50.0% 157 99 61.3% Jeremy Kovash Wolf Lake Mgr 9 7 56.3% 153 103 59.8% David Bloom Ya Gotta Believe 7 9 43.8% 153 103 59.8% Seth Stohs SethSpeaks.net 9 7 56.3% 151 105 59.0% John Bonnes The Twins Geek 11 5 68.8% 150 106 58.6%
Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to stop by this site. Have a great week! If you have any questions or comments on anything, please e-mail me.
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