Archive for Jacob Wandersee

Worth the Risk?

It goes without saying how intense the rivalry is between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are 53-60-2 all time against the Packers, but have won 4 of the last 5 games. In the last 11 seasons, the Vikings or Packers have won the NFC North Division 10 times, with the Chicago Bears somehow winning one division title in that span. The Vikings have won the division 2 of the last 3 seasons and are favored to win it again this year.

All this is to say that Sunday’s matchup between the Vikings and the Packers carries significant meaning. Both teams come into the game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay 1-0 looking to get a leg up in the race for yet another NFC North title (Sorry Bears, you need another year of development. Sorry Lions, you need….. A lot of help).

If you examine the rosters and compare them, you will find some unflattering data if you are a fan of the Packers. The Vikings have an edge in talent in every position group except for offensive line and the big one – quarterback.

As exciting as Kirk Cousins is, Aaron Rodgers is legitimately in the conversation as the best quarterback in NFL history. Another example of Rodgers being…. Rodgers: This past Sunday, he was be carted off in the 1st half down 20-0, and he came back in the 2nd half on one knee to beat the Bears 24-23.

However, we need to talk about this knee. The Packers are saying that he has a knee sprain. The good news is that the fear of any ligament damage like an ACL tear is gone. Rodgers, though, is working out with the training staff  rehabbing all week and will not practice.

To be fair, if there are any quarterback’s that don’t need to practice, Rodgers is definitely at the top of the list. However, this should scare Packer fans a little bit.

Rodgers is at his best when he is scrambling out of the pocket and making plays happen. This is very difficult to do with one knee. In addition to that, he is going up against the best defense in the NFL. A defense that definitely takes pride in trying to put Rodgers in his place (but not injure him, we aren’t savages. Well, most of us aren’t).

On a side note, we know that the refs will be watching Rodgers with a magnifying glass, making sure that if he is touched at all, a flag will be thrown. Be ready to accept these ridiculous roughing the passer penalties Vikings fans.

Now, we know that Rodgers is going to play – nothing could keep him from trying to destroy the Vikings (except for a broken collarbone. Cue drum hit cymbal crash). But is this the best decision for the Packers long term?

I know that it is pivotal to get a win at home against the hated division favorite. However, what if his knee gets a set back in this game? What if he has to sit out a few weeks after being in a dogfight against a hungry Vikings defense?

Next on the docket for the Packers are: Redskins, Bills and Lions, games they might be okay without Rodgers. However, they follow that up with match ups against the 49’ers, Rams and Patriots, games they definitely need a healthy Rodgers to win.

Rodgers is going to have a gritty performance this Sunday against the Vikings. He might even lead the Packers to a victory, although I certainly don’t think that will be the case. But the real question is: at what cost? Is beating the Vikings in one game worth risking the health for the rest of the season of your $100 million quarterback?

One Thing Unites Vikings Fans

It is no question that Vikings fans are some of the most passionate sports fans in the United States; however, there seems to be quite the variance in terms of the highs and lows among fans.

There is the #Faith group – who believe that every year is finally the year that the Vikings win the Super Bowl. They believe that the defense will be the best in the NFL (which to be fair, they probably will be). They believe that Kirk Cousins is a top 10 QB. They believe that the O-Line will be serviceable this season (I will refrain from commenting on this one).

Then there is the other side of the audience. The realists. The experienced ones. The ones who have seen time and time again how things turn out for Minnesota. From 41 doughnut to Wide Left to Gary Anderson to the Cross Body Throw to the Philly Folly. This group wants members of the Vikings to be pallbearers at their funeral so that they can be let down one last time by their favorite team.

I am somewhere in the middle. A realist with a tinge of hope.

Regardless of your stance, this Vikings team seems to be different. The defense is the most talented in the NFL, the offense has pieces that could make it a top 10 offense, and the oldest player on the team is only 31 years old. This team has a window to be Super Bowl relevant for the next few years and that is something that all Vikings fans should be excited about.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the Vikings will finally deliver that Super Bowl we have all been waiting for. After all, only 1 team out of 32 gets to end their season as champions. No matter how good the odds may seem, the odds are still not in our favor.

I have one serious question for you to answer. What would happen if Minnesota finally delivered that elusive title? How would you react? How would your fandom change?

I would argue that one thing that ties us all together as Vikings fans is disappointment. It is lamenting to each other about how they screwed it up last time. It is pining for a title while fully expecting no title to come.

Part of what makes us Vikings fans is the longing for more. If we ever won a Super Bowl, then what? Is part of our identity gone? Can we still talk about all the NFC Championship and Super Bowl failures with the same fervor?

Obviously, we all hope that this is finally the year that Vikings finally deliver a championship to the state of Minnesota. We have Cousins, Cook, Diggs, Thielen, Rhodes, Griffin, Barr, Kendricks, Hunter and one of the best coaching staffs in the league.

What could go wrong? As Vikings fans, we are far too familiar with the answer to this question. But maybe our luck will change. Maybe this is the year that identifying yourself as a Vikings fan does not mean you expect failure, but rather you have been to the top of the mountain and can finally say with confidence:

“Packers suck.”

“Row the Boat – Year 1″

The Minnesota Golden Gopher Football team began their 2018 campaign. This is year 2 under PJ Fleck, or technically year 1 since Fleck claimed that last year was “Year 0.” Expectations were high for the program as Fleck took over and he helped the Gophers “Row the Boat” to a 5-7 record last season.

However, Fleck is trying to build for the future. Fleck brought in the 38th best recruiting class in the country for 2018 and currently has the 30th best for the class of 2019 according to recruiting analysis done by 247Sports. If you have any friends that cheer for Wisconsin and you haven’t had anything to brag about in the last 14 years, at least you can say our 2019 class ranks one spot higher than their lowly Badgers.

With such a focus on recruiting, this will be a very inexperienced squad. The team consists of 53% freshman and they are starting Walk-On QB in Zack Annexstad (the 2nd in NCAA history). Depending on how they mature, things could be rough for the Gophers again. Let’s take a quick peek and see how they might finish.

August 30th vs New Mexico State: NMSU comes into this week 0-1, after losing to Wyoming 29-7 at home. They had 7 first downs and 135 total yards of offense last week. Thankfully, they took care of business winning 48-10. Ski-U-Mah! 1-0

September 8th vs Fresno State: After going 1-11, the Bulldogs finished 10-4 under first year coach Jeff Tedford last season. A slightly better debut for a new coach in a new program than we experienced. A tough battle for the Gophers and I think they lose a close one. 1-1

September 15th vs Miami Ohio: Finishing 6-7 last season, the Redhawks don’t pose a big threat. Another easy game for Annexstad to gain some confidence and a good start for Minnesota. 2-1

September 22nd @ Maryland: Maryland doesn’t belong in the Big10 for a myriad of reasons and their 10 conference wins in 4 years just one example. It’ll be close, but I like the Gophers’ chances. 3-1

October 6th vs Iowa: Minnesota hasn’t exactly been successful in their primary rivalries. They have lost 4 of the last 5 meetings with the Hawkeyes, but the last 3 by a total of only 19 points. However, I think the inexperience will show and the Gophers will lose another tight battle. 3-2

October 13th @ Ohio State: Hahaha no comment needed. 3-3

October 20th @ Nebraska, October 26th vs Indiana, November 3rd @ Illinois, November 10th vs Purdue, November 17th vs Northwestern: I think the Gophers will go 3-2 in this stretch. Indiana and Illinois are two of the worst teams in the conference and should be relatively easy wins. At Nebraska is probably a loss and I believe they will split the home games against Purdue and Northwestern. 6-5

November 24th @ Wisconsin:  21 of the last 23 years, the Axe has stayed in Madison. The last time the Gophers were able to chop down the goal post was 2003, when the Metrodome had yet to cave in. Can this be the year Minnesota FINALLY takes back the Axe?!

Nope. 6-6

The Gophers appear to be heading toward a .500 record and a sympathy bowl game. Hopefully their young players gain valuable experience and Fleck can have us rowing to a winning record in 2019.

 

Lindsay Whalen: A Local Legend

Lindsay Whalen is a name that needs no introduction in a lot of communities, especially this one. She has done things that most athletes can only dream about all across the globe.

This week, Lindsay Whalen and the Minnesota Lynx fell to the Los Angeles Sparks 75-68 in the WNBA Playoffs, which ended a phenomenal 15 year career for the Hutchinson native. But just how phenomenal was she?

First, Whalen had a very successful high school career for the Tigers winning conference championships, earning All-State honorable mentions, and leading the team to plenty of wins. She garnered enough attention to play for the University of Minnesota, where things really took off.

Whalen became the Gophers all team leading scorer with 2,285 career points, good for 5th in the Big 10 at the time (Gopher Alum Rachel Banham has since passed Whalen).  She finished in the top 10 for her career in nearly every offensive category for Minnesota and was a finalist for the Wade Trophy twice (College Women’s Basketball Player of the Year).

Lindsay was also a 4 time team MVP, 3 time All Big 10 First Team, and led the Gophers to a Final Four appearance her senior year. 80 career wins, 20 points per game, 5 assists per game, and 5 rebounds per game later, Whalen cemented herself as a Gophers icon.

If that wasn’t enough, Lindsay was drafted 4th overall by the Connecticut Sun (although the Lynx attempted to trade up to get her, but failed to do so). The Sun made the WNBA finals in both her rookie and second years, as she made a prominent impact immediately.

Finally in 2010, the Lynx were able to deal for the hometown hero and her legacy would be planted firmly as the best Minnesota basketball player of all time. Whalen would help lead the Lynx to 4 championships in 7 years, the first professional championship the Twin Cities has seen since the 1991 Twins.

In 15 seasons, Whalen would become a 4 time WNBA champion, 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist, 5 time All-Star, 3 time All-WNBA First Team, 3 time league assists leader, the All-time Playoff assists leader and would tally 322 career wins, the most in WNBA history.

If all of that wasn’t enough to make Whalen the poster for Minnesota basketball, Lindsay returned home as the Head Women’s Basketball Coach for the Gophers and will be coaching her first season this winter.

Her leadership, determination, skill, and passion for basketball in the state of Minnesota has made her a legend in the basketball community. From Hutchinson, to the University of Minnesota, to the Minnesota Lynx, Lindsay has demonstrated what it means to play basketball the right way and is a perfect role model for athletes everywhere.

The next step of Whalen’s career is just beginning and it will definitely be an adjustment. It is quite different to go from playing the game to recruiting, game planning, and teaching the game. But if the rest of Whalen’s career is any indication of how good of a coach she will be, the Gophers are in good hands.

 

Admitting Defeat

The Minnesota Twins season has been one of major disappointment. After a promising 85-77 season, the Twins find themselves with a 49-58 record. That is good for 2nd in the division and just 10 games back of the Cleveland Indians.

In reaction to this season, the Twins were active again at the MLB trade deadline. In a matter of a week, we saw the Twins ship off starting pitcher Lance Lynn, relief pitchers Zach Duke and Ryan Pressly, and starting infielders Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar.

The Twins were able to add 12 prospects that you most definitely have not heard of unless you are some sort of minor league baseball savant. Of the 12, 6 of them are at the A level, 4 are at the AA level, and 2 are at AAA or the majors.

First of all, the baseball world is simply obsessed with the word “prospect.” Baseball guys will foam at the mouth at the thought of adding talented “prospects” to the roster. Many people were applauding these trades since we were able to turn 5 guys into 12 “prospects.”

What fans probably don’t realize is that we will maybe, if we are lucky, see 2 or 3 of these guys suit up in a Twins uniform in their career. This is especially considering the generally low quality of the prospects that we received.

But I guess I can’t be too upset. The Twins weren’t going anywhere this season and they might as well get as many darts as they can to throw at the dart board. Hopefully a couple of them stick around and contribute in the future.

However, I have to say I am puzzled somewhat by the trading of Ryan Pressly, Brian Dozier, and especially Eduardo Escobar. First, Pressly was under team control next year, so he was not someone the Twins had to rush to move. He had a 3.4 ERA this season in 51 appearances and has been solid for the relief staff.

Additionally, it seems like the Twins could be competitive in the near future. The pitching seems to be looking good for the future as Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios could headline a legitimate rotation.

If Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano figure it out, the lineup should be able to bounce back and be competitive again. So my question is: with over $30 million coming off the books next season, why couldn’t we resign Dozier and Escobar and try again next year?

I want to say that it puzzles me, but this decision is pretty much on par with Minnesota’s history. The Twins still have no interest in paying big money for talent. Letting Dozier and Escobar go isn’t the worst offense the Twins have ever made by any stretch of the imagination. But it is hard to go support a team who is never willing to pay their talent and trades everyone away for a bunch of darts to throw at a dartboard.

 

An Achilles Heel Being Ignored

Minnesota Vikings training camp began this week as rookies reported to the brand new TCO Facility in Eagan. Coaches, players, the national media as well as fans are excited for the upcoming season and for good reason.

The Vikings are bringing back virtually every important piece to a team that went 13-3 and was one game away from their 5th Super Bowl game in team history. Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen… do I need to name anymore?

Oh yes, they also are getting stud running back Dalvin Cook back from injury and signed star quarterback Kirk Cousins.

With all of this positivity, I couldn’t help but notice that there is a glaring problem being swept under the rug. I’m here to shed some light on it.

If you check Pro Football Focus, a website that does advanced football statistic analysis, the Vikings offensive line finished at 22 in the 2017 season. That is on the brink of being awful. Just ask Case Keenum, who was the third most pressured QB in the league last season.

Joe Berger, who PFF listed as the Vikings strongest player, retired. Pat Elflein, the second best lineman from last season, is starting this training camp on the PUP list (Physically Unable to Perform) due to ankle and shoulder surgeries.

So who is left of the 22nd best O-Line in the NFL without it’s two top performers?

Well, that leaves us with Riley Reiff, Nick Easton, and Rashod Hill, none of which have a PFF grade of over 50. We do still have Mike Remmers, who posted a respectable 69.6 last season.

Now, what do those scores mean? The PFF grade is a complex analysis of every aspect of being an offensive linemen. They analyze every snap taking into account run blocking, pass blocking, how well they can pull, how many pressures they surrender, how they do on roll out plays… Basically they take everything a lineman does and combine it into one score so that they can compare everyone in the NFL. 92.2 is the highest in the league and 36.8 is the lowest for a starter.

Now back to the Viking’s scores. Where do you think a  48.6, 41.5, 43.2, 69.6, and 43.6 puts Minnesota? Those scores rank the Vikes at 28 in the NFL for this upcoming season.

It is baffling to me how much this has been ignored by virtually everyone around the Vikings. They have all of the pieces necessary to make a deep run in the playoffs. Heck, they have enough talent to be considered the 3rd favorite to win the Super Bowl at 10-1 odds.

But with an achilles heel like this terrible offensive line, they might never get that chance.