Peterson lands big payday from Vikings, and NFL picks for Week 1

With the National Football League season under way, the Minnesota Vikings and running back Adrian Peterson agreed to an extension that will make Peterson a very rich man.

On the eve of the Vikings’ season opener at San Diego, Peterson received a seven-year extension that could be worth as much as $100 million. Reports are that $36 million of the deal is guaranteed.

Peterson has been a workhorse for the Vikings, and he is now in position to do just that for a good long while.

Here are a few thoughts that entered my mind:

  • Anyone else find it refreshing to see an NFL team give a star player a contract without any preseason holdout? I do. Kudos to Peterson for not putting the team and the fans through that.
  • In the world of the NFL, Minnesota fans don’t have to worry so much about the big bucks. The Joe Mauer deal from the Twins may not look great, but if things go sour with Peterson, the damage won’t be nearly as bad.
  • This contract definitely amps up the pressure on owner Zygi Wilf to find a new stadium. This could be a huge deal when it’s all done with.

Week 1 NFL picks

I want to keep the weekly NFL picks going this year. For those of you new to the blog, I picked five games a week from the odds that move on the AP wire. I went 43-27 last season, which was much better than I thought I would fare.

  • Houston by 2 vs. Indianapolis. Texans
  • Tampa Bay by 3 vs. Detroit. Lions
  • New York Giants by 3 at Washington. Giants
  • Arizona by 3 vs. Carolina. Cardinals
  • New York Jets by 4 vs. Dallas. Cowboys

Vikings go from contenders to team in transition

Funny how a disappointing season like this past one can make a team go from seasoned to old. Or from “team to beat” to rebuilding.

After a 6-10 campaign that – through tiebreakers – left the Minnesota Vikings in last place in the NFC North for the first time in 20 years, there’s no telling how far the franchise might go to change up the current mix of players and coaches.

If you buy the Minneapolis Star Tribune report from yesterday, then Leslie Frazier will get the “interim” tag removed and become the head coach next season. So it appears the Vikings will opt for some stability with the coaching staff.

But they have 18 players eligible to become free agents this offseason. Among the key players are LBs Chad Greenway and Ben Leber, DL Pat Williams, K Ryan Longwell, WR Sidney Rice and, of course, QBs Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Vikings would like to keep their young free agents, meaning they’ll push to retain Rice and Greenway. It should be an interesting offseason for Rice, who showed some flashes of brilliance this past season. How much will he get this offseason? And with the Vikings’ QB position in flux, will that hamper their ability to keep him? Rice might not want to become Larry Fitzgerald (who went from Kurt Warner to John Skelton/Derek Anderson/Max Hall throwing to him) next year.

Speaking of the QB spot, I really think Favre is done this time. Don’t put that in stone just yet, but I really believe he’s done. And I really think he would have been done prior to last season if three Vikings hadn’t gone down to Mississippi to retrieve him.

And I have no doubt the Vikings won’t keep Jackson too. They’ll start fresh at QB. I think that would be best for both sides.

My guess is the Vikings will look at QB – and offensive line, too – pretty hard in this draft. They’ll find a spot-filler to take the starting job for 2011 until that QB is ready.

I know there’s a few fans out there who think Joe Webb is the QB of the future. That may be. But I don’t think they’re going to put all of their eggs in that basket. Let’s remember that Webb saw significant action in the team’s final three games – starting two of them – and has yet to throw his first NFL touchdown. So temper your expectations. Actually, that might be a good motto for the whole team next season.

Finally, if you didn’t notice, I opted not to make NFL picks this past week. Too messy when so many teams are playing for nothing. I went 4-1 in Week 16 to finish the year 43-27. That’s much better than I would have hoped.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all as 2010 winds down

What's better than a Christmas tree? That's right. It's two Christmas trees.

It’s been quite a year so far, and Christmas is as good of time as any to be thankful for what you have and reflect on the year that is about to pass.

I’m a pretty lucky guy. I’ve got a job doing what I love and that’s following sports. Great friends. Great family. Beautiful wife … OK, haven’t gotten that accomplished yet. But hey, there’s still time. The Chicago Bears Santa hat pictured at right isn’t helping the cause.

Anyway, this post isn’t about what I don’t have. It’s what I do have. So to my parents and siblings, a big thank you. And I’ve got some great friends, who if they don’t know who they are, then I’ve let them down. And to what’s basically become my second family here in Fargo-Moorhead, a big thank you too. I know you know who you are.

There have been a lot of good times this year, and considering the source of this post, you’ve probably figured out that most of them are sports-related events.

  • I attended the Minnesota Twins’ exhibition opener at Target Field this season against the St. Louis Cardinals. What an awesome experience. I also attended the team’s second home game, but had to settle for watching the regular-season home opener two days prior to that on TV.

    The Jack Buck Statue outside Busch Stadium. Who looks more life-like?

  • For the fourth consecutive year, I hit the road to check out a major league baseball stadium or two. This time, I went with two friends that I attended high school with. And this time, we headed to Missouri in April to check out the home stadiums of the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals. The Royals were hosting the Twins, while Albert Pujols and the Cards faced Jason Heyward and the Atlanta Braves. On the way, we stopped at the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa. Feller was at the museum signing autographs, so I had him ink an old picture of his. As it turned out, that was the last time Feller would make a public appearance at his museum. He passed away earlier this month at the age of 92.
  • Back to Twins baseball, I attended the first playoff game in Target Field history. I probably don’t have to tell you how that game went. Twins grab a 3-0 lead with Francisco Liriano, then blow it against the New York Yankees. Another crushing defeat for the Minnesota faithful.
  • Finally, there was the Chicago Bears-Minnesota Vikings game at TCF Bank Stadium earlier this week. What a cool and unique experience that was? Yeah, it was a touch on the cold side, but things couldn’t have worked out better for me. The Green Bay Packers lost the night before, meaning my favorite NFL team growing up – the Bears – could clinch the NFC North title. And even better yet, Brett Favre played. Yes, I grew up not liking Favre. Every Bears fan does. But I had never seen him play in person prior to Monday, so when I’m an old man, I can tell people, “I saw Brett Favre.”

    A couple of friends and I at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

So everyone out there have a Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas if that applies to you too.

Week 16 NFL picks

Hate to combine the NFL picks with the Christmas post, but it’s the safe way to go.

Another big week last week, going 4-1. That puts me 13 games above .500 this season at 39-26. And I’ve clinched a winning record, so that’s huge.

So here is Week 16:

  • Chicago by 1 1/2 over New York Jets. Bears
  • Baltimore by 3 over Cleveland. Ravens
  • Houston by 3 over Denver. Broncos
  • Miami by 4 over Detroit. Lions
  • Green Bay by 3 over New York Giants. Giants

Good news: Vikings confident everyone with tickets can attend Monday’s game

There are some encouraging quotes from Minnesota Vikings Chief Marketing Officer Steve LaCroix on the team’s website regarding Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears, which had to be moved to TCF Bank Stadium after the Metrodome’s roof caved in last weekend.

TCF

TCF Bank Stadium looks ready to rock for Monday Night Football. Associated Press photo

LaCroix is fairly confident that everyone that wants to attend the game and has tickets will be able to do so. Parking sounds like the biggest concern the team has in playing a game at the University of Minnesota campus.

That’s good to hear. Out-of-towners should feel pretty confident that they will be able to get into TCF. It’s still first-come, first-served. So if you want good seats, you better still go early. I heard they might be looking at a little less than 50,000 attending, so standing-room spots hopefully won’t be necessary.

TCF has about 13,000 fewer seats than the Metrodome.

Week 15 picks

Most of my time this week is focused on my fantasy football team, which is still alive in the semifinals of my 16-team league. I’ve racked my brain over whether to start Pierre Garcon or Danny Woodhead (who is WR-eligible in Yahoo) all week and will continue to do so until prior to Sunday’s Colts kickoff at noon. I know Garcon caught two TDs last week, but he lets me down every time I start him.

Anyway, I had a monster week in the picks last week, going 5-0 after nearly forgetting to post any picks. Glad I got some posted. I’m at 35-25 this season. Here you go for this weekend:

  • Dallas by 6 over Washington. Cowboys
  • New York Giants by 3 over Philadelphia. Eagles
  • Cincinnati by 1 over Cleveland. Bengals
  • Miami by 6 1/2 over Buffalo. Bills
  • Oakland by 6 1/2 over Denver. Raiders

Metrodome roof collapse video, and NFL picks

Here’s some video of the Metrodome roof collapse:

Here are some late NFL picks. Went 4-1 last week to put me at 30-25 this season. It’s 2:30 right now, so I’ll just do games that start at 3 or later:

  • Eagles by 3 over Cowboys. Eagles
  • Jets by 6 over Dolphins. Dolphins
  • Chargers by 7 over Chiefs. Chargers
  • Giants by 2 over Vikings. Giants
  • Ravens by 3 over Texans. Ravens

A memorable anniversary, plus NFL picks

It was a whole 25 years ago that an NFL team got together, made a memorable music video, and then went on to win the Super Bowl.

I’m speaking of the 1985 Chicago Bears. It was 25 years ago yesterday that the video was produced.

Hard to imagine a team doing something like that now. But you have to give that Bears team credit. They sure did back it up. The Bears outscored their opponents 91-10 en route to a Super Bowl title.

Week 13 NFL picks

Not a great week for me last week. I went 2-3, putting my season mark picking the spread at 26-24. Need to get some momentum going here.

  • Chiefs by 6 1/2 over Broncos: Chiefs (Yes, I know they got clobbered last time they faced Denver)
  • Chargers by 12 1/2 over Raiders: Raiders
  • Rams by 3 over Cardinals. Rams
  • Falcons by 2 1/2 over Bucs. Falcons
  • Patriots by 3 1/2 over Jets. Patriots

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFnbYW8MCXc

Gophers depth to be tested, plus NFL picks

The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team will have its depth tested at one key position for the forseeable future.

Al Nolen

The Minnesota men's basketball team will miss defensive stopper Al Nolen (0) for the next couple of weeks. Associated Press photo

Point guard Al Nolen will miss the next couple of weeks and maybe more with a foot injury. The 15th-ranked Gophers are already without one of their more talented players in combo guard Devoe Joseph, who is suspended indefinitely for violating unspecified team rules.

Minnesota’s next game is one of its last solid tests before the Big Ten season begins. The Gophers face Virginia in a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game at 6 p.m. Monday on ESPN2.

Week 12 NFL picks

I’m back to my old ways again, going 3-2 last week after a 1-4 week the week before. That puts my season record picking the spread at 24-21.

Here we go for Week 12:

  • Pittsburgh by 6 at Buffalo: Steelers
  • Kansas City by 1 at Seattle: Chiefs
  • Baltimore by 7 1/2 vs. Tampa Bay: Bucs
  • San Francisco by 2 1/2 at Arizona: 49ers
  • Philadelphia by 3 1/2 at Chicago: Eagles (As a Bears fan, this pick kills me, but I just think Michael Vick is more machine than man right now. The guy is unstoppable.)

Packers fans get one last look … maybe? … at Favre, plus NFL picks

The Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers game might not be drawing quite the headlines that it did, say, a year ago. But it’s still Vikings-Packers, and once again, Brett Favre is playing in it.

Brett Favre

Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre faces his former team again Sunday. Associated Press photo

It’s been a difficult season for Favre. He’s injured his ankle, his shoulder, his ego … you name it! He’s already more than doubled his interception total (16 this year, 7 last year) from a year ago, despite having played in just nine games.

And his Vikings find themselves on the brink of falling out of playoff contention.

But Sidney Rice will be back on Sunday. He was activated by the Vikings on Saturday and should play against Green Bay.

Week 11 NFL picks

Rough week last week, going 1-4. That puts me at 21-19 for the season. Here’s hoping for the rebound this week:

Titans by 6 1/2 over Redskins. Titans

Cowboys by 7 over Lions. Cowboys

Steelers by 8 1/2 over Raiders. Raiders

Falcons by 3 over Rams. Falcons

Eagles by 3 over Giants. Eagles

What do good NFL coaches need to coach for? … and NFL picks

I was watching the Minnesota-Illinois football game this afternoon – I live a dull life. What can I say? – when I caught an ad for this product during a commercial break.

It’s current and former NFL coaches, plus Bobby Bowden, trying to help you win … at life!

The timing of seeing this commercial is pretty crazy, because I had just been talking with a few co-workers earlier in the week about how the best NFL coaches aren’t working the sidelines anymore.

Think about it. Bill Cowher is working for CBS as an analyst. Jon Gruden is working for ESPN as an analyst. Tony Dungy is working for NBC as an analyst. ESPN even had a story today about how Super Bowl-winning coaches have inquired about the Dallas Cowboys’ opening.

Makes me wonder how much these coaches make working on TV. Seems like every team in the league would be interested in hiring these guys, except for the obvious successful franchises like the New England Patriots.

Week 10 NFL picks

Another 3-2 week last week puts me at 20-15 against the spread this season.

  • Titans by 2 over Dolphins. Titans
  • Colts by 8 over Bengals. Colts
  • Jaguars by 1 over Texans. Texans
  • Chiefs by 2 1/2 over Broncos. Chiefs
  • Eagles by 3 over Redskins. Eagles

GM will need to be creative with Twins, and NFL picks

Free agency in Major League Baseball started on Saturday night.

Carl Pavano

Have Twins fans seen the last of the 'Stache? Associated Press photo

The Minnesota Twins have the second-most free agents from the 2010 roster in all of baseball with 10 (Tampa Bay has 11). This story from Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune sums up the situation pretty well.

Here’s an excerpt to get you up to pace:

Besides Pavano, the Twins no longer hold the rights to Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain or Jon Rauch, along with Nick Punto, Ron Mahay and Randy Flores.

While it’s possible the Twins could re-sign some of these players, it’s also possible all 10 could leave. If so, the Twins would need to replace their leading home run hitter (Thome); the pitcher who led the team in victories, innings pitched and complete games (Pavano); their second baseman and No. 2 hitter (Hudson); their longtime utility infielder (Punto); not to mention six relievers.

Much of the team’s core (Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, etc.) remains, but these are significant losses. Consider also that Christensen says even if all 10 of these players leave, the players remaining are owed somewhere in the neighborhood of $105 million (a rough estimate since many of these guys will get yet-to-be-determined raises through arbitration).

The Twins have nine players with set salaries for 2011. That list goes as follows:

  • C Joe Mauer: $23 million
  • 1B Justin Morneau: $15 million
  • RP Joe Nathan $11.25 million
  • OF Michael Cuddyer: $10.5 million
  • OF Jason Kubel: $5.25 million
  • SP Scott Baker: $5 million
  • SP Nick Blackburn: $3 million
  • IF Brendan Harris: $1.7 million (scary that he’s on a big league contract after last year’s unusual two-year extension)
  • OF Denard Span: $1 million

Those nine players are due to make a combined $75.7 million. So you can see it won’t take much to get to $105 million when you still need another 16 players on a big league roster. Delmon Young and Francisco Liriano will likely get healthy raises in arbitration.

So, now what? My expectation is that Twins GM Bill Smith will get pretty creative this offseason. I’ve heard some say it will be low-key because they don’t have a lot of money to work with if it’s assumed the payroll will continue to be around $100 million.

I disagree. I expect this to be a pretty active offseason. Will it be as active as last season’s? Maybe not. But certainly moreso than the ones seen during Terry Ryan’s tenure as general manager.

I’m not expecting Smith to make a big splash in free agency. But I bet he pulls off a trade of some sort in an effort to re-shape the roster. As successful as the Twins were at home, this lineup just doesn’t seem built for Target Field. Thome strikes me as the only guy with enough power to consistently hit balls out. But at the same time, you can’t argue with the success at home.

Anyway, here’s what I think the Twins should do:

  • Make a run at a legitimate ace. Reports are the Kansas City Royals could be looking to trade starting pitcher – and 2009 AL Cy Young winner – Zack Greinke this offseason. He’s under contract at $13.5 million/year through 2012. His numbers dipped this past season, when he went 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA. I’m still a believer. If the Twins want an ace, they might have to “gamble,” if this even qualifies as a gamble. Could a package centered around Young and Blackburn/Slowey get it done? Not sure. Smith could start there though.
  • Shop Kubel to other clubs. Twins might have to do this simply to get salary relief if they do get Greinke. Two reasons why I say Kubel: 1) He’s had epic struggles in the playoffs, going 2-for-29 with 13 strikeouts. 2) The Twins are going to have to free up cash somehow. I think they would have a REAL difficult time dealing Morneau (coming off a concussion), Nathan (coming off missing an entire season) or Cuddyer (making too much for someone with his numbers).
  • Let Alexi Casilla and Trevor Plouffe battle it out for second base job. Twins need to let Hudson walk. I like O-Hud. You know every year what he’s going to give you. But they’re not in a position to hand out contracts like that this season. I’m not comfortable handing it over to Casilla the way they did in 2008 again. But he showed some flashes this past season, and I think Plouffe has reached a point where he can’t do much more in the minors.

I’m still not sure what I’d do about the departing bullpen arms (Guerrier, Crain, Rauch, Fuentes, etc.). Guerrier is actually a Type A free agent, so if you offer him arbitration, he would probably take it because he might have a tough time getting a contract elsewhere if he didn’t. So that might be one of the more under-the-radar stories to watch this offseason.

Honestly, it’s hard to imagine the bullpen without Crain the way he pitched down the stretch. But there’s a danger in terms of dollars when re-signing players after career years, like they did with Mauer.

To wrap this up, I don’t think the Twins need to blow up the roster or anything after yet another sweep suffered in the playoffs. And I don’t believe in firing manager Ron Gardenhire, as many fans wanted to do after the team’s 12th straight postseason loss.

I do think this roster needs to undergo some signficant re-tooling. There’s something about these Twins that leads me to believe that there’s a culture in that clubhouse that doesn’t think they can get the job done in the playoffs. There’s a constant struggle with this team to drive runners in scoring position in during the playoffs. I hoped a guy like Thome, who has been there and done that, would change that mentality. But not this time, anyway.

It would be nice to see Thome return. But the Twins number-crunchers will have to determine whether or not that is possible. I believe he’ll be back though.

But I do think this team needs to get faster. And they need an ace. They need someone that they can go into Game 1 of a playoff series with and believe they can win with. I think Greinke gives you that, and maybe a trade to a playoff team will give him a jolt and get him back to posting 2009 numbers.

Should be a fun and unpredictable offseason to watch.

NFL picks for Week 9

I’m sitting 17-13 for the season with my picks for the NFL spread. Here’s my picks for this week:

New York Jets by 3 1/2 at Detroit. Lions

New Orleans by 6 1/2 at Carolina. Saints

New England by 4 at Cleveland. Patriots

Green Bay by 7 1/2 vs. Dallas. Packers

Pittsburgh by 3 1/2 at Cincinnati. Steelers