Scott Taylor

NFL Picks Playoffs Week 2

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Big Sunday in Downtown Minneapolis

Scott Taylor

“The Coach”

Dr. Football

“Dr. Football”

 

By

The Coach and Dr. Football
January 13, 2018
GAMEDAY GOLD
@staylorsports ‏

It’s the biggest Sunday of the 2017-18 season in downtown Minneapolis. At 3:40 CST at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings will play host to the New Orleans Saints in the 2018 Conference Championship semifinal.

The 13-3 Vikings worked hard all season – especially on defense – to put themselves in this situation and while it’s hard to imagine they could lose at home, the Saints provide a particularly difficult challenge. With the Super Bowl in this same stadium in three weeks, a defeat at the hands of the Saints would be devastating for the coaching staff, the players and the fans, a hearty bunch that have filled the big land crawler in downtown Minneapolis all season.

The Saints are tough. They just completed a three-game season sweep of the talented Carolina Panthers and they haven’t forgotten how the Vikings took them apart in Week 1. Of course, when these two teams met in September, Adrian Peterson was the Saints runningback. Since then, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have become a gifted one-two running punch to go along with Drew Brees’s dangerous passing game. This isn’t the same Saints team that the Vikings took apart four months ago.

However, while the Vikings offense has improved under the surprisingly talented Case Keenum, the defense is still the straw that stirs this drink. Featuring established stars such as Harrison (Harry the Hitman) Smith, Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph and emerging future stars such as Anthony Barr, Trae Waynes and Eric Kendricks, the Vikings defense is the best in the NFL.

It’s going to be loud inside that big downtown boat this weekend and the Vikings are nearly unbeatable inside its large, friendly confines. Minnesota is favored by five, but the Saints won’t roll over.

This could be the game of the year.

Meanwhile, our fearless prognosticators have been on a planet of their own this year. The money keeps rolling in just as it did in the opening round of the playoffs last week. Dr. Football went 3-1 (181-79) on the money line and 1-3 (147-113) against the spread while The Coach went 2-2 (183-77) on the money line and 1-3 (147-113) against the spread.

It should be dandy weekend of football in this, the second week of the playoffs. Let’s take a closer look:

 

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

Atlanta Falcons (11-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Line: Falcons by 3

Let’s face it, Nick Foles just doesn’t have the skill set needed for the Eagles to move on. Atlanta, despite not having a home playoff game, wants to get back to the show.

Dr. Football: Take the Falcons to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Falcons to win and cover.

 

SATURDAY NIGHT

Tennessee Titans (10-7) at New England Patriots (13-3)
Line: Patriots by 13

The one thing that Tom Brady loves is proving the critics and gossipers wrong. The Titans are just lucky to still be playing. There will be peace in New England after this one.

Dr. Football: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

 

EARLY SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
Line: Steelers by 7

Jacksonville’s defense is tough, and they did beat the Steelers in Week 5, but that was a long time ago, and Big Ben and company are playing at a much higher level.

Dr. Football: Take the Steelers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Steelers to win and cover.

 

LATE SUNDAY AFTERNOON

New Orleans Saints (12-5) at Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
Line: Vikings by 5

Minnesota can taste it, but it won’t be easy. New Orleans is much better team than they were in Week 1, but so are the Vikings. Count on a great game from Case Keenum, the Rodney Dangerfield of pro football.

Dr. Football: Take the Vikings to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Vikings to win and cover.

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Thomas U. Tuttle

Vikings Playoffs: New Orleans Saints Loom

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

 

The Minnesota Vikings play a Big One Sunday, against the New Orleans Saints, a formidable opponent that just won a Big One last week over Can Newton’s Carolina Panthers. It’s playoff football time, and every contest is potentially one and done, now or never, etc…

The Saints are led by Drew Brees, and the old Purdue Boilermaker (class of 2000, winner of Super Bowl XLIV) seems better than ever, leading a confident, improved team that believes it’s ready to avenge an early season 29-19 loss in Minneapolis.

Remember Sam Bradford setting the completion percentage record a year ago, breaking the mark held by Drew Brees? Brees broke that one again this year to reclaim the top spot in the category.

New Orleans is supremely confident after the workmanlike victory over the Panthers, and why not? They are firing on all cylinders with a developed running game featuring Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, both of whom have good hands and know how to carry the ball after the catch.

The Saints beat the Panthers for the third time last weekend, a feat said to be difficult to accomplish in one season. The Vikings need to win a second consecutive battle with New Orleans, a manageable proposition if that vaunted, league-leading Purple defense comes out firing and pressures Brees from the get-go.

I’m not the only person who wonders how the tough and tenacious 5 – 10 QB almost always gets the ball off despite a ferocious rush by large defenders, averaging 6-4 in height, closing in with their arms extended.

Much taller men in his position seem to take more of a beating and have more balls batted down than he does, and Brees tends to consistently put the ball on the spot while moving.

It’s not usually one play, or one moment that decides a football game, or so they say. For many in the coaching profession such a cliche is a mantra, designed to deflect criticism, or scrutiny, or something…

Nah, don’t believe it. Just last week Georgia, leading by two touchdowns, was going in for a score to put the National Championship game away against Alabama. Alas, the young Bulldog QB Jake Fromm bounced a pass off the helmet of a Georgia offensive lineman into Alabama’s hands – a huge interception in the red zone!

The next sound you heard in Atlanta was the groan of despair. They knew what was coming soon… defeat, and another Alabama national title. It was just a matter of time.

I’ve been blessed to have seen many sporting events, of a wide variety. From Olympic Games to World Series to Super Bowls. Okay, maybe not as many SB’s as my running mate Eric Nelson (25 SB’s) and certainly not as many as Mr Super Bowl (over 35 and counting, including one with his son participating) Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.

But one game stands out as the toughest defeat of all time. The 1999 overtime loss to Atlanta, in the 1998-99 NFC Championship game. You remember that one, the game where the Vikings snatched defeat from the jaws of victory? Man, that was brutal.

Many people forget that Atlanta and QB Chris Chandler came out of the gate fast on that cold January day, scoring a touchdown on their first possession in a mere five plays. But then Randall Cunningham and Randy Moss, along with Robert Smith and the gang, turned up the heat on the Falcons and were trying to put the game away at the end of the first half.

Trying too hard, it turned out, with an interception just before halftime leading to an unexpected touchdown for Atlanta that seemed to shift momentum in favor of Chris Chandler and his crew.

Still, when Gary Anderson came on to kick a 38-yard field goal and put the Vikes up by 10 points with two minutes and change left in the game, the door on the Dirty Birds season would officially close. Anderson had not missed a field goal all season. The first man in NFL history to accomplish such a feat, and this was a mere chip shot for the veteran.

The snap looked good, the kicking motion smooth, the ball rotated nicely and…wide left…WIDE LEFT? It couldn’t be! The Purple faithful in the Metrodome let out a sound that I can remember hearing in the press box to this day.

A soft, lingering gasp – with a touch of forboding. AAHHHhhhhhhh…….with a little OOOHHhhhhhh….

Atlanta took the ball and scorched a suspect Vikings secondary for a touchdown pass from Chandler to Terrance Mathis with just under a minute left, then stopped the take-a-knee Purple to close out regulation time.

They stuffed the vaunted but shaken Vikings offense again in overtime, and marched to solid field position for the game ending, Morten Anderson field goal. 30 to 27, Dirty Birds on top.

Toughest. Loss. Ever.

Let’s hope this is the year a Minnesota Vikings team gives the hurt rather than receives it. And I’m not going to touch the four lost Super Bowls, because I’m not old enough to remember…right?

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: It’s Mission Minneapolis for the Minnesota Vikings

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By Eric Nelson
January 10, 2018
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the land of 10,000 frozen lakes…

•Super Bowl Envy: The Minnesota Vikings had plenty to smile about in 2017. The Vikings were 13-3, the second most successful regular season in franchise history. That’s quite an accomplishment and the Purple deserve plenty of accolades. But, let’s cut to the chase – the Vikings will be judged on how they perform in the post-season. Anything short of a coveted Super Bowl title isn’t good enough…

•Mission Minneapolis: The Vikings are overdue to win the Lombardi Trophy. Minnesota is the best team in NFL history to never win the Super Bowl. The Purple pedigree is impressive, but four Super Bowl losses, five straight NFC Championship Game setbacks and other dagger defeats have given the fan base an Eyor complex. The goal is simple for the Vikings – become the first NFL team to play a Super Bowl in their home venue and finally take a confetti shower…

•Climate Controlled: The forecast high for Minneapolis on Sunday is 11 degrees. If the New Orleans-Minnesota game were outside, the Saints would spend the entire week prepping and worrying about the North Pole-like weather. It would be the dominant story line in Louisiana. But, because the game is inside at US Bank Stadium, the frigid temps are a non-issue. What could be a huge weather advantage for the Vikings – especially against warm weather teams – is a non-factor because the organization chose to build another dome…

•NFLements: If this game were being played in the deep freeze there is no guarantee Minnesota would win. But the Vikings would clearly have an edge because they are acclimated to the cold. If someone polled New Orleans players and gave them the option of playing in a heated glass house or outside on frozen field turf, the vote would be a landslide. The guys from the balmy bayou would opt for playing inside USBS…

•Decibel Dome: To be fair, Minnesota is difficult to beat at USBS. The Vikings are 7-1 in their Purple playpen this season and they feed off an energetic and boisterous fan base. However, I believe frigid cold is a tougher obstacle for opponents than rock concert-like noise…

•Snake II: The game-winning touchdown toss from Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa to DeVonta Smith in the NCAA title game was the most impressive throw by a Crimson Tide southpaw since the days of Kenny Stabler

•Peachtree Pain: Sports fans in Georgia have had a rough 11 months. In Super Bowl LI, Atlanta’s 28-3 lead vanished as New England pulled of a colossal comeback to win 34-28 in overtime. On Monday night, Alabama erased a 20-7 Georgia lead in the NCAA college football championship and won 26-23 in OT…

•Six-Pack: Congrats to North Dakota State for winning another FCS crown. For the Bison it’s the joy of six as they have now won six titles in seven years. North Dakota State has the top football program in the Upper Midwest…

•Cavs Crushing: Minnesota’s 127-99 battering of Cleveland on Monday night in Minneapolis is one of the most convincing and impressive T’Wolves efforts in many seasons. The Cavs – who have won three straight NBA Eastern Conference titles – looked slow and confused. It was a statement win for Minnesota…

•Just a Hunch: I am guessing that LaVar Ball and Luke Walton won’t be exchanging Valentines’s gifts…

•Soccer Promotion: Minnesota United F Christian Ramirez has been called up to the US National team and will participate in their annual January camp in Carson, CA, which includes a friendly match against Bosnia and Herzegovina at StubHub Center on Sunday, January 28. Ramirez scored 14 goals for Minn U in 2017…

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Scott Taylor

NFL Playoff Picks

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It’s Playoff Time: Where Dreams Can Come True

Scott Taylor

“The Coach”

Dr. Football

“Dr. Football”

 

By

The Coach and Dr. Football
January 5, 2018
GAMEDAY GOLD
@staylorsports ‏

 

 

 

It’s playoff time in the NFL. That time of year when good teams all have a chance to win a championship and teams with bad quarterbacks – and there are a lot of them – are only a distant memory.

It’s been a pretty horrible year for the NFL. The president of the United States isn’t happy that African-American players protested police brutality by kneeling during various National Anthems. TV ratings dropped across the board, not because of the protests but because the football was, generally, terrible (ratings in New England, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Los Angeles, Buffalo and yes, even San Francisco were way up while ratings in New York, Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Arizona, Cincinnati, Denver, San Diego, St. Louis and Oakland were way, way down). And the play was terrible because (a) there aren’t enough quarterbacks to go around, and (b) the one quarterback that could have helped some of these horrendous teams wasn’t signed because owners would rather lose by three touchdowns than even attempt to win games because of their personal political views.

The NFL is a mess. But it’s not so big a mess that Jon Gruden can’t come out of the broadcast booth and get a coaching job that provides him with a 10-year contract worth $100 million. The NFL’s problems are at the executive level. The players are playing as hard as they can. They’re desperately trying to win, but ownership is much more concerned about the questions they might be asked at a cocktail party, than they are about providing their coaches, players and fans with the proper tools to win football games.

How else do you explain Cleveland (0-16), Houston (4-12), Indianapolis (4-12), the Giants (3-13), Chicago (5-11), Tampa (5-11), Denver (5-11) and the Jets (5-11)? So much for parity.

But that was then, this is now. It’s going to be tougher for our fearless prognosticators now that all those dreadful football teams have been eliminated. And let’s be completely honest. During the regular season, it was easy to pick winners.

Last week, in the final week of the regular season, Dr. Football went 10-6 (178-78) straight up and 9-7 (146-110) against the spread while The Coach went 11-5 (181-75) straight up and 11-5 (146-110) against the spread. These guys get richer and richer and richer. It was the best season for each prognosticator since 2007.

Then again, with so few good quarterbacks in the NFL, picking winners has never been easier.

Let’s take a close look at the first round of the playoffs. Remember Philadelphia and Minnesota in the NFC and New England and Pittsburgh in the AFC have the byes.

 

LATE SATURDAY AFTERNOON

Tennessee Titans (9-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
Line: Chiefs by 9

Despite the Titans winning the last two at Arrowhead, the Chiefs are the team that beat the Patriots in Week 1. They will want another shot in New England.

Dr. Football: Take the Chiefs to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Chiefs to win and cover.

 

SATURDAY NIGHT

Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at Los Angeles Rams (11-5)

Line: Rams by 6.5

The Rams just aren’t ready to take the next step against last year’s Super Bowl losers…Matt Ryan’s experience will be the difference.

Dr. Football: Take the Falcons in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Rams to win and cover.

 

EARLY SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Buffalo Bills (9-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

Line: Jaguars by 9

The only reason the Bills are playing on Sunday is because Baltimore imploded against Cincinnati.

Dr. Football: Take the Jaguars to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Jaguars to win and cover.

 

LATE SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Carolina Panthers (11-5) at New Orleans Saints (11-5)

Line: Saints by 7

New Orleans dominated Carolina during the regular season, and will once again win at home in a shootout.

Dr. Football: Take the Saints to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take the Saints to win and cover.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Minnesota’s dominant D has similar qualities to Denver’s Super Bowl 50 team

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By Eric Nelson
January 4, 2018
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the frigid north….

•Dominant D: The Minnesota Vikings defense is starting to resemble the Denver Broncos of two years ago. Like the Broncos, the Purple have ultra-talented players such as Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. Winning the coveted Lombardi Trophy would elevate the Vikings defense to elite status – just like the Broncos were when they won Super Bowl 50 behind Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and Aqib Talib

•Orange Crush: The Broncos Super Bowl run was made possible because their defense played out of this galaxy. In the playoffs Denver shut down Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and New England’s Tom Brady, and then bottled up Carolina’s Cam Newton on the super stage in Santa Clara. Minnesota has a chance to duplicate Denver’s success if the Viking defense continues to excel…

•200 Club: Minnesota WR Stefon Diggs had 6 catches for 65 yards and 1 touchdown last week against Chicago. Diggs now has 200 career catches and has reached that mark faster than any Viking in team history (40 games)…

•Randy Ratio: Former Vikings WR Randy Moss is one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Moss was a super freak who had game changing abilities. He deserves a hall call…

•Scoreboard Salute: Jack Morris – who was recently voted into the Baseball HOF – received cheers after he was shown on the US Bank Stadium video board during the Bears-Vikings game…

•Drought-Busters: Buffalo is in the NFL postseason for the first time since 1999. The LA Rams are playoff-bound for the first time since 2004. Edmonton’s 11-year NHL playoff drought came to an end last spring. Is Minnesota’s NBA dry spell ready to end too? The Timberwolves have not been in the playoffs since 2004, but with a 24-15 record this season, there is a good chance they join the Bills, Rams and Oilers as a playoff team…

•Sub-Mariners: According to the Seattle Times, the Mariners now have the longest run of futility. Seattle has not qualified for the playoffs since 2001, when the Mariners won an MLB record 116 regular season games…

•Buffalo Stampede: With Buffalo in the playoffs, there is now a chance the Bills will play a Super Bowl in Minneapolis for a second time. Buffalo lost Super Bowl XXVI to Washington 37-24 at the Metrodome…

•Coincidental Losers: Cleveland is now the second team in NFL history to finish 0-16. The only other 0-16 team in league history was Detroit in 2008. According to the LA Times, the Browns and Lions both went 4-0 in the pre-season, only to lose every game that counted. This is more proof that exhibition games really are meaningless…

•Sony Shines: Just a hunch but I am guessing that Sony Michel won’t have to pay for any meals in Athens. Michel ran for 181 yards and three touchdowns in Georgia’s 54-48 double OT win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. Michel’s sprinter speed was simply too much for the Sooners…

•Badger Ball: That was an impressive win for number 6 Wisconsin against 10th ranked Miami in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night. Sophomore QB Alex Hornibrook threw for 258 yards and four touchdown passes in the Badgers convincing 34-24 win. Wisconsin finished the season 13-1 and remains one of the nation’s top programs…

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Scott Taylor

Wild Still in the Hunt to Start 2018

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 Scott Taylor

By Scott Taylor

Photos by James Carey Lauder

January 3, 2018
GAMEDAY GOLD
@staylorsports ‏

Don’t worry, be happy. That should probably be the motto of the Minnesota Wild as they head into the 2018 portion of the 2017-18 National Hockey League schedule.

On Tuesday night, the Wild got two goals from Eric Staal and two more from Matt Cullen, three assists from Jared Spurgeon and 25 saves from Devan Dubnyk as they whipped the visiting Florida Panthers 5-1.

It left the Wild with a record of 21-16-3, eight points behind first-place Winnipeg in the Central Division and one point behind the Anaheim Ducks for the final Wild Card spot in the West.

It’s not a terrible place to be with 42 games remaining. It’s not great, by any stretch, but the Wild are certainly in the hunt.

But at some point, the Wild have to turn a win like Tuesday’s into a streak. One win here or there won’t be the answer to the big playoff question. If the Wild intend to be playing in late April, the time has come to string a few wins together.

To be fair, the Wild are now 10-1-1 in their last 12 home games and that’s quite impressive. Considering that the Wild play six of their next eight at home including a match up against the struggling Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, the Wild could get right back into the Central Division hunt during the next two weeks. With Zach Parise back in the lineup and Dubnyk playing with more confidence, the Wild are in a good position to make some noise.

Eric Staal certainly isn’t concerned. On Tuesday, the 33-year-old veteran scored his 16th and 17th goals of the season against the Panthers and with 35 points is on the first page of scoring leaders in the NHL (32nd).

Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal gathers his momentum to go toward the puck

Eric Staal leads the Wild in the scoring.

“It’s been fun since the moment I signed here,” said Staal on Tuesday night. “It’s a really good group of guys. We’re also a confident group right now. We just have to keep this confidence going as long as we can.”

And really, that’s what it’s about at this stage. The NHL’s December dog days (deep freeze if you prefer) are now over, and hockey old-timers will tell you that now is the time when good teams start to get their game faces on. The playoff run becomes urgent. Half the season is over, and now the contenders must show that they aren’t pretenders.

That means Dubnyk has to play like he did against Florida on Tuesday for most of the rest of the season. The defensive group has to carry on the way Suter, (often-healthy-scratch) Olofsson, Dumba, Brodin, Prosser and Spurgeon did against the Panthers. Up front, Parise is back, Staal is the team’s leading scorer and Jason Zucker is a star. No question the Wild need to get more out of Nino Neiderreiter (when he’s healthy), Mikko Koivu, and Charlie Coyle down the stretch, but then again, now is the time for all hands to be on deck every single night.

This is a different Wild club than the one that made the playoffs last year – for the fifth straight year – but it’s still a team that has shown, thus far, that it can compete with teams like Winnipeg, Nashville, St. Louis and the upstart Vegas Golden Knights. With Parise back, the Wild looked as good as they have all season on Tuesday night.

“I thought Zach was good for his first game,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau after Tuesday’s win. “He did all the right things and played within himself and could have had a couple, too. That’s the way we were last year when Zach was in the lineup. He was good and we were pretty good.”

It’s not the best Wild team ever, but if it can build on its confidence with Parise back, who knows what could happen? After all, love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Wild are certainly still in the hunt.

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Thomas U. Tuttle

Wintry Blasts Present And Past

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

 

Moving south from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul the temperatures moderated, moving from 10° below zero to 2° above in Chicago. Good to see family and friends in Chi-town before swinging down to sunny and warm Nashville for the Bowl game between Northwestern and Kentucky.

Well, it was sunny…warm, not so much…

In fact, near record cold was enveloping the Grand Old Opry town as NU’s Wildcats prevailed over an athletic UK Wildcats squad 24-23 in a minor thriller to finish the season 10-3 and ranked in the top 20. When the Tennessee Titans played (and won) a big football game with playoff ramifications against the Jacksonville Jaguars two days later, the temperature at kickoff in Nissan Stadium was a stadium-record cold 22°.

My compadre at GDG Eric Nelson loves cold weather football, believing it to be the real deal Holyfield in determining what team is the toughest and best in true football elements. I always found this attitude contradictory for the man from southern California, but it’s truly in his DNA. Hey, he was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Ice Bowl in Green Bay when the Packers defeated Dallas 21-17 back in 1967.

I guess I shouldn’t complain about a little discomfort in Nashville when temperatures at the Lambeau Field Ice Bowl game kickoff hovered around 15° below zero, with a wind chill of  -35°. Even back in that era, Lambeau had heating coils that warmed the turf in extreme cold, but they malfunctioned around game time and instead created moisture that refroze and made the field a grassy skating rink.

The heating system was made by General Electric and was provided, interestingly enough, by a relative of Chicago Bears leader George Halas. Did noted hard-butt coach Vince Lombardi purposely disconnect parts of the equipment that would render the heating coils useless? To this day there are Dallas players who believe the crusty genius did just that.

Either way, it was darned cold – so cold that when QB Bart Starr and his father went to church before the game, they never spoke of the weather. “Nobody wanted to bring it up,” Starr said later. A few players couldn’t get their cars to start and they ended up scrambling to get to Lambeau, including linebacker Dave Robinson who ended up flagging down a passing driver for a ride to the big game.

The band scheduled for the day were the Wisconsin Lacrosse Marching Chiefs, but wooden instruments would freeze up and be rendered useless, the brass instruments’ mouthpieces tended to stick to the players lips, and several musicians were taken to local hospitals to be treated for hypothermia.

Numerous fans ended up at hospitals as well, and one elderly man died at the stadium. After the game whistle froze to the head ref’s mouth, whistles were abandoned to be replaced by loud voices and hand signals. By the 4th quarter, temperatures had dipped further to -20° as Green Bay trailed 17-14.

Somehow the Packers put together a drive featuring a couple of key short passes to halfback Donny Anderson that moved them close to the Dallas end zone. From the one yard line, on third down and with the traction awful, Starr decided to keep the ball and “run” behind Jerry Kramer and forgotten center Ken Bowman. They managed to move the formidable Cowboys lineman Jethro Pugh just enough to allow Bart to penetrate the goal line and bring a 3rd consecutive NFC championship to Titletown. And big-time National League Football history was made…

Ed and Steve Sabol captured the block on a frozen, non-swivelling camera-5 that just happened to be lined up perfectly – helping to immortalize the famous touchdown via early NFL Films. The book “Instant Replay,” written by Kramer with the immortal Dick Schaap, was a best-seller and among the first sports books this future scribe would read (it was bathroom reading for my dad, having come with a razor – the book disappeared to my bedroom and helped shape my future).

Famed linebacker Ray Nitschke was one of five Packers who suffered frostbite in the game, losing a few toenails while contributing to the victory. I think my man Nelson would have contributed the same for a chance at a Vikings Super Bowl win, but we will never know. When the Purple play in this years SB, they will be comfortably ensconced at fixed-roof US Bank Stadium, not his favorite.

Everything is relative, and 20 degrees in chilly, shady Nissan Stadium Nashville is 40° warmer than the Ice Bowl. My suffering was not so bad…not compared to the freezing misery that is ongoing in the Cities, and this is probably a bad time to complain about the sub-par weather I’m currently experiencing in Sarasota, Florida – just down Tuttle avenue from Ed Smith Stadium, spring training home of the Baltimore Orioles.

There are a few Major League pitchers already here doing some early throwing, but I don’t feel like going over there to freeze my fanny off on a windy and brisk 55 degree day.

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Scott Taylor

NFL Picks Week 17

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It’s Been a Money-Making Year

Scott Taylor

“The Coach”

Dr. Football

“Dr. Football”

 

By

The Coach and Dr. Football
December 30, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@staylorsports ‏

 

It’s the final week of the 2017-18 National Football League season, and this is what could happen:

The Minnesota Vikings face the Chicago Bears at the Big Bank Stadium on Sunday at Noon, and according to that silly new stat from ESPN (the Football Power Index, LOL), the Vikes have a 99.6 percent chance of clinching the final first-round bye.

They will clinch it with a home victory over the Bears — which they should probably do, one would think – or, if necessary, with help from one of three other teams – Atlanta, New Orleans or the Rams. The Rams have claimed they will rest their top players while the other two teams have at least suggested they’ll try to be competitive. The Vikings shouldn’t need the help, but if they absolutely have to have it, expect one of those three teams to win on Sunday.

So we can pretty much go to Vegas and book the Vikings through to the second week of the post-season.

We can also book a winning season for our fearless prognosticators. Fact is, these guys just keep on winning.

Last week Dr. Football went 12-4 (168-72) straight up and 10-6 (137-107) against the spread while The Coach went 13-3 (170-70) straight up and 8-8 (135-105) against the spread. These guys get richer every week and with just four wins, they are guaranteed their best seasons in almost a decade.

With so few good quarterbacks in the NFL, picking winners has never been easier.

Let’s take a close look at Week 17 and dream about the playoffs. 

 

EARLY SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Green Bay Packers (7-8) at Detroit Lions (8-7)
Line: Lions by 7.5

The Packers are fully on “next year” mode and won’t put up any kind of a fight in the Motor City. The Coach says: Neither one of these teams have the heart for this one.

Dr. Football: Take the Lions to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Lions and hold your nose.

New York Jets (5-10) at New England Patriots (12-3)
Line: Patriots by 15.5

Tom Brady and company have been on a mission all year and won’t let up on the way to the playoffs. The Coach says: The only reason the Patriots won’t cover is because Brady will be sitting quietly out of harm’s way by the midway point of the third quarter.

Dr. Football: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Patriots to win but not cover.

Houston Texans (4-11) at Indianapolis Colts (3-12)
Line: Colts by 4

Two disappointing teams playing a nothing game. Indy wins one for Chuck Pagano. The Coach says: Two franchises (not players, but executives and coaches) that barely even tried to win this season. Both a disgrace to sport.

Dr. Football: Take the Colts to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Colts to win and cover.

Cleveland Browns (0-15) at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3)
Line: Steelers by 13.5

0-16 has never been so painful; Pittsburgh will blow them out of Heinz Field by half time. The Coach says: Wonder why attendance and TV ratings are down in the NFL? The Cleveland Browns are the poster child.

Dr. Football: Take the Steelers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Steelers to win but not cover.

Washington Redskins (7-8) at New York Giants (2-13)
Line: Redskins by 3

Another two disappointing teams just hoping not to get injured. Giants haven’t looked anything like a winner this season, so why start now.

Dr. Football: Take the Redskins to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Washingtons to win and cover.

Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (12-3)
Line: Vikings by 12.

Minnesota will build on last week’s big win in Green Bay on their way to a playoff bye.

Dr. Football: Take the Vikings to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Vikings to win and cover.

Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)
Line: Cowboys by 2.5

This game means nothing to the Eagles so they’ll rest a bunch of starters. The Coach says: They’d better not rest Foles, ‘cause he’s awful and he has to get ready for the post-season.

Dr. Football: Take the Cowboys to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Cowboys to win and cover.

 

LATE SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
Line: Ravens by 10

If the Ravens win, they are in the playoffs. But the Bengals may try and win one for Marvin Lewis.

Dr. Football: Take the Ravens to win but not cover.

The Coach: Rake the Ravens to win but not cover.

Buffalo Bills (8-7) at Miami Dolphins (6-9)
Line: Bills by 3

Buffalo needs this more than Miami, but something tells me the Dolphins will play “party pooper” in this one.

Dr. Football: Take the Dolphins in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Bills to win and cover.

Carolina Panthers (11-4) at Atlanta Falcons (9-6)
Line: Falcons by 4

Atlanta at home, with their season on the line, will find a way to win.

Dr. Football: Take the Falcons to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Falcons to win and cover.

New Orleans Saints (11-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11)
Line: Saints by 7

New Orleans will win the NFC South with a victory here.

Dr. Football: Take the Saints to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Saints to win and cover.

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) at Tennessee Titans (8-7)
Line: Titans by 6

The Titans beat up on the Jaguars earlier in the season, so Jacksonville will want to knock them right out of the playoff picture.

Dr. Football: Take the Jaguars in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Titans to win and cover.

Oakland Raiders (6-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
Line: Chargers by 8

The Raiders are playing consecutive road games for nothing, look for the Chargers to keep sharp for the post season.

Dr. Football: Take the Chargers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Chargers to win and cover.

Arizona Cardinals (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (9-6)
Line: Seahawks by 8

Seattle will win the sixth seed if they beat the Cardinals and the Falcons lose to the Panthers. That’s good motivation.

Dr. Football: Take the Seahawks to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Seahawks to win and cover.

Kansas City Chiefs (10-5) at Denver Broncos (5-10)
Line: Broncos by 3.5

I don’t think K.C. will rest as some think, I believe they will keep playing hard as a tune up for the playoffs. The Coach says: Denver is awful, but the Chiefs might rest, still…

Dr. Football: Take the Chiefs in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Chiefs.

San Francisco 49ers (5-10) at Los Angeles Rams (11-4)
Line: Rams by 4

The 49ers have won four straight games with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, and with the Rams resting players for the playoffs, he’ll get his fifth.

Dr. Football: Take the 49ers in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Niners for giggles.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The sound track of my youth

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By Eric Nelson
December 27, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

 

MINNEAPOLIS – We lost a giant last week in Dick Enberg – a multi-talented broadcaster and Emmy award winning guy.

Personally the loss of Enberg was a sucker punch to the gut. I did not know him – but felt like I did. I only interviewed him a couple times – but he seemed like my best friend.
Growing up in So Cal in the 1970’s I was exposed to Enberg’s talents before he burst onto the national scene with CBS, NBC and ESPN.

Enberg was the sound track of my youth. A constant backdrop as I listened to him call California Angels, LA Rams and UCLA basketball games.

Enberg brought enthusiasm, passion and preparation to those broadcasts. He enhanced games without getting in the way.

No super sized ego with Enberg. Just a guy supplementing the action over the air waves on KMPC Radio and KTLA-TV in Los Angeles.

I remember an NFL playoff game in 1975 between the St. Louis Cardinals and Rams that was not on local television because the Rams failed to sell out the 90,000 seat LA Coliseum.

Because of the blackout, I had only three options: go to the game in Los Angeles, drive to Santa Barbara or Baja California to see it on TV, or invest 3 1/2 hours listening on my old Panasonic clock radio in Orange County. I chose the radio and it turned out to be a smart decision.

For the entire game I was captivated by Enberg’s descriptive call as he vividly painted the picture from the Coliseum press box. Radio is theater of the mind, and on that day Enberg performed at a Broadway-like level.

Listening to Enberg on the old Panasonic turned out to be better than seeing the game on TV. Enberg was that good.

On those special Sunday’s when I did make it to the Coliseum, my transistor radio made the trip too. I had to listen to Enberg while I watched the game below on the emerald green gridiron. Same thing when I went to Angel games in Anaheim.

Another one of Enberg’s gifts was his knack for clicking with various broadcaster partners. From Don Drysdale to Tony Gwynn to Al McGuire to Merlin Olson to Billy Packer, Enberg had great chemistry with his analysts.

That is a rarity because cohesion is hard to find in the broadcasting business.

Enberg was a Hall of Fame sportscaster with an impressive resume. He called 10 Wimbledon’s, eight Super Bowls and nine no-hitters. Enberg had a knack for connecting with listeners and viewers. He was a salt-of-the-earth guy with humble Michigan roots.

Growing up I was influenced by guys like Enberg, Brent Musberger, Steve Sabol, Vin Scully and Pat Summerall. They motivated me to get into broadcasting.

Enberg had a huge impact on a young kid in So Cal and many others who have pursued this profession.

Enberg gave all of us many great memories and plenty of “Oh My!” moments.

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Glen Taylor owes us an explanation!

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By Larry Fitzgerald
December 27, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@FitzBeatSr

 

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, Minnesota’s own, is the most (no-secret-here) popular owner in town. He owns the Star Tribune newspaper also. Since he has owned the Timberwolves, however, it’s been hit and miss. What have you done lately?

Thirteen years in a row the team has missed the playoffs while his investment in the team has grown by leaps and bounds. Taylor has been chairman of the NBA Board of Governors. He has even been fined by David Stearn for his role in the fraud case of Joe Smith many years ago.

He hired Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders in 1995, many years ago, and the Timberwolves were actually relevant for a while. They even made the playoffs seven or eight years in a row. They drafted this high school kid from Chicago, Kevin Garnett, who turned out to be one of the NBA’s greatest stars. In fact, he is the only Timberwolves player who was selected the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

The guy played for 20 years. The Timberwolves even traded him to Boston, and he led the Celtics to an NBA championship and to the NBA finals twice. Five years ago Taylor hired Saunders again, this time as part owner and head coach. Saunders had a master plan to help Taylor save his struggling franchise. Saunders made a deal that included bringing Garnett, the franchise’s greatest player, back to Minnesota.

Garnett was with the Brooklyn Nets at the time. He agreed to return to Minnesota to play even though it was clearly at the end of incredible career and with the intent to eventually transition into the front office as part owner.

As we all know, Saunders died three years ago of Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. Saunders’ sudden passing really hurt the franchise; Minnesota had lost its leader. Taylor hired Sam Mitchell as interim head coach, but after one year fired him. Moving away from Garnett and all that Saunders had put in place, Taylor hired Tom Thibodeau as president and head coach.

Taylor has never spoken about Garnett or why he was no longer around. Garnett never officially retired either as a Timberwolves player and never received the respect he deserved for what he did here as a player both times. Garnett said recently he wants to own the Timberwolves and did not want to be a partner with Taylor. That would indicate some issues or agreements that were not fulfilled.

I think Taylor owes us an explanation. He should consider opening up about how Saunders’ death changed the direction of the franchise. What was Garnett promised when he returned with Saunders? Garnett’s jersey has not been retired. He has never been recognized by this organization or Taylor for all he has done for all those years.

Why is that? I know it’s business, but both sides are not talking.

The Timberwolves are the only franchise with no players who have ever been recognized for contributing to the growth of the franchise — no ring of honor, no retired jerseys. Taylor needs to invite Garnett back and work through the issues and set the record straight on what happened after Saunders died. What ended Garnett’s return as a Timberwolves player so abruptly, and what had he agreed to with the team?

I know Garnett has made $300 million or more over his remarkable career, but we need to hear from Taylor what went down and why Garnett feels jilted. Taylor, you at least owe us all that.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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