GAMEDAY GOLD’S NFL Top 10: Atlanta’s Perfect Dreams on the Line in Philly

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By Eric Nelson
October 26, 2012

1. Atlanta Falcons (6-0) – The Falcons visit an old friend Sunday in Philadelphia when they play Michael Vick and the Eagles. Matt Ryan and his Atlanta teammates will receive little brotherly love in Philly, the Eagles are desperate for a win.

2. Chicago Bears (5-1) – It’s the diva bowl this week at Soldier Field as Carolina and Cam Newton battle Jay Cutler and Chicago. The losing quarterback in this game is sure to have lousy body language in the post-game news conference.

3. Houston Texans (6-1) – Houston has great balance. Running back Arian Foster is the NFL’s second leading rusher with 659 yards and 10 touchdowns, while defensive end J.J. Watt leads the league with 9.5 sacks.

4. New York Giants (5-2) – With Derek Jeter’s Yankee career in jeopardy because of an injury, the coolest NYC/NJ athlete is Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Nothing rattles the unflappable Manning, who could be standing in a 7.5 earthquake and not get shaken.

5. San Francisco 49ers (5-2) – The 49ers are on top of the NFL’s most physical division – the smash mouth NFC West. Monday night SF plays at Arizona in a bring your own boxing gloves (BYOBG) game. This affair should feature enough hay makers and jabs to make an MMA fan happy.

6. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) – Minus Ray Lewis and Ladarius Webb the Ravens defense got gored last week by the Texans 43-13. Baltimore was exposed and don’t think it wasn’t noticed around the AFC North – especially in Pittsburgh.

7. Green Bay Packers (4-3) – GB has gotten back on track after two huge road wins against Houston and St. Louis. Aaron Rodgers demise was greatly exaggerated. The Packer quarterback has thrown an NFL-high 19 touchdowns passes and just four interceptions.

8. New England Patriots (4-3) – The Patriots have not hit their groove yet, but could be soon. New England’s 29-26 overtime win against the New York Jets put the Patriots on top of the AFC East – which is where they usually reside.

9. Minnesota Vikings (5-3) – Despite getting thumped by Tampa Bay 36-17 on Thursday night, the Purple remain in the GDG Top 10. However, if they are gonna stay there, quarterback Christian Ponder better raise the level of his play quickly.

10. Denver Broncos (3-3) – They better alert air traffic control at Denver International Airport, because Sunday night at Mile High it is New Orleans and Drew Brees against Denver and Peyton Manning. The Colorado sky will be filled with flying footballs all game long.

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The NHL Lockout – It’s the Owners Fault

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By Scott Taylor
October 27, 2012

WINNIPEG – After awhile it gets a little tiresome hearing that the NHL lockout is the players’ fault and, make no mistake, you do hear it everywhere, at least here in Canada. Seems we all want to see the National Hockey League get going so badly that our love of the game often clouds our judgment.

To be blunt, this lockout belongs to the owners. Period. They created this work stoppage, they make ultimatums and refuse to legitimately bargain, and they own this labor dispute just like they own a dozen rotting franchises.

This is not in any way, the work of the National Hockey League Players Association but obviously, at some point, the PA is going to have to decide how much of a haircut it can handle because, as we all know, the players are going to have to fix the mess the owners have created. The players are going to have to abandon their principles and fold at some point or they might not play again.

I understand we all have short memories, but does anyone remember 2005? Anyone? Here is what Commissioner Gary Bettman told Bloomberg News on Apr. 22, 2008:

Bettman: “Frankly, we were having severe problems heading up to the work stoppage in 2004, so by creating a system where all of our teams can be healthy and can afford to be competitive we think what we’ve given our fans .. may be unrivalled in any sport.”

Bloomberg: Has the salary cap helped the financial health of the teams?

Bettman: “Absolutely. Before we began the work stoppage player salaries probably consumed about 70-75 per cent of our revenues but now, based on the way the salary cap system works, the players get anywhere between 54 and ultimately 57 per cent of our revenues so the percentage of our revenues going toward salaries is down. More importantly, all of our teams are virtually competitive now.”

Bloomberg: Do you have franchises in trouble?

Bettman: “No, no. These were things that were afflicting us before the work stoppage to the extent that we had so-called troubled franchises. They’re not nearly as troubled as they once were. No franchise right now is in jeopardy of folding or moving. One of the reasons we had to go through a difficult period through the work stoppage was because we didn’t have a system that worked. It was affecting our franchises’ health and what the game looked like on the ice. So by creating a partnership with the players, by having a salary cap we’ve created a system that works for everybody especially our fans.”

At best, you can say Commissioner Bettman was just dead wrong. At worst, he was lying through his teeth and he knew it.

Since that conversation, the league has taken over ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes; the Atlanta Thrashers have moved to Winnipeg; and the New York Islanders have announced that they will move their franchise to Brooklyn.

Somehow, between 2005 and today, Bettman’s confidence and enthusiasm have waned. And dramatically, too. While Bettman talked constantly about how great hockey was doing, he couldn’t convince his bosses, the owners, that the NHL was in as good a shape as he was spinning it.

Listen, Bettman and the truth have often been strangers and, like any good politician, he’s a guy who makes lying seem so easy. But this contention that the owners got what they needed in 2005 has turned out to be festering pile of bull patties.

Bettman has been exposed. His league is in crisis. At least 15 of the teams are in a financial mess and it’s not surprising. When seven franchises in Canada account for 60 per cent of the league’s revenues, it’s obvious that hockey in the United States is not working.

Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes Magazine, which tracks the business of hockey, wrote the following on Sept. 18: “The NHL’s problem is the widespread disparity in profits for its 30 teams. We estimated that 18 teams lost money during the 2010-11 season in our annual look at the business of hockey. Several other teams barely eked out a profit, but the league’s most flush teams made a killing. The Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens had an operating profit (in the sense of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $171 million combined. The other 27 NHL teams lost a collective $44 million. If you add the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers to the fat cats ledger, profits hit $212 million with the remaining 25 teams posting a loss of $86 million.

“The NHL is not in dire financial straits as it was in 2004 when a lockout caused the cancellation of an entire season. It does need the top teams to share more of the wealth if it wants to be healthier financially. The league currently shares about $150 million of its revenue and the league has proposed bumping that up to $190 million. The players association is looking for revenue sharing closer to $250 million. We know why the Maple Leafs, Rangers and Canadiens do not want that much revenue sharing. What about the other 27 teams?”

Now. I will admit that I look at a lot of what Forbes writes with a jaundiced eye. A lot of it is just guessing. But the magazine is right about this: The teams that do well, do very well, while the teams that do badly, are in horrible shape. Florida, Tampa, Carolina, Washington, the Islanders. Nashville and even St. Louis, Dallas, Anaheim and Colorado are quite shaky. Columbus is a mess. Phoenix is a disaster.

The NHL has tried to make it in markets that don’t understand hockey, don’t like it and, let’s not pull any punches here, have demonstrated that really don’t want it. My daughter lives in Orlando and loves the Winnipeg Jets. She can buy tickets for Lightning-Jets games on Stub Hub for as low as $1.99. The Lightning might like to announce crowds of 19,500, but I can assure everyone, there aren’t that many people in the building. Florida is worse. Phoenix is, again, a disaster.

Meanwhile, out in Edmonton, Oilers owner Darryl Katz is proving one of my pet theories. I believe with all my heart that there are only two things that can make a smart man stupid: a beautiful woman and a professional sports franchise. Hell, the woman doesn’t even have to be all that beautiful to make a man stop thinking with the head located above his shoulders.

Katz, one of Canada’s wealthiest men, has been pouty ever since Edmonton city council pulled the plug on his corporate welfare, welfare he said he required to build a new arena. For a brief moment he developed a bad case of stupiditis and ran off to Seattle to check out the feasibility of moving his team. Really? Seriously? You’re going to take a hockey franchise out of a hockey market and move it to an American market that couldn’t even keep its basketball team. See what I mean? Just stupid.

But that seems to be the way of hockey’s big thinkers. Commissioner Bettman should be given credit for his consistent ability to find very wealthy men who want to invest millions on pro hockey franchises that attract few fans, get little TV coverage and, at best, their teams are relegated to Page 8 in the local sports section of what is probably a dying daily newspaper.

I’ve been in Orlando, Tampa, Las Vegas, San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul and even hockey-mad Grand Forks, N.D. since this lockout began and I can tell you (St. Paul, Minn., mayor Chris Coleman’s news conference to tell people how much money his community is losing because the Wild aren’t playing, aside) hardly anyone has even noticed that the NHL is in the midst of a labor dispute.

If the NHL owners want to do what’s right – and heaven knows these guys don’t want to do that – they need to expand revenue sharing and start moving franchises. You don’t think moving Atlanta to Winnipeg was a good financial decision? Then you’re as dumb as a guy who would own a hockey franchise on the edge of the Everglades. The NHL would be better off financially with two teams in Saskatchewan than it is with two teams in Florida.

In the end, the players are going to have to give up most of the things they “negotiated” back in 2004 and settle for a deal that costs the current and future players a pile of money. That’s just the way it is.

The owners obviously hold all the cards and so many franchises are in such a financial mess that every time they open the doors of their arenas they lose money. Teams in Florida, Tampa, Phoenix, Dallas, Colorado, etc., etc., are probably quite happy to give the NFL, NCAA football and high school football the months of October, November and December to themselves while the hockey owners wait for the players to fold. At that point our jolly collection of dumb ruch guys can arrange some kind of shortened schedule to start in the New Year.

It’s quite sad that the NHL has had three work stoppages in 18 years, but it’s part of the deal. When you have so many bad franchises in so bad hockey markets, there will never be a true level of stability for the NHL. And once again, the players will eventually have to fix the owners’ mess.

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SPORTS NUGGETS: Ground and Pound Is the M.O. in Minneapolis

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By Eric Nelson
October 25, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets salutes those who were born to run…

  • Running backs have become persona non grata in today’s pass happy NFL. Quarterbacks and receivers put up cartoon-like numbers on a weekly basis thanks to rule changes that foster aerial displays. The art of running the football is quickly becoming a lost art in most cities. However, Thursday night at Mall of America Field, that was not the case…

  • Suddenly running the ball became trendy again in Tampa Bay’s 36-17 win over Minnesota…

  • Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson proved that toting the rock is still cool. Martin – a rookie from Boise State – ran for 135 yards and a touchdown, and also caught a 64-yard screen pass for a TD in the third quarter. AP dashed for 123, including a 64-yard third quarter touchdown sprint…

  • Dazzling Doug: The game was a coming out party for Martin, who shined under the NFL Network national spotlight. Martin had 214 total yards and actually upstaged Peterson in his own house. “I stayed patient in the backfield like I was a blocker,” Martin said of his touchdown reception. “I came out for the pass and Josh (Freeman) put it right on me. I saw a big gap up field and two defenders closing in. All I had to do was put my foot on the ground and take off – and that’s what I did…

  • Running into the record books: AP’s running resume continues to get better. Peterson now has 12 runs of 50 or more yards in his career, tying Robert Smith for the Purple record, and also has 30 100 yard games, most in franchise history. When Peterson is through playing, the Vikings should just put his byline on the team’s record book…

  • Not ready for prime time: the Purple are now 2-10 in their last 12 prime time games. Maybe Minnesota should stick to 12:00 p.m. kickoffs…

  • Bucs buck a trend: Tampa and the NY Giants are the only road teams to win on Thursday night this season. Home teams are 5-2 in the mid-week game…

  • Double duty: Tampa Bay broadcaster Gene Deckerhoff also is the voice of Florida State. Deckerhoff called all of Christian Ponder’s games when he quarterbacked the Seminoles…

  • Ponder struggled for the second straight game, throwing for 251 yards, one TD and one interception. Ponder was sacked three times and never seemed comfortable. The second-year quarterback is in a rut. NFL Network broadcaster Steve Mariucci was at the Metrodome and had some tips for Ponder:. “Just keep on keeping on,” Mariucci said. “He’s a good, smart guy. It’s only his sophomore year and he didn’t start his whole freshman year last year. He’s just got to keep in rhythm with these receivers and get better, and that doesn’t come over night. It’s a gradual thing…”

  • Welcome home: NFL Network play by play broadcaster Brad Nessler grew up in St. Charles, MN, while NFLN sideline reporter Alex Flanagan once worked in Alexandria, MN. Flanagan – who also is part of Notre Dame’s weekly telecasts on NBC – does a fabulous job working the sidelines…

  • Block party: Former Viking LB Matt Blair was inducted into the team’s ring of honor at halftime. Blair – the 20th player in the ring – played in two Super Bowls and six Pro Bowls. Blair also had a knack for making huge special teams plays. His 20 blocked kicks is the most in Minnesota history…

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How the Vikings Got their Colors

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“Ever wonder why the Minnesota Vikings colors are purple and gold? As the Proud Keeper of Your Team’s Colors, Tide knows that in the NFL, colors are more than just colors – they’re life or death, blood, sweat and tears, good and evil. They also know that the Vikings Purple is different from the Ravens purple. For this reason, Tide and NFL Films have teamed up to develop Evolution of Colors documentaries that tell the story of the colors behind your favorite team. The Minnesota Vikings purple and gold colors hold a stronger meaning than you may expect. Take a glimpse at how the franchise developed their identity with purple and gold.” Credit: Tide

See the Video

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Week 8 in the NFL: We Love the Vikes in the Thursday Nighter

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By Scott Taylor
October 24, 2012

This past Sunday, Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings did something that few teams have the ability to do: They played a horrible offensive football game and still won. In fact, they beat the once formidable Arizona Cardinals 21-14.

They were able to accomplish this rather heady feat for three reasons: (1) The Vikings defense was exceptional and actually put up one of the team’s three touchdowns; (2) Peterson rushed for 153 yards and (3) Arizona quarterback John Skelton was incredibly bad.

Every now and again it helps if the opposing quarterback is even worse than your quarterback on a day when your quarterback almost failed to show completely.

As a result of Peterson’s brilliant afternoon (and it could be argued that Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier didn’t give the ball to Peterson enough) and a pick six by rookie safety Harrison Smith, the Vikings improved to 5-2. It’s still amazing to me that they did it while quarterback Christian Ponder went eight-for-17 for 58 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a passer rating of 34.8. Ponder has now thrown six interceptions in his last two games and Frazier says he’s “progressing.” Who knew?

Amazingly, despite last week’s fluke, both The Coach and The Doc are going to go with the Vikings again. After all, they’re playing on short rest at home while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team heading to Minneapolis for a Thursday night encounter, is playing on short rest on the road.
Good rule of thumb: Never take a visiting team on Thursday night.

Of course, it’s safe to listen to The Coach and The Doc again. Last week, they were back to their old, solid ways: The Doc was 10-3 straight up (60-44) and 7-6 against the spread (40-64). The Coach was identical: 10-3 straight up (63-41) and 7-6 against the spread (44-60).

Thursday night this week, it’s Tampa at Minnesota at the Metrodome. 7:30 p.m. CST on NFL Network in the United States and Rogers SportsNet in Canada. As always The Doc writes our rationalization while The Coach spews vindictive nonsense at his friend.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)
Line: Vikings by 6.5.
Oh how the Vikings love their Dome sweet Dome…they are a perfect 4-0 this season at home. Their opponents? The Bucs, who actually beat the Vikes on their last visit to Minnie…and since then they have lost their last nine in a row on the road. Tampa Bay has shown some flashes of brilliance this year; Josh Freeman tossing to Vincent Jackson is starting to get noticed. Also getting noticed, Minnesota’s Christian Ponder, but for all the wrong reasons. The Bucs’ run defense will make Adrian Petersen work hard, but they won’t stop him. Minnesota wins a close one. The Coach says: “Close? Right. And suddenly the Buccaneers are going to be better than the Cardinals. The only person who can screw this up for the Vikings is the idiot who decides NOT to give the football to Peterson.”


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SPORTS NUGGETS: Are You Ready for Some Football? Not on Thursday Night

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By Eric Nelson
October 24, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the center of the Thursday night football universe…

  • Get ready for some mid-week football Purple Nation. Tampa Bay and Minnesota play Thursday night at Mall of America Field – the first-ever NFL Network broadcast from Minneapolis. Like most USA residents, I can’t get enough NFL, and honor the shield by going to, and watching as many games as possible. However, I just can’t embrace Thursday night football…

  • I am rooted in old school NFL traditions. I believe games should be played on Sunday and Monday. Wanna play on Thanksgiving? That’s cool. That’s a yearly ritual. I am even okay with a third game on the holiday – because a triple dose of NFL makes sense on a day when Americans feast and gorge all day and night. But, Thursday night games on a weekly basis just is not natural…

  • Of course, this is the NFL Network’s way of big footing fans. According to Bloomberg Businessweek only 11 million viewers subscribed to NFLN when it was born in 2003. Once NFLN started broadcasting games in 2006, that number went up and cable companies wanted their product. Today Bloomberg Businessweek reports that NFLN is available in 60 million houses. This season NFLN has upped its package from eight games to 13…

  • Yes, the NFL’s idea to broadcast its own game of the week has paid off. The league continues to be a cash cow. And yes, I watch a lot of Thursday night football, because I am hooked on the shield (addiction is a terrible thing). That said, Thursday night football still doesn’t have the same energy or vibe that Sunday and Monday games do. Sometimes it is okay to cling to tradition The NFL better slow down, or the league runs the risk of watering down its incredibly popular product…

  • NFL obsession: And yes, the product is more popular than ever. NFL Nation is hypnotized by football. I was at a popular sports bar in the Minneapolis suburb of Maple Grove Monday night. There were approximately 17 TVs in the establishment, and I counted just two showing NLCS Game 7 between St. Louis and San Francisco. All the other flat screens displayed the Detroit-Chicago NFL game…

  • Detroit meltdown: The Lions are a mess. Their costly red zone fumbles ruined any chances thy had of knocking off the Bears…

  • Former Vikings legend Fran Tarkenton does a weekly column and video for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Tarkenton says there is a possibility of Minnesota (5-2) overlooking Tampa Bay (2-4). Tarkenton calls this a “trap game…”

  • No Buc luck: Sir Francis could be right. All of the Buccaneers losses have been close. Tampa lost to the NY Giants 41-34, to Dallas 16-10, to Washington 24-22 and to New Orleans 35-28…

  • Turn back the clock: The Bucs wore their throwback dreamsicle orange jerseys last week against the Saints in Tampa. Somewhere in Bucs heaven John McKay and Ricky Bell must have been smiling…

  • Bucks and Ducks: Just a week after Minnesota pulled out of its home and home series against mighty North Carolina in 2013 and 2014, Ohio State and Oregon inked a deal to play games in 2020 and 2021. This illustrates the difference between the mindsets in Minneapolis and Columbus. The Gophers are afraid to play a remotely good Tar Heels team, while the Buckeyes say, “bring it on,” and schedule the superpower Ducks. You are what you think you are – and the U of M does not think it can win non-conference games against semi-quality programs…

  • Good match up: Once again the World Series is minus Boston or the NY Yankees. This is good. Despite ESPN and FOX’s efforts to reduce MLB to a two-team league, there is fantastic baseball being played in other markets. There is nothing wrong with a Detroit-San Francisco Fall Classic…

  • Fair and balanced: Who cares about the ratings on ESPN Radio or FOX? Variety and parity is good – just ask the NFL…

  • Giants rule: If the San Francisco Giants win the World Series, they will become the second Giants team to become champions in 2012. In February the New York Giants won the Super Bowl. Btw, back in the day, the San Francisco Giants used to be the New York Giants…

  • Ozzie out: Miami said goodbye to manager Ozzie Guillen after the Marlins finished last in the NL East with a 69-93 record. Guillen never recovered from his complimentary comments about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in April. As the losses mounted, Miami’s once promising season unraveled, and the Marlins fan base never forgave Guillen for praising the despised Castro…

  • Bus stops: Former Boston skipper Bobby Valentine has a history of throwing folks under the bus. During the season Bobby V. did it to his coaches and Kevin Youkilis. Now Bobby V. has done it to David Ortiz. If Bobby V. had been the Pittsburgh Steelers coach when Jerome Bettis played, he probably would have thrown The Bus under the bus…

  • Brooklyn-bound: Good move for the NY Islanders to leave their crumbling arena on Long Island for the shiny, new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The only caveat is that Barclay’s capacity for hockey is 14,500, which will be the smallest in the NHL. The Islanders hope to start playing in Brooklyn in 2015, assuming the NHL’s silly lockout is over by then…

  • What goes around, comes around: Maybe Brooklyn can quit whining about losing the Dodgers to Los Angeles. Brooklyn has now stolen two of its own teams: the NBA Nets from New Jersey and the NHL Islanders from Long Island, NY…

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Medicine Ball: Dr. Baseball’s MLB Prescriptions

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By Dr. Baseball
October 23, 2012

SEATTLE – Some thoughts from the Good Doctor about the recent baseball season and the playoffs…

  • No surprise the Boston Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine after one season. My question was why did they hire him? Valentine has been to the playoffs only TWICE in 15 seasons of managing…

  • Marlins dismiss Ozzie Guillen after one season. Let’s see how long it is before he gets another chance to manage. My prediction is that it will be at least 2 years before Guillen is hired again…

  • After 45 games the Houston Astros had a record of 22-23. They went 33-84 after that…

  • Various MLB clubs picked up Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez, Chris Johnson, J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon from the Astros. If they were so good, then why wasn’t Houston winning…?

  • The NY Mets and the Minnesota Twins need to be more aggressive in their drafting. Over the years, they have gone with more “safe” picks. Safe is okay, but if you want players that can make a difference or become superstars you have to take chances…

  • After 81 games (the season’s midpoint), Detroit was 39-42. Who says you need to get off to a good start…?

  • Best free agent signing this year? Josh Willingham – Minnesota…

  • The New York Yankees never led in any of their four ALCS games against Detroit. The Yankees haven’t been dominated in a series like that since they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1976 World Series…

  • Two trades that propelled San Francisco to the World Series: picking up Angel Pagan from the NY Mets before the start of 2012 season – Pagan was traded by the Mets because they felt he had poor baseball instincts. And acquiring Marco Scutaro from the Rockies before the July 31st deadline…

  • I was hoping St. Louis’ Carlos Beltran would make the last out in the NLCS. That would have meant that he made the last out in both the 2006 and 2012 NLCS…

  • Not surprised by the Orioles resurgence. Good trades, excellent drafting and holding onto their young talent will make Baltimore a force in the AL East for years to come…

  • Alex Rodriguez is not a superstar anymore!! A-Rod is now an above average player whose skills have eroded. I predict he passes Wilie Mays on the all-time HR list, but he’ll have a hard time getting to 755 home runs…

  • A trend that we will see more of: clubs hiring managers with little or no experience. With the recent success of Mike Matheny (Cardinals) and Robin Ventura (White Sox), more clubs are taking notice…

  • There is a possibility that the Rangers will part ways with Ron Washington . Big mistake if they let him go. Texas needs to re-sign Josh Hamilton and give Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar a good look this spring…

  • That’s it for now. If you get the baseball blues, take 2 baseballs and call the good Doctor in the morning…

Dr. Baseball grew up in New York City just a long fly ball from Shea Stadium. He is a baseball junkie who sniffs chalk lines and has a passion for MLB.

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SPORTS NUGGETS: Irish Eyes Smile on the Purple

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By Eric Nelson
October 21, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from Notre Dame North…

• The Minnesota Vikings have so many former Notre Dame players on their roster (5), they should paint the Teflon roof at Mall of America Field gold. It could be Minnesota’s version of the Golden Dome, a tribute to the real one in South Bend. That’s the least the Purple can do because the key play in their 21-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday came from one of those Fighting Irish draft choices…

•Early in the third quarter, with Minnesota up by just seven points, rookie free safety Harrison Smith delivered a monster play. Smith (a first round pick from ND) intercepted Cardinals quarterback John Skelton and raced 31 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. The pick six gave the Vikings a 21-7 lead and put a huge dent in Arizona’s comeback chances. Said Smith of his first career interception: “I was helped out by the d-line getting that pressure on him. I was just in the right place at the right time and it’s just an awesome feeling…”

•Amazing Antoine: Another pivotal defensive play for Minnesota came with 7:41 left in the third quarter and the Cards going for it on 4th and 2 from the Vikings 18. Cornerback Antoine Winfield played airtight coverage on fullback Reagan Maui’a in the flats, forcing Skelton to run, where he was stuffed by Winfield short of the first down. It was a signature play by the pint-sized Winfield (5-9, 180) who plays gigantic…

•Twin Cities tandem: The game marked the return of Cardinal wideouts Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Fitzgerald (Minneapolis) and Floyd (St. Paul) both grew up in Minnesota. Floyd last played at the Metrodome in 2006 for Cretin Derham Hall in the Prep Bowl…

•Productive Peterson: Adrian Peterson ran for 153 yards and one TD, including some angry bursts where he doled out punishment to the Arizona defense. AP now has 29 career 100 yard games, tied for first place in Vikings history with Robert Smith. Viking’s guard Charlie Johnson knows it is a privilege to block for a guy as freakishly good as AP. “Man it’s awesome,” Johnson said. “We just know if we can get people covered up and give him a little bit of space, he can make a lot of things happen…”

•Not so friendly skies: Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder put up meager passing numbers, throwing for 58 yards, one TD and two interceptions. The Vikings longest pass play was a 14-yard hook up from Ponder to Percy Harvin

•Freefalling Cards: Arizona (4-3) lost its third straight game, while Minnesota (5-2) can move into sole possession of first place in the NFC North if Detroit wins at Chicago on Monday night…

•Memo to Viking fans: don’t do the wave when Minnesota is on offense. Save all that noise for the opposing offense…

•The Vikings have no time to celebrate the win. They host Tampa Bay Thursday night at the Metrodome. It is the first-ever NFL Network broadcast from Minneapolis…

•Empty trophy case: The Paul Bunyan Axe trophy has taken up permanent residence in Madison. Minnesota has not swung the axe since 2003 and got crushed 38-13 by Wisconsin on Saturday at Camp Randall. It was ground and pound for the Badgers who got 175 yards and three touchdowns from James White, and 166 yards and two TD runs from Montee Ball. The Paul Bunyan Axe Trophy is just a rumor in Minneapolis…

•Pure Michigan: Paul Bunyan, of course is a mythical figure in the North. Michigan knocked off Michigan State Saturday 12-10 to win the Paul Bunyan Trophy. It was the 900th win in Wolverines football history, the most in college football…

•Sportscasting legend: ABC’s Brent Musberger is still one of the top football play by play broadcasters. Whenever “Big Game Brent” is on TV I tune in because you know it is a high stakes contest…

•Saturday night showdown: Can’t wait for next Saturday night in Norman, Okla., when number 5 Notre Dame plays 7th ranked Oklahoma. Yes, “Big Game Brent” will be broadcasting that colossal event and I’ve got a feeling the five Viking’s players with Irish connections will be watching…

•Motown magic: After a sluggish regular season, Detroit has won the ALDS and ALCS to qualify for the World Series. The Tigers are proof that all you gotta do these days in pro sports is get into the postseason and anything can happen. St. Louis won the 2011 World Series as a wild-card team. Green Bay (2010) and the NY Giants (2011) had less than superb regular seasons before winning Super Bowls XLV and XLVI. And the LA Kings won the Stanley Cup as a number 8 seed last June…

•Dating game: If Alex Rodriguez does score a date with the Australian swimsuit model he gave a baseball to in Game 1 of the ALCS, I hope she is worth it. A-Rod is getting barbecued by the NYC tabloids…

•Verbal warfare: The acrimony between Indiana and Minnesota in the WNBA Finals is good for the league. The Fever and Lynx have garnered good ratings on ESPN and the smack talk between Fever coach Lin Dunn and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve makes for good theater…

•Lance losing luster: Don’t be surprised by the fall of Lance Armstrong. Whenever there is a chance for someone to rake in tons of dough, there is also a chance of them cheating. Money can corrupt anyone…

•Puck pain: Wake me when the NHL lockout is over. Hockey’s wounds are self inflicted, which is too bad because the NHL had been making positive strides in recent years luring in new fans. But with every canceled game, this regional sport becomes less and less relevant in many parts of the USA…

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Mike Holmgren – Great or Goat (As an Executive)

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by Scott Bertsch
October 21, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS – Mike Holmgren is out, well officially he is retiring at the end of the season, as President of the Cleveland Browns and there is already some speculation that he could be a fit in Dallas – as coach. That could be a good fit, as long as he does not demand GM or other executive responsibilities.

The reality is Mike Holmgren, as an executive, is a lot like former Minnesota Twins GM Andy McPhail – an apparent genius with one team who gets chance after chance but never delivers again. In both cases, it appears they were the beneficiaries of great timing and support rather than being a great executive. Ego, lack of skill or a combo platter has showed over time that Holmgren was lucky to achieve what he did.

Holmgren excelled as coach of the Green Bay Packers where he was Head Coach from 1992 to 1998. It was one of the most successful coaching stints in NFL history. As Head Coach of the Packers, Holmgren posted a 75–37–0 (67.0%) regular-season record, a 9–5 (64.3%) postseason mark, and two Super Bowl appearances, including a 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.

Mike Holmgren was a great coach, but it should be noted it was a team that was largely built on the talent assembled by GM Ron Wolf and scout Ted Thompson.

Holmgren left Green Bay in 1999 to become VP/GM and Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks. He was smart enough to bring Ted Thompson with him as VP of Football Operations. In this role Thompson ran scouting and managed the draft board. But, for the first four years in Seattle Holmgren remained GM.

From 1999-2002 the Seahawks’ record with Holmgren as VP/GM and Coach was 31-33. After the 2002 season Holmgren was stripped of his GM duties and, ironically, the Seahawks went 51-29 from 2003 – 2007 before Holmgren bombed in one final lame duck season in 2008.

Even Holmgren seems to acknowledge the importance of Ted Thompson — in an interview with Mike Holmgren during his time in Seattle in 2009, Holmgren noted that “Once Ted Thompson came on board and we settled down a little bit, we started making good decisions.”[5] What Holmgren didn’t say was that, by “settled down”, he should have said “removed me as GM”.

After Seattle Holmgren went to the Cleveland Browns as President and during his tenure the Browns have had a .263 winning percentage, second worst in the NFL.

Seattle tanked after Ted Thompson left in 2005 before rebounding the past couple years under Pete Carroll. Meanwhile, Thompson went to Green Bay, jettisoned Coach Mike Sherman and legendary QB Brett Favre and has since built a champion (after the 2010 season) and a perennial contender that went 15-1 in 2011.

In both Green Bay and Seattle, Holmgren was a successful coach that benefitted largely from the scouting and player personnel skills of Ted Thompson. Seattle did not succeed until Holmgren relinquished is GM duties. Then, in Cleveland, where Holmgren was an executive without the help of Ted Thompson, he drove a morbid franchise even further asunder.

Final argument – Holmgren oversaw an operation that hired Brad Childress in Cleveland. I rest my case – even after they won last weekend (Cleveland is now 1-6 with the worst record in the NFL….)

Bottom line – who do you think was the key – Holmgren or Thompson? It is funny how things play out and how people can live for years on a reputation they were only partially responsible for.

The hope here is that Holmgren, if he decides to return to the NFL, does what he does best, and the only thing he does well, and that is coach.

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Week 7 Wrap: Peterson Runs Vikings into Win over Cards

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By Scott Taylor
October 22, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS – Whenever Christian Ponder struggles, he can always turn to Adrian Peterson.

Sunday afternoon at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, Ponder was, simply, not very good. He completed only eight-of-17 passes for 58 yards, one touchdown and two ugly interceptions. He was so bad that when he was flushed out of the pocket in the second quarter and threw a pass out of bounds, he was given a huge cheer by the 65,000 inside the big Teflon pillow.

However, thanks to Peterson, who ran for 153 yards and a first-quarter touchdown, the Vikings survived an ugly offensive performance to hang on and beat the Arizona Cardinals 21-14.

The win gave the Vikings a 5-2 record. The loss was the third straight for a Cardinals team that plays great defense but has as many offensive problems as the Vikes.

“That was a good win for our football team,” said Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier after the game. “Our defense and special teams were very good and our offense did what it had to do. Adrian had a very good game and I was very proud of what we accomplished today.

“The Cardinals put seven, eight and nine men in the box and Adrian was still able to run against them. I was really proud of my guys today against a very good football team.”

Percy Harvin caught Ponder’s only touchdown pass, but Ponder also threw an interception that led to a second-quarter touchdown run by LaRod Stephens-Howling. Ponder has give up seven turnovers in the past three games; and three of them — two last week at Washington and one this week at home – were turned into touchdowns.

However, Peterson took away anything the Cardinals were able to accomplish with not only important runs for first downs, but also straight power running that took time off the clock.

“The offensive line did a great job today,” said Peterson afterward. “It didn’t matter if they put seven, eight, nine guys in the box, we were going to run right at them and we did.”

Arizona quarterback John Skelton went 25-for-36 for 262 yards and two turnovers. One of the turnovers was the second storyline of the day.

Rookie Harrison Smith returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the first minute of the second half. From that point onward the Vikings defense owned the game and despite all the offensive problems, the home side was able to stay in second place in the NFC North.

“We had a great rush on them all day,” Smith said after the game. “Our cornerbacks were also locked right down all game. With the corners cut off and the great pass rush, he (Skelton) had no place else to go. I just followed his eyes and it put me in he right place.”

That rush was so good, the Vikings had seven sacks: Brian Robison had three and Jared Allen two.

Meanwhile, there were 10 other games in the National Football League on Sunday: The Falcons, Broncos, Chiefs, Dolphins, Eagles and Chargers had the byes:

New York Giants 27 Washington 23
Robert Griffin III almost did it again. Griffin scored a late touchdown to give Washington 23-20 advantage but Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz on a 77-yard TD bomb with 1:13 to play to steal the victory. Manning finished 26-for-40 for 337 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions while RG3 went 20-for-28 for 258 yards and two TDs. The ‘Skins Alfred Morris rushed for 120 yards while Cruz caught seven passes for 131 yards and the game-winning TD.

Green Bay 30 St. Louis 20
Aaron Rodgers lit it up again. Rodgers completed 30-of-37 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns as Green Bay went into St. Louis and improved to 4-3 on the season. The favorite target for Rodgers was, one again, Jordy Nelson, who caught eight passes for 122 yards and one touchdown. Randall Cobb caught eight passes for 89 yards and two TDs. For St. Louis, Sam Bradford completed 21-of-34 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown.

Tennessee 35 Buffalo 34
Matt Hasselbeck found Nate Washington on a 15-yard TD pass with 1:03 remaining to give Tennessee the comeback win on the road. Hasselbeck finished 22-of-33 for 205 yards and that one big TD pass. Chris Johnson finally came alive and carried 18 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns as Tennessee improved to 3-4. Ryan Fitzpatrick finished 27-of-35 for 225 yards and three touchdowns but he also turned the ball over twice – one interception and one lost fumble. Tennessee is as bad as we thought, but Buffalo at 3-4 is really over-rated.

New Orleans 35 Tampa Bay 28
Drew Brees got the job done again. The New Orleans quarterback extended his NFL record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass to 49 as he led the Saints on four long scoring on four consecutive possessions to turn a 14-0 deficit into a 28-21 halftime lead. Josh Freeman had a good game for Tampa, completing 24-of-42 attempts for 420 yards and three touchdowns. But it wasn’t enough as Brees shredded the Tampa D.

Houston 43 Baltimore 13
No Ray Lewis, no Baltimore D as Matt Schaub threw for two touchdowns and Arian Foster ran for two more as the Texans dominated the game and improved to 6-1. Terrell Suggs finally played and had a sack and three tackles but not even the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year could replace Lewis who is out for the season. 5-2 Baltimore looked very weak defensively. Schaub finished 23-for-37 for 256 yards and two majors.

Dallas 19 Carolina 14
Tony Romo finished 24-for-34 for 227 yards and a touchdown but it was kicker Dan Bailey who put the Cowboys ahead with a 28-yard field with 3:25 remaining. Bailey added his fourth field goal of the game with 53 seconds left to put away and extremely dull, pedestrian NFL game. Cam Newton carried six times for 64 yards and went 21-for-37 for 233 yards and one touchdown as the Panthers continue to misuse a quarterback with plenty of skills.

Indianapolis 17 Cleveland 13
Rookie Andrew Luck became the first Colts quarterback to run for two touchdowns since 1986 as he led Indianapolis to its third win of the season – one more than it had all of last season. Rookie Brandon Weeden finished 25-for-41 for 264 yards and two touchdowns, but the Cleveland offense was AWOL in this one.

New England 29 New York Jets 26 (OT)
Stephen Gostowski tied the game with a 43-yard field goal with no time remaining and then won it with a 48-yard field goal in overtime. The Jets had a chance to tie it in OT but Mark Sanchez was sacked and fumbled and that did it. At 4-3 the Pats moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC East. Tom Brady finished 26-for-42 for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Sanchez went 28-for-41 for 328 yards and one touchdown. Jeremy Kerley caught seven passes for 120 yards for the Jets. Rob Gronkowski caught six passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns for the Pats.

Oakland 26 Jacksonville 23
What a way to lose. Sebastien Janikowski kicked a 40-yard field goal shortly after Cecil; Shorts III fumbled on the opening possession of overtime. Carson Palmer went 26-for-46 for 298 yards and a touchdown to lead the Raiders. The Raiders are now 2-4 while the Jags are 1-5. Jacksonville lost Maurice Jones-Drew to a foot injury on the opening drive.

Last night:

Pittsburgh 24 Cincinnati 17
Ben Roethlisberger went 27-for-37 for 278 yards and a touchdown while the Steelers defense held the Bengals Andy Dalton to just 105 passing yards. Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Dwyer ran 17 times for 122 yards. The Steelers improved to 3-3 while the Bengals fell to 3-4.

Tonight on the Monday Nighter, it’s Detroit at Chicago, 7:20 on ESPN and TSN (in Canada).

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