9-27-10: Monday Notes

Hello again everybody...

Welcome to another work week. I hope your weekend was a good one, and that those of you here in the upper Midwest got a chance to enjoy some of the perfect Fall weather we had on Sunday!

Me? I stayed pretty sedentary, minus a trip to the Xcel Energy Center for a Wild preseason game on Saturday night. Other than that, there was copious amounts of sleep and couch time whilst I tried to kick “Cold Virus 2.0”.

You'll recall that I told you I usually catch a sniffle when the seasons turn from Summer to Fall and Winter to Spring. So I was surprised when I got a cold a few weeks ago while it was still fairly Summer-ish out there. This cold, while far less virulent (insert Dan knocking furiously on wood here), is still fairly annoying, so forgive me my weekend sloth.

There was plenty of eventful sports news to talk about from the weekend, and as is usually the case when that happens... it's Notes time!

Right after the quote...

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
- Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), Irish writer, poet and prominent aesthete

Jeff in Des Moines couldn't believe I was willing to give up my (whom I hate) tag in reference to the Red Sox. There's a method to my madness, Jeff!

Monday Notes...

I knew the weekend series in Detroit was going to be tough for the Twins... but getting swept was not what I had in mind!

Even though the Tigers have a very pedestrian overall record, they've now finished the season 52-29 in the friendly confines of Comerica Park. Talk about your home field advantages!

Combine that with Liriano getting sick, Pavano not performing well with a big early lead, and Duensing getting very little run support from an injury-depleted line-up and you'll understand why I'm disappointed, but not overly concerned.

Joe Mauer was out all weekend with his sore knee. Jim Thome is having some back issues again. And several other regulars are battling various bumps and bruises. So long as those things can get sorted out in time for the club's four-game finale against Toronto at home, I'm not going to panic. Yes, the playoffs are right around the corner, but the club we saw in Detroit isn't going to be the one we see in the ALDS.

The Rays now lead the Yankees by half a game for the East title; and they lead the Twins by one game for the best record in the AL. As things stand, the Twins would be hosting the Yankees in the first round.

Oh boy!

The Vikings got a much needed win yesterday... but it was one of the sloppier 24-10 wins you'll ever see.

Penalties (12 for 100 yards) and turnovers (3, 2 interceptions and 1 fumble) still plagued Minnesota, and what's worse, there doesn't seem to be much change/improvement in those areas over the first three weeks.

Yes, they got a win, but it's tough to feel great about it when the performance was so lackluster, and when it came against a team that, despite certain improvements, still isn't a threat to get to the postseason.

The majority of the Vikings' troubles come down to the passing game. It's clear that Favre isn't in sync with the receivers he's got on the field. Yes, Sidney Rice's absence is key, but that isn't the entirety of the problem. Minnesota can bring in all the Greg Camarillos and Hank Baskets they want, until they find someone who's A) a legitimate deep threat and B) is able to get on the same page with Favre, the throwing game will continue to struggle.

Thank heavens, however, for Adrian Peterson. Maybe it was the criticism for his fumbling troubles last season. Maybe it was catching flak for missing a mini-camp. Whatever it was, something has motivated AP to revert to his early-career form and help carry the struggling Vikings offense so far.

Minnesota had 185 yards rushing against the Lions yesterday, Peterson had 160 of them, 80 of which came on a brilliantly executed trap play in the third quarter where Adrian was able to cut to the outside and take it to the house.

The Vikings have a bye this week, giving them two weeks to prep for their trip to New York to take on the Jets.

The silly holding penalties have to stop. The communication issues between Favre and the wide outs have to be resolved. The remaining health issues (especially now at center) have to work themselves out.

If those things are improved, the Vikings still have the talent to be a top-tier NFL team. If not... well, I'll let my dear readers who root for the green and gold fill in that particular blank!

The Badgers beat Austin Peay 70-3... and for those of you who were texting me accusing Wisconsin of running up the score... relax.

I'll have more to say about this game on Friday in the DFTU, but I wanted to quickly address this issue.

I know the score looks gaudy, and I'm certainly not going to be bragging about dropping 70 on a club that was clearly over-matched. This was Austin Peay's first game against an FBS club, and they have a long way to go before they become one of those FCS teams that's a threat to score an upset.

But the Badgers didn't “run up the score”. I know that may be hard to believe in a 70-3 game, but if you look a little closer at the play calling, you'll see what I mean.

By the start of the second half, the Badgers were playing second- and third-stringers. By the fourth quarter, they were playing third- and fourth-stringers.

In the second half, the Badgers threw the ball exactly seven times. Only one of those came in the fourth quarter.

Short of bringing kids out of the stands to play, or taking knees for the entire fourth quarter, I don't know what else Wisconsin could've done? If they're running the ball with third and fourth level guys out there, and Austin Peay still can't stop them from scoring, that's not the Badgers' fault.

You can't ask the third- and fourth-string kids not to play hard. For some of them, this will be the only time they see the field this season. To put them out there and tell them not to go all out is simply unfair.

Look, I don't feel great about 70-3. It doesn't prove much to whack a team that is that uncompetitive. But let's not forget, Austin Peay made their entire athletic department's budget by taking that whipping. So let's not feel too bad for them, okay?

And get off Bucky's back already. If Gopher fans are going to use the South Dakota loss to push for a new coach, then Wisconsin fans can use the Austin Peay win to say they're two wins short of bowl eligibility.

I went to the Wild game Saturday night... and at least they didn't lose in regulation!

Okay, admittedly, that's setting the bar pretty low for a hockey team that many hoped would at least make a run at a playoff spot this season.

But after the Wild got whacked in their first two preseason contests against the St. Louis Blues (home and away), it was encouraging to see them play with some fire and competitiveness against a club that was in the Stanley Cup Finals last season.

There are still plenty of issues yet to be addressed. The Wild are still experimenting with the other wing on the Koivu-Brunette line. Anti Miettinen was the guy last season, but Chuck Kobasew looked good on that line last night.

My guess is that the Wild would like to start Casey Wellman in the minors to make sure he gets the kind of playing time he needs to develop, but if he keeps playing with the speed and energy he did last night, it's going to be awfully difficult to keep him off the big club.

Eden Prarie native Chad Rau has virtually no shot to make the club out of camp, but don't be surprised if he makes an appearance later in the year if there are some injuries. The four-year Colorado College center made several noticeable effort plays last night and earned a cheer from the fans late in the game for grinding along the boards, keeping a puck in the offensive zone and allowing his club to change behind him.

Obviously, the back-up goaltender spot is of the most concern right now for the Wild. Josh Harding tore his ACL and MCL in the Wild's second preseason game and will be out for most, if not all of this season. That puts a ton of pressure on Niklas Backstrom to stay healthy - something he's been unable to accomplish the last two seasons. Anton Khudobin is the leading internal candidate to replace Harding as the primary backup, but neither GM Chuck Fletcher nor head coach Todd Richards would rule out looking outside the organization for some help.

One last note, I took my first shot at writing a game story for the work website. You can check that out here. It's a fairly rough draft. It's the preseason for me too!

That's going to wrap things up for today. I'm back on Wednesday with a look back and ahead in the world of college football prognostication!

Until then, thanks for reading!

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