Bet the House: Vikings to Go 8-8 in 2014
A summer tradition in this column is Bob Lurtsema’s annual prediction of the Vikings’ season record. This week the ex-Viking defensive lineman was prepared to talk about wins and losses including his off target forecast from last year—after nailing the Purple’s record in 2012.
Earlier this year Las Vegas odds-makers had the Vikings winning 5.5 games in 2014 and now the number has moved up slightly to 6, Lurtsema said. Even at 6 he believes the Vikings aren’t given proper respect.
“Take your mortgage, car and every nickel, and bet the over (to win more than 6 games),” Lurtsema said. “I really feel very comfortable they (the Vikings) will win 8 or 9 games.”
Lurtsema’s official forecast is for an 8-8 Vikings record in 2014.
About this time last year Lurtsema was feeling even better about the Vikings and predicted an 11-5 finish. That optimism at least partially came from the 2012 season when he forecast a 10-6 record including the playoffs. Sure enough that’s what his old team achieved two years ago while surprising most NFL authorities.
So what happened in 2013 as the Vikings stumbled to a 5-10-1 record? Well, the Purple lost five games in the closing minutes while making fans endure one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. Those collapses prompted Lurtsema to offer a minimal explanation about his off target 11-5 prediction: “I was right…if the games had been 58 minutes (not 60),” he quipped.
Lurtsema is a close observer of the Vikings and it isn’t just the usual fan optimism of having a new coaching staff that has him smiling about Mike Zimmer and his assistants. Lurtsema has preached that a team’s success is “65 percent” determined by the staff. He believes Zimmer and his staff are exceptional and will lead a Purple revival.
The Vikings open their preseason schedule tonight and Lurtsema said there are several things to watch for including how defensive players pursue ball carriers. As defensive coordinator of the Bengals, Zimmer’s players ranked high among NFL teams in total assisted tackles. “That tells you players are pursuing,” Lurtsema said. “It’s a good habit to have.”
Lurtsema will watch tonight to see how the Vikings use linebacker Anthony Barr, their No. 9 first round draft choice in last spring’s NFL Draft. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings sometimes position the gifted athlete on the line of scrimmage as part of a five-man group. The normal set is four defensive linemen but Barr could sometimes make it five, lining up as an end and pass rushing specialist.
Lurtsema admires offensive coordinator Norv Turner. During the preseason Lurtsema expects an emphasis on long passes, with the offense using “vertical routes” to loosen defenses. “They’re really gonna make it exciting for the average fan,” Lurtsema said.
He has another message for fans regarding tonight and the preseason. Don’t get too upset when a favorite player—perhaps a star—is cut from the roster. Zimmer and staff, Lurtsema said, are creating work habits in training camp with a goal of playing up to expectations. “He wants athletes with heart and something between the ears,” Lurtsema said.
With 40 new players on the roster since last season, including 10 draft choices, there will be lots of competition to make the final 53-man roster. Watch the special teams tonight to see which unknown players are impressing.
Tonight’s game at TCF Bank Stadium will be the only one on the Vikings’ home schedule played on a weekday night. Traffic and parking comments could enliven social media late this afternoon and in the early evening. Last year traffic was awful for the Gophers-UNLV game played on a Thursday night in late August at TCF Bank Stadium. On Tuesday of this week, 80 minutes before the Twins game at Target Field, traffic was moving at 10 miles per hour on east-bound I-394 between highways 169 and 100.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the game will be simulcast on KARE 11 and KFAN-FM. Commentators will be Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, Greg Coleman and Ben Leber.
The Raiders, 4-12 last season, have long been a controversial franchise, and stirring things up now are reports the team may move to San Antonio. In an Internet story yesterday from the San Antonio Express-News, former Vikings owner and San Antonio businessman Red McCombs said last month’s visit to the Texas city by Raiders owner Mark Davis was “sincere.” McCombs also said he is willing to become a local investor if the Raiders relocated.
There were 33 Minnesota high school football programs scheduled to start practice last Monday in preparation for opening games on August 22 or 23. The other prep football programs in the state begin practice next Monday.
Among the notable early games will be Minnetonka at Hudson High School (Wisconsin) on August 22. Another Wisconsin high school, Superior, plays the same night at Hopkins.
David Cobb told reporters after practice this week he expects the Gophers to emphasize short passes this season including screens and swing passes. Cobb, who led the Gophers in rushing last season with 1,202 yards, had only seven pass receptions. He is on the Doak Walker watch list for the nation’s best running back.
Former Gophers basketball players Al Nuness and Jim Brewer will be part of the Proviso East High School inaugural hall of fame class on August 30. The Maywood, Illinois school is known for its basketball alumni including Nuness who was all-Big Ten second team for the Gophers in 1969 and Brewer who was an All-American in 1973.
Next season expect the Gophers to hold a ceremony to retire the jersey of Randy Breuer. The former Lake City High School star is No. 3 in all-time scoring for the Gophers with 1,777 career points. Breuer, a 7-3 center, played four seasons with the Gophers starting in 1979-80 and averaged 16.6 points per game on the 1982 Big Ten championship team.
The Gophers athletic department and its multimedia rights holder, Learfield Sports’ Gopher Sports Properties, announced yesterday a three-year agreement with 1500 ESPN Twin Cities to broadcast Gopher men’s hockey and men’s and women’s basketball games. The agreement starts with the coming seasons and runs through 2016-17.
The Northwoods League became the first summer college baseball league to go over 1 million in attendance for one season after games played on Wednesday of this week. Madison (Wisconsin) leads the 18-team league with an average of 6,139 per game.
Dave Tentis, 52, is the only Minnesotan playing in this week’s PGA Championship in Louisville. The Woodbury resident shot an eight over 79 yesterday and tied for 144th in the field. He is the PGA head professional at Troy Burne Golf Club in Hudson, Wisconsin.