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Will this be a Vikings Super Bowl season?

The preliminaries are over. The rosters have been trimmed to 53 players, and all indications are that the 2017 Vikings are good but not good enough. The worst running team in football last year has Sam Bradford at quarterback.

Bradford has a career-losing record as a starter. He’s never won a playoff game. You find me a QB with a career-losing record as a starter who won the Super Bowl.

“I think the pressure is on Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur,” said former NFL running back Marshall Faulk. “I look for an offensive team to establish an identity. For 10 years their identity was Adrian Peterson. It’s his show. Shurmur advocated for Bradford. He had him in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and now Minnesota.”

Florida State rookie running back Dalvin Cook will start at running back. He has looked great. Latavius Murray, the Pro-Bowler from Oakland, has not. He has to come through big with his talent and experience. The offensive line is better.

In recent years, history tells us teams with Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks win the big games. Last year Tom Brady was suspended the first four games. No problem — New England still won the Super Bowl for the fifth time, 34-28, with the mother of all rallies after trailing by 25 points.

Mike Zimmer’s defense is loaded. He has five Pro Bowlers! The team invested over $100 million in guaranteed money, a franchise record, in three of the Pro Bowlers. Can you say the heat is on?

Last year the NFL lost 10 percent of its following audience. It was an election year. This year, quarterback Colin Kaepernick was not hired by any NFL team. No job the first week of September, all because he protested cops getting away with killing innocent Black men. The team owners have spoken: We don’t care about talent, we want no part in protest directed at the national anthem on NFL Sundays.

Playing and singing the national anthem at sporting events did not start until 1918, 17 months after the United States was in the war to end all wars. Over 100,000 Americans were killed in action. Chicago Cubs vs. Boston Red Sox were in the World Series. Ball players and others had to fight to defend their country.

France Key’s lyric “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” better known as the national anthem, was written after the bloody attack by the British in the war of 1812. Patriotism and tradition came together to rally Americans in unity hip to hip.

Several players continue to protest today. Marshon Lynch of Oakland has been protesting for years and nobody noticed. Eric Reid of San Francisco as well. Kaepernick has his supporters. Some will be protesting against the NFL this season, like Spike Lee, several New York police officers, and the great Henry Aaron, who can’t believe the NFL is denying him the opportunity and a job.

Kaepernick made a business decision to leave San Francisco. He bought out his remaining contract, becoming a free agent. Had he not bought out his contract, it’s conceivable he would still be with the 49ers. Once he was not under contract anymore, the politics of the NFL owners have spoken loud and clear.

For what it’s worth, this is my 39th season covering the NFL and the Vikings. Here’s what I think will happen:

NFC North
1) Green Bay, 2) Vikings, 3) Detroit, 4) Chicago
NFC West
1) Arizona, 2) Seattle, 3) San Francisco, 4) Los Angeles
NFC South
1) Atlanta, 2) Tampa Bay, 3) New Orleans, 4) Carolina
NFC East
1) New York Giants, 2) Dallas, 3) Philadelphia, 4) Washington
AFC East
1) New England, 2) Miami, 3) Buffalo, 4) New York Jets
AFC South
1) Houston, 2) Tennessee, 3) Jacksonville, 4) Indianapolis
AFC West
1) Kansas City, 2) Oakland, 3) Denver, 4) San Diego
AFC North
1) Pittsburgh, 2) Baltimore, 3) Cincinnati, 4) Cleveland

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.

Mayweather stops McGregor by TKO

LAS VEGAS — The legend of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. grows after defeating mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor in the 10th round by TKO in a marvelously entertaining Las Vegas spectacle.

McGregor is the biggest name in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and his flair and showmanship has made him a name that sparks fire in fans and the entertainment business of the UFC.

Likewise, we live in a violent world and Mayweather has learned the good and bad side of violence. He does not hide from it. He’s a great 50-0 undefeated champion.

Although his character is damaged due to having served time for the domestic abuse of the mother of his children, Mayweather has rebounded and found a way to make a fortune being demonized by millions.

That’s part of Mayweather’s genius: He accepts that he’s flawed with talent and zeal and God-given skills. Make no mistake about it: he is a brilliant business man.

Just like when sports fans years ago wanted to see Larry Bird beat Magic Johnson — two great players, one White, one Black — it gets the coals hot and stokes the rage, and in many cases, the frenzy is fueled by racial differences.

It’s not personal, it’s business, and part of hyping the fight was the desire of thousands to see McGregor and his on-the-edge personality beat up Mayweather.

Mayweather has shown a history of struggling with southpaw-style fighters. McGregor was a little bigger with just enough awkwardness to sell this first-time fight as a win-win.

But McGregor’s youthful flair (he’s 29; Mayweather is 40) and surge of confidence ran into Mayweather’s superior boxing experience. McGregor has never fought more than five rounds before, and Mayweather stuck to his plan and allowed McGregor to burn so much energy being the aggressor.

As the fight wore on, Mayweather was then able to take the fight to McGregor. He started sticking jabs to a worn out McGregor’s face to win by TKO.

Not many thought this fight would go past five rounds, and certainly not 10 — nobody but Mayweather, that is. Mr. 50-0!

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

Vikings: How good will they be?

So much is riding on this 2017 Vikings season it makes you nervous even thinking about it. Playing the Seattle Seahawks in the pre-season last week was a measuring stick game. You know how good and consistent Seattle is, and how well-coached they are, and they seldom lose at home.

Seattle 20, Vikings 13 — not exactly what Vikings fans wanted. I was honestly surprised how successful they were running. It was a defensive game. I thought the Seahawks were better: they were more physical and ran the ball when and where they wanted to consistently.

I am disappointed right now in running back Latavius Murray. He was signed as a free agent from Oakland and can’t get on the field. If he doesn’t play this week against San Francisco that is a bad sign.

Rookie Dalvin Cook has been impressive but he is so young with much to learn. Last year, as we know, the Vikings could not run the football at all when Adrian Peterson got hurt. Now he’s gone and you don’t win in this league unless you can consistently run the ball.

Sam Bradford looks good at quarterback, throwing to Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph. But his career win-loss record in St. Louis and Philadelphia concerns me and that is hard to ignore. I do like tight end Bucky Hodges, however; he a keeper.

With three weeks before the opener, the Vikings have time to get better. The NFL is a dictator league, so you have to force your will on your opponent. The players and coaches are all good, so good that they are able to figure out your game plan and your scheme.

Since 2001, the Vikings have been in the playoffs just five times, with just one playoff victory in 2009.

When you have the Super Bowl in your home stadium, you really hope your team can be good. My expectations are for this team to blow the roof off U.S Bank Stadium.

How realistic is that coming off of an 8-8 season? I’ll keep drinking the purple Kool-Aid because they do have a solid foundation with lots of talent on defense and special teams.

But the early signs bug me. I have concerns over talented Michael Floyd’s suspension for four games. Murray has done nothing yet, as I mentioned. They gave this guy $15 million to watch? And Laquon Treadwell, last year’s number one pick, is still a big question mark.

The offensive line is better, but can they jell and become a solid versatile group?

No reason to be alarmed just yet — the Vikings lost on the road to a good football team that made the playoffs. But there are legit reasons to share with you my concerns.

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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