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Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Tampa Bay started a 4th-and-1 play vs. Vikings from well past first down line

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 27th at 4:04pm 280564912

Vikings photo smallWe noticed on a couple of occasions Sunday that Tampa Bay center Evan Dietrich-Smith appeared to scoot the ball forward before the snap.

You see this fairly regularly; usually, it’s a matter of an inch or two — not much of an advantage gained, and likely explained by the center trying to get a better grip on the ball.

But it appeared to work to Tampa Bay’s benefit on one play we remembered from early in the first half, when the Bucs made the decision to go for it on fourth an inches. After the Vikings’ victory, we sort of forgot about it, but thankfully reader Ted Jacobson not only remembered but sent a screen shot of the play in question. We’ll let Ted explain:

So the blue line is the line of scrimmage where the ball should have been to the right of. The red line is the 1st down line. (I verified that those lines were pretty accurate – 1st down marker was just shy of the 44.)

So the refs placed the ball just to the left of the red line, then they let the center move it another foot or two forward, which is common, but usually not quite that far. So in the photo, all Bucs should have been fully to the right of the blue line.

The play was a QB sneak, and Glennon made a little on it, but I’m not convinced he would have had enough had the ball been correctly placed. From this vantage point, he could almost have done a kneel-down for a -1 and still made it. Almost.

Indeed, we went back and watched the play. Ted was correct about the spotting and the first-down line. We created vikingssnapa three-photo collage sequence.

1) Officials marked the ball six inches to a foot short of the 44 yard line to set up 4th-and-1.

2) By the time it made it was re-spotted on the hash, the tip of the ball was on the 44.

3) And by the time it was snapped, it was moved forward at least another foot, if not more, by Dietrich-Smith.

Maybe Dietrich-Smith — who was with the Packers from 2010-13 before signing as a free agent with Tampa Bay — does it without realizing it?

Again, moot point now that the Vikings have won and the game is over. Tampa didn’t even score on the drive, as Glennon was intercepted shortly after the conversion … but still interesting when a 4th-and-1 play starts from past the marker, as shown in the screen grab Ted sent.

You 

Monday (Vikings' win hides offensive problems) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 27th at 1:53pm 280527542

teddyThe Vikings shouldn’t just give Anthony Barr the game ball in Sunday’s victory for his direct impact on the winning touchdown. Instead, the congratulations to Barr should extend even further for changing the entire narrative of Monday’s conversation. The dominant story line, and rightfully so, is the emerging playmaking ability of the rookie linebacker — and his role in a revamped defense that turned in another very good performance Sunday in spite of allowing another late regulation rally.

Without Barr’s play — let’s say the Vikings manage to lose that game 16-13 — the overwhelming discussion would be about the team’s offensive futility, not the defensive breakthrough. While we saw a few good things on Sunday as the day progressed, let’s not forget the Vikings scored a mere 3 points in the first half and just 13 (on offense) for the game against one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

The play-calling was often timid, Teddy Bridgewater’s decisions were often safe but mild, and if not for that final drive in regulation to tie the game at 13, Minnesota would have lost and been held under 300 yards and 17 points for the sixth time this season. Indeed, if Bridgewater’s gift-wrapped throw had been picked off in the final minute, the story line would be so much different.

We’re not suggesting fans should be dwelling on all these negatives. It’s nice to talk about something positive, and a victory fueled by a huge play by Barr certainly qualifies. But let’s also not forget about the offensive deficiencies. There is a tendency to do that after victories (Gophers deficiencies, for instance, were glossed over after the Purdue win but came back to haunt again in the Illinois loss).

A softer schedule presents itself to the Vikings in the second half of the season, but it likely will mean nothing if the offense continues to sputter as it did Sunday.

In ultra-magnified football, what a difference a game makes for Vikings, Gophers

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 26th at 4:14pm 280463882

Such is the unforgiving nature of football, and the all-consuming intensity that permeates every game, that on Monday morning the Gophers will wake up tied for the Big Ten West lead and it felt like their season is over, while the Vikings barely avoided losing to one of the only teams in the NFL worse than they are, and it will feel like a rebirth of sorts.

Every game in both college and the NFL is all-in every week, which is what makes football so compelling. If the Wild or Wolves lose a game they were supposed to win, or steal a victory in which they easily could have lost, the gloom or satisfaction is fleeting. It is one of 82, and unless the game has an immediate impact on whether the playoffs are made or missed, it is easily forgotten.

Baseball? The Twins get almost twice as many games to quickly cruise past wins or losses (more of the latter recently, of course, which is not to say they don’t add up).

It’s what makes the postseason in all three sports so compelling; when a sport used to a marathon pace suddenly becomes a sprint – every basket, goal or run magnified – the heightened sense of importance can be felt from players and fans alike.

But football, for better or worse, has that same type of feeling every week. NFL teams only get 16 chances to win or lose; college teams get even fewer. One botched opportunity or one game snatched from the fire can literally make or break a season.

As such, even though math tells us the Gophers are far from finished after taking a mighty tumble against a very bad Illinois team on Saturday, logic tells us that the loss has the potential to do massive damage to a promising season.

Minnesota had been teetering on the edge of this for a while – tied late at home with Northwestern, trailing late at home against Purdue before pulling those games out – so the loss to the Illini in some respects feels like the correct adjustment to our expectations. Maybe the Gophers just needed to lose one of these times to learn their lesson. Or maybe it is what it feels like: any chance for this to be a special season depended on not losing that game.

Similarly for the Vikings, who were full speed ahead on another miserable 2013-esque loss before first-rounders Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr combined to force overtime and win at Tampa Bay, any chance for this to be anything but a lost season revolved around beating the Bucs.

Last week’s loss at Buffalo was the setup punch, but Sunday would’ve been the knockout. Instead, you look at the schedule: home next week against Washington, a bye, then at the imploding Bears, and you wonder if .500 is a realistic goal. And then you see there are three consecutive home games after that …

Must-wins, all of them; then again, what games aren’t in football?

Nuclear Wessel: EPL weekend preview and shirt-swapping etiquette

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 24th at 11:39pm 280388792

nuclearDana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show with Rider, Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am.

Welcome back to another explosive edition of Nuclear Wessel, where we always wait until after the match to trade shirts with our opponents.

Since Liverpool aren’t on national TV this week, let me use this little space to talk about the latest Mario Balotelli mess.

If you haven’t heard, Liverpool trailed Real Madrid on Wednesday 3-0 at the half. Heading into the dressing room, the screwball striker decided now would be an OK time to trade jerseys with Pepe — a tradition typically left for the end of the match.

Well, Brendan Rodgers was furious and benched the Italian to start the second half. I don’t disagree that it was a dumb thing to do but the reaction is a bit over-the-top.  He should have been benched because he has been terrible. Not because he made a shirt swap.

Now this will give Liverpool a convenient excuse to cut ties with what has been an unmitigated disaster of a signing. They can point to this and say he doesn’t fit at Liverpool because of his behavior. When the real truth is he doesn’t fit at Liverpool because he is terrible at soccer and has been for a few years now. Money down the drain.

But I digress, onto the matches!

Wait, one more thing, in non-Premier League soccer schedule news. The LA Galaxy head to Seattle to take on the Sounders in the final match of the regular season. Winner takes the Supporters Shield and gets home field in the West (tie goes to Seattle). We are down to just a handful of games left in Landon Donovan’s career. And Dempsey will be there. We like him, too.

No. 1: West Ham United vs Manchester City at Boleyn Ground

When: Saturday at 6:45AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: City took out West Ham in their barn just over a year ago to the tune of 3-1. Sergio Aguero left with a brace and David Silva added the third just for good measure.

We kick-off the weekend with a top-four showdown between Manchester City and….West Ham? OK! West Ham! Lets go!

The Hammers sit in an overachieving fourth place after eight matches. They are level with Liverpool on 13 points but have the Merseysiders beat in goal differential. Winners in three of their last four with their only loss coming at Old Trafford. They’ve beaten Burnley, QPR and Liverpool in the process with a draw at Hull City.

City, meanwhile, continue to do City things. Beating the life out of teams in the Premier League but then walking off the field with their tails between their legs in Champions League. It is bizarre. They thrash Tottenham 4-1 and then can’t get a win at CSKA Moscow or home vs Roma. Whatever. That is for them to figure out, not me.

Now, lets stop and give Sergio Aguero a compliment. He is good at soccer, this much we all know. His four goals last week vs Spurs were sensational and he owns the best goal-minute ratio in Premier League history. But more importantly, he passes my Haircut Test. The Haircut Test is simple. If you are going to have a dumb haircut, you need to have enough talent to back it up. You can’t just get a stupid haircut to draw attention to yourself unless you deserve it.

So Aguero joins Bryce Harper and Joakim Noah among others that currently have a passing grade on The Haircut Test. And this is a thing, too. Why do you think Shaun White cut his hair just before faceplanting at the Olympics? Have you seen David Beckham since he retired? Smart, sensible haircut. The Dana Wessel Haircut Test is something elite athletes know and respect.

This will by no means be a pushover for Sergio and his merry bunch of title-holders. City want to gain some ground and apply some pressure to Chelsea, who travel to Old Trafford Sunday morning. City trail Chelsea by five points heading into the weekend.

The Hammers want to make this top-four dream last as long as possible and aren’t going to lay down just because City have a shiny trophy in their case. But reality is reality, and the Hammers have earned just one point in their last six matches against City. Aguero and his sweet haircut will be too much. Look for City to win in a low-scoring tussle.

No. 2: Sunderland vs Arsenal at Stadium of Light

When: Saturday at 9:00AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: Arsenal patted Sunderland on the head and thanked them kindly for all three points at Stadium of Light a year ago. Aaron Ramsey scored a pair of second-half goals to bury the Black Cats in their own backyard.

In the time since Arsenal last won a Premier League match, Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Ponder have all started games for the Minnesota Vikings.

Odd times over at the Emirates. They haven’t won a match since September 20th. In fact, they have only won two matches all year in the league. But their five draws have them still sitting in seventh place, atop the heap of other teams with 11 points via goal differential.

But Sunderland should be just what Arsenal needs to wipe the scowl off Arsene Wenger’s face. Their historic, embarrassing 8-0 loss was the soccer equivalent of getting pantsed in front of the girl you like in high school. There is no real coming back from that. Sunderland have packed it in for the season and they’ll be playing Huddersfield or Rotherham a year from now.

Speaking of Sunderland, how inevitable is Jozy Altidore’s transfer to MLS? He already says he wants out in January. Sunderland have already showed they’d get rid of him sooner if they could. I’d love to see the ‘somebody-just-whizzed-on-my-bratwurst’ look on Jurgen Klinsmann’s face when it becomes official. Cheers to another round of passive-aggressive quotes about Americans needing to play in the best leagues!

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, Arsenal will get three points on Saturday.  From there, they have a chance to get even fatter on points against Burnley and Swansea before playing host to Manchester United on November 22nd.

The North Londoners will find their way back into the top four eventually. They are also well on their way to winning their annual Champions League Knockout Stage Trophy. So, business as usual at the Emirates.

No. 3: Manchester United vs Chelsea at Old Trafford

When: Sunday at 11:00am on Big Boy NBC!

Last year: This one ended in a 0-0 draw last August in the third match for each side. This match happened before we all knew just how in over-his-head David Moyes was at United. Therefore Jose Mourinho played even more conservatively than usual.

It all builds up to this one. Chelsea travel to Manchester to United in what is by far the match of the weekend.

Always fun when these two get together.

Stop me if you have heard this one before, Chelsea fans. The Blues have striker issues. Jose Mourinho said Friday that Costa has a small chance to play. Loic Remy is out. Didier Drogba just played 70+ minutes on Tuesday and has been dealing with an ankle injury. Expecting him to play a full 90 might be asking a lot. That leaves them to either play without a striker in some sort of ‘False Nine’* or pray that Costa can go. Or the darkhorse option of the teenager. Either way, Mourinho is as resourceful as a man on the toilet that ran out of paper. He’ll find a way.

*I hope they don’t go with the false nine option, not because i don’t think it could work for my beloved Blues, but because I hate how Twitter freaks out anytime it happens. People love saying ‘false nine’ just to prove they know what it means (playing without a true striker). Like kids when they learn a swear word – they just like to say it to show they know it.

Just a shame that Chelsea sold Fernando Torr — bahaha I couldn’t even finish that sentence without laughing. I’d rather take a firehose of bleach to the face. I am glad Torres is doing well, but I don’t miss those times. And in fairness, I am sure he doesn’t either.

United have put together a relatively good string of matches lately. They have won their last three at Old Trafford by a combined score of 8-2. They have also rebounded nicely from that 5-3 humiliation at Leicester City by winning their last two. Angel di Maria is in doubt after limping off last match. Also, Wayne Rooney is still suspended for being a naughty boy and getting sent off with a red card and not getting any orange slices after the match.

Chelsea remain unbeaten after getting by Crystal Palace last Saturday 2-1. But this will be a big test for Mourinho’s men. United have a decent shot of ending their unbeaten start to the season. Chelsea did manage to win 6-0 at Maribo in Champions League midweek but this is a completely different kind of test.

Really looking forward to this one. And just think, by watching, you’ll miss the first quarter of a Leslie Frazier defense shutting down Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings.

That’ll do it for this week, Nuclear Warheads. Enjoy the matches and enjoy the last beautiful weekend of the year. Until next time, keep your cards yellow and your knee over the ball.

TFD: Frank Caliendo's Stephen A. Smith impersonation is beautiful

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 24th at 4:44pm 280359442

Bravo. No, really. Bravo.

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New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 105 FINAL
Orlando 98
Detroit 91 FINAL
Minnesota 97
New York 95 FINAL
Cleveland 90
Utah 102 FINAL
Dallas 120
Oklahoma City 90 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 2
Winnipeg 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Chicago 5 FINAL(SO)
Ottawa 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Arizona 1 FINAL
Florida 2
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 4
Anaheim 0 FINAL
St. Louis 2
NY Islanders 0 FINAL
Colorado 5
Montreal 2 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 7:02 PM
Memphis
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2
Hamilton 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan

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