At 0-2, desperate for a victory, with their passing game demonstrating all the rhythm of a drunken polka band, the Vikings are catching the Detroit Lions at just the right time.
On a Sunday.
The worst Midwestern franchise this side of the Timberwolves will play in the Metrodome on Sunday, and the Vikings may leave a trail of rose petals between the Lions' hotel and the stadium, just to make sure they show up on time.
In a sink-or-swim league, the Lions have long been the Vikings' water wings. Sunday, the Vikes have the privilege of facing a should-lose team in a must-win game.
Where would the Vikings be without the Lions? Bud Grant (26-8-1 against Detroit) might not be in the Hall of Fame. Mike Tice (8-0 against the Lions) wouldn't have kept his job so long. Brad Childress (7-1 against Detroit) would have a lower approval rating than house mold.
The Lions are to the Vikings what the curtain was to the Wizard of Oz.
Here's the problem for The Purple: This might be the last day for a long time they can treat the Lions like kitty litter.
At some point in the near future, whether it's when the teams meet again on Jan. 2 or early next season, the Vikings will no longer be able to look at the Lions the way the country looks at Detroit. As a punch line.
A change is gonna come. Maybe soon.
The Vikings currently rely on a 40-year-old quarterback who says he's retiring after the season, and who will have no choice but to quit if he keeps playing like this.
And on a soon-to-be 38-year-old nose tackle, Pat Williams, whose age is no longer such a small fraction of his waistline.
And on a running back, Adrian Peterson, who takes a fearsome beating every week.
And on a guard, Steve Hutchinson, who is soon to turn 33. And a cornerback, Antoine Winfield, who already did.
The Vikings' increasing creakiness isn't so much a death knell for the franchise -- a well-run NFL team can turn itself around in a couple of years -- as it is an opportunity for the Lions to relive their glory day. Whatever day that might have been.
The Vikings are desperate to win this year. The Lions are building toward something that Matt Millen couldn't have envisioned in all the minutes he spent contemplating his job as Lions general manager.
That something is a future.
The Lions are building with all the right I-beams.
At the skill positions, with quarterback Matthew Stafford, receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Jah- vid Best.
On the defensive line, with No. 1 pick Ndamukong Suh and free-agent signee Kyle Vanden Bosch.
And on the sideline, where Jim Schwartz has given the Lions credibility and structure.
The Vikings had a chance to draft Best, whom Gophers fans will remember as the impossible-to-tackle back from Cal. Instead, the Vikings traded down and chose Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, in part because the Vikings were worried about Best's concussion history.
Best might cause the Vikings' brass concussion problems, from slapping themselves in the forehead.
At this point, most teams would rather have the speedy Best, who has already scored five touchdowns and who could wind up looking like Reggie Bush if he doesn't become an every-down back.
If you were to bet on Sunday's game, you'd want to take the veteran team, playing at home, desperate for a victory, with future Hall of Famers at quarterback, running back, guard and perhaps defensive end.
If you were to bet on the future of this rivalry, you might want to take a flier on the heretofore woebegone Lions.
Let me say the nicest thing I've ever said about the Lions: They still stink, but maybe not for much longer.
Jim Souhan can be heard on ESPN1500 Sundays from 10 to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib.