Local fans and media members have spent countless hours dissecting moves made by the Vikings, Twins and Timberwolves in recent months.
But for better or worse, the fates of all three could be determined by a factor somewhat out of their hands: their respective schedules. Recent events had me thinking about these things in particular:
*According to a report from a Philadelphia radio station, the Vikings are going to start the 2018 season at Philadelphia in a rematch of last year’s NFC title game (a 38-7 Philadelphia victory). Interestingly enough, that would be third time in the last 20 seasons the Vikings open a year with a conference title game rematch. The Vikings won at Atlanta in 1999 and lost at New Orleans in 2010.
More importantly, the game at Philadelphia is a reminder of how difficult the 2018 Vikings schedule looks, at least on paper based on what happened last season.
We don’t know the full order yet, but the non-division road games will be at Philadelphia, New England, Seattle, L.A. Rams and New York Jets. Throw in a home game against New Orleans and two games against a presumably healthy Aaron Rodgers, and 2018 is daunting. Even with offseason upgrades, the Vikings will have to excel to even approach last year’s 13-3 record.
*The Twins have made several key offseason additions, but they also have some key temporary subtractions. Jorge Polanco’s 80 game suspension is the latest blow, while Ervin Santana figures to miss several early starts after his offseason finger procedure. Miguel Sano is also awaiting word on a possible suspension.
They should have enough depth to offset those woes, but their real ace in the hole might be the overall weakness of their division. Cleveland remains the runaway frontrunner in the AL Central, but the Twins get a whopping 57 games against the White Sox, Tigers and Royals — all of whom are projected to be among the league’s worst teams.
The Twins were 34-23 against those three foes last year. When the Twins were regularly winning the AL Central in the 2000s, they feasted on bad teams within the division. They were 50-25, for example, against AL Central teams in 2002 — and 44-42 against everyone else.
*The Timberwolves slipped to eighth place in the crowded Western Conference after back-to-back losses to San Antonio and Houston left them at 40-31.
Their schedule down the stretch, however, is much easier than it is for any of the other teams bunched up in the logjam between the No. 3 and No. 10 spots.
Because of their favorable schedule and tiebreaker edges, there’s a good chance the Wolves will not only make the playoffs (Basketball Reference gives them a 90 percent chance) but also that if they do they will finish high enough to avoid the top two teams (Houston and Golden State) in the first round.
With all three teams, of course, the schedules only give us a road map of what might happen. But sometimes who you play is just as important as how well you play.