As the Twins and Vikings size up their chances to get back on top, rebuilding rivals on the upswing tilt the playing fields against them.
We are defined and shaped by our competition.
The great Vikings teams lost four Super Bowls, against four Hall of Fame coaches and four star quarterbacks who steered four dynasties. Had Bud and Fran faced an earlier version of the Buffalo Bills, those Vikings teams might have become known as a Northern version of the Dallas Cowboys, rather than star-crossed runners-up.
The Twins, from 2002 through 2010, became known as a model franchise as they dominated the American League Central. Had they played in the AL East, they may have become a Midwest version of the Toronto Blue Jays, talented but overmatched by the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
As the highest-profile teams in the Twin Cities flounder, they raise concerns beyond their own competence.
They all face challenges that could waylay even well-constructed, well-coached teams.
• Vikings ownership insists the team is not rebuilding, but this might be a good time to scale back expectations and take aim at 2013 or so. Even if Christian Ponder becomes a good rookie quarterback and Leslie Frazier can repair the defense and offensive line, the Vikings play in a punitive division.
The Green Bay Packers are not only the reigning Super Bowl champions, they are a young, well-constructed, well-coached, cohesive team that won it all without a handful of injured players.
The Chicago Bears made it to the NFC Championship Game last season while patching together their offensive line. With Lovie Smith having built a strong coaching staff, the Bears should be formidable again.
Most daunting for the Vikings' status is the anticipated rise of the Detroit Lions. If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, the Lions will feature a handful of exceptionally talented players -- Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
This is a nightmare scenario for the Vikings: Breaking in a new coach and a new quarterback while competing with the best team in the NFL, and perhaps the most promising.
• The Twins have won six of the past nine AL Central titles. The Chicago White Sox have become their primary rival, and the Detroit Tigers have posed occasional threats.
This spring the Cleveland Indians, who haven't had a winning season since 2007, and the Kansas City Royals, who have had only one winning season since 1993, have rejoined the battle.
While the Twins' lack of pitching dominance and high-level, big-league-ready prospects have helped doom their 2011 season, those concerns must extend beyond this summer. Cleveland's young pitching and Kansas City's stocked farm system -- which, this season, brought them phenom Eric Hosmer -- could make the Twins' quest to return to division dominance a daunting one.
• In the NBA's Western Conference, the Timberwolves lag not only behind a dynamic young team in Oklahoma City; they also have less talent than even struggling franchises, such as the Clippers and Kings.
• In the NHL's Western Conference, the Wild can't come close to matching the scoring of elite teams in Vancouver, San Jose and Detroit.
• Gophers basketball followers were thrilled at the arrival of Tubby Smith, but the Big Ten is now filled with power coaches, including Tom Izzo, Thad Matta, Matt Painter, Bo Ryan and Tom Crean.
• To win the Big Ten, Gophers football will have to pass four programs that are historically stronger -- Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska -- and then beat the likes of Ohio State, Penn State or Wisconsin in a conference title game.
• The Gophers hockey team faces ... well, let's be realistic. When the Gophers hockey team is properly run, it shouldn't fear competition from anyone.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org
|Minnesota||0||2nd Qtr 8:03|
|Kansas City||31||2nd Qtr 7:48|
|Buffalo||3||2nd Qtr 9:15|
|Miami||10||2nd Qtr 4:11|
|Detroit||8||2nd Qtr 3:55|
|Indianapolis||0||2nd Qtr 2:00|
|Cleveland||6||2nd Qtr 6:06|
|Oakland||3||2nd Qtr 4:00|
|Atlanta||14||2nd Qtr 2:00|
|St. Louis||3:25 PM|
|NY Giants||3:25 PM|
|Dallas||12/9/13 7:40 PM|
|San Diego||12/12/13 7:25 PM|
|Boston||96||4th Qtr 10:41|
|San Jose||5:00 PM|
|Virginia Tech||45||2nd Half 4:30|
|Old Dominion||20||1st Half 5:16|
|Iona||24||1st Half 7:40|
|Saint Peters||0||1st Half 18:59|
|Siena||7||1st Half 17:15|
|Mount Olive||4||1st Half 14:54|
|Rhode Island||1:00 PM|
|Monmouth||4||1st Half 18:40|
|Charlotte||0||1st Half 20:00|
|SW Oklahoma St||4||1st Half 16:11|
|San Diego St|
|Ark-Pine Bluff||4:00 PM|
|TX-Permian Basin||4:30 PM|
|Jacksonville St||5:00 PM|
|Boston College||6:00 PM|
|Seton Hall||7:00 PM|
|Eastern Wash||7:30 PM|
|(13) Oklahoma State||24|
|(16) Arizona State||14|
|(1) Florida State||45|
|(7) Ohio State||24||FINAL|
|(4) Michigan State||34|
|(21) Fresno State||24|
|Army||12/14/13 2:00 PM|
|Hartford||24||2nd Half 17:18|
|Stetson||43||2nd Half 16:32|
|Texas||27||2nd Half 18:41|
|(10) Penn State||3||1st Half 17:44|
|Jacksonville||0||1st Half 20:00|
|IUPU-Ft Wayne||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Stony Brook||1:00 PM|
|Central Conn St||1:00 PM|
|(12) South Carolina||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Colorado State||2:00 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton||2:00 PM|
|(20) Iowa State|
|TX-Pan American||2:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||2:00 PM|
|North Dakota||2:00 PM|
|Utah State||2:00 PM|
|Morgan State||3:00 PM|
|(2) Duke||3:00 PM|
|Long Beach St||3:25 PM|
|Loyola-New Orleans||4:00 PM|
|Santa Clara||4:00 PM|
|Boise State||4:00 PM|
|Aug 9 - vs. Houston||7 pm||X||27-13|
|Aug 16 - at Buffalo||6 pm||X||20-16|
|Aug 25 - at San Francisco||7 pm||X||34-14|
|Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee||7 pm||X||24-23|
|2013 regular season|
|Sep 8 - at Detroit||Noon||X||34-24|
|Sep 15 - at Chicago||Noon||X||31-30|
|Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland||Noon||X||31-27|
|Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London)||Noon||X||34-27|
|Oct 6 - Bye|
|Oct 13 - vs. Carolina||Noon||X||35-10|
|Oct 21 - at. NY Giants||7:40 pm||X||23-7|
|Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay||7:30 pm||X||44-31|
|Nov 3 - at Dallas||Noon||X||27-23|
|Nov 7 - vs. Washington||7:25 pm||X||34-27|
|Nov 17 - at Seattle||3:25 pm||X||41-20|
|Nov. 24 - at Green Bay||Noon||26-26|
|Dec 1 - vs. Chicago||Noon||X||23-20|
|Dec 8 - at Baltimore||Noon|
|Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia||Noon|
|Dec 22 - at Cincinnati||Noon|
|Dec 29 - vs. Detroit||Noon|