The Vikings are on a roll with an 8-6 record and a two-game winning streak. And they have a strong shot to make the playoffs if they win their final two regular-season games.
However, this might be the year the Vikings have to make hay. While the team has a fairly low-profile group of free agents who could leave after this season, Rob Brzezinski, the Vikings vice president in charge of player contracts, will really have a challenge after the 2013 season because many of the team's superstars are slated to become free agents.
The group that could leave after this season includes these starters: linebacker Jasper Brinkley, right tackle Phil Loadholt, linebacker Erin Henderson and fullback Jerome Felton.
Others who are not that important to the team but will be free agents after the 2012 season include defensive back Jamarca Sanford, offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz and Joe Berger, wide receivers Devin Aromashodu and Jerome Simpson and linebacker Marvin Mitchell.
But taking a peek at the 2013 free-agent group, you see what likely is the most talented free-agent class the Vikings have had.
The class includes wide receiver Percy Harvin, defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison, punter Chris Kluwe, guard Charlie Johnson, quarterback Joe Webb, defensive linemen Everson Griffen and Fred Evans, running back Toby Gerhart and cornerback Cris Cook.
It's going to take a lot of money to sign players such as Harvin, Allen, Robison and Gerhart. There is little chance Gerhart will want to remain as a backup to Adrian Peterson. And Harvin could wind up as one of the highest-paid players in the league, with a lot of clubs bidding for his services.
New title for Molitor
Twins President Dave St. Peter reports that Paul Molitor, in addition to remaining with the organization in 2013 and serving as a roving minor league instructor, also will be working as a special assistant to St. Peter.
It's no secret around Target Field that both St. Peter and General Manager Terry Ryan were interested in having Molitor on the 2013 coaching staff, most likely as the bench coach.
However, manager Ron Gardenhire, while not having any personal problem with Molitor, preferred to have his close, personal friend and former Twins catcher Terry Steinbach as the bench coach. Gardenhire has been a longtime admirer of Steinbach, who has worked with the Twins in spring training and has done a great job.
The interesting thing about Molitor is that in the past he has turned down many chances to coach and manage. However, he was willing to accept the new position with the Twins.
I have a lot of respect for Gardenhire, and he has proven his ability to manage by winning six division titles in 11 years. The late Gene Mauch used to tell me that a manager will steal at best a half-dozen games a season and that you win with talent.
It's no secret the Twins didn't have the pitching the past two years to contend. Gardenhire couldn't pitch for the team, and I hope he gets the talent this year so he can manage a winner.
But if there is a change in managers, it wouldn't surprise me if Molitor was Gardy's successor.
Kubiak respects AP
Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak praised the Vikings running game and Peterson at his weekly news conference when he said: "This could be a 2 1/2-hour game the way they run the ball, and hopefully we can run the ball. [Peterson is] tremendous. They are just lining up and pounding people right now. Nobody has probably ever done it better than he is doing it right now over this stretch.
"What a difference, from a challenge standpoint, we have defensively,'' Kubiak continued. "Going from being spread out and all of a sudden here they come downhill at you with one of the greatest backs in the game. We have a huge challenge there. Then offensively, I think we are facing as good a defensive line as we have faced this year. This is a very physical football team. You look at the times they have been beaten this year. They have been beaten by some excellent teams. I think they are very well-built, especially for a young quarterback. It is going to be an extremely physical challenge for us."
Future U QB has talent
One reason why Max Shortell might have left the Gophers football team is that there is a great quarterback coming in next year: Chris Streveler from Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Ill. He was all-state selection on a team that finished 11-1, and he completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,397 yards and 26 touchdowns with four interceptions. He also rushed 156 times for 1,124 yards and 22 TDs.
A number of schools have tried to persuade Streveler to de-commit, but he is solid in his commitment and will enroll in school in January.
Another reason why Mike Grant should be named football coach at St. John's: When former Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi was interviewing coaches to succeed Glen Mason, Grant was one of the coaches Maturi interviewed. He told me that Grant's presentation was as good or better than any other applicant's. However, at the time Maturi didn't feel he could hire a high school coach.
Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Glen Perkins and Scott Diamond headline the list of Twins players participating in the team's 53rd annual Winter Caravan that runs Jan. 14-24, with 50 stops in 40 communities scheduled.
Former Gophers assistant and Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips recently was named Florida's receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.
St. Thomas was or is ranked in the top five nationally in four fall or winter sports: volleyball (No. 1 with a 40-1 record); football (No. 3, although the Tommies finished 14-1 with a loss in the NCAA Division III championship game); women's basketball (No. 4, 7-1); and men's basketball (No. 4, 8-0). Those four teams have built a combined 69-3 record this school year, with all three losses to top-five ranked teams. The Tommies baseball team is expected to be in the top five when preseason polls are released next month.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com