Periodically, we like to check in on the big picture of Minnesota sports in an attempt to guess at which of the four big pro teams in town -- Vikings, Twins, Wolves and Wild -- will be the next one to reach the playoffs. With all four teams in various stages of rebuilding and/or denial, this is not always easy. A little over a month ago, the answer was easy: the Wild, by a landslide, was the leading candidate to be the next of the four to make the playoffs. Now? Well ... let's slap percentages on the teams. The numbers will add up to 100, though keep in mind we're not necessarily talking about making the playoffs this year.

WILD: Even in free-fall mode, they are still technically in the top 8 of the West for now. But with Mikko Koivu's absence further draining their already depleted offensive firepower, it's hard to be optimistic. They are now 22-17-7, which technically means they've lost two more games than they've won. Last year's squad was 23-18-5 at this point and made it to 30-20-5 after 55 games before the wheels came off the Todd Richards bus. However, you never know when this team will start getting the hot goaltending and smart system hockey that carried it to such a fast start. There also could be a decent amount of help waiting in the system, meaning even if this year ends in collapse next year could be better. Percent chance this is the next of the big four Minnesota teams to make the playoffs: 40.

TIMBERWOLVES: The normally curmudgeonly Jon Marthaler asked the other day if we thought the Wolves -- with continued progress, better health and maybe a well-timed trade -- could make the playoffs this year. Our best guess is, "No." Even with the noted improvement, this still feels like a 25-30 win season (out of 66, remember) -- with a bigger jump, assuming Kevin Love stays and other maneuvering can be done, coming next season. There are still a few too many established teams in the West for it to be likely this season. But an outside chance? Yeah, we can't deny that. When you combine that outside chance with what we would consider a very reasonable chance next season ... Percent chance this is the next of the big four Minnesota teams to make the playoffs: 35.

TWINS: It's a team loaded with ifs. But if you look around the AL Central -- Victor Martinez just tore his ACL, the White Sox are rebuilding, the Royals are improved but still the Royals and the Indians are mediocre -- it's not completely ridiculous to squint your eyes and see a pennant race for the Twins. That said, they won't even get a crack at it until the Wild and Wolves are done, and if the Twins miss in 2012 their odds go down quite a bit. Percent chance: 13.

VIKINGS: Yes, a little under two years have passed since the Vikings almost reached the Super Bowl. The free-fall from 12 to 6 to 3 victories has not been fun. If the wins get halved again, we'll know something really screwy is going on. (Though we suppose 1-14-1 would kind of cut the wins in half since ties count as half-wins when percentages are figured out). That said, we already wrote about how easy -- based on 2011 finishes and projections -- the Vikings schedule is next year. We've also witnessed the volatility of the NFL. Could a team that lost nine games by seven points or fewer in 2011 make a quick turnaround? Sure. Is it likely to result in a playoff berth soon? Not so much. Percent chance: 12.

Your thoughts, please, in the comments. We have a feeling we might be tempted to swap those top two teams in about three weeks. But we're not ready to go there ... yet.

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