Vikings fans had a battle between their hearts and minds on Sunday, though if Twitter is any indication the hearts were winning by a landslide.
The conundrum: As the Vikings’ win over the Bengals became a matter of formality Sunday, should purple fans root for Carolina to defeat Green Bay — thus all but officially eliminating the rival Packers from their slim playoff hopes — or hope Green Bay knocked off Carolina because that would give the Vikings a much easier path to a first-round bye?
Logically, a Carolina loss would have helped Minnesota much more than a Green Bay loss. But Vikings fans who have been fretting about a possible Packers playoff run and/or can’t stomach rooting for Green Bay in any scenario seemed to greatly outweigh those rooting for a logical outcome.
In the end, the Packers almost pulled off a miracle comeback to force overtime, only to have a final chance stall on a fumble in a 31-24 loss to the Panthers. Two more Vikings wins will assure them of a first-round bye, while one more would do it as long as Carolina doesn’t win its division with a 12-4 record.
The Vikings’ next chance to continue that voyage? At Green Bay, of course.
• If the Vikings received some resolution to their situation on Sunday, it has become increasingly obvious that two other teams — and fan bases — are going to have their patience tested for a stretch this winter.
First, the Timberwolves continue to be one of the most frustrating winning teams in recent Minnesota history — a legacy they added to Saturday by somehow losing to a depleted, turnover-prone Suns team.
Phoenix made it almost impossible for the Wolves to lose on Saturday, just as Philadelphia had a few nights earlier at Target Center, by playing sloppy and allowing Minnesota to build a significant second-half lead.
But Wolves games have followed a disturbing pattern in recent weeks (or years, depending on your perspective). Minnesota builds a lead with its starters, but in the fourth quarter they either wear down from overuse, don’t execute or some combination of both in allowing teams to come back.
Against Philadelphia and Phoenix, one defensive stop in the closing seconds of regulation still could have bailed the Wolves out. Both times the Wolves failed. The worst was Saturday, when Jeff Teague fouled Isaiah Canaan on a three-pointer deep in the shot clock — a good call, no matter what Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau says or thinks — to provide the Suns the winning points.
This is a tough team to watch, and the only thing that might make things easier is patience.
• Likewise, Twins fans are going to need some patience as the team works through the Yu Darvish sweepstakes.
Our La Velle E. Neal III reports that yes, the Twins are still part of the Darvish sweepstakes but no, this signing might not happen for a while (regardless of where the righthanded pitcher ends up).
That’s going to set things up for a bunch of fans saying “same old Twins” if he signs elsewhere or some genuine surprise if he signs here. Either way, the process is going to require patience.