At the start of this football season, a bold hunch turned into a friendly wager: I believed the Gophers football team would win more games than the Vikings, and I found a couple of takers on our staff to take the Vikings with a lunch of tacos on the line.
They both happen to cover the Vikings, which didn’t exactly make me feel great about my odds.
I reasoned that the Gophers could ride some improvement and an easy early schedule and eclipse their pro counterparts, even though they were guaranteed to play just 12 games while the Vikings get 16. (The 2013, 2014 and 2016 Gophers, by the way, finished with more wins than the Purple.)
What few could have foreseen, however, is the stunning race that has developed: a sprint, perhaps, to double-digit wins for both teams.
The wager for the ages came to mind while thinking about both the Gophers and Vikings, along with the opportunity that lies ahead really for both of them.
Much of the focus immediately is on the Gophers, and rightfully so after their 52-10 rout of Maryland, their No. 13 ranking, their 8-0 record and their looming showdown with undefeated Penn State.
But really, the next two months are set up magnificently for both teams. The Gophers, at minimum given their two-game lead in the Big Ten West, are set up to contend for a conference title. The 6-2 Vikings are one of the five best teams in an NFC that doesn’t have an unbeatable team. That makes them Super Bowl contenders.
The last time both were in this position was 2003, a year that ended in major disappointment in both cases. Both started 6-0; the Vikings finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs on a last-second loss to the Cardinals. The Gophers finished 10-3 — reaching double digits in wins for the first time since 1905 — but all anyone remembers is the loss to Michigan that derailed Rose Bowl dreams.
I bring up that year not to pour salt in wounds or make anyone worry about what might happen. There will be plenty of time to dissect the tougher schedules ahead for both teams.
Rather: Realize how rare this is. Savor it. Enjoy it. As Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said: “Pressure is earned, pressure is a good thing. Pressure is awesome.”
It means you’ve already done something and you can do even more.
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The idea of Patriots QB Tom Brady playing for another team next season — an idea that keeps getting floated because of the contractual leverage Brady has — seems absurd … until you realize the two legendary quarterbacks right below him at Nos. 3 and 4 on the all-time passing yardage list, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, made similar late-career moves.
No. 1 on the list is Drew Brees, who also changed teams — albeit early in his career from the Chargers to the Saints.
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The Bears thought they had their kicking woes fixed when Eddie Pineiro started the year 9-for-10 on field goals. Turns out the problems were just waiting to resurface when a swift kick would hurt the most.
Pineiro missed a 41-yarder wide left as time expired for the Bears in a 17-16 home loss to the Chargers. Chicago is now 3-4, winless since that 16-6 victory over the Vikings. Minnesota, of course, is undefeated since then.
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The Astros’ apology tour continued over the weekend with a necessary step: Owner Jim Crane wrote a letter apologizing to Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated, the writer whose reporting on the behavior of since-fired executive Brandon Taubman was originally refuted by the team.