• The Falcons and the Vikings have the same odds to win the Super Bowl at 12-1, which is tied for fourth, according to the website Bovada. The Patriots have the best odds at 5-2. The Eagles are 7-2 and the Steelers 6-1.
• Vikings cornerback Terence Newman on facing Atlanta star Julio Jones, who broke the record for most receptions (563) and yards (8,649) in his first 90 NFL games last week: “He’s a great receiver who possess size, quickness, great hands. He’s able to go get balls that a lot of people can’t go get.”
• Hall of Famer Tony Dungy, the former Gophers great in his ninth year with NBC, is high on the Falcons and picks them to win the NFC South.
• Twins President Dave St. Peter talked about Joe Mauer’s contract being up at the end of the 2018 season: “We don’t know of anything to suggest that he doesn’t want to continue playing after 2018, but we will never take that for granted. At the end of the day we’ll have that discussion. I do believe Joe wants to win, and I believe he wants to play in Minnesota.”
• One trade target the Twins could go after is San Diego All-Star Brad Hand. The lefthander from Chaska had a 2.16 ERA and struck out 104 hitters in 79⅓ innings.
• Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have a timeline on Zach Parise’s return but said his star forward is progressing from October back surgery: “I think he’s in a much better place mentally and physically and from a pain standpoint. That is the most important thing, and he’ll just continue to rehab.”
• Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino stayed on the East Coast following his team’s two victories in New York last weekend, trying to land more top eastern recruits like he did a year ago.
• New Mexico announced it would not retain Bob DeBesse, who just completed his sixth season as offensive coordinator. He served in that role with the Gophers under Jim Wacker from 1992 to ’96.