The Vikings have lost to three great teams with outstanding quarterbacks this season — the Rams’ Jared Goff, the Saints’ Drew Brees and the Patriots’ Tom Brady last Sunday.
Now they will face another top quarterback in the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson on Monday night. Wilson is 4-0 all-time against the Vikings in his seven years with Seattle.
But if the Vikings don’t make the playoffs this season, after making the NFC Championship Game a year ago, they will look back to a tie and a loss against inferior opponents.
The first was their 29-29 tie against the Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 2, when fifth-round draft choice Daniel Carlson missed three field-goal attempts, including two potential game-winners in overtime. Carlson was released the next day.
The second came one week later in the unbelievable 27-6 upset at the hands of the Bills and rookie quarterback Josh Allen at U.S. Bank Stadium. Since then the Bills have gone 3-6 but have won two of those games by a combined four points.
Turn that tie and ugly loss into victories and the Vikings are sitting at 8-4 and tied with the Bears for the NFC North lead, instead of being 6-5-1 and clinging to a wild-card spot.
If you want another big reason why the Vikings are struggling, think about the retirement of Joe Berger, who played every position on the offensive line from 2011 to 2017, and the season-ending herniated disc injury to Nick Easton, who played 67 percent of the snaps at guard last season.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said earlier this season that he when he watched tape from 2017 this offseason, he came to realize how outstanding Easton was.
Griffen praises Carroll
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen spent three seasons at USC under then-head coach Pete Carroll, even though Griffen had been recruited to USC by Lane Kiffin, who left for the Raiders head coaching job before Griffen arrived.
On Monday night Griffen will get to go against Carroll, in his ninth season as head coach of the Seahawks.
Griffen said he never considered de-committing from USC after the coaching change.
“I was recruited by Lane Kiffin when I was in Agua Fria High School [in Arizona],” Griffen recalled. “Lane Kiffin got the Raiders job, and I got recruited by Nick Holt. He was my D-line coach at USC, and then Pete Carroll [became head coach]. It was a no-brainer for me to go there.”
Griffen went on to register 18 sacks in three seasons at USC before leaving to enter the 2010 NFL draft. He said he realized teams had questions about him before the Vikings selected him in the fourth round.
At the end of last season, Griffen talked about how he respected Carroll for being truthful about him when talking to pro scouts.
“The biggest thing I like about Pete Carroll is he didn’t lie to the scouts from the NFL,” Griffen said. “… He told them the honest truth about me, and about my character issues, because at the end of the day, that is why I made it this far in my career right now. I had to work hard.”
Odds favor Vikings
The oddsmakers still seem to think the Vikings have a good shot at making the playoffs.
Pro Football Focus wrote this week in their ranking of the Vikings as the 12th-best team in the NFL that, “The Vikings played in a daze on Sunday [against the Patriots] as their offense was never able to get going in Foxborough. Kirk Cousins was signed for moments like this and Vikings fans hope this was only a minor blip and not a growing trend. At an almost 86 percent chance at making the playoffs, Kirk Cousins and the offense will have more opportunities to perform in big spots.”
On Monday, the Seahawks are three-point favorites over the Vikings. Seattle has lost home games against the Rams (33-31) and Chargers (25-17) this season.
Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins played two of his best games in back-to-back victories over the Rockets on Monday and the Hornets on Wednesday.
In those two contests, Wiggins scored 42 points — including a season-high 26 in beating Charlotte 121-104 — on 17-for-30 shooting (56.7 percent) with 10 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and one steal. He also hit five of his eight three-point attempts in those games and was a plus-42 in his time on the court.
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau broke down what he’s seeing differently from Wiggins of late.
“The past couple games, I think he’s picked it up and he’s finding his rhythm again,” Thibodeau said. “He’s driving the ball a lot more aggressively, which I think is very important. He’s such a gifted scorer and we want him to use all of his abilities.
“Obviously he’s shooting the three better, but when he puts it on the floor and he attacks the basket, his athleticism is special. And when he does that, there’s going to be [three-point-play opportunities] and easy buckets for him. It just makes us a different team. We just have to keep him aggressive, get him going.”
The Wolves will get a chance to prove they’re for real on their four-game road trip to Portland, Golden State, Sacramento and Phoenix. But there is no question they are much improved after trading for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton.
The Wolves were 4-9 with Butler and 9-3 without him. The 76ers were 8-6 without Butler and 9-3 with him.
• The Twins made their first big move of the offseason in signing second baseman Jonathan Schoop on Thursday. In 17 career games at Target Field, Schoop has hit .246 with three home runs. He was an All-Star in 2017 for the Orioles when he hit .293 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI.
• Ronald Torreyes, signed away from the Yankees by the Twins, projects to be a utility infielder. He’s a career .281 hitter and in his best year, 2017 with the Yankees, he hit .292 in 108 games with 15 doubles, 36 RBI and 35 runs scored. Torreyes is 3-for-6 in his career at Target Field.
• Blake Banham, the brother of former Gophers women’s basketball great Rachel Banham, led Eastern Michigan in receiving this season. Banham, a senior who played at Cretin-Derham Hall, caught 54 passes for the Eagles (7-5), who will play in only their fourth bowl game in program history when they face Georgia Southern (9-3) in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 15. The Gophers play Georgia Southern at TCF Bank Stadium next season on Sept. 14.
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. on Monday and Friday and at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org