Led by a surprisingly capable, even electric, Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback for injured starter Gus Frerotte, the Vikings pounded the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals on Sunday 35-14. Jackson chucked a career record four touchdowns in the first half, and the defense (complete with the suspension-fighting Williams Wall) kept the Cardinals' potent offense in check, yielding points only in the third quarter. The victory was crucial as the Chicago Bears beat New Orleans on Thursday to remain only one game behind the Vikes. This sets up a must-win next week for Minnesota against the Atlanta Falcons because they close out the season two weeks from now against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants who, smarting after consecutive losses, will be looking to make a statement before teams head into the playoffs. Chicago, meanwhile, takes on the lackluster and eliminated from playoff contention Green Bay next week and the hot, but thoroughly beatable, Houston Texans to end the regular season.
The once-might Wild have taken a severe U-turn in the month of December, going a pitiful 1-6. Last night they were in Anaheim where the Ducks served up the Wild's fifth straight defeat 4-2. The Wild are now 15-13-1 and have fallen to third place in the Northwest division behind Vancouver and Calgary. They are now only one point ahead of Edmonton and two above Colorado. Desperately in need of goals, the Wild need all-time team scoring leader Marian Gaborik to return, which he says he hopes will come this week. Yeah... right.
Four-games into Kevin McHale's tenure as head coach, things have looked marginally better at best for the Timberwolves. Without a win under McHale, the T-Wolves lost their staggering ninth straight game last night to the LA Lakers, 98-86. The only bright point was that the T-Wolves scooped up more rebounds than LA. Tonight offers the Wolves a legit chance to stop the skid when they take on the 6-18 Sacramento Kings. Still, it's probably not a bet worth taking.
The Twins signed back free agent shortstop Nick Punto this week to a two-year contract. Last season Punto hit .284 with two home runs and 15 stolen bases. No word yet on GM Bill Smith going out and getting a high-caliber power hitter.