The new year is finally upon us, and while many of us will be in the gym for the next two weeks, Minnesota’s sports teams have a lot going for them in 2023.
There are lessons to be learned from the past year, but a new year brings the opportunity to turn a new page. Here, we’ll take a look at some of what should happen and what it might mean for 2023.
Vikings: Getting to the Super Bowl
The Vikings’ 12-3 season came out of nowhere, and even national analysts didn’t know what to make of the NFC North champions. While Kevin O’Connell’s first season has been better than expected, things could get even better if the Vikings make it to the Super Bowl.
The NFC is full of contenders, as the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles all have a better chance at the Super Bowl, but each team has its flaws and never has an unproven rookie (Brockoper Dee) to injured quarterback (Jaren injured) and inconsistent record (Cowboys).
If the Vikings can get the No. 2 seed, they’ll have two games at Bank of America Stadium, which is 8-1 this season. That should pave the way for the NFC championship game, and the roll of the dice could give Minnesota its first big game since 1976.
Timberwolves: Finding last year’s attitude
Remember how lively the Timberwolves were a year ago? After years of being the NBA’s underdog, the Wolves fought back and emerged on the road to the playoffs as some of the biggest teams in the league.
This year is a different story. The Wolves mortgaged their future to Rudy Gobert in a deal that was an absolute disaster. Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell have become so paranoid about refs they might start playing in tinfoil hats, while Chris Finch looks like an embattled AAU coach from the sidelines.
If the Timberwolves look back a year ago, the situation is equally troubling. Minnesota is 16-19 and looks like a playoff team. They became one of the most dangerous teams in the league in their final months, posting a 31-17 record and beating the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs.
Wolves need to get back to their old attitude in order to have a similar run this season. A reunion with Patrick Beverley might help, but they need to find themselves in the new year.
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Wild: Win a playoff series
It took WIld a while to start the season, but they look like it. A team with the potential to make the playoffs. While there’s no problem getting there — eight of the past 10 seasons with a playoff team — winning a playoff series is another story.
Wilder currently ranks third in the Central Division with 42 points and has won 11 of his past 15 games. The traditional conference powerhouses of Colorado and St. Louis have struggled in recent years and could open the door for Minnesota to make the playoffs.
With a commitment to defense, the Wild rank eighth in goals allowed (100) and can ride the popular duo of Marc-Andre Fleury and Philippe Gustafson to win the title since 2015. First playoff series win.
Gemini: stay healthy
We could say their resolve should be to find a true ace or break the longest playoff losing streak in North American sports history, but that’s probably as realistic as those declaring they’ll look like The Rock by the end of 2023.
Instead, getting healthy might be the easiest problem for the Twins to fix next season. Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and Royce Lewis topped last year’s injured list, and with several players ready to return, the Twins have a chance to compete in the weaker middle of the American League.
Bobcats: Back to the playoffs
The Bobcats made the playoffs 11 straight times last season, but there’s plenty of optimism they can return in 2023.
Napheesa Collier will return to the court after missing most of last season as she has her first child and a core featuring aerial power, Kayla McBride and Moriah Jefferson should be the No. 2 picks in the draft.
A return to the playoffs should be possible if the Bobcats get their fill of talent like Stanford’s Haley Jones.
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