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Vikings in middle of NFL's first big COVID situation. What now?

If your temptation after an 0-3 start for the Vikings was to ask, “What else could go wrong?” then Tuesday provided a bleak answer.

The Vikings now find themselves right in the middle of the NFL’s first COVID situation, after they were forced to shut down their facility Tuesday following news that eight members of the Titans — three players, five staff members — were reportedly confirmed to have tested positive for the virus.

Those two teams played at U.S. Bank Stadium less than 48 hours before that announcement, a 31-30 loss for the Vikings.

The Titans reportedly have been shut down until Saturday, which would make it VERY difficult to conceive of them playing their scheduled game Sunday against the Steelers.

The impact on the Vikings — and the overall NFL schedule — remains to be seen, though the Vikings released a statement Tuesday saying they haven’t had any positive tests since Sunday’s game.

Silver linings for eternal optimists: Maybe the Vikings will still be able to play. Or: You can’t lose if you can’t play.

In the bigger picture, though, this underscores the challenge of playing an NFL season in a pandemic without a bubble. Major League Baseball had major outbreaks involving the Marlins and Cardinals but managed to (mostly) make it through a 60-game regular season.

Baseball’s challenge was the sheer volume of games needed to make up with teams playing almost every day. But that was mitigated somewhat by the ability to play doubleheaders — the Cardinals played 11 of them in the final 44 days of the season — that were shortened to seven innings each.

The NFL can’t exactly have teams play twice on the same day, with games shortened to three quarters. (Right?)

Those who pay closer attention than me are already concocting ways things could be reconfigured if the Titans vs. Steelers game is postponed. It involves several shifting byes and moving pieces, but it appears to work.

If the Vikings develop positive tests and have to postpone their game Sunday at Houston? Things get trickier. The Vikings have a Week 7 bye week. The Texans play that week but then have a bye the following week.

Maybe there’s a complete schedule rearrangement? Maybe they squeeze a game in on a Thursday? Maybe they say two 0-3 teams don’t make up the game unless it means something at the end of the year?

All of these are hypotheticals at this point. I’m sure we’ll gain some clarity as the week goes on — and perhaps be able to answer the question of whether the Titans should have played Sunday in the first place after a defensive coach was placed in COVID protocol.

For now, though, this sure feels like one of those situations the NFL hoped would never happen and won’t be able to make a perfect plan to mitigate.

For the Vikings? It’s hard not to think about past seasons like 2010 where things have gone from bad to worse and never stopped.

With Twins set to face Astros, it's time to renew your hate for cheaters

Way back about a decade ago, the hottest story line in sports was the cheating Houston Astros, their punishment (or relative lack thereof) for stealing signs and how much they were going to get booed by fans.

(Wait a second: I’m being told that was actually not a decade ago, but earlier this year. That can’t be right, but people are insisting it is).

Regardless: The Astros cheated their way to the 2017 World Series title. They were still being accused of cheating in 2019, when they made it to Game 7 of another World Series.

They were villains and were going to get yelled at in every city. In spring training, they were hearing a smattering of it. And players from other teams were seemingly on a rotating daily basis ripping the Astros.

And then … well, you know. Coronavirus shut everything down, and when baseball resumed again it was in front of zero in-person fans in a truncated season.

The Astros went about 2020 in relative silence. Fans couldn’t boo in person. And most of us were more concerned about other more pressing subjects.

And Houston kind of stunk. The Astros went 29-31 in the regular season. Coincidence or not, a team that led MLB in slugging percentage (.495) in 2019 was 16th in that category (.408) this season. Maybe it was the small sample size. Maybe it was the fact that they didn’t know what pitches were coming.

But they were good enough to finish second in the bad American League West, which was good enough for the No. 6 seed in these revised playoffs — which puts them into a postseason matchup with the Twins.

It’s just a three-game series, all of them at Target Field, and no chance still to boo.

The Astros are not the Yankees, with all the postseason baggage the Twins would carry into that series. But if you’re a Twins fan, don’t underestimate your capacity to dislike Houston.

The Astros haven’t even come close yet to paying in full for their actions, and now is a great time to remember that.

Local Schedule
  • Houston at Twins

    12 pm on ESPN2, 102.9-FM/830-AM

  • FC Cincinnati at Loons

    7 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • Vikings at Houston

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Loons at Nashville SC

    7:30 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

Today's Scoreboard
  • Houston

    Minnesota

     

    - F

    4

    1

  • Chicago White Sox

    Oakland

     

    - F

    4

    1

  • Toronto

    Tampa Bay

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • NY Yankees

    Cleveland

     

    - F

    12

    3

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