RandBall
See more of the story

Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes you can’t even make things up. Let’s get to it:

*An embattled kicker who had endured an up-and-down regular season but emerged with confidence going into the playoffs lined up a potential game-winning kick for a division-winning NFC North team playing at home and locked in a low-scoring battle during wild card weekend.

The kicker had made all three of his field goal attempts in the game leading up to that final attempt, and if he could just make one more his team would escape to the next round.

Vikings fans watched with anticipation — and then horror — when this scenario played out three years ago and Blair Walsh missed way wide left on a 27-yard attempt in what became a 10-9 loss to Seattle.

And now Bears fans have their own demons, after Cody Parkey had the same thing happen with the exact same buildup. He missed a 43-yarder — hitting the left upright and the crossbar, an especially cruel twist after clanging those objects defined his turbulent regular season — and the Bears lost 16-15 to the Eagles.

Parkey’s kick came in better conditions than Walsh’s, who was kicking in subzero temperatures three years ago at TCF Bank Stadium. But Walsh’s kick was 16 yards shorter. Both were boots that NFL kickers usually make. Alas, Chicago fans are now left with the same what-ifs as Vikings fans were three years ago, with a stout defense and second-year QB suddenly having their seasons ended.

If anything sums up the agony of a missed playoff field goal, it is the reaction of the Bears mascot. With perhaps the best view in the house, the pain was very real.

*I’ll have plenty more thoughts later today about the Timberwolves’ firing of head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau, but here’s one stunning fact that’s hard to escape:

Thibs was fired 40 games into the third season of a five-year, $40 million deal — one game before the exact midpoint of the contract. He stands to get paid more for not coaching the Wolves than for coaching them.

*Sporting News released its preseason top 25 college football rankings for 2019, and look who’s there at No. 25: P.J. Fleck’s Gophers (hat tip: Gopher Hole).

TSN writes of the Gophers: “We know the risks of ranking the Gophers, but P.J. Fleck had this team playing at a high level with blowout wins against Purdue and Wisconsin in November before an impressive bowl rout against Georgia Tech. Plus, the Gophers’ schedule is a little easier than the other contenders.”

*Sports Betting Dime is releasing odds Monday on which Minnesota pro team in the NFL, NHL, NBA or MLB will be the next to win a championship. Since this is a subject near and dear to my heart, here are the odds they will be releasing:

  1. Vikings: 7/3
  2. Wild: 7/3
  3. Twins: 7/2
  4. T-Wolves: 9/2

You’ll note that they’re all pretty similar. You’ll also note that the Lynx and United are not included in the odds, and that the Lynx would be strongly considered for a top spot if they were.