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Being bad might provide Luck to Vikings

Contact News Tribune sports editor Rick Lubbers at rlubbers@duluthnews.com or (218) 723-5317.

Congratulations, Minnesota Vikings.

By virtue of your lowly 1-5 record following a blowout loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, you now are officially enrolled in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes. The lucky winner will pick first in next spring's NFL Draft and will either choose the much-

ballyhooed quarterback from Stanford or entertain myriad offers from other teams wishing to do so.

You know who Andrew Luck is, right? The next sure-fire standout NFL quarterback. The second coming of Peyton Manning or John Elway. He's NFL-polished, has a rocket-launcher for an arm and can probably cure the common cold. He does attend Stanford, after all.

He might even be able to help you build that little stadium you've been whining about.

Now, please be advised that there is plenty of competition for next year's top spot in the draft -- most notably from Miami (0-5), Indianapolis (0-6), St. Louis (0-5), Arizona (1-4), Carolina (1-5), Denver (1-4) and Jacksonville (1-5).

Despite the long line of Luck suitors, we like your chances of coming out on top. Two of your next three games are against the Green Bay Packers (6-0) -- ouch! Plus, you have to travel to Detroit (5-1) and Atlanta (3-3) yet and host New Orleans (4-2) and Chicago (3-3), too.

So, truth be told, you're in rebuilding mode and looking toward the future. And that's where the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes can help. The winner can either draft the next Tom Brady or stockpile a load of draft picks and players to kick-start even the most lackluster franchise.

But between now and April, you have a lot of work to do. First, you need to determine what to do with your stable of quarterbacks: Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder and Joe Webb. (And please resist the temptation to call a certain retired quarterback from Mississippi.) Our advice? Bench McNabb, give him a clipboard and a few consolation gifts. Consider him a high-priced tutor. He's in the twilight of his career and the sun is setting on your season.

It's time to see what your top draft choice has to offer. How will you be able to maximize your potential winnings in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes without playing the rookie and determining if he has the potential to start under center for the next decade or turn into a career backup?

We know your master plan was to install the former Philadelphia standout at QB and slowly groom Ponder to be your signal caller of the future. But McNabb looks worse than Brett Favre did last year. His passes do one of four things: land far away from the intended target, bounce off a defensive lineman, get dropped by one of your receivers or fall into the arms of an opposing player.

OK, a few of them do get completed, but 5-yard completions aren't going to cut it anymore. The NFL is a

quarterback-driven league now. It's not necessary to have a top-notch running back to win. How far has the league's top running back, Adrian Peterson, taken you this year? Not far when every defense is stacking the line of scrimmage with a brick wall for him to bounce harmlessly off.

You're stuck in a division of gunslingers with Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Chicago's Jay Cutler, but play a quarterback shooting blanks. It's time to see how Ponder will fare in the firefight that is the NFC North.

The rookie finally received some playing time Sunday and looked pretty good at times. Below average sometimes, too. But he appears agile, mobile, able to hit a few passes and he actually attempts the deep throws McNabb hasn't seemed willing to try. Dare we say we saw a bit of a spark ignite when Ponder entered the game?

Today's young quarterbacks don't wait long on the bench anymore before being thrown into the NFL fire. Rodgers is the lone exception, otherwise today's young guns learn the game lining up under center, not carrying a clipboard.

It's time to figure out how you would spend your Andrew Luck Sweepstakes winnings -- drafting the wunderkind QB or acquiring much NFL wealth in return for the rights to draft him.

Again, congratulations on your inclusion in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes. Ed McMahon (may he rest in peace) won't show up at your door, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell just might.

Oh, and purchase is not necessary to win -- just keep taking the field each Sunday. The rest will take care of itself.

Affectionately,

The Andrew Luck Sweepstakes Committee.

Contact News Tribune sports editor Rick Lubbers at rlubbers@duluthnews.com or (218) 723-5317.

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