Vikings find company in Week 1 struggles

The Vikings weren't alone in being a playoff contender to struggle in Week 1. A number of defending division champions and playoff hopefuls fell flat, especially those teams on the road.

For Vikings fans that were on the ledge late Thursday and early Friday following the Vikings' loss to the Saints, Sunday gave them a calmer dose of reality. No matter how high a team's expectations are, the undefeated season just doesn't happen. Several teams have pushed the envelope over the last 35 years, but nobody has made it happen. If you look at the rest of Week 1, you saw a lot of things that can make Vikings fans realize they are far from alone.

First and foremost was the home-field factor. By virtue of being division champion, the Vikings had to play the division champion of the NFC South, which was New Orleans. They got the game on the road and got it out of the way first. Through 14 games of Week 1, only three road teams won – next week's opponent Miami at hapless Buffalo, the division rival Packers at Philadelphia and Arizona at woeful St. Louis. In the other 11 games, the home team held serve, leaving a lot of teams like the Vikings on the wrong end of the Week 1 slate.

When you look at all the predictions that have come down in the recent days and weeks about potential Super Bowl champs, the Vikings have been in that discussion and they started 0-1. The Cincinnati Bengals are the defending division champ in the competitive AFC North and they got slammed on the road by the Patriots. A trendy Super Bowl pick by those trying to make a "roll of the dice" September prediction, are the Bengals through after starting 0-1? No. Indianapolis won't have to worry about when to play or sit their starters after getting done by Houston and giving wing to Arian Nation by allowing running back Arian Foster to light them up for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Are the Colts done? When all is said and done, expect them to have their usual 12 wins or more – even though they are currently in sole possession of last place in their division.

The Falcons have been a trendy pick to emerge as the power team in the NFC South and many think they will overtake the Saints, but not if they play like they did at Pittsburgh in Week 1 when they lost 15-9 in overtime. Are they in panic mode? Not likely. San Francisco was everybody's pick to win the NFC West and they got shot, gutted, cooked and served 31-6 by the Seahawks, which I thought was the weakest of the four teams the Vikings played in the preseason. Should the 49ers pack it up in San Fran and call off the season? Nope.

The vaunted Cowboys lost their road opener against Washington in a strange game against the Redskins and many saw Dallas steamrolling to the division title. The Cowboys dug themselves an early hole by dropping a division game out of the gate, but it is far from a given that a Week 1 loss is a crippling blow to the 2010 season.

A couple of teams that stood out were in the same game – for better and worse. The Packers looked awfully good up until Michael Vick freelanced his way back into getting the Eagles close. To hear Aaron Rodgers talk, the Packers stunk out the joint – a scary thought since the Eagles never got to a point where they could win the game with a score. But, a Week 1 home loss to the 2009 playoff-bound Eagles – much less seeing the Kevin Kolb era get detoured two quarters into its reign – has the Packers on track. The way Vick played was, in its own way, was like Randall Cunningham played in 1998 when Brad Johnson got hurt. The team needed an excuse to get him on the field and Kolb's concussion did that. If Vick continues to impress, the Eagles could become a locker room divided – a death knell in the NFL.

Better yet, two Super Bowl picks of many projectors – the Ravens and Jets – will meet tonight and one of them will have to lose. Will that pull the plug on their title hopes? No. So it shouldn't for Vikings fans. Next week is a new week.

The Vikings went 12-4 last year, winning all eight home games and going 4-4 on the road. Nothing about Thursday's loss has changed that same scenario playing out this year. If the Vikings finish 12-4 again, they'll be resting in the first week of the playoffs and starting 0-1 will mean nothing.

MONDAY NOTES

  • The Vikings are reportedly going to bring in a host of veteran wide receivers this week for workouts – former Raven Demetrius Williams, former Packer Ruvell Martin, former Patriot Sam Aiken and former Eagle Reggie Brown. The team continues to be the subject of rumors that they are working on some sort of sign-and-trade agreement with the San Diego Chargers to obtain Vincent Jackson.

  • The hardest part of the Jackson situation is that, as a holdout, he is on the reserve/did-not-report list. If traded to another team, he would likely have to serve his suspension after signing or reporting to a team – whether the Vikings, Chargers or someone else. That may be the poison pill in the ointment.

  • On the other end of a Jackson deal is that, if he was signed to a low-ball, one-year contract, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

  • The Vikings may have a significant competitive advantage over Miami. The Vikings have been resting since Friday and healing up from the early aches and pains. Miami had to travel to Buffalo for their first game and will have to board a plane Saturday to get to Minneapolis to play the Vikings Sunday. While it may not seem like much to fans, there is something to be said about severe travel schedules taking a lot out of teams. West coast teams that play 1 p.m. Eastern times game on the East coast have a horrible record of success. The same can be said for the interruption in the regular weekly routine the Dolphins will go through heading into their Week 2 game with the Vikings. It shapes up to be an unseen, but perhaps significant, edge for the purple.

  • Brett Favre has become his own buzz phrase – the Favre Treatment. Reports this weekend said that several key Arizona Cardinal players in recent months gave Kurt Warner, who retired after last season, "the Favre Treatment." He was called, e-mailed and texted by teammates begging him to return for another season. Unlike Favre, he wasn't bagged, tagged and delivered to the Cardinals' training facility.

  • Favre has also become the epitome of people who change their minds. Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel referred to the controversial, attention-seeking, T-shirt wearing pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla. – who has been receiving more than his 15 minutes of fame claiming he was going to publicly burn a copy of the Quran, the Islamic bible – as "the Brett Favre of book burning." Jones has said he was going to conduct the Quran burning, only to flip-flop three different times, turning him into something of a joke – T-shirt or not.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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