As the sun comes up this morning, there are only seven teams that are 0-2 – less than 25 percent. In a symmetrical world in 2010, if the Saints beat San Francisco tonight in Week Two's final game, there will be eight teams that are 2-0, eight teams that are 0-2 and 16 teams that are 1-1. The Vikings could have envisioned themselves in either of the other two groups that they're in after two games, but to be in the bottom 25 percent? Not a chance.
There are a couple of things wrong with the even distributions of teams at the top and the bottom. All four teams in the NFC North are in one of the top or bottom 25 percent. The Vikings trail not one, but two teams that have started out 2-0. The Packers have gone on the road and beaten the Eagles and gutted the Bills. The Bears got a questionable win in Week 1 over Detroit and went down to the palace in Dallas and put a whippin' on the Cowboys. If the Vikings are to come back to compete for a division title, they have two teams that will remain in front of them well into October at a minimum given the Vikings two losses and pending bye week.
A 0-2 start turned into a success isn't without precedent, even recent precedent. When the Vikings won the division title in 2008, they started 0-2 and benched Tarvaris Jackson in favor of Gus Frerotte. The team didn't rattle off a bunch of wins – at one point or another they were 1-3, 3-4 and 5-5. The team took two months to make up for the early-season futility, two games in which they had trouble scoring and lost two games by a total of eight points (the 2010 Vikings have lost two games by a total of nine points). When the team got on a roll late in the season, winning five of the final six games, they finished 10-6. There is reason to believe that a 10-6 record will make the playoffs – there have been a couple of occasions in league history that a 10-win team hasn't made the postseason – but, given how strong the Packers look early on both sides of the ball, one has to wonder if 10-6 is going to be enough to win the NFC North.
The other, more obvious, question that needs to be asked is whether or not the Vikings we've seen the first two weeks are capable of winning 10 games? Or nine. Or eight. Of the 30 teams that have played two games, the Vikings have scored the fewest points (19) of any team in the league except Buffalo (17). The only other surprise team in the 0-2 category in the NFC is Dallas, who will meet the Vikings at the Metrodome next month. For one of those teams, a loss in that game with make their daunting, self-inflicted canyon even deeper and more difficult to scale. The other 0-2 teams in the NFC are a rogue's gallery of futility – the Rams have a rookie quarterback, the Panthers have a sub-standard QB who has been replaced by a rookie in both games, and the Lions are playing without their starting quarterback. They have viable excuses. The Vikings and Cowboys had their QBs named to the Pro Bowl following the 2009 season and squared off in the last meaningful game played at the Metrodome before Sunday's loss.
The Bears have gotten off to a hot start, but they are likely to fade. The Buccaneers are fraudulent. The teams in the NFC East have all proved one thing – they can get T-boned by good teams and made to look foolish. It's possible 7-9 could win the NFC West. That may be the worst division in league history and a majority of their wins may end up coming in required division games (they're 2-5 as a division to date, the Niners may well make it 2-6 after Monday and both wins came when two teams from the division played each other; the Saints could make them 0-4 against anyone outside the confines of their division.) Just as an 0-2 start doesn't necessarily spell ultimate gloom and doom, some teams that are ahead of the Vikings in the standings currently are assuredly going to crash and burn. They always do.
The brutal start the Vikings have got off to has put them behind the 8-ball early and perhaps projections should be lowered for where the team will finish. But, how absurd is it for fans to be on the ledge after a 0-2 start? Using the league's tie-breaker procedures, if the playoffs started today, the Redskins, Bears, Buccaneers and Seahawks would be the division champions and the Packers and Saints would be the wild cards. How many of those teams do you figure will be in those positions at the end of the season? The Vikings are off to a bad start, no doubt, but it isn't time to tighten the noose and kick out the chair … at least not yet.
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.