Sunday will mark the first time the Minnesota Vikings have been a favorite in a game this season. Although many Vikings fans were surprised to see Minnesota installed as a five-point underdog to the Detroit Lions in the opener. The same held true when they were a seven-point underdog at Chicago. But, after starting the season 0-2, the Vikings have proven the odds-makers right and have started the season 0-2.
They're in pretty good company. The Redskins, Giants, Panthers and Steelers are in the same boat as the Vikings – teams that entered the season with playoff aspirations but find themselves at 0-2 through the first two games. But, like the Vikings, the holes that those teams have dug are shallow enough to still able to be able to get out of, but it's not easy to accept – especially for the Vikings, who had chances to win both of their first two games but came up empty.
"It's a tough pill to swallow," linebacker Erin Henderson said. "It's a very difficult thing for us to deal with as a team, but we understand it's a long season. We have 14 games left and the most important one is this one coming up because it's the next game. We've got to go out there and get to 1-2. We can only get one win at a time and that's our goal for Sunday."
Historically, teams that start 0-2 tend to struggle in the long-term. In 2011, the Vikings started 0-2 and finished 3-13. In 2010, coming off a 12-4 season that didn't end until the NFC Championship Game, the Vikings started 0-2 and things unraveled from there, finishing 6-10. Eleven times in franchise history, the Vikings have started a season 0-2. Only twice have they finished with a winning record – 9-7 in 2005 and 10-6 in 2008, when they were part of last trio of NFL teams to start 0-2 and make the playoffs.
Defensive tackle Fred Evans was a member of that 2008 team and sees a lot of similarities between the Vikings of that season and the 2013 Vikings. That season, the Vikings lost their first two games by a total of eight points, but they had chances to win both games and never lost their focus. They were able to turn things around and he sees that possibility again with this year's team.
"The biggest problem is that we had the chance to be 2-0 and we didn't take advantage of it," Evans said. "We didn't play like we thought we should in Detroit and hurt ourselves too much. We had our chances in Chicago, but just didn't get it done. We made mistakes, but the mistakes we made are correctible. If we go out and do our business like we know we can, we can get this thing right."
Desmond Bishop isn't accustomed to being in this position. In his six years with the Packers, he was never on a team that started 0-2, so this is breaking new ground for him. But, like his teammates, he believes the Vikings' slow start isn't anything that they can't get past or recover from. The margin for error has been greatly reduced, but part of being a pro is not getting too elated with wins or too down over losses.
"Nobody wants to be 0-2 at this point," Bishop said. "I think it would be different if we left the field in Detroit or Chicago saying that those teams were better than us. We thought we should have won both of those. We didn't and now we move forward. You can't spend too much time dwelling on a win or a loss because the next opponent is coming up and if you spend too much time on what happened last week, you're not focusing on what's in front of you. We can't change what has happened. We can change what happens from here on."
The good news for the Vikings is that they are a touchdown favorite to win their first game Sunday. Will it be the win that turns their season around? Perhaps, but the Vikings aren't looking beyond what is directly in front of them because, just as they have to forget the losses in the first two games, they will have to also ignore the consequence of Sunday's game after it's over – win or lose.
"You never really know how a season is going to play out," Henderson said. "You never know what game is going to be the game that makes the difference or gets you going or is a confidence-builder. Right now, we've got to go out and put our best foot forward on Sunday and try to put everything together – all three phases playing on the same page – and get the job done as a team."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Vikings history, reaction to 0-2 start
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