Full panic will set in if quarterback Daunte Culpepper does not turn things around against the Saints.
Going against Tampa Bay coordinator Monte Kiffin's defense in Week 1 and Bengals coach and defensive guru Marvin Lewis in Week 2, Culpepper looked awful. He has thrown eight interceptions and accounted for 10 of the Vikings' 12 turnovers in the two losses.
Culpepper has been a stand-up guy about his struggles and addressed the media Monday in the Winter Park locker room when it would have been easy to remain scarce. But he must prove he can be as cool, calm and collected on the field as he is in front of the cameras.
There is no question Culpepper is seeing different defensive looks this season with Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss in Oakland. But these formations, i.e. eight men in the box, aren't anything out of the ordinary and should make Culpepper's life easier, not more difficult.
The Saints, no doubt, will attempt to exploit every weakness Culpepper has shown in his first eight quarters of football.
Culpepper banged up his right knee against Tampa Bay in the opener, limiting his mobility. But against a Saints team that should be tired after playing Monday night against the Giants, Culpepper will get a chance to end his slump.
He had a career day against the Saints in 2004, throwing for 425 yards and tying his career high with five touchdown passes in a 38-31 victory in a Sunday night game.
It wouldn't be shocking if Tice takes a much more active role in play-calling starting with this game. New offensive coordinator Steve Loney also could find himself no longer on the sideline but up in the press box assisting the head coach.
The one offensive positive entering Sunday's game is that the Vikings line did appear to make improvements against the Bengals after a subpar performance from center Cory Withrow and rookie right guard Marcus Johnson in Week 1.
Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, meanwhile, seems to be set on confusing opponents with multiple looks, including 3-4 and 3-3-5 alignments in Week 1 and shifting Pro Bowl under tackle Kevin Williams to end in certain situations in Week 2.
Members of the Vikings defense say there is more to come and the Saints are likely to see Cottrell's latest sets Sunday. Cottrell will have to hope this unit plays more like it did in the opener against Tampa Bay (345 yards allowed) than it did versus Cincinnati (504 yards).
But the real responsibility for the defense's performance is on the offense. The Vikings were on the field for 62 plays in the first game and a whopping 79 in the second.
That simply can't happen again.
An 0-3 start wouldn't be the end of the world for the Vikings playoff hopes, thanks to the fact they are playing in what is shaping up to be the NFL's worst division, but it would give new owner Zygi Wilf plenty of ammunition if he wanted to make a coaching change.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
SAINTS GAME PLAN
With the Vikings struggling on offense, the Saints defense has to come up with ways to make that continue. The Saints, who have been hammered by the Vikings offense in the past, have done a much better job in the first two games than they did last year and rank 16th in total yards allowed. But keeping the Vikings in check, especially with a dangerous Daunte Culpepper lurking, will be the key. Stopping the run early in the game will allow them to play more man-to-man coverages, which they're much more comfortable doing.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
The Saints finished Monday's game against the Giants with only three healthy wide receivers — Joe Horn, Donte Stallworth and Devery Henderson — after Michael Lewis sustained a left knee injury on a kickoff return with 6:31 left in the game.
Lewis has been placed on injured reserve, which means that Az-Zahir Hakim, who missed the Giants' game with a hamstring injury, or Henderson, a second-year pro, will be the third receiver at Minnesota. Nate Poole, who was with the Saints in training camp, was signed to take Lewis' spot on the 63-man roster.
Lewis' injury also severely impacts the kick return and kick coverage units. Stallworth will likely return punts against the Vikings, while Aaron Stecker will be the main kickoff return man. As one of the fastest players on the team, Lewis is also valued for his skills on the punt and kickoff teams.