The Vikings aren't where they would want to be with a 1-3 record, but they are only one game out of first place in the division.
Despite the Vikings' disappointing 1-3 start, the franchise finds itself in far better shape than it probably deserves because it resides in what is proving to be an extremely mediocre division.
Minnesota might be two games under .500, but that is still good enough to be a game behind first-place Chicago and Green Bay (both 2-2) in the NFC North. The Vikings are a half-game up on Detroit (0-3).
But this doesn't mean the Vikings have a whole lot of wiggle room to work with after a 30-17 loss Sunday in which Tennessee turned three Minnesota turnovers into 21 points.
If the Vikings lose Monday night at New Orleans, their odds of being a serious playoff contender become relatively small. According to STATS, LLC, nine of 173 teams (5.2 percent) have made the playoffs since 1970 after starting 1-4. In the same time span, 28 of 266 teams (10.5 percent) have qualified for the postseason after starting 1-3. The San Diego Chargers did it last season, finishing with an 11-5 record and atop the AFC West.
The Vikings will follow the Saints with division games against Detroit at home and Chicago on the road before their bye week.
"With the three NFC games coming up, it's easy for me to say it's not how you start, (but) it's how you finish," coach Brad Childress said. "It is how you finish, how you learn as you go and how you improve."
In order to improve, the Vikings will clean up the many mistakes they made against the Titans. Those included four turnovers (three fumbles and an interception) that Tennessee turned into 21 points. Penalties and dropped passes also were an issue.
"Our guys are smart enough to look at some of the circumstances and realize that at times we're our own worst enemy," Childress said. "We need to pick ourselves up. The answers are in that locker room."
QB Gus Frerotte was sacked twice and hit on numerous occasions in the Vikings' loss to Tennessee on Sunday. It was Frerotte's second start since he took over for Tarvaris Jackson. Frerotte, who completed 25 of 43 passes for 266 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, departed the game late in the fourth quarter after suffering a laceration on his left (non-throwing) hand that required stitches. He said he would be ready to go next Monday night against New Orleans.
RB Adrian Peterson was held under 100 yards rushing for the second consecutive game, gaining 80 yards on 18 carries (a 4.4 average) with two touchdowns. His long run of 28 yards went for his first score of the day. He also got into the end zone from 3 yards out. Peterson, who added four catches for 21 yards, did lose a fumble in the second quarter that gave the Titans the ball on the Vikings 11-yard line and resulted in a Tennessee touchdown.
RB Chester Taylor had only one rushing attempt for no yards, a week after being handed the ball a season-high 11 times (he gained 44 yards) in a 20-10 victory over Carolina. Taylor was used more against the Panthers in large part because Adrian Peterson was nursing a sore hamstring entering that game. Taylor also did not catch a pass in a game for the first time this season against the Titans. He entered Sunday leading the Vikings with seven receptions.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe had four catches for 47 yards against the Titans and is now third on the Vikings with 10 receptions for 129 yards this season. Shiancoe has been plagued by dropped passes in his two seasons with Minnesota, but in the past two weeks he has six receptions for 85 yards.
WR Bernard Berrian has failed to live up to expectations in his first four games with the Vikings. Signed to a six-year, $42 million free-agent contract last March, Berrian had two dropped passes against the Titans. One came on a deep strike from Gus Frerotte in the second quarter on a play that could have gone for a 44-yard touchdown. In the past two weeks, Berrian has failed to catch two balls that were thrown slightly behind him. Berrian also forced Frerotte to use the Vikings' final timeout of the game Sunday because the receiver did not hear the play call in the huddle and went to the wrong side of the formation.
WR Sidney Rice was active for Sunday's game after sitting out the previous week because of a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Rice, however, was extremely limited in how much he could do and finished with only one reception for 6 yards.
WR Bobby Wade had a career-best seven catches for 75 yards in the loss to his former Tennessee teammates. Wade led the Vikings last year with a career-high 54 catches and leads the team again this season with 13. That puts him two ahead of Bernard Berrian, who is considered the Vikings' No. 1 receiver.
S Madieu Williams has returned to the practice field on a limited basis after being out since early in training camp because of a neck injury. Williams, signed to a six-year, $33 million free agent deal during the offseason that included almost $13 million guaranteed, isn't expected to be ready to play in a game until late October.
LB E.J. Henderson was benched for the opening defensive series against the Titans for disciplinary reasons and then suffered two dislocated toes on his left foot in the second quarter. Henderson attempted to return after being injured but eventually was forced from the game. He underwent an MRI on Monday, and more information on his condition should be available Thursday, when the Vikings return to practice.
CB Cedric Griffin, in his second full season as a starter, seems to be getting picked on by opponents on a more consistent basis each week. This is in part because Griffin plays opposite hard-hitting veteran Antoine Winfield, but at this point, teams also know they can hit on some significant pass plays against Griffin. Griffin, by the way, has not had an interception since his rookie season in 2006, when he picked off two passes.