The early betting line on the Vikings-Colts game Sunday has the Vikings as a 1½-point favorite.
That is moderately epic, because it has been almost a year since the Vikings were a road favorite – for the record it was Week 4 of last year when the Vikings lost to Kansas City 22-17. But even more surprising is that, if the Vikings win Sunday, which the Boys from The Outfit say should happen, it will be considerably rarer than most Vikings fans would think.
Since 2001, a span of 11 seasons, the Vikings have started 2-0 just three times. The last time was in 2009, when the Vikings rolled up a 12-4 record and ran all the way to New Orleans and the NFC Championship Game. Before we get ahead ourselves, however, the other two seasons in which the Viking started 2-0, they finished 6-10 and 9-7, respectively, and missed the playoffs both years.
The good news, however, is that the Vikings started 0-2 the last two seasons and never recovered from the early hole they dug themselves. To get off to a 2-0 start – even if they’ve been favored to win both – is the ideal elixir for the hangover-style headache Vikings fans have had the last two years.
Just as a 0-2 start creates a panic mode in a team that often leaves them with little alternative than to run off a series of wins to attempt to make up for the early deficit, a 2-0 start leaves wiggle room for struggles down the line. Since 2008, only two teams that started 0-2 made the playoffs, one of them being the 2008 Vikings (lest we forget Frerotte Mania). Almost two-thirds of the teams that have started 2-0 since 1990 made the playoffs. Granted, the Vikings have posted two of the non-playoff teams in that scenario.
For now, the Vikings were just happy to pull a win last Sunday from the jaws of defeat.
“Our biggest thing was finish. We said that before the game,” receiver Percy Harvin said. “Coach, he didn’t scream at us, but he reiterated that at halftime and everybody was just finish, finish, finish. He said it (Monday) in the team meetings, to be on the opposite side of that this year felt a little bit better.”
A 2-0 start won’t guarantee the Vikings anything but bragging rights early on in the 2012 season, but, for the first time in three years, Vikings fans will be walking tall on Monday and, given the fact that Chicago is playing at Green Bay and Detroit is playing at San Francisco, when Monday arrives, the Vikings, if the Vegas odds hold true, will stand alone atop the NFC North.
No Vikings missed Wednesday’s practice, but a pair of starters – cornerback Chris Cook (biceps) and center John Sullivan (ankle) were limited. Adrian Peterson had full participation in practice – a sign that he proved enough to coaches and medical staff Sunday that he is ready and willing to take on a full workload. However, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Monday that he didn’t anticipate Peterson becoming a 20-carry-a-game back this week.
Three Colts missed practice Wednesday – linebackers Dwight Freeney (ankle) and Pat Angerer (foot) and guard Joe Rietz (knee). Starting right tackle Winston Justice was limited with post-concussion symptoms.
The Vikings put a couple of Jaguars on the injury list in their Week 1 win. Running back Rashad Jennings, who ostensibly was supposed to replace Maurice Jones-Drew, suffered a knee injury that could sideline him for a week or two and right tackle Cameron Bradfield could also miss time after being abused by Brian Robison after suffering a knee injury of his own.
The Packers play at Lambeau Field tonight in the Thursday night opener of Week 2 when they host the Bears (a game available to those with NFL Network). If the Packers lost tonight, not only will they be 0-2, but they will have lost to the team viewed as their primary competition for the No. 1 seed in the NFC (San Francisco) and their hated rival Chicago at home.
Vikings fans have something to be happy about when they look at the standings. For unknown reasons, whenever teams have the same record, regardless of the better division or conference record, until Week 17, they are listed alphabetically. This isn’t good for the Vikings, who are the last alphabetically in the NFC North, but, after one week, three teams in the NFC North are 1-0, while the Packers stand alone in the divisional basement.
Speaking of the Packers, the primary beneficiary if Greg Jennings misses the game with a groin injury (he is listed as doubtful) is Donald Driver. The “Dancing With the Stars” winner wasn’t exactly dancing with playing time against the 49ers. In the season opener with the Packers, Driver was on the field for just three plays.
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.