Sept. 20, 2005) -- Two weeks into the new season and the two-time defending World Champs have the same record as the team that won only two times all last season. The Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers are 0-2 together for the first time in, well, forever. The Colts are 2-0 thanks to their defense and New Orleans just opened its home schedule in New York.
Talk about impossible to predict.
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Let's keep going: Daunte Culpepper has already thrown more interceptions in two weeks than he had in the first three months last year. The Bengals now own a piece of their division lead. So do the Bears. Those two teams will play each other in Week 3 in what must now be considered a Soldier Field Showdown. The game will be broadcast in Hi-Definition on CBS. The Jets and Dolphins this past week was not.
Minnesota Vikings: Right now you could call them the Yikings, as in what in the Wide, Wide World of Wade Wilson has happened to Daunte Culpepper? Tentative might be the most euphemistic term for the guy who played on tilt all season last year. Lost would be another. Culpepper appears to be trapped in that quarterback netherworld, where he makes weak and dangerous throws when he should pull it down and run, and pulls it down and runs when he should hang in the pocket and exercise more patience with his receivers. Of course, last year he had Randy Moss. But last year he also had Matt Birk, Onterrio Smith and Scott Linehan around to help. Indeed, that's the litany of answers from Vikings watchers to the aforementioned question. No Randy Moss, thus no vertical game to bail Culpepper out should the run game falter, which it is doing in spades what with their perennial Pro Bowl center out for the season (do you think the Vikings are re-thinking that financial decision to let Birk have season-ending surgery?) and Smith trying to get through airport security with the Original Whizzinator (accept no imitations). Michael Bennett was supposed to return from injury and to starting success, but a severe case of fumble-itis has limited him to only nine carries in two games this year. With Linehan now coordinating the Dolphins offense, conventional wisdom has it that there are way too many moving parts in Minnesota for the offense to click anytime soon. On Sunday, their multi-million dollar defense let them down. Sure, Culpepper frequently left his cohorts defending a short field in Cincinnati, but it wasn't Daunte who gave up a 70-yard touchdown to Chad Johnson only two plays into the game.
Silver Lining: The Vikings usually finish up horribly, so maybe they're due for a reversal of fortune and just getting their losses out of the way now before finding their way. Or, maybe they'll still finish that way and they're already doomed. I guess that runs counter to the idea of offering a silver lining.
Next 3 weeks: vs. New Orleans, at Atlanta, bye week. If the Vikings can't get straightened next week against a Saints team that will be spending its third consecutive week on the road, then it could be bye-bye before hitting the bye.
Brett Favre can't be Brett Favre without adequate protection.
Green Bay Packers: For the first time ever, the Packers and Vikings find themselves 0-2 at the same time. Like Culpepper, Brett Favre is missing his deep threat this season, too, with most people pointing to that when troubleshooting Green Bay's issues. But like Culpepper, you must look at the Packers offensive line as the chief source of Favre's woes. Javon Walker could be completely healthy and running gazelle-like into single coverage all the live-long day and Favre still would have trouble getting him the ball. Only two games into the season, Favre already has been sacked as many times (five) as he was sacked during the entire first eight weeks of last season. At this pace, opposing defenses will bag Brett a near David Carr-like 40 times, which would not only tie a career-high for Favre, but would also probably put him on a lawn mower in Mississippi for good. Unlike the Vikings, nobody expected the Packers defense to be vastly improved, so if the offensive struggles continue, we could be in store for our first Packer-less postseason in 5 years. Oh, by the way, with Favre and Culpepper laboring and Joey Harrington matching Daunte pick-for-pick in Week 2, guess who that leaves as the NFC North's leading passer? A guy who was getting ready for the Fighting Illini at this point last year: Chicago's Kyle Orton, which leads to the silver lining ...
Silver Lining: No one is going to run away with this division, and no one else has Brett Favre on their team. On Coachspeak, Jim Mora Sr. called the NFC North football's version of the NL West, meaning .500 could win it ... and maybe the line pulls it together in time for Favre to work yet more magic. They did start 1-4 last year and still won the division. In that light, 0-2 is a walk in the park.
Next 3 weeks: vs. Tampa Bay, at Carolina on MNF, vs. New Orleans. If Green Bay doesn't get its act together in time for Jon Gruden's far improved pirates, it could be 1-4 again ... or worse