Vikings' and Cowboys' 0-2 starts among the early surprises in the 2010 NFL season

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 26, 2010; 12:11 AM

When three of Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings teammates went to the quarterback's home in Mississippi last month and convinced him to play a second season with the team, the clear expectation in the Twin Cities was that Favre and the club would go a step further than they did last season and reach the Super Bowl.

This season also began with seemingly realistic Super Bowl aspirations in Dallas, with the Cowboys coming off a division-winning season and hoping to play in the sport's showcase event in February as well as hosting it at their palatial second-year stadium in Arlington, Tex.

Much has changed in only two weeks of the new season, as the Vikings and Cowboys surprisingly are among the eight NFL teams with 0-2 records. They'll be playing Sunday to try to keep their seasons from unraveling any further, with the Vikings hosting the also-winless Detroit Lions and the Cowboys playing the unbeaten Texans in Houston.

"It's always easy to keep winning and tough to turn it around," former NFL coach Dan Reeves said. "People were kind of anointing those two teams as Super Bowl contenders, and no one expected this to happen. But it's not time to panic in both cases. It's tough to start 0-2. But it's still better to lose your first two games of the season than your last two games of the season."

So it goes in the NFL, with a business model designed to keep all franchises on relatively even financial footing so that each team can begin each season with Super Bowl dreams.

There wasn't much Super Bowl talk entering this season about the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Chicago Bears. But they're among the league's eight 2-0 teams. The Bears, at least, are only four seasons removed from reaching a Super Bowl and had a comparatively decent record of 7-9 last season. The Chiefs and Buccaneers totaled only seven wins last season under a pair of rookie head coaches, Kansas City's Todd Haley and Tampa's Raheem Morris.

"Both of those teams made changes," Reeves said. "They're both in sort of rebuilding mode, and their young players are really coming through."

The story of the season

But the bigger early-season focus has been the so-far-disappointing teams. The Vikings beat the Cowboys soundly in a conference semifinal last season before losing at New Orleans in overtime in the NFC championship game. Favre has called last season his best by far, as he had 33 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions and finished fourth in the league most valuable player balloting.

Favre underwent offseason ankle surgery and again flirted with retirement, finally joining the Vikings in mid-August for his 20th NFL season. Favre turns 41 in October. He's a grandfather. He missed offseason workouts, training camp and part of the preseason.

But he'd followed a similar script when readying for last season and he still had thrived, so there were reasons for Favre and the Vikings to believe that things might go just as smoothly this time around. Thus far, that hasn't happened.

Favre has one touchdown pass and four interceptions in the season's first two games. He also has lost a fumble, and the Minnesota offense has sputtered badly in losses to the Saints and Miami Dolphins. The Vikings have totaled 19 points in two games and have desperately missed wide receiver Sidney Rice, who is expected to be sidelined for at least half the season after undergoing hip surgery.

Favre's slow start has produced whispers that the Vikings might have to turn to backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Five quarterbacks league-wide were benched during last weekend's games and former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said, "There should have been one more and that would have been Minnesota."

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