It's tough to call a season a lost one or hopeless if your team starts out 0-2. I mean, there's still 14 games left to be played, and anything can happen.
Yes, that part is true, but if you're a team that wants to go to the playoffs, you better not start 0-2. Why?
Since 1990, NFL teams that started -- 2-0 made playoffs 63% of time 1-1 made playoffs 41% of time 0-2 made playoffs 12% of time— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 21, 2015
So yeah, the Vikings needed to beat Detroit Sunday if they wanted a realistic shot at being in the playoff hunt at the end of the year. Now, have the Vikings started 2-0 and not made the playoffs? I'm not going to go back to 1990, because fairly recent history is all we need to answer that question.
Yes, they have. Heck, in 2003 the Vikings started out 6-0 and missed the playoffs, thanks to the Arizona Cardinals and Nate Poole. In 2006 they also started out 2-0 under first year coach Brad Childress, yet ended up 6-10.
Have the Vikings started out 0-2 and made the playoffs?
Yes, they sure have! In 2008, the Vikings started out with opening losses to Green Bay and Indianapolis, and starting QB Tarvaris Jackson was pulled in favor of Gus Frerotte. Frerotte righted the ship, the Vikings went 10-6, and lost to Donovan McNabb and Philadelphia in the wild card round. With Tarvaris Jackson as your starting quarterback.
Did an 0-2 start kill the playoffs for the Vikings in some years? Yep, sure did. 2005, the infamous 'Love Boat' season, the Vikings started out 0-2 in the midst of a disastrous 1-4 start. But after Daunte Culpepper got hurt, the Vikings rallied around Brad Johnson Redux, at one point winning six games in a row. They ended up 9-7 and out of the playoffs, but if they go 1-1 that 9-7 turns to 10-6 and a playoff spot.
Would the Wilf's have fired Mike Tice and hired Chilly at the end of the season if after all that turmoil he guided them to the playoffs? Tough to say. besides the Love Boat scandal, Tice was also caught scalping Super Bowl tickets, so they very well could have. But it would have been tough to pull that trigger.
Just think, win one of those first two games and there's a good chance Brad Childress becomes the Packers coach in 2006 instead of Minnesota's. Remember, Chilly was getting on a plane to Green Bay, and the Vikings wouldn't let him leave.
Yeah, chew on that for a bit. Wash it down with some tequila if you need to. I did.
Now, let's look at some 1-1 starts and see how that turned out. Last year was kind of a weird season with Adrian Peterson's suspension and everything else, so a 7-9 record was actually kind of impressive, all things considered. In 2012, a 1-1 start ended with a 'win and in' scenario in a week 17 matchup against Green Bay at the Metrodome. It was probably Christian Ponder's finest moment as a pro, and Adrian Peterson was chasing the single season rushing record. They led the Vikings to a thrilling 37-34 win and a wildcard spot...while knocking the Packers out of a first round bye. An 0-2 start means the Vikings are playing a meaningless game against the Packers. Or, at best, a 'win and get a lot of help to get in' scenario.
In 2007, the Vikings split their opening games with Atlanta and Detroit, and the last game of the year found them still fighting for a playoff spot at Denver. That was the game where Tarvaris Jackson hit a WIDE OPEN Troy Williamson deep, in stride for an easy touchd---wait, never mind. Williamson tried to use his hands to catch the ball, and he dropped it. Vikings lost, and with it, they lost any chance for a wild card. Not sure how the tiebreakers worked out that year, but had they entered that game at 9-6 and not 8-7, I'm pretty sure they would have controlled their own destiny.
So yes, 0-2 is a big deal. And it's a record I'm glad the Vikings have avoided. Unlike most recent seasons, which also happen to be ones where there was no-post season.