The balance of power just shifted in the NFL.
One team that entered this season as a contender made a move earlier this week that undoubtedly boosted its Super Bowl odds. A move that cemented its status atop a highly competitive division. A move that demands the attention of opposing conference elites. The kind of move you will look back on when they produce the "2018: A Football Life" and say, "That was it. That was the move. That was when they showed the rest of the league they were not messing around and were indeed all in."
You know exactly the move I'm talking about ...
The Patriots traded for Josh Gordon, because of course they did. But don't give that a second thought, Browns. The Raiders never, ever regretted trading Randy Moss to New England for peanuts -- or sending a first-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for (post-prime) Richard Seymour. Seriously, why do these teams insist on helping the Pats every year? I have guys like this in my fantasy leagues, and I just don't get it.
Still, in acquiring the talented-but-troubled Gordon, New England went from AFC front-runner to ... AFC front-runner? Hardly earth-shattering stuff. No, I like the Vikes' pickup so much more. Let's real talk this.
Kicking woes have become a full-blown epidemic in the NFL. I know this is a "copycat league," so it only makes sense that once one team couldn't make an extra point, the rest would follow suit.
Let's start with the Browns. Zane Gonzalez -- whose 43-yard field-goal attempt was blocked at the end of overtime in Week 1, locking in a tie vs. Pittsburgh -- just lived every kicker's nightmare in Week 2. The second-year pro missed two field goals and two extra points, dooming Cleveland in a 21-18 loss at New Orleans. If not for this epic kicker meltdown, the Browns could've had their first victory since LeBron James left. Wait, LeBron just left for the Lakers over the summer. Guys, I mean when LeBron first left The Land via "The Decision." First win since then. Or at least it feels that way. In a related story: Gonzalez is now looking for work.
Last week's kickerpocalypse hindered good teams, too. The Ramslost Greg Zuerlein in warmups and were forced to hand placekicking duties to punter Johnny Hekker. This could have been a major problem ... if Los Angeles' opponent wasn't Arizona. The Cardinals managed a grand total of 137 total yards and five first downs in that 34-0 blowout, failing to even venture into Rams territory until the final minute of the game. And hey, Hekker made both kicks that he tried (a 20-yard field goal and an extra point), because the guy is just very good at kicking footballs.
But this stuff really hits home with the Vikings. Daniel Carlson missed all three of his field-goal attempts in last Sunday's 29-29 tie with Green Bay, including two would-be game winners in overtime, the last of which was pushed wide right from just 35 yards out. This prevented Minnesota from getting a huge road win at Lambeau Field. (And it must be noted: The Packers should be 0-2 with two home division losses to start the season. Amazing.)
Coach Mike Zimmer wasted no time in making the decision to cut Carlson, for whom the team squandered a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Football can be a cruel business. Zimmer was Captain Cold when asked about Carlson's release on Monday.
Zimmer: "Did you see the game?"
Reporter: "Was it an easy decision?"
Zimmer: "Yep, pretty easy."
Zimmer handled that like a stay-at-home mom dealing with Amazon Prime after the diaper delivery's a day late. Seriously, I want Zimmer to negotiate my next DirecTV call -- I'd be getting HBO free for a year. This dude is cold-blooded. And I love it. You should hold your players to this level of accountability. And when it comes to this particular franchise and this particular position, you just can't have any patience at all for volatility.
That was bad. But was it bad enough to drive dialogue on "How I Met your Mother," like Gary Anderson's 38-yard miss in the 1998 NFC Championship Game? Seriously, it was actually a punchline for the famed "Little Minnesota" episode. Any time a Minnesotan slams his/her hand on a table and screams, "Damn!" one can only assume they are talking about the '98 NFC title game.
Yes, he endured some struggles last season, but he was working through back and groin injuries. He's still made 88.2 percent of his career field-goal attempts, the second-highest mark in NFL history (trailing only Justin Tucker).
Minnesota was already such a well-rounded team -- this was the last piece of the puzzle. You've got Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. That absurdly loaded defense. The Vikings don't have another weakness. I mean, besides Laquon Treadwell. But you're digging pretty deep if your third receiver is giving you the most trouble.
ONE MORE THING: The Bucs stop here
I love everything about Ryan Fitzpatrick. I also love happy hour. But I know it's best to get home before last call. And it seems like Bucs fans should heed the same advice. Enjoy FitzMagic while it lasts, but know that the close is as inevitable as the Death Star getting blown up at the end of Episode IV. And VI. And Star Killer Base in VII.