Minnesota's franchise quarterback is out for the season and his future is uncertain. The greatest player in franchise history, Adrian Peterson, was carried to the locker room after injuring his knee past fans enjoying the team's shiny new stadium. Yet the Vikings are one of this season's early standouts because they keep battling. And winning.
Sunday night's 17-14 victory over Green Bay was a reminder that the NFC North can't simply be handed to the Packers. For one night, America witnessed Sam Bradford outplaying Aaron Rodgers. Anything is possible. Bradford withstood 10 QB hits and four sacks to deliver a number of pretty throws, often to breakout No. 1 receiver Stefon Diggs.
Loving the Vikings is never simple and this stadium-christening victory will cause mixed emotions because of Peterson's injury, not to mention the team's leaky offensive line. But this is also a squad that Vikings fans can get behind. Their defense comes at teams with waves of pressure and effort. If Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen don't hit you, Brian Robison or Anthony Barr will. Their secondary forced Aaron Rodgers to hold the ball and improvise too often, leading to three fumbles and a disjointed offense.
Many of these themes were similar late last season when the Vikings stole a division title that has often felt like Rodgers' birthright. Minnesota is missing some big names this time around, but they won't go away easily.
Here were some other winners and losers from Week 2:
A good week for...
The Houston Texans: No NFL team had a better Sunday than the Texans. They earned some measure of revenge for last year's playoff loss by taking out the Kansas City Chiefs 19-12. While the offense was far from perfect, rookie Will Fuller continued to look like an instant impact star across from DeAndre Hopkins.
Perhaps just as important, the Texans have to like what's going on elsewhere. The Jaguars and Colts are both two games back at 0-2. The scheduling gods also came through this week. If the Texans are going to make a trip to Foxborough, it doesn't get much better than against a Patriots team that likely will have to prepare third-string rookie Jacoby Brissett on a short week. J.J. Watt looked far more like himself against Kansas City and Jadeveon Clowney is loaded for a huge season.
Jeff Fisher's expected contract extension: It has been widely reported for weeks that Fisher would be handed a contract extension soon. The timing didn't seem quite right in the wake of the team's shutout loss against the 49ers in Week 1, but don't be surprised if the move is announced this week following the Rams' 9-3 victory over Seattle.
The Rams' defensive line overwhelmed Seattle and Fisher has now beaten Pete Carroll three straight times in three different stadiums. This is what the Rams do. They can stop powerhouse teams in a given week. They can win games in a pass-happy league despite rolling with Case Keenum. The trick will be winning more than seven times, which will be difficult if Todd Gurley continues to struggle to find open holes.
David Johnson is threatening to take over the mantle as the best back in football and Carson Palmer hit some deep shots Sunday after a slow start. Only the Cardinals could put up 40 points with 22 yards combined from John Brown and Michael Floyd. The talent is deep here and the news around the NFC West was favorable. The Seahawks lost in Los Angeles, so there is a four-way tie at 1-1 in the division. The Cardinals have the Bills, Rams and 49ers next on the schedule. That screams 4-1.
A bad week for ...
We'll take the longview. The Bucs are 1-1 after two road games to start the year, with a road division win in pocket. This was a discouraging performance that happens to young teams with new coaching staffs. We're more interested in how they respond.
This loss was on the Dolphins' defense. While Ryan Tannehill was piloting a spirited comeback, the Dolphins' defense gave up an early second half touchdown to Patriots third-stringer Jacoby Brissett. After the Dolphins made it a one-score game with six minutes left, a team that plays complementary football would stop the third-string quarterback backed up by an uneven running game. Instead, the Patriots went on a 13-play drive that chewed up five minutes led by sledgehammer LeGarrette Blount. Stephen Gostkowski's missed field goal doesn't change the reality that Miami's defense gave in. Or that Tannehill played his best when the stakes were low.
Cousins has missed open throws and has not looked calm in the pocket. A player with his limited skill set needs to win from the neck up and Cousins is making too many mental mistakes. He was outplayed Sunday by Dallas' rookie Dak Prescott.
If nothing else, Cousins' inability to shoot straight the last two weeks has distracted the masses from McCloughan's failure to improve the Redskins' defense or line play on either side of the ball. Washington's 0-2 start feels darker than most because both losses were at home, and it's unclear what this team's identity is supposed to be.
Jaguars' offseason spending: Jacksonville's pass rush hasn't showed up in back-to-back weeks, with Malik Jackson being particularly quiet. The offense has also took a step back Sunday, with running back Chris Ivory on the sideline again. Blake Bortles' slow starts to games is becoming a trend that needs to change. On Sunday in San Diego, the Jaguars couldn't even grab those second-half fantasy points in a comeback that never materialized.
Derek Carr is doing his part, but all the offseason acquisitions for Oakland have not panned out thus far. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has struggled to get this group to play consistently throughout his tenure and will be under fire this week. Giving up 35 points to the Saints in the Superdome is one thing. Giving up 35 points to the Falcons in Oakland is another.