Spend enough time around the NFL and you'll hear a common refrain from players and coaches alike.
They often say things are never as good as you think they are, and aren't as bad as they appear, either.
Perhaps that's a good way to look at the Vikings, who are 0-1 entering Week 2 after an overtime loss to the Bengals.
Chad Graff of The Athletic recently posted some observations about the team. Like the mantra above, he had both positive and negative notes about Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's team.
Let's start with a positive. The Vikings did enough to win Sunday. They had a better expected points added per play than the Bengals on offense and defense. Their efficiency wasn't going to take the NFL by storm (they ranked 18th on offense and 16th on defense after Sunday's games), but it was enough to win the game.
But you can't win when you take 12 penalties (15 including the declined ones) to the three your opponent was flagged for. You can't win when you blow a solid first half defensively by allowing two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the second quarter.
Zimmer's third-down defense is still really good. The Vikings held the Bengals to three conversions on 14 third downs. It's hard to lose when you're that good there. Part of his bet on defense this season was that they could stop the run on early downs and his scheme would beat yours on third down. So far, so good on that front.
Zimmer rattled off many of the same items Monday as areas he was pleased about from Sunday's game.
But he did mention the penalties multiple times, which is where Graff also started in terms of areas where Minnesota needs to quickly improve.
This is a veteran team with a veteran coach. There's no excuse for those penalties. Zimmer said some of them, like the illegal-formation infractions, usually result in a warning from the referee first, but the Vikings never got that luxury Sunday. Others were quite predictable.
Bashaud Breeland has a track record of taking penalties, so it's hard to feign surprise when he's whistled for a 26-yard pass interference that set up the Bengals' go-ahead touchdown at the end of the first half.
As for the holding penalties, how can you be surprised when the offensive line struggled throughout training camp? They were overmatched again.
The Vikings offensive line faces another tough test Sunday, as Arizona's Chandler Jones recording a whopping five sacks in the season opener.
Defensively, the Vikings will have their hands full with a Cardinals aerial attack that accounted for four scores on Sunday. Arizona scored 38 points, tied for the second-most in the league in Week 2.
Graff's full list of Week 1 observations can be found here.
Kickoff between the Vikings and Cardinals is at 3:05 p.m. (CT) from State Farm Stadium in Glendale.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Cardinals.
Craig analyzes NFC North after winless Week 1
The NFC North had a Week 1 to forget, as every team in the division took a loss.
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune recently took a look around the division to see how each team fared and noted that a certain team in Purple is actually ahead in the standings.
If the NFL season ended today, your Minnesota Vikings would be … crowned champions of the NFC North!
Skol! Right? No?
Yes, it is that bad in the league's only fully defeated division.
The Vikings, Packers, Bears and Lions opened the 2021 season by allowing 140 points and losing by a combined 66 on Sunday. Because the Vikings were the only team to not lose to an NFC opponent, they get the conference-record tiebreaker and therefore sit atop the worst division in football.
The Vikings, of course, fell 27-24 in overtime to the Bengals. Detroit lost by eight (41-33) to San Francisco, while Chicago (34-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams) and Green Bay (38-3 loss to New Orleans) suffered larger defeats.
Craig wrote that while each team has concerns going forward, at least they can take solace in the fact that they're all even in the win-loss column at the moment.
Fortunately for the Packers, Vikings, Bears and Lions, there were nothing but long, disappointing days for the NFC North in Week 1.