Four thoughts from a fascinating weekend in sports:
• Usually it's far too dramatic to declare that one play changed the balance of power in the NFC North and perhaps the entire NFL, but Aaron Rodgers' injury early in the Vikings' 23-10 victory over Green Bay qualifies as such.
Rodgers' broken collarbone turned the Packers — the Las Vegas favorites to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC early this season — into just another team. The predictable loss that followed the injury, with Brett Hundley looking overmatched against a fierce Vikings defense, created a tie atop the NFC North standings at 4-2.
It's too early to declare Hundley is out of his league. We all saw Vikings backup Case Keenum struggle mightily in his first start against Pittsburgh, only to perform much better as time went on. But Colin Kaepernick is out there. Tony Romo could be an option.
All that said: None of those guys is Rodgers. Nobody is.
• Just as it's too soon to make any judgments about the Packers' quarterback situation after one in-game switch, the same applies to the Gophers and Demry Croft.
Subbing for ineffective Conor Rhoda, Croft threw three touchdown passes for Minnesota in a rally that came up just short in a 30-27 loss to Michigan State. That's a hard environment in which to fully evaluate a quarterback.
But if this is "Year Zero," as head coach P.J. Fleck likes to say, then there will be plenty of time for evaluation. The Gophers need to use the rest of the year to find out what they have in Croft since they already know what they have in Rhoda.
• The various injuries that have knocked four of the Wild's top forwards out of the lineup early this season — Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle — would seem to be most damaging to Minnesota's offense. Those four players accounted for 88 of the team's 263 goals last season, a little more than one-third of them.
In Saturday's home opener against Columbus, however, it seemed the absence of those four forwards had as much (or more) impact on the Wild's defense.
The Wild was outshot in the 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus by a 35-21 margin, and the puck possession seemed tilted in the Blue Jackets' favor by about the same margin. Losing so many skilled forwards creates those deficits and creates more chances for the opponent — something that happened Saturday even though the Wild managed four goals with a depleted lineup.
• Several successful MLB teams of recent vintage have changed the narrative around baseball, tilting it away from top-notch starting pitching and toward a lights-out bullpen as a recipe for playoff success.
It was a throwback weekend, then, for the Astros. They showed that starting pitching can still carry the day, getting seven shutout innings from Dallas Keuchel and then a full nine innings from Justin Verlander in back-to-back 2-1 victories over the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.