In his third season as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Brad Childress finally has accomplished what his system engenders--a .500 coaching record. This year's 10-6 regular season finish has put the exclamation point on that system, leading not only to a playoff berth but also to the team's first ever NFC North banner.
The Vikings started the season losing three of four games to teams with a combined record of 43-21 (.672). They followed that with an 8-3 streak against teams with a combined record of 74-102 (.420).
During the team's 1-3 start, the Vikings were outscored by 11 points or just under 3 points per game. That was slightly better than the league average against the same opponents of being outscored by 4 points per game.
In the subsequent 8-3 streak, the Vikings outscored their opponents by 53 points or just under 5 points per game. That, too, was slightly better than the league average of outscoring these same opponents by just over two points per game.
All of which suggests that the Vikings finished right about where their on-field performance suggests that they should have finished--near the middle of the pack, not too far from the top but also not too far from the top-rung of the bottom third of the league.
Last year, such results would have been cause for concern for any team heading into the playoffs. For most 2008 playoff teams, the same cannot be said.
The Vikings, however, face a different predicament than do most 2008 NFL playoff teams. For, in the first round of the playoffs, the Vikings face the Philadelphia Eagles, the team with the fifth greatest positive scoring differential in the league, outscoring their opponents by more than one touchdown per game. That, despite playing teams with a combined record of 100-91-1 (.523).
For a Minnesota team intent on playing within the margins, the Eagles thus offer a stiff challenge--as well as a stern test of Childress' system.
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