Monday, October 08, 2012

Will Vikings Coast Into Playoffs?

For the first time since 2009, the Minnesota Vikings have at least four wins in their first five games.  In that season, the Vikings started 5-0, defeating one playoff team and four largely woeful teams.  Minnesota finished the 2009 season with a disheartening 31-28 loss at New Orleans, following a 12-4 regular season.

The 2009 Minnesota Vikings were built on a strong offense with Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Visanthe Shiancoe leading the way.  On the season, the Vikings were second in the league in scoring and fifth in total yards.  Defensively, the team was more pedestrian, finishing number one against the rush, but in the bottom third against the pass; the 2009 Vikings also ceded 26 passing touchdowns.

At 4-1, the 2012 Vikings have the look of the polar opposite of the 2009 Vikings.  Through five games this year, the Vikings are in the top ten in the league in points allowed, passing touchdowns, and rushing yards and touchdowns, and just outside the top ten in passing yards allowed.  Offensively, however, the Vikings are less impressive, with mid- to bottom-third rankings in points and passing, respectively, and a near top-third ranking in rushing offense.

Like 2009, the 2012 Vikings have begun the season against mostly non-playoff caliber teams.  The question, then, is whether the Vikings are more the product of improvement or opposition.  The answer to that question might not be known until the playoffs.

Playoffs?  Playoffs!?

To date, the Vikings' 2012 competition has compiled a 9-14 record with only San Francisco (4-1) above .500.  Of the team's remaining eleven opponents, only five (Chicago twice) currently have records at or above .500 and only Chicago and Houston have demonstrated any semblance of balance on both sides of the ball.

Based on where all NFL teams currently stand and the Vikings' remaining schedule, a strong case can be made that the Vikings will be favored to finish no worse than 11-5.  In NFL history, only three teams with at least eleven wins have failed to make the playoffs.  Since the introduction of wild-card teams, only the 2008 New England Patriots have met such misery.

Making the playoffs would have been unthinkable for Minnesota in the off-season.  But that was before the Vikings demonstrated that they could play some defense and before the Lions and Packers decided to check out for the season.  With the other divisions muddled, the NFC North is likely to have two playoff teams.  And, at this point, regardless of competition to date and lingering offensive concerns, the Vikings ought to be favorites to secure at least a wild-card spot.

Up Next:  Money and Linebacker.


StatsProfessor said...

After the BYE week the schedule gets tough, 11-5 is a stretch to say the least.

vikes geek said...


After the bye week--seven weeks from now--the schedule might get tough. Or, Green Bay might be in total meltdown mode. Even assuming a difficult post-bye schedule, however, the Vikings ought to be favored to be no worse than 11-5 at the end of the season. Between now and the bye week, barring major injuries, the Vikings likely will be favored to win five straight games--that's favored, not guaranteed. Their greatest challenges in that stretch will be the two road games, and neither opponent is terribly daunting--regardless of your impression of the Vikings to date.

If you read this site with any regularity, you know this is not the product of purple myopia. It is simply a reflection of what the schedule holds. As a factual statement, the Vikings ought to be favored--at this point--to finish no worse than 11-5. They might finish worse, but they likely will be favored not to do so. That's all. That's neither ahead or behind the curve--just a statement of statistical fact at a point in time. If the Vikings lose at Washington, that statement changes.