Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A view of the Minnesota Vikings playoff chances

Because I've got playoffs on the brain, and because I keep hearing how daunting the Vikings remaining schedule is, I decided to look at the schedules of the other NFC playoff contenders. There is no doubt the Vikings road to making the playoffs is tough. But is it any tougher than any other teams?

What follows is hardly an exhaustive statistical analysis, but what I'm doing below is looking at the schedules of two divisional foes – Green Bay and Chicago – and five other NFC teams with 6-4 or 5-5 records who are in contention for a Wildcard playoff spot. And I'll be comparing the record of the opponent's each of these teams are playing, as well as their home and away records, against the Vikings and making some quick observations based on those metrics.

Here goes nothing ...

Remaining Schedules

Vikings (6-4): @Chicago; @Green Bay; Chicago; @St. Louis; @Houston; Green Bay
Record of remaining opponents: 40-19-1
Home record: 5-1
Away record: 1-3

Division title contenders

Green Bay (7-3): @NY Giants; Minnesota; Detroit; @Chicago; Tennessee; @Minnesota
Record of remaining opponents: 31-27
Home record: 4-1
Away record:  3-2

Chicago (7-3): Minnesota; Seattle; @Minnesota; Green Bay; @Arizona; @Detroit
Record of remaining opponents: 31-27
Home record: 4-1
Away record: 3-2 

Wildcard contenders

Seattle (6-4): @Miami; @Chicago; Arizona; @Buffalo; San Francisco; St. Louis
Record of remaining opponents: 29-29-2
Home record: 5-0
Away record: 1-4

Tampa Bay (6-4): Atlanta; @Denver; Philadelphia; @New Orleans; St. Louis; @Atlanta
Record of remaining opponents: 36-23-1
Home record: 3-2
Away record: 3-2

NY Giants (6-4): Green Bay; @Washington; @New Orleans; Atlanta; @Baltimore; Philadelphia
Record of remaining opponents: 36-24
Home record: 3-2
Away record: 3-2

Dallas (5-5): Washington; Philadelphia; @Cincinnati; Pittsburgh; New Orleans; @Washington
Record of remaining opponents: 27-33
Home record: 2-2
Away record: 3-3 

New Orleans (5-5): San Francisco; @Atlanta; @NY Giants; Tampa Bay; @Dallas; Carolina
Record of remaining opponents: 33-24-1
Home record: 3-2
Away record: 2-3

Ok, now for a bit of context. What does all this mean?

If you look at this rundown of the playoff picture, you will notice that the Vikings would not make the playoffs if they started today. But the playoffs don't start this week, so there is time for the Vikings to get back into this thing – if they can win some ball games over the final six games.

That's not going to be easy. The schedule is as tough as advertised. The Vikings final six opponents have more combined wins (40) and less combined losses (19) than the remaining opponents of the seven other teams listed here. Another big concern – not only are the clubs the Vikings will be facing good, but Minnesota will be playing four of them on the road. The Vikings have not been a good road team this year (shocking, I know) and if you think 9-7 is the minimum it's going to take to at least snag a Wildcard playoff spot, the Vikings probably have to split their remaining four road games to finish with a 9-7 record. Can they grab even one win at either Soldier Field or Lambeau Field – venues where the Vikings have authored many stinkaroos over the years? And what are the odds they can beat 9-1 Houston on the road? Those will be tough, tough victories for the Vikings to get.

On the bright side, the safest path to getting into the playoffs is by winning the NFC North and the Vikings play four games against the two teams sitting one game ahead of them in the standings. Go 3-1 in their four games against the Pack and the Bears, and a surprising divisional title (and a home playoff game) could be waiting for the Vikings.

The other bright spot is those last two road games against the Rams and the Texans, which take place Dec. 16 and 23rd, respectively. I wouldn't call the Rams game an easy win for the Vikings because the St. Louis defense – especially its front four – could cause a lot of problems for Christian Ponder and the Vikings weak passing game. But the St. Louis offense is, overall, pretty tepid, and this is a game that if the Vikings play solidly and don't make a ton of mistakes, they should win. As for the Texans game, Houston could have the AFC South division already clinched by then (it currently has a three-game lead on Indianapolis). Just how much will Houston's starters play in this game if that's the case? I like the Vikings first-stringers over the Texans second and third-stringers if that is how it ends up going down at Reliant Stadium on Dec. 23rd.

But a guy can drive himself crazy thinking about all the "what-ifs" this time of the year. It's probably best just to enjoy the ride from here on in. However, if the Vikings do make the playoffs, nobody will be able to say they didn't earn it.


  1. Record of remaining opponents: 40-19-1

  2. For me, it is probably best if they do NOT make the playoffs. I tend to think about paths to the Super Bowl at that point, hopelessly optimistic and crest-fallen when they inevitably fail.

    I watch Vikings playoff games they way I watch a good suspense/horror movie: my stomach slowly winds tighter for 3hrs before I cry and enter a watered-down state of what Pacifist Viking went through post-2009 (although it lasts only 2 or 3 weeks most years). 98 and 09 were particularly bad. 41-0 was somewhat expected, even if humiliating. The win against the big-mouth Cowboys a couple of years ago was so, so sweet.

    If the Vikes do somehow get in, I will expect something similar to the 2008 season's playoff game against the Eagles. Mortifying.

    1. Peter:

      Where ya' been? Hadn't had a comment from you in a while. Anyway, I suspect the Vikings will spear you the ulcer this year. These next three games could break the Vikes if they go 0-3. But it's nice to have games that matter as we head into December.

    2. An unfortunate combination of busy at work and relatives staying with my family at home has thrown my schedule off a bit. I've been reading, but then I'm out of time.

      I agree that it's nice that the Vikings are in the thick of things at this time of year. It makes Sundays exciting.

      Sure would be nice to win against GB and/or CHI though - just to smile about it.