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The Vikings’ 13-4 record was a historic anomaly. Will their luck run out in the playoffs?

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The Minnesota Vikings team on the standings page does not seem to be linked to the team on the stats page. But, as you already know, this is not a computer glitch. Backed by Justin Jefferson’s heroism, 61-yard field goals, Josh Allen’s huge blunders, and a record-breaking comeback against the Colts, the Vikings make the playoffs 13-4 despite all sorts of indicators showing them hitting .500- 4 points. ish football team at its best.

Athletes and fans understandably resent when their team’s success is attributed to luck, but it’s time for these Vikings to take on the role of constant beneficiaries of chance. It’s not just that the season is better than you expect. This is the Powerball jackpot winner among football teams.

The Most Mediocre Elite Winners in the NFL

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Pick just about any statistic other than actual wins and losses, and the Vikings’ success will start to be puzzling. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric for team strength ranks the Vikings as the 27th best team in the league behind luminaries like the Raiders and Broncos. Their defense was sixth in the league in points per game and third in points per game..

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Perhaps most egregiously, the Vikings, who again won 13 games and lost only four, managed to turn down three. more points than they have this season and the difference was bigger before they got that Bears team without Justin Fields in week 18. Logistically, you know how it works. Minnesota went 11-0 in one-scoring games, a situation that would almost always split down the middle over time, and suffered three crushing defeats.

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In a sport that has so few competitions per season, we tend to get a better idea of ​​the actual results by digging into more detailed metrics. Expected wins by Pythagoras, who rates a team’s record based on points difference, gave the Vikings 8.4 wins. By that measure, they are the luckiest, most random, most unreasonably successful—whatever you want to call it—team with a .700 win percentage or more in the Super Bowl era. According to Pro Football Reference calculations, the Vikings’ actual winning percentage (.765) outperformed the expected (.494) more than any other team to reach that level, amounting to a 12-win season in the current 17-game world. The closest rivals were the 2019 Green Bay Packers (13-3 with 9.7 wins expected) and the 2016 Oakland Raiders (12-4 with 8.7 wins expected).

This team, statistically, has more in common with hard-fought frontier rivals like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Miami Dolphins. Over the last three seasons, 11 teams with better points difference than the Vikings. completely missed the playoffs … a group that includes the Vikings of 2021.

While there is no point in trying to explain the season of the Vikings, their journey is not over yet. They’re tuned in to the #3 NFC seed, no matter how much they deserve (or not). Is the incredible luck of the Vikings destined to end? Or could it lead them to the Super Bowl?

Despite a host group that includes (left to right) KJ Osbourne, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, the Vikings have more points than they have this season.  (Michael Reeves/Getty Images)
Despite a host group that includes (left to right) KJ Osbourne, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, the Vikings have more points than they have this season. (Michael Reeves/Getty Images)

Does pixie dust make the playoffs?

The Vikings are now a historical underdog among teams that have won 12 or more games, but mid-level teams make the playoffs quite often. Since 1966, 53 teams have done so with negative points difference. There are four of them this season: the Vikings, the Buccaneers, the Dolphins, and the Minnesota’s first-round rival, the New York Giants.

The giants appear to have been dropped from the sky to serve as a cosmic reminder of what is possible, though unlikely. Among those 53 teams with underwater regular season stats, only the 2011 Giants even made it to the conference championship game. But the second miracle team of Eli Manning won everything. This late club has become worst regular season team to win the Super Bowledging out… David Tyree’s 2007 Giants’ Slam vs. Goliath story (points differential, +22).

To the extent that we can locate historical ancestors, things don’t look very promising for Minnesota. The 2012 Colts went 11-5 through the season despite a run that foreshadowed just 7.2 wins and then crashed out of the Ravens playoffs 10-6 in the wildcard round. The 2016 Raiders – 12-4 despite an expected record of 8.7 wins – lost 27-14 to Bill O’Brien’s Houston Texans 9-7 in the playoffs.

Other than the 2011 Giants, the 2008 Arizona Cardinals are the worst team (on points difference) to reach the Super Bowl. And they can be an inspirational model. Like the Vikings, their defense ranked 28th in the NFL in points per game. Like the Vikings, they relied on a transcendent wide receiver (Larry Fitzgerald), but their offense was rated higher than that of the Minnesota.

The real hope may lie in Minnesota’s potential playoff opponents. One of the reasons it’s so hard to find comparisons for this Vikings team is because most teams with that kind of regular season record make it to the playoffs and end up playing away against a stronger team in the first round. .

In five games against eventual playoff teams this year, Minnesota has been averaging 26.8 points per game and only 18.8 points per game — though the Vikings have managed a 3-2 record because, of course, they are. done. This absurd record earned them the privilege of playing the Giants, who were lucky enough to go 9-7-1 by minus 6 points.

The Vikings would be the second worst team by points margin to make it to the conference title game if they did. But with a couple of breaks, they could get there without facing a team with better base numbers.

This is unlikely! It would require the Seahawks to upset the 49ers and Buccaneers to defeat the Cowboys, but it would put Minnesota on the cusp of the Super Bowl without requiring the Vikings to face the reality it immediately faces. most excellent students.

Given Minnesota’s current season, you might not want to be too sure that this won’t happen.


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