Well, if you're like me at this point in the season you almost don't care about Minnesota Viking wins; you care about Viking draft position. The ideal scenario is to show individual progression throughout the rest of the year, but to not come away with a W. The Denver game, for instance, was pretty much a perfect scenario. Good games from Harvin, Ponder, Rudolph, D'Imperio, and others, but a loss in the end. I wouldn't mind that occurring 4 more times this season to close it out. Hollow victories at this point do nothing more than put the Vikings in a worse draft position.
Obviously the Colts just about have the top spot locked up. Given their weak division and strength of schedule, if a team that has gone 0-12 so far goes even 2-2 from here on out, they have won the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, or at least the right to trade him for 3 1st rd picks, 5 ProBowlers, and a 1st born child. I think we can safely put any dreams of the Vikings getting the #1 pick to bed. But currently, the Vikings are in a battle for the #2 spot, which very well might mean the draft's best LT prospect Matt Kalil, a huge position of need for both the Vikings and Rams.
It's unlikely, in my opinion, that the Vikings win 2 out of their last 4 games (Lions/Saints/Redskins/Bears), which means our competition for the #2 pick is St. Louis (2-10) and Jacksonville (3-9). And Jacksonville does have games against both Tennessee and Indianapolis to close out the season, two quite winnable games. So the focus of this post will be on St. Louis and the Vikings for the rights to either draft Matt Kalil, or to possibly have the best draft spot to trade down should one of the “2nd best” quarterbacks in the draft rise and be in high demand. For the record, my money would be on Robert Griffin III for that distinction. He will interview incredibly well and should put up huge combine numbers, leapfrogging any Landry Jones or Matt...ahem...Leinart....ahem...Barkley hype.
Draft order is determined by overall record (worst to first), then the first tiebreaker goes to strength of schedule, followed by divisional record (both the Vikings and Rams are currently 0-4) and then conference record (Vikings are currently 2-6 while the Rams are 1-9). The Rams have a remaining schedule of: @Seattle, Cincinnati, @Pittsburgh, San Francisco. The Vikings have a remaining schedule, as noted above, of: @Detroit, New Orleans, @Washington, Chicago.
In my mind, St. Louis and the Vikings each have 1 “winnable” game left; St. Louis will not win at perhaps the toughest place to play in the NFL this week, and you don't figure they'd beat Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, but they could potentially beat a San Francisco team with nothing left to play for (and resting players) in the final week. The Vikings, meanwhile, figure to give up approximately 4,000 yards passing combined to the Lions and Saints in the next 2 weeks, and Chicago's season should be on the line in the final week, but Washington looms as a potential win in week 16. Each team winning zero of their remaining games or 1 is equally plausible. Therefore, let's tackle strength of schedule.
Currently, this is where the two teams sit:
St. Louis: opponents' combined record: 80-64
Minnesota: opponents' combined record: 82-62
Currently, St. Louis holds the edge; they have played a weaker schedule thus far.
Factor in remaining teams on the schedule, and you get:
St. Louis: opponents' combined record: 111-81
Minnesota; opponents' combined record: 109-83
If each team wins out, and the current projections hold, the Vikings would be in line for the #2 pick.
Of course a lot can change between now and the end of week 17. So to simplify, let's throw out common games, and we're left with the following “uncommon” games:
St. Louis: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks (x2), San Francisco 49ers (x2)
So far this year the AFC West and the NFC East have been comparably weak, and the AFC North and the NFC South have been comparably strong, essentially cancelling each other out. What's glaring (and helps us) is that while we have to play the Packers (12-0) twice, the Rams have to play the 49ers (10-2) twice. But the Rams also played the Packers. We do not face the 49ers, but faced the Cardinals instead. So for that portion of the SOS currently equates to; Rams (32-4), Vikings (29-7). That's a huge plus for us in terms of strength of schedule. So in the end, it boils down to this; if you care about the Vikings winning a potential tiebreaker with the Rams for the #2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, you will:
root for the following divisions to win as many games as possible over the 4 remaining weeks: NFC East, AFC North, NFC West. And:
root for the following divisions to lose as many games as possible over the 4 remaining weeks: NFC South, AFC West, NFC North.
We currently have a 1 game cushion in the projected strength of schedule, so this will be extremely tight. I will update this after each remaining week so we know where we stand. But here's to Reeling for Kalil!