I really hate that most of the articles I've been publishing lately have been of the depressing variety. It's not my intent, but when your team is 2-7, there is just so much less positive stuff to say about the Vikings. Never-the-less, Football Outsiders just released their latest "Playoff Odds" for the entire NFL, and needless to say, it doesn't look good for our Minnesota Vikings. Yes, we managed a great win at home last Thursday against a questionable Redskins team, but that didn't really move the needle much in our quest for the ultimate prize: a Super Bowl win.
Football Outsiders ran 50,000 simulations for every team's remaining schedule and the results for the Vikings are astoundingly awful. Our "mean wins" after those 50,000 simulations for the year is 4.4. That gives us a 0% chance to win the division, let alone secure any playoff seed (including wildcards). We share that 0% chance of making the playoffs with only three other teams: Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay. The four of us have a combined win-loss record of 6-30 so far, and the best "mean wins" score goes to Atlanta with 4.5 predicted wins.
So, Football Outsiders predicts us for maybe 2 or 3 more wins to finish out the year. And that got me thinking about which teams we could realistically expect a win against. So, let's take a look at the remaining schedule.
Week 11: @ Seattle Seahawks, Loss
This game appears to be almost a given for a loss. Seattle plays exceptionally good defense at home and is currently in the driver's seat in the NFC West with a record of 9-1. They are 4-0 at home and are on a 5-game winning streak. They are favorites to make the Super Bowl, and Football Outsiders gives them the third best odds to make the playoffs, and gives them the most mean wins for the year.
Week 12: @ Green Bay Packers, Toss-Up
Three weeks ago, this would have been almost surely marked in the loss column, but with the injury to Aaron Rodgers and along their offensive line, anything is possible. They haven't had a top notch defense all year, so this team looks very beatable right now. They've dropped two in a row with Rodgers out, and are now predicted to only win 8.7 games. Their playoff odds have soured to a measly 21.9%.
Week 13: Chicago Bears, Toss-Up
We almost had the Bears on the road earlier in the year, but couldn't hold them on the last play of the game. It remains to be seen if Jay Cutler's ankle will be fully healthy for this game, but their defense is banged up and very young. With home field advantage, and no Jay Cutler this is certainly a winnable game. Football Outsiders still likes their chances to end the season with a winning record (9.4 mean wins), but only gives them a 39.3% chance to make the playoffs.
Week 14: @ Baltimore Ravens, Loss
The Ravens aren't nearly as good as they were last year when they won the Super Bowl, but they also aren't as bad as people think. They are 3-1 at home this year and took a very good Bengals team to overtime and won. This looks like it could be a tough matchup, and if the Ravens go on a winning streak, they could be in the thick of the playoff hunt by this time. The Vikings would have a tough time pulling out a road win here. All that said, Football Outsiders isn't buying and has them winning only 7.1 games this year with a 14% chance to make the playoffs. Maybe there is hope here yet.
Week 15: Philadelphia Eagles, Toss-Up
I don't know what to think of the Eagles right now. They are 5-5, having won their last 2 games, but curiously are 0-4 at home. Their offense is clicking with Nick Foles, and LeSean McCoy is loving the Chip Kelly offense, but their defense is 31st in yards allowed and 20th in points allowed. If we can get a few key players back from injury by this game (Harrison Smith, cough) that could go a long way towards getting a win, and we do seem to do better against teams with bad defenses. Football Outsiders predicts only 8.4 wins on the year, but because they play in one of the worst division in the NFL this year, they still have a 43.4% chance of making the playoffs (behind only Dallas who is at 58%).
Week 16: @ Cincinnati Bengals, Loss
Despite a tough overtime loss to the Ravens this week, the Bengals still sit atop their division in the AFC North and are currently 4-0 at home. They are banged up on defense, but assuming they get healthy by this point in the season, this will be a very tough road game. I'm sure Simpson would have looked forward to playing his former team, but with the way things are going, he might not even be on the Vikings much longer. The Bengals are predicted for 10.1 wins and have a 90% chance of making the playoffs, thanks to the total lack of other competition in their division this year.
Week 17: Detroit Lions, Loss
I don't see this one. The Lions defensive line completely man-handled our offensive line in Week 1, and somehow shut down our running game. I expect Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush to completely carve up our defense again as well, as we suddenly don't matchup very well against the Lions on paper anymore. The Lions are pegged for 10.2 wins and have a 74% chance of making the playoffs.
At best, I see three more winnable games, but that's mostly due to presumed injuries to our opponents. I think the Chicago home game could be the one that we lose to bring our season total to 4-12 instead of 5-11. In short, the Football Outsiders prediction of 4.4 wins seems pretty much spot on to me. And if those mean win predictions actually hold true for the rest of the year for all 32 teams, this would be the final standings, and consequent draft order:
1. Jacksonville (2.5)
2. Tampa Bay (3.8)
3. Minnesota (4.4)
4. Atlanta (4.5)
5. Oakland (4.9)
6. Houston (5.4)
7. New York Giants (5.7)
8. Washington (5.9)
9. Buffalo (6.1)
10. St. Louis (6.2)
11. Pittsburgh (6.4)
12. Miami (7.0)
13. Baltimore (7.1)
14. Cleveland (7.2)
15. Tennessee (7.2)
16. San Diego (7.3)
17. Dallas (8.4)
18. Philadelphia (8.4)
19. Arizona (8.7)
20. Green Bay (8.7)
21. New York Jets (8.8)
22. Chicago (9.4)
23. Indianapolis (9.8)
24. San Francisco (10.0)
25. Cincinnati (10.1)
26. Detroit (10.2)
27. Carolina (10.5)
28. New Orleans (10.9)
29. New England (11.0)
30. Denver (13.0)
31. Kansas City (13.0)
32. Seattle (13.3)