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Minnesota Vikings Make Football Outsiders History

For the first time in the history of the analytics web site, the Minnesota Vikings have been named the best team in football.

NFL: Houston Texans at Minnesota Vikings Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The folks from Football Outsiders are the originals when it comes to the world of football analytics and advanced statistics. They’ve been putting out their annual Almanac since 2003, but they’ve been tracking a statistic known as DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, going all the way back to 1989. In 28 seasons of tracking that particular statistic, the Minnesota Vikings have never been declared the #1 team in the National Football League.

Until now.

In this week’s DVOA rankings from Football Outsiders, the purple and gold hold the distinction of being the best team in the league.

Here’s the full definition of DVOA:

DVOA is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation. DVOA measures not just yardage, but yardage towards a first down: Five yards on third-and-4 are worth more than five yards on first-and-10 and much more than five yards on third-and-12. Red zone plays are worth more than other plays. Performance is also adjusted for the quality of the opponent. DVOA is a percentage, so a team with a DVOA of 10.0% is 10 percent better than the average team, and a quarterback with a DVOA of -20.0% is 20 percent worse than the average quarterback. Because DVOA measures scoring, defenses are better when they are negative.

If you want to read more about DVOA, you can do so on the Football Outsiders web site.

To sort of emphasize just how highly Football Outsiders thinks of the current Vikings squad, they mention some of the other high-powered Vikings teams that couldn’t find their way to the #1 spot in their rankings, even for a single week.

The 1998 team? Wound up finishing fifth in the DVOA rankings.

The 2009 zombie Brett Favre squad? Seventh.

The 2000 team that got crushed in the NFC Championship Game? 22nd

Before this week, the Vikings had only ranked second in five different weeks, and they had only ranked third in five other different weeks:

The 1989 Vikings and 2014 Vikings each ranked No. 2 after winning big in Week 1, and the 1992 Vikings were No. 3 after Week 1.

The 2009 Vikings peaked at No. 2 after Week 2.

The 1998 Vikings ranked No. 2 after both Week 5 and Week 7. They also ranked No. 3 after their Week 6 bye, after they won in Week 8 to go 7-0, and after their first loss in Week 9 made them 7-1.

This year's Vikings were No. 3 last week.

Right now, DVOA has the Vikings at #11 on offense, #3 on defense, and #6 on special teams in the entire National Football League. That’s enough to put them on top of the heap for the first time ever.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that according to Football Outsiders’ playoff odds, the Vikings are currently at a 93.9% chance to make the post-season, and a whopping 42.2% chance to garner the #1 overall seed in the NFC playoffs. They give the Seattle Seahawks a 20.3% chance of being the #1 seed, and no other NFC team is in double figures, percentage-wise.

We’ll see if the rest of the Power Rankings around the National Football League are on the same wavelength as Football Outsiders when we do our weekly roundup on Wednesday. (We’ve moved it to Wednesdays so we can have all the Power Rankings at one time.)