There are a couple of pretty solid truths with the NFL regarding a team's chances at the post season. They aren't 100%, dead on accurate every single time, but they are very good measuring sticks as to how the season will unfold. One truth is that if you start 0-2, you have just over a 10% chance of recovering and making 'the tournament'. If you start 2-0, it jumps to 63%, and 4-0, well, your chances are better than 8 in 10. Here, take a look for yourself:
I get that the season is still young, and a lot can happen. But still, these numbers are hard to ignore. And while the law of averages currently favor the good guys, our very own Minnesota Vikings have laughed at the law of averages, from both ends of the spectrum.
Because it's the Minnesota Vikings...and nothing is ever easy with this team. And that is a 100% guarantee.
In 2003, our Beloved Purple, under second year coach Mike Tice, flew out of the gates with a 6-0 record, and the playoffs were a foregone conclusion at 94%. Ninety. Four. Percent. Yeah...everything kind of fell apart after that 6-0 start. And by 'kind of fell apart' I mean turned into a blazing inferno of misery, broken TV's, swearing at levels not seen since 1998, and of course, we witnessed a classic Vikings meltdown the last week of the season.
Nate Freaking Poole, man. I remember it well--living in Florida, my Dad was visiting and we decided to go to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Vikes beat the lowly Cardinals to secure a playoff spot. Only the Cardinals had other plans, and when Poole caught the winning touchdown pass with no time remaining, the collapse was complete. There were a TON of Packer fans there, and we were the only Vikings fans. Walking out of there sucked, my friends.
Worse than a next morning walk of shame kind of humiliation.
On the other end of the spectrum, the 2008 version of Chillyball stumbled out of the gates at 0-2, and starting QB Tarvaris Jackson was benched for journeyman Gus Frerotte. The change sparked the offense, and Minnesota ended up winning the division with a 10-6 record. This also happened while the Vikings were in the midst of winning six out of seven games that year, and it was kind of cool:
I know most people think Bernard Berrian was a huge bust for the Vikings, but man, that was one of my all time favorite plays. Loved the reaction from the Vikings sideline when Berrian hauled that pass in on the replay.
Anyway, what does 538 say about Minnesota's playoff chances this year? They're pretty bullish on it, to be honest.
Currently, they calculate the Vikings, sitting at 4-0 and in first place in the NFC North, with a 92% chance to make the playoffs, a 71% chance to win the division, and a 60% chance to get a first round bye. That's either a 1 or 2 seed, which means at least one home playoff game.
And the Vikings, at home, in that stadium during the playoffs? Brutal environment for a visiting team. Brutal. When you look at the rest of the NFC North competition, things look even better. 538 gives Green Bay a 67% chance to make the playoffs, but only a 26% chance to win the division. As the season progresses, that week two win at home against Green Bay is going to loom even larger.
As for Chicago and Detroit, well...hey are there any good mock drafts out yet? Detroit has a 13% chance to make the playoffs and a 2% chance at the division, while the Bears sit at 5% and 1% respectively.
Right now, it's hard not to look at the Vikings and legitimately think they are one of the two best teams in the NFC. They have absorbed mind numbing, season ending injuries at three key positions, yet still find themselves at 4-0, with three quality wins over tough opponents (Packers, at Panthers, Giants).
Like I mentioned earlier, we're only a quarter into the season, and a lot can happen between now and week 17. But when you look at what this team has already overcome, add in how well they've played through four weeks, and then peruse the rest of the schedule moving forward...it's difficult to not get excited about this team, the rest of the 2016 season, and home playoff dreams.