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The Magic Number To Propel The Vikings Offense Into The Playoffs

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    The Magic Number

    Written by Justicht

    Many things happen at 5:30 in the morning. The sun starts to rise. McDonald’s and Caribou employees hear 100 people say “I wouldn’t be anything without my coffee HAHAHAHAH” and act every time as if it’s just as funny as the last time they’ve heard it – not at all. KFAN resumes their local programming. And every once in a while I’m in my piece of work truck with lights on top headed to the airport trying to be there by 6.

    Not much good came out of that last point. Long story short, I am not on my way out of the country for a business trip, and it makes me feel like junk. However, an early morning trip to The Cities gave me an opportunity to listen to the local radio station, and denial of boarding my flight gave me the chance to tune into Paul Allen as he was in Mankato for training camp.

    Mr. Announcer, and his cohort, Mike Wobschall got into talking about a revamped offense being able to win games for the Vikings. 21 points they said. 21 points per game could turn the season around. They then proceeded to give some statistics about the Win-Loss record of the Vikings if they score at least 21 points. But in the end, is 21 points the magic number? Is it more than that? Could it be less? How good does the offense actually need to be to give the Vikings a hope of winning it all at home?

    To answer this, we need to take a look at historical data. Let’s look at the percentage of teams to “make playoffs” with an average of at least 21 points per game. This gives quite a bit of hope actually. Out of all teams since 1970, a decent clip of 61.5% of them made it to the post season if they had an average score of 21 points or more according to Pro Football Reference. This means, if a team scores 21 points or more (that’s the key word so the statisticians out there don’t come after me) per game, they have a better chance than a flip of a coin to make it to the playoffs. But it far from guarantees it. On top of that, there is more to football than offense.

    Making the playoffs has a pretty close tie to number of wins in a season as we all know. Sure, you can make it to the playoffs with a record of 7-9, or in an extreme case, even 3-13. Teams have also missed the playoffs with a record of 11-5. But overall, there is a general correlation between number of wins, and chance of making it to playoffs. To add to this, there is also a correlation between point differential, and regular season records, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

    Under Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have averaged 307 points scored against them per season, which just happens to also be how many points they had scored on them last year. So luckily, we can use this figure as a baseline for the defense, and say we expect them to hold steady. Using the correlation between point differential and wins, and the radio’s figure of 21 points per game on offense (336 points in the season), we can estimate that the team would have around a 9-7 record. Of all the teams to have that record, or a roughly 8-6 record from the 14 game era, 41.6% of them went to the post season.

    Those aren’t great odds.

    For our convenience, I’m going to call having a chance to win The Big Game at home a successful season. Going 9-7 and missing the playoffs is not a success in my eyes. However, teams that had 10 wins had a 72% chance of moving on. Much better than the 9-7 teams had. If we use 10 wins as the goal, we find that the Vikings would have to score 23 to 24 points, depending on how you round your numbers. To be safe, and have a more common football score, let’s say 24 points.

    In short, for the Vikings to have a consistent defense from last year, and to have 10 wins, they need to score 24 points per game.

    What if we want better odds of playing in February? How about an 11-5 record that would give them a 91.2% chance? To meet that record, they will need to aim for 26 points per game.

    This is not set in stone, however. The one time in the past 3 years that the Vikings had made the playoffs, they had a record of 11-5 with an average score of 22.8 points. The point differential on the season was 63 points, which would predict a 10-6 record. They snuck a win in there somewhere!

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