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Are the Vikings an emerging NFC contender?
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How many playoff games will the Vikings play in 2015-18?
 4%  [ 1 ]
 18%  [ 4 ]
 22%  [ 5 ]
 13%  [ 3 ]
 13%  [ 3 ]
 27%  [ 6 ]
Total Votes : 22

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 1:31 am    Post subject: Are the Vikings an emerging NFC contender? Reply with quote

NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks thinks so: Minnesota Vikings will win North and become true NFC power

The Minnesota Vikings aren't necessarily considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders this season, but a deep dive into the All-22 Coaches Film reveals a budding heavyweight adhering to the kind of blue-collar formula that helped the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks own the NFC for the past five years. Sunday's matchup with the Packers will serve as a de facto NFC North title game -- and while Green Bay has dominated the division recently, I believe Minnesota is about to force a changing of the guard by beating their longtime rivals and capturing the division for the first time since 2009. I don't think the Vikings will stop there, either, as coach Mike Zimmer is on his way to building a force to be reckoned with in the conference and league going forward.

I've been optimistic about the long-term success of the Vikings for some time now.

Two years ago today -- just days after Frazier was fired and Spielman started searching for a new head coach -- I started a thread by predicting they would win the NFC North in 2016:

I think the Vikings are in the middle of a rebuilding project that started in 2011.

The previous version of the team peaked in 2009 and collapsed in 2010 despite a last-ditch attempt to extend the window one more year. Very little was in place at that point for long-term success...

The Vikings since 2011 are following the draft-and-develop model that has resulted in long-term success for many franchises. Greg Jennings is the only high-profile FA signed in 3 years, the rest of the talent has come through the draft. Salary cap management has been solid, the team is in great shape there going forward. The current roster is young, and about to get even younger as the veteran group on defense is disbanded. They already have some very talented young players to build around.

The main goal now is to fill the remaining holes on the current team and establish a pattern of mostly homegrown starters and emerging depth/developmental players that can lead to consistent success.

A reasonable timeline for seeing that success would be 2016. Five years (2011-15) should be enough for a rebuilding project, even one of this magnitude. The Vikings should be a strongly competitive team by the time the new stadium opens, able to win the division and make some noise in the playoffs.

In October 2014, the Vikings were 2-5 after the loss in Buffalo. In a discussion about Spielman's track record, I wrote:

I think the rebuild dates back to 2011-12 -- the reset button was pushed on the team's roster after 2010, and the organizational structure of the front office was finally reformed prior to 2012. Spielman has no excuses from 2012 on, in terms of roster building or lack thereof.

It's over the next year or two that there should be evidence of the roster improving.

At this point, I think they're already a more talented team than last year, but the injuries and the Peterson situation (not just the loss of his talents on the field but the turmoil around the case) have hurt them...

I think their record will improve and they'll get close to .500 by the end of the year, there have been lots of good signs...

Even if this turns out to be another season with a terrible record, most of the problems this year have been unexpected one-offs (injuries, Peterson, Kalil's decline) or predictable in ways that should improve (rookie QB learning the ropes) -- not symptomatic of a general decline or lack of talent (2010-11)...

I think they would still be on track to be better than .500 in 2015, as long as Bridgewater improves as we expect and hope.

...[P]essimism has continued to be rewarded this year but I don't think that will go on much longer.

The Vikings have gone 15-9 since that point. They have a legitimate chance to win the division this weekend. I'm not convinced they're ready to push very deep into the playoffs this year, but stranger things have happened.

Nothing in the NFL is guaranteed, but the arrow seems to be pointing up for the Vikings. Their roster is mostly young and mostly homegrown, including a 23 year-old franchise QB. They've been drafting well. They're in good shape managing the salary cap. Their coaching staff is well respected, and seems to be doing well in terms of player development and scheme. They're opening a new stadium that may offer more of a home field advantage.

It seems reasonable to think that the Vikings are developing into a team that can have consistent success in the years ahead.

What I'd like to do with this thread is set out some benchmarks to assess whether that happens or not.


It's hard to know how to measure long-term team success.

I don't want to use Super Bowls wins, they're too unpredictable. You get half-decent teams who go on a hot streak and win it all (2011 Giants), and teams that were great for years but never able to win the big game itself (Vikings under Grant, Bills in the early 90s).

It'd be better to use Super Bowl appearances, but then it's hard to separate teams that were very good for years but only made it to the SB once (Colts had 9 straight playoff appearances with Peyton in 2002-10, but only reached the big game in 2006) from teams that were not consistently strong but had a Cinderella season (Bears in 2006, one of only 4 playoff appearances they've had in 21 years).

I think the best method is probably to use total playoff games. Just appearances in playoff games, not wins -- though of course each win in the playoffs gets you another game that year (unless you win the Super Bowl).

Check this out:

NFL teams ranked by number of playoff game appearances, 2007-10:

... and 2011-14:

I think those charts capture some of the changes at the top of the league between those 4-year periods: some teams rise, some fall, some continue to have success year after year. Most of the best teams in the league are at the top of those lists, and most of the Super Bowl winners are right up there.

In general, the teams who played at least 6 playoff games in 4 years were very good. Many of them won Super Bowls. Those who didn't had SB appearances and/or multiple conference championship game appearances.

Raising the bar to 7 playoff games in 4 years makes an even better list. Every one of those teams either won a Super Bowl or appeared in one, with the exception of Baltimore on the 2007-10 list, who won their championship 2 years later.


Here are the benchmarks I'm suggesting for the Vikings for the next 4 years, 2015-18.

1 playoff game: already guaranteed this year. Obviously, going 1-and-done this year and missing the playoffs for the next 3 years would be very disappointing.

2-3 playoff games: this would be disappointing, a 1-and-done season or two or three, maybe one win.

4-5 playoff games: this might allow them to win a Super Bowl, if everything broke right one year (say 1-and-done this year, followed by a 3-4 game run either next year or the year after, ending in a SB win). More likely, it would represent an inability to make the playoffs more than once more by 2018, and/or an inability to win playoff games (check out Cincinnati's record on the 2011-14 list). Either would be disappointing, though a ring in a Cinderella season would go a long way.

6 playoff games: This offers a very reasonable shot at a Super Bowl appearance in that time period, but still suggests either a tendency to miss the playoffs or to fall out of the tournament in the first or second game.

7 playoff games: A Super Bowl appearance would be quite likely.

8 playoff games: A Super Bowl appearance would be nearly guaranteed. They would have at least a .500 record in playoff games over 4 years.

9+ playoff games: Multiple Super Bowl appearances are possible (Dallas 1992-95: 11 games) but not guaranteed (Philadelphia 2001-04: 10 games)
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 2:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent post. Playoff games will indeed be a good indicator our institutional success. But for me as a fan, I would rather see one fluke SB victory and a decade of ineptitude if it means we finally get that ring. Not saying this post is about our preference in the matter but I just wanted to point that out.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If your goal is to determine the teams that are 'improving', in terms of your chosen stat of 'playoff appearances', the difference in 4 year rolling averages of playoff appearances * is one valid and credible measure.

However, if your goal is to predict the 'ultimate level of success' in the NFL, I would weight the playoff game appearances according to their significance in that regard...


For example, earning a 1st round bye is not a playoff "appearance", but it signifies a top tier team that has won its division convincingly. As an example, that achievement receives 2 points.

Reaching the Wild Card round merits 1 point.

Reaching the Divisional round warrants 1 point.

Note: for equity, a First Round Bye value of 2 points equals the total of a Wild Card Game appearance and a Divisional Round appearance.

Reaching the Conference Championship game warrants 2 points.

Reaching the Super Bowl warrants 3 (or 4) points.

Winning the Super Bowl warrants 4 (or 5) points.

* - if over 4 consecutive years, per your equally weighted playoff game appearances stat, a team appeared in 8 playoff games, its average is 2.0 playoff games per season. If over 5 consecutive 4 year periods (sic), i.e. 2007-2010, 2008-2011, 2009-2012, 2010-2013, 2011-2014 that team averaged 2.0, 1.75, 2.5, 3.0, and 3.0 playoff game appearances, it would have 4 DIFFERENCES in 4 year averages of playoff appearances of -.25, +.75, +.5, and 0.0, which shows a general upward trend. Thus, it might be considered to be a 'rising team'... over 2007-2014. It would be an excellent team over recent years when it averaged 3.0 playoff games per season; i.e. 2010-2014.

If one chose to use my suggestion to vary weights of playoff games according to their stat significance in regard to winning a SB, a stat other than differences in 4 year rolling averages would be needed. Maybe the coefficients of variation in weighted playoff appearance value measured over rolling 4 year periods would be enlightening? Idea
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not trying to measure continuous improvement compared to the rest of the league. Even the best teams have their ups and downs. Some of them (Patriots, Seahawks) have been so good over the last couple of years that there's no realistic way they can improve further.


Weighting the playoffs round by round as you suggest doesn't add much to my method. Counting playoff games produces identical results except for the complicating factor of the first round bye. Wild card round is worth 1 point, divisional 2 (1 if that team had a bye), conference 3 (2 if bye), Super Bowl 4 (3 if bye).

Maybe it's not fair that teams with a bye effectively lose a point in this system compared to those who make it just as far but have to go through the wildcard round. But speaking from experience, it's more satisfying to win 2 playoff games and lose the championship game (1987) than to win 1 and lose the championship game (1998, 2000, 2009).

There might be some value in using point differential ("PD" column in the tables I posted), which gives more value to a team who wins big and loses small in the playoffs (2009) than the opposite (2000).

But having thought about this all year (originally planned to start this thread in September), counting playoff game appearances is my favorite method. It's simple, it's easy to measure, and it shows what I'm looking for.

The main question I have is where to draw the line for team success. 6 games in 4 years is good but not great unless there's a Super Bowl run in there. 7 games in 4 years pretty much guarantees a "contender" even if they're not a dynasty winning multiple rings. Anything more than that is very impressive.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm less interested in discussing the best method for measuring if a team is a contender than whether the Vikings will meet whatever standard you want to use in the next 4 years.

How close are they? Do you think they're going to get there?

Questions I have:

How much worse will the offense be once Peterson's production drops off? Can Teddy be dynamic enough to be a difference maker at QB? Will they be able to replace aging/injured talent at the OL? Find a matchup challenge at WR?

How much better will the defense get as the young players move into their primes? Will they be able to dominate games, Seahawks style?

How will Spielman and Zimmer approach the business of improving a good team, or maintaining a contender? Will they change their strategy on draft day? Will we see more veteran stopgap FAs like Newman this year? Will they retain marginal but homegrown players (Kalil)? Will they be willing to pay top dollar for top players (Smith)?

I think it's completely reasonable to argue that the Vikings have improved but are nowhere near good enough, if you think for instance that the OL will never improve, or Teddy is limited to being a game manager long term, or Spielman and Zimmer aren't the right leaders to get the team over the top.

I'm more optimistic than that. I think they have the pieces right now for a deep playoff run sometime in the next 2-4 years. And their recent draft record is strong enough that I expect the team to get more talented in the years ahead, even once Peterson moves on.

Nothing comes with a guarantee, who knows how it will play out. But I think they have a good chance of hitting the 7 game benchmark I'm setting out here.

If they do that, I'll consider the 2011-15 rebuilding project to be a success, even if they don't win a ring. If they fall short of that mark, even winning a Super Bowl, I'll be less impressed, though 5-6 games with a SB appearance would go a long way.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Next year is a big year for this team. We'll have a tougher schedule because we will have made the playoffs. We'll also have a worse draft pick this year, so it can be harder to bring in new talent.

The Vikings made the playoffs under the Frazier/Ponder regime, but the next year the team returned to mediocrity.

I will give the team a complete mulligan in the 2017 season, however, since that season we will be hosting the super bowl and the host team tends to struggle.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's hard to know how tough a schedule will be until you get into the season and see how teams shape up.

But it's fairly likely the 2016 schedule will be easier than this year's. The Vikings will play the NFC East (24 wins so far this year) instead of the West (33), and the AFC South (23 wins so far this year) instead of the West (31).

Only 2 games on the schedule are affected by the previous year's performance: the one game we play against the 2 NFC divisions where we don't face every team.

This year, coming off a 3rd place finish, the Vikings got the Falcons and Giants (combined record so far this year, 14-16). The 2nd place Lions got the Saints and Eagles (12-18). The 1st place Packers got the Panthers and Romoless Cowboys (18-12). GB had the toughest opponent by far, but arguably the Falcons were the 2nd toughest on that list, and the Giants might be 3rd.

So playing a 1st or 2nd place schedule shouldn't have much of an effect on the Vikings chances next year. Arizona and Carolina vs Seattle and someone (Tampa Bay?) -- not a huge difference either way.
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vike daddy

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i don't see any reason not to be optimistic for continued improvement.

Arrow young team where players have not yet reached their peak
Arrow solid coaching staff that still wants to improve itself
Arrow no in-fighting or finger pointing between execs, owners, or different layers of the team
Arrow promising results from recent drafting, hopefully to continue
Arrow new stadium and perhaps even future practice/office facility is presumably some form of boost, not drawback

"Glove the one you're with."
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Worm Guts

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we're set up well to compete for the next 5 years, 9-7 to 10-6 type years. To become a consistent contender we will to continue to draft well and Teddy needs to prove he can be the focal point of the offense.
I think Zimmer is a well above average coach and that helps. He does turn 60 this year, I don't know what age you start to expect a decline from your coaches, probably upper 60's so we're probably OK for a while.
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paradise lost

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 10:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

our defense and teddy have me very optimistic for the future. I definitely think that our defense could be "Seahawks-esque" is the sense that we can have our main guys locked up for a long time, all in their primes. i'm not saying our defense will be as good as the LOB but having borderline-elite players locked up for multiple years is a good position to be in.

a great defense and a competent QB can go a long way which is why I think we can at least contend for the playoffs every year and maybe have a 13-3 year.

it will be interesting to see what our offense will be like without AP, but we shouldn't have to worry about that for at least another year.

our coaching staff is good at developing players which should ensure that we can fill in the holes around our defensive studs. i'd say the needle is still pointing up for us. winning the division every year going forward should be the team's realistic goal.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

vike daddy wrote:
Arrow no in-fighting or finger pointing between execs, owners, or different layers of the team

Yeah, there's been quite a change.

The Kluwe article was published the same week Frazier was fired, at the end of 2013. Peterson's charges hit the headlines in September 2014. Whatever you think about how those issues were handled, there was never a sense of public disunity in the front office, and the Vikings ended up resolving both situations on their terms, and to their benefit.

Aside from Kluwe (pre-Zimmer) and Peterson (a problem not really under the team's control), there have been very few off-field problems for the players (Price got a DWI one year ago today, can't remember anything more recent), and little or no controversy or apparent dissent among the players, coaches or front office. Worst thing I can think of is Peterson complaining about the play calling when he didn't get enough carries, and that settled down immediately.

So far so good.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not until they win this Sunday will I believe they're a legitimate contender.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After a scant 10 votes, the rarely observed "W" distribution appears!

The outliers have the highest frequency of 30% each, the mean has 20% frequency, and the entire distribution is skewed to the high side as there are no votes for 1-3 playoff games.

Summary; Viking fans are either very pessimistic or very optimistic, but are certain there will be at least 1 playoff game.... because the Vikings certainly qualified for the 2015-16 post season.

In future votes, I expect a bit more optimism than pessimism if they (future voters) read some of the comments in this thread.

My initial guess on the pessimist crowd is that they anticipate a decline in APs performance in the near future and don't think Minnesota can replace his production going forward. What else can explain pessimism for a fairly young team with plenty of talent and good coaches, especially on D?
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 4:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The best thing about today's win was that the biggest plays were made by young players.
* Rhodes had a great game in coverage and made a near-game-ending tackle with 10 seconds left.
* Floyd had a sack and 5 tackles.
* Barr had a great game, got credit for a sack, knocked down the Hail Mary.
* Griffen (OK, he's 28, but he's under contract for 3 more years) forced the fumble that won the game, had 2 sacks to take his season total to 10.5.
* Smith had a sack and shut down his area of the field so much that I don't remember a single target in his direction.
* Kendricks made a bunch of plays in space.
* McKinnon had 48 yards from scrimmage on 7 touches.
* Thielen had a couple of big runs and a big gain on a play action pass.
* Patterson had a great return ending in a stupid fumble.
* Walsh was flawless on 2 FGs and 2 XPs on a cold night.

What didn't happen was 2012: Adrian Peterson running for 200+ yards and carrying the team on his back. Peterson scored the TD and ran hard, but he wasn't especially effective. His longest run of the night was 10 yards. He didn't break many tackles.

Bridgewater had a 2012 Vikings QB kind of night. But we've seen him play much better just last month, so I don't think we have to worry that the passing game can't improve from here, even against good defenses.

They're hardly a flawless team. Sendejo and Greenway are weak spots on defense. Kalil and Fusco and Clemmings make the OL a liability, though I thought TJ played pretty well tonight. The WRs are lacking. Teddy needs to play with more confidence and aggression.

But they're good enough, right now. They won the division. And they did it in a way that makes me think they have a good chance to do it again next year.
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The Gnat

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that the Vikings can win a number of games, it's always hard to know, but the Vikings have a very good young core, and I really like the direction that they are going.
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