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Vikings coach Leslie Frazier

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

VIKINGS WEEK 16

Noon Saturday at Washington • Ch. 9 (100.3-FM)

Draft math follows win-lose equation

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Star Tribune
  • December 20, 2011 - 6:24 AM

The enthusiastic roar seemed as attention-grabbing as it was strangely timed.

The Vikings had just been walloped 42-20 by the Saints at Mall of America Field on Sunday. And only a few thousand loyal -- or perhaps deadened? -- fans were left trudging toward the exits and out into a cold, gray evening.

So what exactly provided this temporary jolt of excitement?

"A final score from Kansas City," came the announcement over the stadium P.A. "Chiefs 19, Packers 14."

Ah, yes. Some good, old-fashioned schadenfreude.

It's nothing new for Vikings supporters to revel in the misfortune of their rivals in Green Bay. But what many fans might not have known Sunday is that the Packers' loss also improved the Vikings' draft status, weakening their overall strength of schedule just a hair.

Hey, there's got to be something left to root for, right?

With two weeks left in the regular season, the Vikings have virtually assured themselves of a top-three pick for April's draft. They're in a battle with the equally hapless Rams for the No. 2 selection.

Oh, and don't look now, with the Colts notching their first victory Sunday, the Vikings have wedged a foot in the door, potentially sneaking into the mix for the top overall pick.

So here's where the NFL's draft status tiebreaking procedures come into play with simple criteria that lead to many complicated computations:

If the Vikings were to wind up tied with St. Louis or Indianapolis record-wise, the team with the weaker strength of schedule would land the better draft pick. And strength of schedule, it should be noted, is determined by simply totaling the cumulative records of all 16 opponents.

Outsiders have two choices: a) wait another 12 days and let all the remaining NFL games sort the math out; or b) break out the calculator and go to town.

For example, the 16 opponents on the Vikings schedule currently have 127 victories. Before Monday night's Steelers-49ers game kicked off, the Colts' 16 opponents had 120 victories. The Rams' foes: 130.

All of this data will be fluid over the final two weeks. But the basics are clear-cut: Fans should want any team the Vikings have played to lose.

Of course, no Vikings coaches or players will acknowledge the draft's existence until the final game is played New Year's Day. So internally, anyway, the Vikings are talking about using the next two weeks to make improvement.

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, for example, said the team has great motivation in trying to avoid a 3-13 finish, which would match the worst record in team history.

"What incentive do we have? Not being the worst team in Vikings history," Shiancoe said.

Coach Leslie Frazier, meanwhile, made his own obvious admission Monday.

"Looking at where this team is and where other teams are in our division and around our league, we have a ways to go," Frazier said.

A high draft choice certainly will help the cause. But just how high up the draft board can these Vikings rise? Keep your calculators handy.

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