If you were inclined to be encouraged by analytics suggesting the Twins were going to have a better-than-expected 2017 season — Baseball Prospectus had them projected at nearly .500 going into the season, which seems less far-fetched after the way the team has played during a 5-2 start — you can’t turn around and just ignore some less-than-stellar predictions for the Vikings from a different analytics site.
OK, sure, you could do that. You have free will and can do what you want. But if you are a rational person, you either trust that numbers can tell us something meaningful or you don’t. You can’t just embrace numbers when they tell you what you want to hear.
So believe it or not, here is what Football Outsiders is saying about your Minnesota Vikings, as they stand on April 12, 2007 (five months before the start of the 2017 season and before they’ve even had a chance to improve themselves in the draft, it should be noted, and 10 months before Minneapolis hosts the Super Bowl):
The projection is the Vikings will finish 6-10, last in the NFC North. That, of course, would be a mighty tumble from an 11-5 season two years ago and the 5-0 start of last year — and more of a continuation of the 3-8 finish to last season. Why does Football Outsiders hate the Vikings? Why would author Aaron Schatz – who talked glowingly to me about the Vikings when they were 5-0, at a time when Football Outsiders had the Vikings as the team most likely to win the Super Bowl — reverse course?
Well, even after considering the many caveats about how the numbers were crunched and that nothing is final, there is some harsh reality lurking. Writes Schatz (Insider required):
“Minnesota’s projection is a bit of a surprise, until you realize just how poor the Vikings were in the second half of last season: 24th in offensive DVOA and 19th in defensive DVOA from Week 10 onward.“
DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, the Football Outsiders method for evaluating teams.
Those numbers are kind of the dirty secret about last year — that the defense, for as good as it was early, was not very good late. An optimist might say the defense was worn down from having to carry the offense so much, and that when you think you have to win every game 2-0 (or at least 13-10), you start to play differently. It’s also hard to account for the sheer weirdness and emotional trauma of all that happened in 2016, which certainly could have impacted the Vikings as the grinding year wore on.
Numbers are colder and more calculating. FBO also notes there is a wide range of potential outcomes for a season — 6-10 is just the one it deems the most likely for the Vikings at this point.
All that said, a Vikings fan would certainly rather see a 10-6 projection — as is the case with the Packers, favored to win the division — than the one in front of them.