Forget all the fancy analysis and deep dives.
Stop fretting about the offensive line, which Chip Scoggins and I talked about again on Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast.
If you're trying to make heads or tails of the Vikings' failures and successes this season, maybe all you need to know is ... heads or tails?
That was at least the hypothesis advanced by reader Chris, who asked via Twitter: "Is there any statistical correlation in the league to winning the coin toss and winning the game? Or is this only a Vikings issue? Vikes have lost the three games when the other team deferred."
Indeed, Chris is correct in the basic fact. The Vikings have lost the coin toss in all three of their losses this season and won the toss in their only win of the season.
But is there any connection? That, of course, sent me down a coin toss rabbit hole of sorts.
Here's what I came up with:
*There is at least a defined strategic element to winning the coin toss. Much of it has to do with an NFL rule change in 2008, which allowed teams to "defer" and get the ball to start the second half instead of just choosing to kick or receive (an almost unanimous "receive" choice before 2008) if they won the toss.
Now the vast majority of teams who win the toss elect to kick off and take the ball to start the second half. That's how each of the Vikings' games have gone this season.
*But there's no correlation between winning the coin toss — whether deferring or receiving — and winning the game. In fact, this study of playoff games from 2002-2019 says the team that won the toss won the game just 45% of the time.
And looking further at the Vikings, we find this year so far looks like a coincidence. In 2019, the Vikings were 5-1 when they lost the toss and 5-4 when they won it (I didn't include the finale where many starters didn't play). Every toss winner in those 15 games deferred.
In two of their losses this year, the Vikings have scored a TD on the game's opening drive — a seeming edge that disappeared. Week 1 was a strong case for "defer," as the Bengals scored 21 straight points at the end of the first half/early second half to gain the lead.
In the end, though, the outcome isn't as simple as the flip of a coin. It sure would make things a lot simpler, though.