If you want a great example of the difference between a large sample size and a small one, look no further than a recent ESPN.com project using its "Football Power Index" simulations.

Running 20,000 simulations of the 2019 season, the FPI finds that the NFC North is essentially a three-way tossup between the Vikings, Bears and Packers. All three are projected to win between 8.6 and 8.8 games, with all three projected among the top 10 NFL teams.

But ESPN also isolated on one specific simulation — No. 1,721, according to the website — to project an entire season for all 267 NFL games. In that one season simulation, the Vikings lost 27-13 to the Falcons in Week 1 and went just 7-9 for the season while the Bears went 8-7-1. The Packers dominated the NFC North, going 13-3 before losing in the playoffs.

Vikings fans are hoping for any of the other 19,999 potential realities, I would imagine.

Read Michael Rand's blog at startribune.com/randball. michael.rand@startribune.com.