The Vikings and Packers enter the weekend tied for the NFC North lead at 8-3, and FiveThirtyEight.com has the race basically a coin flip (49% Vikings, 51% Packers) in its QB-adjusted predictions as to which one will come out on top.
Is that about right, too high or too low for the Vikings?
First take: Michael Rand
My first instinct is to say it’s a bit of an optimistic view of the Vikings given that Green Bay has a much easier schedule down the stretch and can ensure itself of a tiebreaker edge just by beating the Lions and Bears again.
But FiveThirtyEight.com sure likes the Vikings — tabbing them as the fifth-best team compared to No. 10 for the Packers, which actually seems pretty accurate.
This one has me thrown for a loop, though: The site has the Vikings as slight favorites (51%) in its QB-adjusted forecast to win at Seattle on Monday. I’m not sure there’s a Vikings fan in the world that would say Minnesota is favored to win that game.
Andrew Krammer: I would also imagine the numbers gurus at FiveThirtyEight.com figure the Vikings’ trip to Los Angeles in a few weeks against a currently 4-7 Chargers team is an easier matchup than the reality of traveling two time zones to play Philip Rivers.
But the fact remains: The Vikings can win the NFC North by winning these last five games. And Monday night in Seattle should be considered the toughest game left.
The Vikings are 0-5 against Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who should be favored against the only NFL opponent he has played this much without a loss.
That would make a potential victory the Vikings’ most impressive since … ?
Rand: Are you suggesting something like time zone travel is more important than raw data crunching?
OK, boomer. (Just kidding, I know you are much younger than me. And in this case correct.)
The trip to Seattle is the Vikings’ most daunting game of the season, and I dare say a victory Monday would be their most impressive since the 2015 regular-season finale at Green Bay.
And you’re right, the Chargers will still be a challenge regardless of record.
Of course, all of this underscores just how tough the top of the NFC North is. The Eagles and Cowboys are in a similar dead heat in the NFC East per FiveThirtyEight, but neither of those teams is even above .500.
Perhaps what’s most interesting is the Vikings still have a decent chance to win the division (about 35% per FiveThirtyEight) even with a loss at Seattle. That tells us a lot about Green Bay, don’t you think?
Krammer: It does, which is why the coin-flip estimate for the NFC North might be right. That revamped Packers defense has looked broken since the first quarter of the season.
The four NFL defenses allowing more than the Packers’ 380.5 yards per game — the Bengals, Dolphins, Cardinals and Lions — have as many wins as Green Bay all together. It’s bad company for a supposed division favorite.
Rand: Chances of a first-round bye: Vikings 25%, Packers 15%.
Not sure those are the kinds of numbers that will make Aaron Rodgers R-E-L-A-X.
Final word: Krammer
I don’t think any team can relax in the NFC, which should make for a fun finish.