The Minnesota Vikings have spent a lot of money and poured the majority of their draft picks into improving on offense.
From signing two tackles to drafting a running back, two receivers and a tight end to signing a pass-blocking back to adding a risky deep-threat receiver, the Vikings have given Sam Bradford more to work with in 2017 than last year – by a wide margin.
But did they do enough to push Bradford’s play to a Super Bowl level?
In order to answer that question, we must know what qualifies as “Super Bowl level.”
The website Football Perspective recently published a series of articles focusing on the importance of passing in the NFL and whether its significance has changed over the years.
It might come as a surprise that more teams with mediocre ratings in Adjusted Yards Per Attempt, which factors in sacks, interceptions and touchdowns, have won the Super Bowl recently. Expansion, salary cap and parity have all increased the chance that a so-so or even bad passing game can win the Super Bowl.
Still, the average ranking in ANY/A for Super Bowl teams is sixth and six of the last eight Super Bowl winners have been in the top six.
Last year’s Vikings ranked 16th in ANY/A, tied with the San Diego Chargers. Not all ANY/A rankings are the same. Low interception numbers boosted their ANY/A despite Minnesota sitting dead last in Yards Per Completion.
Going from sixth to 16th doesn’t sound like a huge jump until you find out who ranked sixth: The Green Bay Packers.
Here’s the top 5: Atlanta (9.0 ANY/A), New England (8.5), Dallas (7.6), Washington (7.6), New Orleans (7.4).
Green Bay averaged 7.1 ANY/A compared to the Vikings’ 6.4.
If they still only threw 5 interceptions and were sacked the same number of times, in order to make the jump to match the Packers, the Vikings would have had to either A) Throw for 4,300 yards or B) Throw 25 more touchdowns or C) Throw for 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Even if the Vikings had thrown zero interceptions, it only would have upped the Adjusted Yards Per Attempt to 6.8.
As you’ve probably already concluded, it’s going to be a tough task for the Vikings to get into the range of an average Super Bowl winning passing offense. Even with better protection, more weapons and an effective running game, matching the same season the Packers had throwing the ball in 2016 or better is a tall order.
Defensively, however, they were already there in 2016.
The Vikings ranked fourth in ANY/A against, putting them ahead of the average champion (again, chart via Football Perspective).
While there are outliers on the passing offense side, there aren’t many on the passing defense side. It appears to be a prerequisite for winning a title and the Vikings should be expected to have that box checked off in 2017.
This puts the Vikings squarely in the it’s-possible category. But without some improvement in the passing game, the only way they could compete for a title would be as an outlier like the Denver Broncos in 2015 – a team that had a historically good defense.